Always Go To Other People’s Funerals — Otherwise, They Won’t Come To Yours

Yogi Berra? J. F. Shaw Kennedy? Charles Lee? Punch Magazine? Clarence Day? Anonymous?

weath07Dear Quote Investigator: A comical remark about funeral attendance has been attributed to the baseball great Yogi Berra:

Always go to other people’s funerals; otherwise they won’t go to yours.

A simple interpretation seems to require ghosts to attend a future funeral. Would you please trace this joke? Is it a genuine Yogiism?

Quote Investigator: In 1987 William Safire who was the language columnist of “The New York Times” asked Yogi Berra about this statement, and Berra denied that he ever made it. 1 Indeed, the jest was circulating before Berra was born.

The earliest evidence known to QI was printed in a novel titled “The Youth of the Period” by J. F. Shaw Kennedy in 1876. The publisher was based in London. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 2

Old John Nobbs was one of those present. Going to funerals was quite a mania of his, and he attended every funeral he could for twelve miles round Ledbury.

“Confound it!” John would say, “if I don’t attend other people’s funerals they won’t come to mine.”

Thanks to magnificent researcher Stephen Goranson who located the above citation.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Always Go To Other People’s Funerals — Otherwise, They Won’t Come To Yours

Notes:

  1. 1987 February 15, New York Times, Mr. Bonaprop by William Safire, Start Page SM8, Quote Page SM10, Column 2, New York. (ProQuest)
  2. 1876, The Youth of the Period by J. F. Shaw Kennedy (James Frederick Shaw Kennedy), Chapter 19: True Love, Quote Page 232, Published by Samuel Tinsley, London. (Google Books Full View) link