George Bernard Shaw? George Melly? I. S. Johar? Ann Landers? Patrick Harte? Robert Frost? Winston Churchill? Oscar Wilde? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: Here are two versions of an adage highlighting the sensual aspects of popular gyrations:
- Dancing is a perpendicular expression of a horizontal desire.
- Dancing is a vertical expression of a horizontal idea.
George Bernard Shaw, Ann Landers, Oscar Wilde, and Robert Frost have received credit for this saying. What do you think?
Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence known to QI appeared in the London periodical “New Statesman” in 1962. The musician and critic George Melly attributed the saying to the notable playwright George Bernard Shaw. Emphasis added by QI: 1
I have spent a certain amount of time lately watching people in London dance in the various new ways. I report what went on in three very different places where my fellow countrymen and women had come together to give what Shaw called ‘a perpendicular expression of a horizontal desire’.
Shaw’s death in 1950 preceded Melly’s article by more than a decade, and the text provided no citation; hence, the evidence supporting the ascription was rather weak. Nevertheless, the citations for competing ascriptions are even less persuasive.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 1962 March 23, New Statesman, Late Perpendicular by George Melly, Start Page 426, Quote Page 426, Column 3, New Statesman Ltd., London. (ProQuest) ↩