When You Are Young, You Have the Face Your Parents Gave You. After You Are Forty, You Have the Face You Deserve

George Orwell? Coco Chanel? Mae West? Ingrid Bergman? Albert Camus? Abraham Lincoln? Edwin M. Stanton? Lucius E. Chittenden? Albert Schweitzer? Maurice Chevalier? William H. Seward? Edward Lee Hawk? William Shakspeare? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: A person’s true character can be deduced by the careful study of the face according to believers in physiognomy. This notion dates back to the ancient Greeks, but nowadays it is often considered pseudoscientific. Believers contend that the human visage changes over time, and authentic character eventually emerges. Here are three pertinent remarks:

  • At forty you have the face you deserve.
  • A man of 50 years is responsible for his looks
  • After thirty you have the face you have made yourself.

This family of statements includes elaborate multipart assertions. Here are two examples:

  • At 20 you have the face God gave you, at 40 you have the face that life has molded, and at 60 you have the face you deserve.
  • Nature gives you the face you have at twenty. Life shapes the face you have at thirty. But at fifty you get the face you deserve.

Remarks of this type have been credited to U.S. statesman Abraham Lincoln, fashion maven Coco Chanel, political writer George Orwell, French existentialist Albert Camus, movie star Ingrid Bergman, and others. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence located by QI appeared in “Recollections of President Lincoln and His Administration” by Lucius E. Chittenden who served as U.S. Register of the Treasury during Lincoln’s presidency. Chittenden told an anecdote about Edwin M. Stanton who served as Secretary of War for Lincoln. Stanton would sometimes judge a person harshly based on facial features. In the following dialog Stanton was conversing with an unnamed military officer about an underling in the War Department. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

“Did you ever in all your life see the head of a human being which so closely resembled that of a cod fish?”

He is not responsible for his head or his face. But why do you say he is a fraud? The newspapers call him a reformer, and give him credit for great efficiency.”

“I deny your conclusions,” he replied. “A man of fifty is responsible for his face! Yes, I know he is courting the newspapers: that proves him a humbug and presumptively a fraud.”

A few months later the official in question was found guilty by a court-martial of peculation and fraud in the management of his bureau and dishonorably expelled from the service.

Chittenden’s book of recollections was published in 1891. However, the episode above reportedly occurred many years earlier during Lincoln’s presidency which ended with his death in 1865. The accuracy of the quotation attributed to Stanton was dependent on the veracity of Chittenden who may have heard the tale second-hand.

This family of sayings has remained popular for many decades. Coco Chanel employed a multipart version in 1938. George Orwell penned an instance in one of his notebooks in 1949. Albert Camus published a version in 1956. Ingrid Bergman referred to the saying in 1957. Details are given further below.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading When You Are Young, You Have the Face Your Parents Gave You. After You Are Forty, You Have the Face You Deserve


  1. 1891 Copyright, Recollections of President Lincoln and His Administration by L. E. Chittenden; Lincoln’s Register of The Treasury (Lucius Eugene Chittenden), Chapter 24, Quote Page 184, Harper & Brothers, New York. (HathiTrust Full View) link

Hitchcock Is a Gentleman Farmer Who Raises Gooseflesh

Ingrid Bergman? Alfred Hitchcock? Stephen King? Stefan Kanfer? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: I once heard a remarkably apt description of a director who created horror films:

That auteur is a farmer who raises gooseflesh.

Gooseflesh is also referred to as goose bumps or horripilation. Would you please tell me the name of the director and the name of the quipster?

Quote Investigator: In March 1979 Alfred Hitchcock received the Lifetime Achievement Award of the American Film Institute (AFI). The acclaimed actress Ingrid Bergman who starred in three films with Hitchcock: Notorious, Spellbound, and Under Capricorn was the host of the ceremony. A segment from her introductory speech has been uploaded to YouTube, and it shows her delivering the line although it is possible that the AFI hired someone to help her prepare. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Congratulations to the American Film Institute who tonight acknowledged what our audiences have known for 50 years that Alfred Hitchcock is an adorable genius.

Dear Hitch, I’ve come all the way from London, from your home town, to give you my love and affection. One might say that Hitchcock is a gentleman farmer who raises gooseflesh.

Enigmatically, a reporter for the Associated Press who covered the event presented a slightly different quotation: 2

“Hitch is a gentleman farmer who raises gooseflesh,” said Ingrid Bergman, mistress of ceremonies for the program, which will be telecast March 12 on C.B.S.

Although ailing with arthritis, Hitchcock was able to walk to the table of honor on his own, amid a standing ovation.

Bergman did use the phrase “Dear Hitch” in her speech, but she clearly enunciated “Hitchcock” as part of the quotation. Perhaps the reporter employed an inaccurate transcript.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Hitchcock Is a Gentleman Farmer Who Raises Gooseflesh


  1. YouTube video, Title: Ingrid Bergman Calls Alfred Hitchcock An “Adorable Genius”, Uploaded on April 14, 2009, Uploaded by: American Film Institute, Description: Ingrid Bergman plays hostess at the AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute To Alfred Hitchcock, (Quotation starts at 0 minute 56 seconds of 3 minutes 56 seconds), (Accessed on youtube.com on March 28, 2018) link
  2. 1979 March 8, The Seattle Times, Hitchcock honored by Bob Thomas (Associated Press writer), Quote Page C2, Column 4, Seattle, Washington. (GenealogyBank)

Kiss: A Trick of Nature to Stop Speech When Words Are Superfluous

Ingrid Bergman? Evan Esar? Paul H. Gilbert? Hal Boyle? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: One of my favorite websites recently presented a collection of “Ten Favorite Quotations about Words”. Number one was about osculation:

A kiss is a lovely trick, designed by nature, to stop speech when words become superfluous.

These words were attributed to the lovely Oscar-winning actress Ingrid Bergman, but no citation was given. Oddly, most of the other ten quotes incorporated precise citations. Can you tell me when and where this was said?

Quote Investigator: This statement was credited to Bergman in a syndicated newspaper column written by Hal Boyle in 1970, and this was the earliest connection to Bergman located by QI. The actress lived until 1982, so it was possible that she did speak or write this line.

However, the clever definition was in circulation a few decades earlier. In 1943 Evan Esar, the inveterate phrase collector, published “Esar’s Comic Dictionary” which included the following meaning for the word kiss [EECD]:

kiss. A trick of nature to stop speech when words become superfluous.

Esar did not list credits for any of the definitions in his book proclaiming that the contents were “of popular origin and therefore unattributed”. He also complained about the ubiquity of false attributions in his Foreword [EECF]:

Now more than ever is it a wise crack that knows its own father, for the general practice of apocryphal ascription has been aggravated by the rise of radio.

Yet, Esar also admitted that some of the jokes in his book should have been ascribed:

Some of the unattributed items in this work doubtless derive from present-day humorists and men of letters, and for their inadvertent inclusion the writer wishes to apologize in advance.

The humorous remark about kissing was reprinted without ascription for many years until a version was finally assigned to Bergman by 1970.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Kiss: A Trick of Nature to Stop Speech When Words Are Superfluous