Tag Archives: Gerald Ford

If George Washington Were Alive Today He’d Turn Over in His Grave

Who made the remark? Samuel Goldwyn? Yogi Berra? William Cuffe? George Arliss? Corey Ford? Gerald Ford?

verne02Who was turning? Richard Cobden? Aunt Harriet? Jules Verne? Franklin D. Roosevelt? George Washington? Abraham Lincoln? Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky? John Foster Dulles? Casey Stengel?

Dear Quote Investigator: Samuel Goldwyn and Yogi Berra were both famous for constructing humorous phrases. Their solecisms and malapropisms often exhibited entertaining absurdist logic. The following comments have been credited to Goldwyn and Berra respectively:

1) If Franklin D. Roosevelt were alive now, he’d turn in his grave.
2) If Casey Stengel were alive today, he’d be turning over in his grave.

Remarks of the type above were probably constructed via the inadvertent blending of common expressions like these:

1) If she knew about it she would turn in her grave.
2) If she were alive today she would disapprove.

Would you please explore the origin of this family of jests?

Quote Investigator: The earliest instance of this comical expression found by QI was printed in an 1879 novel titled “The Honourable Ella: A Tale of Foxshire” by William Ulick O’Connor Cuffe, 4th Earl of Desart. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

“My dear Harry, you don’t understand the rudiments of political economy. If Cobden were alive to hear all the twaddle of the free-traders now he would turn in his grave—at least, I mean he’d be confoundedly disgusted.

The author Cuffe highlighted the witticism by allowing his character to recognize that the figurative language was incongruous.

In 1898 “The Leisure Hour” magazine published an article about Irish humor with the following material: 2

It was an Irish moralist who rebuked a widow in the words, “If your husband were alive, your conduct would make him turn in his grave”; a speech which recalls the Irishman’s encomium of Kean—”He acts the dead man to the very life” . . .

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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  1. 1879, The Honourable Ella: A Tale of Foxshire by The Earl of Desart (William Ulick O’Connor Cuffe, 4th Earl of Desart), Volume 1 of 3, Quote Page 173, Hurst and Blackett, London. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 1897-8, The Leisure Hour, Irish Wit and Humor As Shown in Proverbs and Bulls by Elsa D’Esterre-Keeling, Quote Page 709, Column 2, Paternoster Row, London. (HathiTrust) link link

Things Are More Like They Are Now Than They Have Ever Been

Dwight D. Eisenhower? Gerald Ford? Anonymous?

eisenhower03Dear Quote Investigator: President Dwight D. Eisenhower is commonly credited with making a comical statement that is almost a tautology. Here are a few different versions of his supposed remark:

Things are more like they are right now than they ever have been.
Things are more like they are now than they ever were before.
Things have never been more like the way they are today in history.

Oddly, President Gerald Ford is credited with making the same remark. Did they both make this nonsensical comment? Could you explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence of this expression located by QI was printed in 1948 in a classified advertisement for real estate in an Amarillo, Texas newspaper. The words were ascribed to “some crazy guy” and that label was also used as the title of the advertisement: 1 2

Stuck his head in our office door and said!!! Things are more like they are right now than they ever have been. (Silly, wasn’t it?) but not any sillier than the idea that some people have about waiting a year to buy a $10,000 home for $4,000. If things get that cheap you won’t have the money. Remember?

Dwight D. Eisenhower was President of the United States between 1953 and 1961. So this absurdist statement was already in circulation before he started his term of office.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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  1. 1948 October 21, Amarillo Daily News, (Classified advertisement from Gordon Creamer Realtor), Quote Page 18, Column 7, Amarillo, Texas. (NewspaperArchive)
  2. 1948 October 21, The Amarillo Globe, (Classified advertisement from Gordon Creamer Realtor), Quote Page 22, Column 7, Amarillo, Texas. (NewspaperArchive)