Whoever Named It Necking Was a Poor Judge of Anatomy

Groucho Marx? Robert O. Ryder? Dorothy Uris? Evan Esar? Agro B. Arlo? Laurence J. Peter? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The informal term “necking” refers to kissing and caressing amorously. A comedian once said:

Whoever called it necking was a poor judge of anatomy.

Do you know who crafted this joke?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in the 1968 collection “20,000 Quips and Quotes” compiled by Evan Esar. A well-known comedian, movie star, and television personality received credit. Boldface added to excepts by QI:[1] 1968, 20,000 Quips and Quotes, Compiled by Evan Esar, Subject: Petting, Quote Page 593, Doubleday, Garden City, New York. (Verified on paper)

Whoever named it necking was a poor judge of anatomy.
—Groucho Marx

Groucho Marx (Julius Henry Marx) died in 1977. Thus, he was linked to the quip while he was still alive. Currently, Groucho is the leading candidate for creator.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Whoever Named It Necking Was a Poor Judge of Anatomy

References

References
1 1968, 20,000 Quips and Quotes, Compiled by Evan Esar, Subject: Petting, Quote Page 593, Doubleday, Garden City, New York. (Verified on paper)

Dictionary: The Only Place Where Divorce Comes Before Marriage

Evan Esar? Jacob M. Braude? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: You have already explored a quip about success and work that cleverly referred to their alphabetical order. I’ve seen a similar joke about divorce and marriage:

The dictionary is the only place where divorce comes before marriage.

Which of these two jests emerged first? Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest instance of the divorce quip known to QI appeared in “The Yonkers Statesman” in April 1902. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1] 1902 April 19, The Yonkers Statesman, Whim-Whams, Quote Page 3, Column 2, Yonkers, New York. (Newspapers_com)

Patience: “Polly has found something wrong with the dictionary.”
Patrice: “Indeed! What is it?”
“She’s discovered that divorce comes before marriage.”

This joke was reprinted in several other newspapers in May 1902 such as “The Daily Morning Journal and Courier” of New Haven, Connecticut [2] 1902 May 3, The Daily Morning Journal and Courier, Unnecessary, Quote Page 4, Column 4, New Haven, Connecticut. (Newspapers_com) and “The Times-Democrat” of New Orleans, Louisiana.[3] 1902 May 13, The Times-Democrat, All Sorts, Quote Page 6, Column 5, New Orleans, Louisiana. (Newspapers_com) Both of these papers acknowledged “The Yonkers Statesman”.

Continue reading Dictionary: The Only Place Where Divorce Comes Before Marriage

References

References
1 1902 April 19, The Yonkers Statesman, Whim-Whams, Quote Page 3, Column 2, Yonkers, New York. (Newspapers_com)
2 1902 May 3, The Daily Morning Journal and Courier, Unnecessary, Quote Page 4, Column 4, New Haven, Connecticut. (Newspapers_com)
3 1902 May 13, The Times-Democrat, All Sorts, Quote Page 6, Column 5, New Orleans, Louisiana. (Newspapers_com)

The Time To Relax Is When You Don’t Have Time For It

Sydney J. Harris? Beulah Schacht? Sol Margoles? Evan Esar? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: A nearly paradoxical piece of advice states that the best time to relax is when you feel unable to relax because of time pressures. Would you please explore this adage.

Quote Investigator: Here is a family of closely related statements with dates:

1954 Oct: The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.
1954 Nov: The time to relax is when you’re too busy to relax.
1960 Nov: The best time to relax is when you are the busiest.
1968: The best time to relax is when you don’t have time to relax.
1973 Jan: The best time to relax is when you don’t have the time.

The earliest match located by QI appeared in the syndicated newspaper column of Sydney J. Harris in October 1954. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1] 1954 October 26, Chicago Daily News, Strictly Personal: You’re Too Busy?, Time To Relax by Sydney J. Harris, Quote Page 18, Column 6, Chicago, Illinois. (GenealogyBank)

The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it; when you get the time, you are generally too exhausted to enjoy it. The way to relax (I have found, at least) is to spread it out during the week, so that the tensions don’t snap into listless apathy at the weekend.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Time To Relax Is When You Don’t Have Time For It

References

References
1 1954 October 26, Chicago Daily News, Strictly Personal: You’re Too Busy?, Time To Relax by Sydney J. Harris, Quote Page 18, Column 6, Chicago, Illinois. (GenealogyBank)

The Next Best Thing To Being Witty One’s Self, Is To Be Able To Quote Another’s Wit

Christian Nestell Bovee? Evan Esar? Laurence J. Peter?

Dear Quote Investigator: I once heard an observation that cogently explained the popularity of quotations. I do not recall the precise phrasing, but it was something like this:

If you are unable to be witty yourself, the next best thing is being able to quote another’s wit.

Would you please determine the name of the originator and the correct phrasing?

Quote Investigator: In 1862 Christian Nestell Bovee published a two volume compilation titled “Intuitions and Summaries of Thought”. Bovee worked hard throughout his life to construct epigrams and memorable passages. His work included a section about the benefits of employing quotations. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]1862, Intuitions and Summaries of Thought by C. N. Bovee (Christian Nestell Bovee), Volume 2 of 2, Chapter: Questions and Answers: Quoters and Quoting, Quote Page 124 and 125, William Veazie, Boston, … Continue reading

At all events, the next best thing to being witty one’s self, is to be able to quote another’s wit. He presents me with what is always an acceptable gift who brings me news of a great thought before unknown. He enriches me without impoverishing himself.

The judicious quoter, too, helps on what is much needed in the world, a freer circulation of good thoughts, pure feelings, and pleasant fancies. Luminous quotations, also, atone, by their interest, for the dulness of an inferior book, and add to the value of a superior work by the variety which they lend to its style and treatment.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Next Best Thing To Being Witty One’s Self, Is To Be Able To Quote Another’s Wit

References

References
1 1862, Intuitions and Summaries of Thought by C. N. Bovee (Christian Nestell Bovee), Volume 2 of 2, Chapter: Questions and Answers: Quoters and Quoting, Quote Page 124 and 125, William Veazie, Boston, Massachusetts. (Google Books Full View) link

Education Is What You Get from Reading the Small Print in a Contract. Experience Is What You Get from Not Reading It

Pete Seeger? Vesta M. Kelly? Mr. Minnick the Cynic? Old Timer? Bill Gold? Evan Esar? Saul Lavisky? Laurence J. Peter? Sydney J. Harris? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Comprehending the details of a complex legal contract is a daunting task. Yet, entrapment by an unnoticed provision of an agreement is a terrible experience. Here is a pertinent saying:

Education is what you get from reading the small print. Experience is what you get from not reading it.

This saying has been attributed to folk singer activist Pete Seeger. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: This quip can be expressed in many ways; hence, it is difficult to trace. The earliest match located by QI appeared in “The Wall Street Journal” within the long-running humor column called “Pepper and Salt” in February 1961. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1] 1961 February 14, The Wall Street Journal, Pepper and Salt, Quote Page 12, Column 6, New York. (ProQuest)

Candid Comment
People may get an education from reading the fine print, but what they get from not reading it is usually experience.— Vesta M. Kelly.

Currently, Vesta M. Kelly is the leading candidate for originator of this joke. Pete Seeger did use the expression during an interview published in October 1979. See the citation given further below:

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Education Is What You Get from Reading the Small Print in a Contract. Experience Is What You Get from Not Reading It

References

References
1 1961 February 14, The Wall Street Journal, Pepper and Salt, Quote Page 12, Column 6, New York. (ProQuest)

They Will Never Agree. They Argue from Different Premises

Sydney Smith? Punch? Evan Esar? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A disagreement between two people is sometimes caused by a difference in underlying assumptions. Two individuals arguing from different premises are likely to reach different conclusions.

This notion can be comically transformed via a pun on the word “premises” which can mean “assumptions” or “residences”. The famous English wit Sydney Smith has received credit for crafting this type of joke, but skepticism is justified because he is a quotation magnet. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in the London humor magazine “Punch” in September 1841. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1] 1841 September 25, Punch, Or The London Charivari, Volume 1, (Untitled short item), Quote Page 123, Column 1, Published at The Punch Office, London. (Google Books Full View) link

When a person holds an argument with his neighbour on the opposite side of the street, why is there no chance of their agreeing?–Because they argue from different premises.

No attribution was specified; hence, QI conjectures that the joke was crafted by one of the “Punch” editors or a contributor:

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading They Will Never Agree. They Argue from Different Premises

References

References
1 1841 September 25, Punch, Or The London Charivari, Volume 1, (Untitled short item), Quote Page 123, Column 1, Published at The Punch Office, London. (Google Books Full View) link

Success Comes In Cans. I Can, You Can, We Can

A. K. Karlson? High School Motto? Evan Esar? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The word “can” designates the ability to accomplish a task. “Can” also specifies a container. I recall the following wordplay-based inspirational maxims:

  • Success comes in cans, failure in can’ts.
  • Success comes in cans—I can, you can, we can.

Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in “The Hartford Courant” of Connecticut in 1907. No attribution was specified for this anonymous adage:[1] 1907 November 2, The Hartford Courant, (Advertisement for insurance from The Mutual Benefit Company), Quote Page 08, Column 7, Hartford, Connecticut. (Newspapers_com)

MAXIM
For November 2nd.
SUCCESS COMES IN CANS. FAILURE IN CAN’TS.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Success Comes In Cans. I Can, You Can, We Can

References

References
1 1907 November 2, The Hartford Courant, (Advertisement for insurance from The Mutual Benefit Company), Quote Page 08, Column 7, Hartford, Connecticut. (Newspapers_com)

A Dramatic Critic Is a Guy Who Surprises the Playwright by Informing Him What He Meant

Creator: Wilson Mizner, playwright, entrepreneur, adventurer

Context: Mizner died in 1933. A biography of his colorful life appeared in 1935 called “The Fabulous Wilson Mizner” by Edward Dean Sullivan. The chapter “Miznerisms” was dedicated to his witticisms. Here were three. Emphasis added to excerpts:[1] 1935, The Fabulous Wilson Mizner by Edward Dean Sullivan, Chapter 17: Miznerisms, Quote Page 270, The Henkle Company, New York. (Verified with hardcopy)

I am a stylist—and the most beautiful sentence I have ever heard is: “Have one on the house.”

A dramatic critic is a guy who surprises the playwright by informing him what he meant.

I’ve known countless people who were reservoirs of learning yet never had a thought.

In 1949 Evan Esar, the industrious collector of sayings, placed a slightly modified version in “The Dictionary of Humorous Quotations”. The words “dramatic” and “guy” were changed to “drama” and “person”:[2]1949, The Dictionary of Humorous Quotations, Edited by Evan Esar, Section: Wilson Mizner, Quote Page 145, Doubleday, Garden City, New York. (Verified on hardcopy in 1989 reprint edition from Dorset … Continue reading

MIZNER, Wilson, 1876-1933, American dramatist, bon vivant, and wit.
A drama critic is a person who surprises the playwright by informing him what he meant.

In 1989 “Leo Rosten’s Giant Book of Laughter” printed another version of the quip:[3]1989, Leo Rosten’s Giant Book of Laughter: The greatest jokes, one-liners, bloopers, and stories for everyone who loves to laugh by Leo Rosten (Leo Calvin Rosten), Topic: Criticism, Quote Page … Continue reading

Critic: A person who surprises an author by informing him what he meant.
Wilson Mizner

Nowadays, it is commonplace to find critics who claim superior knowledge or insight when disagreeing with the creator of an artwork.

References

References
1 1935, The Fabulous Wilson Mizner by Edward Dean Sullivan, Chapter 17: Miznerisms, Quote Page 270, The Henkle Company, New York. (Verified with hardcopy)
2 1949, The Dictionary of Humorous Quotations, Edited by Evan Esar, Section: Wilson Mizner, Quote Page 145, Doubleday, Garden City, New York. (Verified on hardcopy in 1989 reprint edition from Dorset Press, New York)
3 1989, Leo Rosten’s Giant Book of Laughter: The greatest jokes, one-liners, bloopers, and stories for everyone who loves to laugh by Leo Rosten (Leo Calvin Rosten), Topic: Criticism, Quote Page 124, Bonanza Books, New York. (Verified with scans)

I Don’t Believe in Astrology; I’m a Sagittarian and We’re Skeptical

Arthur C. Clarke? Bob Thaves? Evan Esar? Jonah Peretti? Paul Heskett? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The famous science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke was once asked whether he believed in astrology, and he gave a facetious self-contradictory answer. I have not been able to find a solid citation. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence linking the quip to Clarke known to QI appeared in the April 1997 issue of the U.K. magazine “Astronomy Now”. A letter from Paul Heskett of Somerset, England sympathetically suggested that astrology addressed social needs that were not treated by astronomy. Heskett stated that he heard the remark from Clarke. The variant spelling “sceptical” for “skeptical” was used in the magazine. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI:[1]1997 April, Astronomy Now, Volume 11, Number 4, Section: Your Views, (Letter from Paul Heskett, Somerset, England), Quote Page 10, Column 1, Intra Press, London. (Now published by Pole Star, … Continue reading

This is a point that all of us would do well to bear in mind; as perhaps, is that made by Arthur Clarke when he told me “I don’t believe in astrology; I’m a Sagittarian and we’re sceptical.”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Don’t Believe in Astrology; I’m a Sagittarian and We’re Skeptical

References

References
1 1997 April, Astronomy Now, Volume 11, Number 4, Section: Your Views, (Letter from Paul Heskett, Somerset, England), Quote Page 10, Column 1, Intra Press, London. (Now published by Pole Star, Tonbridge, Kent) (Verified with scans; thanks to Space Telescope Science Institute Library, Baltimore, Maryland)

What Is History But a Fable Agreed Upon?

Napoléon Bonaparte? Voltaire? Bernard Le Bovier de Fontenelle? Claude Adrien Helvétius? Wendell Phillips? Ralph Waldo Emerson?

Dear Quote Investigator: A popular skeptical viewpoint about history can be expressed in a few different ways:

1) What is history but a fable agreed upon?
2) History is a set of lies agreed upon.
3) History is a set of lies that people have agreed upon.

These cynical adages have been linked to several major figures including: the military and political leader Napoléon Bonaparte, the French philosopher and firebrand Voltaire (pen name of François-Marie Arouet), and the author and wit Bernard Le Bovier de Fontenelle. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest pertinent evidence known to QI appeared in a 1724 essay about historiography titled “L’Origine des Fables” (“Of the Origin of Fables”) by Bernard Le Bovier de Fontenelle. The French excerpt below from a 1728 collection is followed by a translation into English. Boldface has been added:[1]1728, Oeuvres Diverses by M. De de Fontenelle, (Bernard Le Bovier de Fontenelle), Volume 1, De L’Origine des Fables, Start Page 329, Quote Page 329, A La Haye, Chez Gosse & Neaulme. (Google … Continue reading[2]1961, French Philosophers from Descartes to Sartre, Selected and edited by Leonard M. Marsak (Leonard Mendes Marsak), The Origin of Myths by Bernard de Fontenelle, Start Page 108, Quote Page 108, … Continue reading

A quel dessein nous l’auroit-on donné pour faux? Quel auroit été cet amour des hommes pour des faussetés manifestes & ridicules, & pourquoi ne dureroit-il plus? Car les Fables des Grecs n’étoient pas comme nos Romans qu’on nous donne pour ce qu’ils sont, & non pas pour des Histoires; il n’y a point d’autres Histoires anciennes que les Fables.

Why would they have bequeathed us a mass of falsehoods? What could this love of men for manifest and ridiculous falsehood, have been, and why did it not last longer? For the Greek fables were not like our novels, which are intended as stories and not as histories; there are no ancient histories other than these fables.

Fontenelle’s comment above provided only a partial match to the saying under examination. He was referring to ancient history and not all history. Nevertheless, prominent figures such as the French philosopher Claude Adrien Helvétius and Voltaire ascribed the adage to Fontenelle. Perhaps Fontenelle wrote or spoke an expression that provided a closer match elsewhere, but QI has not yet located it.

Many years later Napoléon Bonaparte used an instance of the saying, but he disclaimed credit. The transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson also used an instance, but he credited Napoléon. The well-known orator Wendell Phillips employed a version with the word “lies” in 1881. Detailed illustrations for these assertions are given in the chronological citations below.

QI thanks previous researchers on this topic including Fred R. Shapiro, editor of “The Yale Book of Quotations”, Professor William C. Waterhouse, and Barry Popik.

Continue reading What Is History But a Fable Agreed Upon?

References

References
1 1728, Oeuvres Diverses by M. De de Fontenelle, (Bernard Le Bovier de Fontenelle), Volume 1, De L’Origine des Fables, Start Page 329, Quote Page 329, A La Haye, Chez Gosse & Neaulme. (Google Books Full View) link
2 1961, French Philosophers from Descartes to Sartre, Selected and edited by Leonard M. Marsak (Leonard Mendes Marsak), The Origin of Myths by Bernard de Fontenelle, Start Page 108, Quote Page 108, Meridian Books: The World Publishing Company, Cleveland, Ohio. (Verified on paper)