I Thought the Brain Was the Most Important Organ Until I Realized What Was Telling Me That

Emo Philips? George Carlin? Richard Saul Wurman? Dale Dauten? Daniel C. Dennett? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: A prominent philosopher of consciousness and the brain included a hilarious joke in a recent book. Here are three versions:

I used to think that the human brain was the most fascinating part of the body. Then I realized, ‘look what’s telling me that’.

I used to think that my brain was the most important organ in my body, but then I thought: look who’s telling me that.

I used to think that the brain was the most wonderful organ in my body. Then I realized who was telling me this.

This quip has been attributed to the U.S. stand-up comedians Emo Philips and George Carlin. Would you please explore its provenance?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in a comedy special starring Emo Philips broadcast in 1987 on the cable channel Home Box Office (HBO). Philips told an anecdote during which he was arrested and sent to a psychiatrist for evaluation. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Do you like psychology? I don’t. I used to think that the human brain was the most fascinating part of the body. Then I realized, whoa, ‘look what’s telling me that’.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Thought the Brain Was the Most Important Organ Until I Realized What Was Telling Me That

Notes:

  1. YouTube video, Title: Emo Phillips HBO Comedy Special 1987, (“Philips” is misspelled as “Phillips” in the title), Uploaded on January 1, 2020, Uploaded by: Groovy Flicks, (Quotation starts at 35 minutes 30 seconds of 51 minutes 47 seconds), Description: Comedy special starring Emo Philips broadcast in 1987 on Home Box Office cable network), (Accessed on youtube.com on January 10, 2021)

The Merely Different Is Not Always Better, But the Better Is Always Different

David Rowland? Dale Dauten? Art Weinstein? William C. Johnson? Sun Microsystems? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Attempting something new and innovative is crucial to success in many fields, but triumph is not guaranteed. An unfamiliar or unusual strategy may fail. Designers have advanced the following adage:

Different isn’t always better, but better is always different.

Memorability is enhanced by the rhetorical technique called antimetabole in which a phrase is repeated, but key elements are reordered. Would you please trace this saying?

Quote Investigator: David Rowland was a New York industrial designer who created the remarkable 40/4 stackable chair. The numeric name was based on the fact that forty of the chairs could be combined to produce a stack that was only four feet tall. An article about Rowland appeared in “The Miami News” of Florida in 1965. At that time the chair had recently won an American Institute of Interior Designers International Award. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

A designer of chairs since he was 13, the California native has an artistic family background. Much of his early childhood was influenced by the designers in his family. In his approach to design, Rowland’s motto is “the merely ‘different’ is not always better, but the better is always different.”

This phrasing of the adage above differs from the typical modern version, but it still represents a close match. Rowland popularized this expression, and QI tentatively gives him credit as creator.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Merely Different Is Not Always Better, But the Better Is Always Different

Notes:

  1. 1965 February 7, The Miami News, Rowland Got To The Bottom Of That Chair Problem, Quote Page 32, Column 3, Miami, Florida. (Newspapers_com)