Yogi Berra? J. F. Shaw Kennedy? Charles Lee? Punch Magazine? Clarence Day? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: A comical remark about funeral attendance has been attributed to the baseball great Yogi Berra:
Always go to other people’s funerals; otherwise they won’t go to yours.
A simple interpretation seems to require ghosts to attend a future funeral. Would you please trace this joke? Is it a genuine Yogiism?
Quote Investigator: In 1987 William Safire who was the language columnist of “The New York Times” asked Yogi Berra about this statement, and Berra denied that he ever made it. 1 Indeed, the jest was circulating before Berra was born.
The earliest evidence known to QI was printed in a novel titled “The Youth of the Period” by J. F. Shaw Kennedy in 1876. The publisher was based in London. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 2
Old John Nobbs was one of those present. Going to funerals was quite a mania of his, and he attended every funeral he could for twelve miles round Ledbury.
“Confound it!” John would say, “if I don’t attend other people’s funerals they won’t come to mine.”
Thanks to magnificent researcher Stephen Goranson who located the above citation.
Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 1987 February 15, New York Times, Mr. Bonaprop by William Safire, Start Page SM8, Quote Page SM10, Column 2, New York. (ProQuest) ↩
- 1876, The Youth of the Period by J. F. Shaw Kennedy (James Frederick Shaw Kennedy), Chapter 19: True Love, Quote Page 232, Published by Samuel Tinsley, London. (Google Books Full View) link ↩