How Old Would You Be If You Didn’t Know How Old You Are?

Satchel Paige? Wayne W. Dyer? Clarence H. Wilson? Wallace R. Farrington? G. Herbert True? Ruth Gordon? Garson Kanin? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: It is foolish to place restrictive limits on oneself solely based on age. Most activities can be pursued at any age. This viewpoint is encouraged by an inquiry designed for self-reflection. Here are three versions:

(1) How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?
(2) How old would you be if you didn’t know your age?
(3) If you didn’t know how old you were, how old would you be?

This saying has been attributed to famous baseball player Satchel Paige, popular motivational author Wayne W. Dyer, and others. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared within a 1927 sermon described in “The Brooklyn Daily Eagle” of New York. Reverend Clarence H. Wilson of the Flatbush Congregational Church encouraged his audience to adapt a youthful perspective. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

We make ourselves old by keeping tally of the years. How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are? Properly, a man is as old as he feels. . . . Birthdays are an annoyance and a delusion.

QI tentatively credits Clarence H. Wilson with this saying although there is a significant probability that the statement was already in circulation.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading How Old Would You Be If You Didn’t Know How Old You Are?

Notes:

  1. 1927 October 24, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Too Much Checking Up Of One’s Life Is Bad, View of Dr. Wilson, Quote Page 13, Column 3, Brooklyn, New York. (Newspapers_com)

When Painters Get Together They Talk About Where You Can Buy the Best Turpentine

Pablo Picasso? Jean Renoir? Garson Kanin? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Critics discuss abstruse theories of creativity and engage in esoteric scrutiny of aesthetics while artists are primarily concerned with the practical. Admittedly, this is an oversimplification. Here is a statement that makes a similar point:

When art critics get together they talk about form and structure and meaning. When artists get together they talk about where you can buy cheap turpentine.

Did Picasso really say this?

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence of a comparable expression located by QI appeared in a 1966 book by the screenwriter and director Garson Kanin who ascribed the words to Picasso: 1

Picasso says that when art critics get together they talk about content, style, trend and meaning, but that when painters get together they talk about where can you get the best turpentine.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading When Painters Get Together They Talk About Where You Can Buy the Best Turpentine

Notes:

  1. 1966, Remembering Mr. Maugham by Garson Kanin, Quote Page 45, Atheneum, New York. (Verified on paper)

She Runs the Gamut of Human Emotion from A to B

Dorothy Parker? Katharine Hepburn? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: There is a famously severe criticism that was aimed at an inexpressive theater performer or movie star in the 1930s. Here are two prototypes:

This performer ran the gamut of human emotion all the way from A to B.

This thespian runs the gamut of emotions from A to B.

Can you tell me who spoke this line and who was being criticized?

Quote Investigator: This quip is usually credited to the notable wit Dorothy Parker, and she reportedly was attacking the skills of the movie star Katharine Hepburn. But there is some uncertainty about when Parker made the remark. The earliest evidence in the 1930s is not directly from Parker; in fact, the information appears to be thirdhand. Finally, in a 1971 book the movie director and writer Garson Kanin stated that he asked Parker about the gibe, and she acknowledged that it was hers, but she also extolled Hepburn’s artistry.

In January 1934 a columnist in The New York Sun newspaper stated that Parker spoke the jest at a cocktail party. The columnist also referred negatively to Katharine Hepburn’s performance in the film “Christopher Strong”: 1

Which calls to mind the latest sweetly venomous remark of Miss Dorothy Parker anent Miss Hepburn (the Miss Hepburn principally of the lamentable “Christopher Strong”). It was delivered as Miss Parker swept or lolled recently into a cocktail party:

“Come,” she said, “let’s all go to see Miss Hepburn and hear her run the gamut of emotions from A to B!”

On February 16, 1934 an article in a newspaper in New Orleans, Louisiana ascribed the barb to Parker and suggested that the precipitating event was a Broadway show: 2

When Katharine Hepburn appeared in a play on Broadway, ’tis said that Dorothy Parker cracked: “Miss Hepburn ran the whole gamut of emotions—from A to B.”

On February 19, 1934 Time magazine discussed the joke and gave a precise location. According to the periodical Parker delivered the line during an intermission period of “The Lake” which was a Broadway production that ran from December 26, 1933 to February 1934. Hepburn had a primary role in this play, but the show and her efforts were not well-received: 3 4

During an intermission of The Lake, Dorothy Parker remarked to others in her party: “Well, let’s go back and see Katharine Hepburn run the gamut of human emotion from A to B.”

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading She Runs the Gamut of Human Emotion from A to B

Notes:

  1. 1934 January 6, New York Sun, The Talking Pictures by John S. Cohen, Jr., Quote Page 9, Column 1, New York, New York. (Old Fulton)
  2. 1934 February 16, Times-Picayune, Up and Down the Street by the Want Ad Reporter, Quote Page 27, Column 2, New Orleans, Louisiana. (GenealogyBank)
  3. Website: IBDB Internet Broadway Database, Entry: The Lake, Martin Beck Theatre, 1933, Website description: “IBDB (Internet Broadway Database) archive is the official database for Broadway theatre information. IBDB provides records of productions from the beginnings of New York theatre until today.” (Accessed ibdb.com on September 26, 2013) link
  4. 1934 February 19, Time, “The Theatre: New Plays in Manhattan: Feb. 19, 1934”, Time Inc., New York. (Accessed time.com on September 26, 2013; Time magazine online archive)