I’d Rather Have a Free Bottle in Front of Me Than a Prefrontal Lobotomy

Tom Waits? Steve Allen? John Prine? Dorothy Parker? Fred Allen? Carlton W. Berenda? Herb Caen? Lew London? Joshua Baer? Dr. Rock? Randy Hanzlick? Graffito?

Question for Quote Investigator: The following wordplay is popular with drinking enthusiasts. Here are two versions:

(1) I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.
(2) I’d rather have a free bottle in front of me than a prefrontal lobotomy.

This remark has been attributed to singer and songwriter Tom Waits, comedian and polymath Steve Allen, poet and wit Dorothy Parker, and others. I have been unable to determine who really deserves credit. Would you please explore this topic?

Reply from Quote Investigator: The earliest match for this wordplay known to QI occurred in the 1965 book “World Visions and the Image of Man: Cosmologies as Reflections of Man” by Carlton W. Berenda who was a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oklahoma.[1]1967 Copyright, The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Volume 1, Editor in Chief: Paul Edwards, Section: List of Contributors, Quote Page xix, The Macmillan Company & The Free Press, New York. (Verified … Continue reading Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[2]1965 Copyright, World Visions and the Image of Man: Cosmologies as Reflections of Man by C. W. Berenda (Carlton W. Berenda), Quote Page 196, Vantage Press, New York. (Verified visually by a librarian … Continue reading

And the male, confronted with this creature from day to day, may be driven to reflect upon three alternatives: “A bottle in front of me, a frontal lobotomy, or the front off the bottom of me!” There is a fourth alternative: Grow up!

The second earliest match occurred in a profile of Steve Allen published by the Copley News Service. The article described a comedy skit from a new syndicated TV program called “Laugh-Back” during which Allen played a character named Dr. Mal Practice who conversed with a potential patient played by Jayne Meadows:[3] 1976 November 26, The Bee, Deep Down In His Heart Steve Allen Is Silly by Don Freeman (Copley News Service), Quote Page 8B, Column 8, Danville, Virginia. (Newspapers_com)

Jayne: “How did you become a country doctor?”
Steve: “They wouldn’t let me practice in the city.”
Jayne: “I was thinking of a prefrontal lobotomy.”
Steve: “A free bottle in front of me? Listen, you need a prefrontal lobotomy like you need a hole in your head.”

Both Carlton W. Berenda and Steve Allen are leading candidates for creator of this quip. The first published evidence points to Berenda in 1965; however, Allen has claimed in a 1987 book that he accidentally invented the joke during his nightclub act which he performed before and after 1965. Tom Waits used the joke in 1977 after it was already in circulation. The attribution to Dorothy Parker occurred many years after her death and that evidence was not substantive.

Detailed information about this saying is available in the Quote Investigator article on the Medium website which is located here. Please follow Quote Investigator on Medium.

References

References
1 1967 Copyright, The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Volume 1, Editor in Chief: Paul Edwards, Section: List of Contributors, Quote Page xix, The Macmillan Company & The Free Press, New York. (Verified with scans)
2 1965 Copyright, World Visions and the Image of Man: Cosmologies as Reflections of Man by C. W. Berenda (Carlton W. Berenda), Quote Page 196, Vantage Press, New York. (Verified visually by a librarian at the John C. Hodges Library of University of Tennessee at Knoxville)
3 1976 November 26, The Bee, Deep Down In His Heart Steve Allen Is Silly by Don Freeman (Copley News Service), Quote Page 8B, Column 8, Danville, Virginia. (Newspapers_com)

Sacred Cows Make the Best Hamburger

Mark Twain? Abbie Hoffman? Roy F. Nichols? George McKinnon? Aardvark Magazine? Graffito?

Dear Quote Investigator: The following has often been ascribed to the famous humorist Mark Twain and the 1960s-era political activist Abbie Hoffman:

Sacred cows make the tastiest hamburger.

Apologies for offensiveness. Would you please explore the provenance of this expression?

Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive evidence that Mark Twain said or wrote this statement. It does not appear on the important Twain Quotes website edited by Barbara Schmidt,[1] Website: TwainQuotes.com, Editor: Barbara Schmidt, Description: Mark Twain quotations, articles, and related resources. (Searched December 3, 2016) link nor does it appear in “Mark Twain at Your Fingertips” edited by Caroline Thomas Harnsberger.[2] 1948, Mark Twain at Your Fingertips by Caroline Thomas Harnsberger, Cloud, Inc., Beechhurst Press, Inc., New York. (Verified on paper)

The words were ascribed to Abbie Hoffman by a speaker at his funeral in 1989. The detailed citation is given further below.

The earliest strong match located by QI appeared in October 1965 in “The Daily Collegian”, a student newspaper at Pennsylvania State University. An article discussed the revivification of a student publication called “Bottom of the Birdcage” which took inspiration from another periodical. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI:[3]1965 October 19, The Daily Collegian (Pennsylvania State University student paper), Ad Hoc Resurrects ‘Bottom of Birdcage’, Page 4, Column 6, University Park, Pennsylvania. (Google News … Continue reading

Birdcage’s newly-adopted theme, borrowed from Aardvark magazine, is “Sacred cows make the best hamburger.” Each issue will have something to offend each member of the family.

“Aardvark” magazine was a Chicago humor journal that started out at Roosevelt University. Based on the excerpt above, the saying probably appeared in that magazine before October 1965; however, QI has not examined issues of “Aardvark”. Also, it was conceivable that more than one humor magazine using the name “Aardvark” existed in the time period.

QI believes that the expression evolved over time, and interesting precursors appeared many years earlier.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Sacred Cows Make the Best Hamburger

References

References
1 Website: TwainQuotes.com, Editor: Barbara Schmidt, Description: Mark Twain quotations, articles, and related resources. (Searched December 3, 2016) link
2 1948, Mark Twain at Your Fingertips by Caroline Thomas Harnsberger, Cloud, Inc., Beechhurst Press, Inc., New York. (Verified on paper)
3 1965 October 19, The Daily Collegian (Pennsylvania State University student paper), Ad Hoc Resurrects ‘Bottom of Birdcage’, Page 4, Column 6, University Park, Pennsylvania. (Google News Archive, ActivePaper Archive Full View)

Death Is Nature’s Way of Telling You to Slow Down

Madison Avenue? Doctor’s Advice? Graffito? Dick Sharples? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: When I strained a muscle recently a friend told me that the injury was nature’s way of telling me to slow down. Another friend quipped:

Death is nature’s way of telling you to slow down.

Would you please explore this adage?

Quote Investigator: The earliest strong match located by QI appeared in the popular syndicated column of Leonard Lyons in April 1960, Boldface has been added to excerpts:[1] 1960 April 8, Grand Prairie Daily News, The Lyons Den: Owls May View Hitchcock Movie by Leonard Lyons, Quote Page 2, Column 5, Grand Prairie, Texas. (Newspapers_com)

Madison Avenue’s definition of Death: “Nature’s way of telling you to slow up”.

“Madison Avenue” is a street in New York City which for many years has been used as a metonym for the U.S. advertising industry. The instance presented by Lyons differed from the more common modern variant by using the phrase “slow up” instead of “slow down” although the meaning was congruent.

QI hypothesizes that the parodic guidance propounded by the expression evolved from similar pieces of health advice and statements in advertisements.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Death Is Nature’s Way of Telling You to Slow Down

References

References
1 1960 April 8, Grand Prairie Daily News, The Lyons Den: Owls May View Hitchcock Movie by Leonard Lyons, Quote Page 2, Column 5, Grand Prairie, Texas. (Newspapers_com)