William James? Clive James? Apocryphal?
Question for Quote Investigator: A thoughtful person constructed the following vivid metaphor:
A sense of humor is just common sense dancing.
The U.S. philosopher William James and the Australian critic Clive James have both received credit for this statement. I am uncertain of these ascriptions because I have not seen any solid citations. Would you please explore this topic.
Reply from Quote Investigator: QI has located no substantive evidence supporting the ascription to William James.
In 1979 Clive James published a review in the London newspaper “The Observer” of a television program titled “The Old Crowd” written by Alan Bennett and directed by Lindsay Anderson. The critic complained that Anderson had removed the jokes from the script “leaving a nebulous story about some hazily defined types moving aimlessly about in a half-furnished house.” Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1979 February 4, The Observer, Television: Crumbling Crowd by Clive James, Quote Page 20, Column 8, London, England. (ProQuest)
People like Lindsay Anderson can never learn what people like Alan Bennett should know in their bones: that common sense and a sense of humour are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humour is just common sense, dancing. Those who lack humour are without judgment and should be trusted with nothing.
“Humor” and “humour” are variant spellings of the same word. Outside the U.S. the spelling “humour” predominates.
The incorrect attribution to William James illustrates a known error mechanism. An attribution sometimes jumps from one person to another with a similar name.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
|↑1||1979 February 4, The Observer, Television: Crumbling Crowd by Clive James, Quote Page 20, Column 8, London, England. (ProQuest)|