Ogden Nash? James Nelson Gowanloch? Frank Colby? Arthur Knight? Alfred Hitchcock? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: The popular creator of light verse Ogden Nash once crafted a poem that playfully altered a common phrase describing a thorough search: “no stone unturned”. The comical transformation produced “no tern unstoned” and “no stern untoned”. Did Nash originate these two phrases?
Quote Investigator: In 1952 Ogden Nash published “The Private Dining Room and Other New Verses” which included a poem titled “Everybody’s Mind To Me a Kingdom Is or A Great Big Wonderful World It’s”. The following lines exhibited the wordplay. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1
This I shall do because I am a conscientious man, when I throw rocks at sea birds I leave no tern unstoned,
I am a meticulous man, and when I portray baboons I leave no stern untoned,
Interestingly, both of these phrases were already in circulation as shown below.
- 1953 (U.S Publication 1952), The Private Dining Room and Other New Verses by Ogden Nash, Poem: Everybody’s Mind To Me a Kingdom Is or A Great Big Wonderful World It’s, Start Page 27, Quote Page 27, J. M. Dent & Sons, London. (Verified with hardcopy) ↩