I Drink To Keep Body and Soul Apart

Oscar Wilde? Seamus Heaney? Dorothy Parker? Israel Zangwill? Jen Kirkman? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The body and the soul separate at the time of death according to many religious systems. Hence, the idiom “keep body and soul together” refers to maintaining life, i.e., earning enough money to maintain health and activity. The famous Irish wit Oscar Wilde has received credit for a reversal of the idiom. Here are two versions:

(1) I drink to keep body and soul apart.
(2) I drink to separate my body from my soul.

I am skeptical because I have not seen a good citation. Would you please explore this saying?

Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive evidence supporting the ascription to Oscar Wilde. It is not listed in the compendium “Oscar Wilde in Quotation: 3,100 Insults, Anecdotes, and Aphorisms”. 1 Also, it does not appear in researcher Ralph Keyes’s collection “The Wit & Wisdom of Oscar Wilde”. 2

Wilde died in 1900, and the earliest match located by QI appeared in “The Boston Globe” in 1981. The newspaper published a profile of Irish poet and translator Seamus Heaney who later received the Nobel Prize in Literature. Heaney told the “Globe” journalist that Wilde crafted the saying. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 3

He is particularly at ease in his own kitchen, brewing a fresh pot of tea, slicing bread for a guest, talking. He is not, I rush to add, exactly uncomfortable hunched over a pint in a pub, talking.

“Do know that Oscar Wilde said he drank to keep body and soul apart? That’s good, isn’t it?”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Drink To Keep Body and Soul Apart

Notes:

  1. 2006, Oscar Wilde in Quotation: 3,100 Insults, Anecdotes, and Aphorisms, Topically Arranged with Attributions, Compiled and edited by Tweed Conrad, (There is no quotation using “body and soul” and “drink” or “drank” in this book), McFarland & Company Inc., Jefferson, North Carolina. (Verified with scans)
  2. 1996, The Wit & Wisdom of Oscar Wilde, Edited by Ralph Keyes, (There is no quotation using “body and soul” and “drink / drank” in this book), HarperCollins Publishers, New York. (Verified with hardcopy)
  3. 1981 February 26, The Boston Globe, Poet Seamus Heaney: This most rooted of men, bard of the Irish soul by Shaun O’Connell (Special to The Globe), Quote Page 53, Column 3, Boston, Massachusetts. (ProQuest)

Salary Is No Object; I Want Only Enough To Keep Body and Soul Apart

Dorothy Parker? Alexander Woollcott? Israel Zangwill? Oscar Wilde? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The body and the soul separate at the time of death according to many religious systems. Hence, the idiom “keep body and soul together” refers to maintaining life, i.e., earning enough money to maintain health and activity. A quipster once reversed this formula and said something like:

I only want enough money to keep body and soul apart.

Would you please explore the provenance of this saying?

Quote Investigator: In 1928 poet, critic, and wit Dorothy Parker published a book review in “The New Yorker” magazine which included a comical plea for employment. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

And now that this review is over, do you mind if I talk business for a moment? If you yourself haven’t any spare jobs for a retired book-reviewer, maybe some friend of yours might have something. Maybe you wouldn’t mind asking around. Salary is no object; I want only enough to keep body and soul apart.

Dorothy Parker deserves credit for the remark immediately above. Yet, this type of joke has a longer history, and an 1891 citation for author Israel Zangwill appears further below.

Here are selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Salary Is No Object; I Want Only Enough To Keep Body and Soul Apart

Notes:

  1. 1928 February 4, The New Yorker, Reading and Writing: A Good Novel, and a Great Story by Constant Reader (Dorothy Parker), Start Page 74, Quote Page 77, Column 1, F. R. Publishing Corporation, New York. (Online New Yorker archive of digital scans)

You Can Never Be Too Rich or Too Thin

Babe Paley? Wallis Simpson? Suzy Knickerbocker? Mrs. J. Gordon Douglas Sr.? Gregg Moran? Truman Capote? Dorothy Parker? Joan Rivers? Zenith Carburetor? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Achieving wealth and a svelte body have become idealized goals in some cultural milieus. Here are three versions of a pertinent maxim:

  • You can never be too rich or too thin.
  • You can’t be too thin or too rich.
  • A woman can never be too thin or too rich.

As knowledge of the eating disorders anorexia and bulimia has grown this saying has become more sinister to some. Would you please explore its origin?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in the July 1963 issue of the U.S. fashion magazine “Harper’s Bazaar” within an article titled “High Living on Low Calories”. The attribution was anonymous. Boldface added to excerpts: 1

Ponder, now, our week’s worth of diet menus, based on the latter part of that wise old adage, “You can never be too rich or too thin.” High living on low calories, indeed!

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading You Can Never Be Too Rich or Too Thin

Notes:

  1. 1963 July, Harper’s Bazaar, Volume 96, Issue 3020, High Living on Low Calories, Start Page 48, Quote Page 48, Column 2, Hearst Corporation, New York. (ProQuest)

Beauty Is Only Skin-Deep, But Ugly Goes Clean To the Bone

Dorothy Parker? Jean Kerr? Charles Whitehead? Simon Suggs Jr.? Sam Stackpole? Abe Martin? Kin Hubbard? Herbert Spencer? Mort Walker? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Beauty is only skin-deep according to an adage that can be traced back to the 1600s. This assertion has inspired a wide variety of twisted reactions and elaborations. Here are three closely related instances:

  • Beauty’s only skin-deep, but ugliness goes to the bone.
  • Beauty is only skin-deep and ugly goes clear to the bone.
  • Beauty is only skin-deep but ugly goes clean through.

This insight has often been attributed to the prominent wit Dorothy Parker. Would you please examine this topic?

Quote Investigator: In 1824 “American Farmer” of Baltimore. Maryland published a piece by “A Backwoodsman” about a fictional court case. An instance of the adage appeared together with the phrases “trite saying” and “I have heard it said” signaling familiarity and anonymity. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

It is a trite saying that beauty is but skin deep, yet I have heard it said that ugly goes to the bone, and I am sure there is nothing in this doctrine so beautiful as to prevent its penetrating even to the marrow.

Dorothy Parker died in 1967, and the earliest linkage, known to QI, between Parker and the saying occurred in 1977. This evidence was not substantive, and QI believes that the attribution to Parker is currently unsupported.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Beauty Is Only Skin-Deep, But Ugly Goes Clean To the Bone

Notes:

  1. 1824 January 23, American Farmer, Volume 5, Number 44, To the Editor of the American Farmer from A Backwoodsman, Pleas Before the Hon. Chief Justice Rational, In the Vale of Kentucky, Start Page 349, Quote Page 350, Column 1, Printed by J. Robinson, Baltimore. Maryland. (Google Books Full View) link

They Sicken of the Calm, Who Knew the Storm

Dorothy Parker? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: If you experience a wild and tumultuous love affair then you will probably become bored with an episode of staid affection. The famous wit Dorothy Parker wrote a poem on this topic containing the following elegant line:

They sicken of the calm, who knew the storm.

Sometimes reference works present this quotation with the word “know” instead of “knew”. Would you please tell me which word is correct? Also, what is the name of this poem?

Quote Investigator: In 1928 Dorothy Parker published the poetry collection “Sunset Gun”. The following four lines are from her fourteen line poem titled “Fair Weather”. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

I have a need of wilder, cruder waves;
They sicken of the calm, who knew the storm.

So let a love beat over me again,
Loosing its million desperate breakers wide;

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading They Sicken of the Calm, Who Knew the Storm

Notes:

  1. 1941 (Copyright 1928), Sunset Gun: Poems by Dorothy Parker, Poem: Fair Weather, Quote Page 50, The Sun Dial Press, Garden City, New York. (Verified with scans)

Everything I’ve Ever Said Will Be Credited To Dorothy Parker

George S. Kaufman? Scott Meredith? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Bright remarks are often misattributed to famously witty individuals such as Dorothy Parker. An exasperated fellow humorist once said:

Everything I’ve ever said will be credited to Dorothy Parker.

Would you please help me to locate a citation and tell me who said this?

Quote investigator: The earliest close match known to QI occurred in a 1974 biography titled “George S. Kaufman and His Friends” by Scott Meredith. The author stated that Kaufman and Dorothy Parker moved in the same social circles, and they wrote a screenplay together for a short film called “Business Is Business”. Yet, they were not really good friends. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

There was a certain amount of rivalry between them: Kaufman once said gloomily, “Everything I’ve ever said will be credited to Dorothy Parker.”

The above citation appeared more than a decade after Kaufman’s death in 1961. So the evidence it provides is not strong.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Everything I’ve Ever Said Will Be Credited To Dorothy Parker

Notes:

  1. 1974, George S. Kaufman and His Friends by Scott Meredith, Chapter 9: The Parting, Quote Page 139, Doubleday & Company, Garden City, New York. (Verified with scans)

Rhyme Does Not Pay

Dorothy Parker? Oscar Wilde? Mike Porter? Arch Ward? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Composing poetry is rarely a lucrative occupation. A traditional moralistic adage has been transformed into a comical warning for versifiers:

  • Crime does not pay.
  • Rhyme does not pay.

This word play has been credited to the prominent wit Dorothy Parker who published multiple collections of poetry. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest close match located by QI appeared in 1934 within a column by Martin A. Gosch in the “Evening Courier” of Camden, New Jersey. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

… a prize gag from colleague Mike Porter: Edith Murray, the CBS songbird, started out in life as a poet, but found that Rhyme does not pay!!

Dorothy Parker received credit for the quip by June 1938 as shown further below, but it was already in circulation.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Rhyme Does Not Pay

Notes:

  1. 1934 January 16, Evening Courier, By Gosh! by Martin A. Gosch (Courier-Post Radio Editor), Quote Page 16, Column 3, Camden, New Jersey. (Newspapers_com)

I Never Seek To Take the Credit; We All Assume That Oscar Said It

Dorothy Parker? Louella Parsons? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The 19th-century Irish playwright Oscar Wilde is a superstar in the realm of quotations, and many scintillating expressions have been incorrectly attributed to him. A humorous verse about this phenomenon was composed by another wit, Dorothy Parker. The verse ends with this line:

We all assume that Oscar said it.

Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1927 Dorothy Parker published in “Life” magazine a set of eleven comical short verses about prominent literary figures under the title “A Pig’s-Eye View Of Literature”. The following four lines were about Oscar Wilde. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

If, with the literate, I am
Impelled to try an epigram,
I never seek to take the credit;
We all assume that Oscar said it.

Below are additional details and selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Never Seek To Take the Credit; We All Assume That Oscar Said It

Notes:

  1. 1927 June 2, Life, A Pig’s-Eye View Of Literature by Dorothy Parker, Poem: Oscar Wilde, Start Page 13, Quote Page 13, Office of Life Magazine, New York. (ProQuest American Periodicals)

No Matter What Happens He Will Land On Someone Else’s Feet

Who Made the Criticism?: Dorothy Parker? Blanca Holmes? Vincent Sheean? Sidney Skolsky? Anonymous?

Who Was Being Criticized?: Alan Campbell? Lloyd George? Orson Welles?

Dear Quote Investigator: A person who is tough and adaptable is able to absorb setbacks in life and continue onward. This capability is represented metaphorically by a tumbler who lands upright. I have heard the following joke based on this framework:

Resilient people will always land on their feet.
Opportunists will always land on someone else’s feet.

Apparently, the well-known wit Dorothy Parker delivered a similar line. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: Dorothy Parker and her second husband Alan Campbell obtained a divorce in 1947. The 1970 biography “You Might as Well Live: The Life and Times of Dorothy Parker” by John Keats included testimony from one of Parker’s friends about a quip she made shortly after the marriage dissolved. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

“I went to call on her the day the divorce from Alan became final,” Vincent Sheean said. “She was living alone in the Algonquin. The hotel had sent dinner up to her room, filet mignon, and she was sitting up in bed, the dinner uneaten, with no intention of eating, streaming tears.

“Thinking to make her feel better, I said I felt sorry for Alan.

“‘Oh, don’t worry about Alan,’ she said. ‘Alan will always land on somebody’s feet.'”

This remark fits into a family of jokes that has a long history which QI will explore below.

Continue reading No Matter What Happens He Will Land On Someone Else’s Feet

Notes:

  1. 1970, You Might as Well Live: The Life and Times of Dorothy Parker by John Keats, Part 4, Section 1, Quote Page 249, Simon and Schuster, New York. (Verified with hardcopy)

I Say Hardly Any of Those Clever Things That Are Attributed To Me

Dorothy Parker? Yogi Berra? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Numerous sharp remarks have been credited incorrectly to the well-known wit Dorothy Parker. She was well aware of these misattributions, and she once commented that many of those clever remarks were not hers. Would you please help me to find a citation for her general disclaimer?

Quote Investigator: In 1941 journalist Hubbard Keavy spoke to Dorothy Parker and asked about the proliferation of epigrams and witticisms ascribed to her. She replied with humor. The ellipsis was in the original text. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

“Quips? Oh. Ridiculous, isn’t it? To have such a reputation, I mean.

“I am not witty and I am not funny. But I do have a reputation as a smarty pants…I say hardly any of those clever things that are attributed to me. I wouldn’t have time to earn a living if I said all those things.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Say Hardly Any of Those Clever Things That Are Attributed To Me

Notes:

  1. 1941 December 7, Akron Beacon Journal, Dorothy Parker Quips Funny…But She Didn’t Say Them by Hubbard Keavy (Beacon Journal Special Writer), Quote Page 9A, Column 1, Akron, Ohio. (Newspapers_com)