Dictionary: The Only Place Where Divorce Comes Before Marriage

Evan Esar? Jacob M. Braude? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: You have already explored a quip about success and work that cleverly referred to their alphabetical order. I’ve seen a similar joke about divorce and marriage:

The dictionary is the only place where divorce comes before marriage.

Which of these two jests emerged first? Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest instance of the divorce quip known to QI appeared in “The Yonkers Statesman” in April 1902. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1] 1902 April 19, The Yonkers Statesman, Whim-Whams, Quote Page 3, Column 2, Yonkers, New York. (Newspapers_com)

Patience: “Polly has found something wrong with the dictionary.”
Patrice: “Indeed! What is it?”
“She’s discovered that divorce comes before marriage.”

This joke was reprinted in several other newspapers in May 1902 such as “The Daily Morning Journal and Courier” of New Haven, Connecticut [2] 1902 May 3, The Daily Morning Journal and Courier, Unnecessary, Quote Page 4, Column 4, New Haven, Connecticut. (Newspapers_com) and “The Times-Democrat” of New Orleans, Louisiana.[3] 1902 May 13, The Times-Democrat, All Sorts, Quote Page 6, Column 5, New Orleans, Louisiana. (Newspapers_com) Both of these papers acknowledged “The Yonkers Statesman”.

Continue reading Dictionary: The Only Place Where Divorce Comes Before Marriage

References

References
1 1902 April 19, The Yonkers Statesman, Whim-Whams, Quote Page 3, Column 2, Yonkers, New York. (Newspapers_com)
2 1902 May 3, The Daily Morning Journal and Courier, Unnecessary, Quote Page 4, Column 4, New Haven, Connecticut. (Newspapers_com)
3 1902 May 13, The Times-Democrat, All Sorts, Quote Page 6, Column 5, New Orleans, Louisiana. (Newspapers_com)

Love Triangles Generally Turn Out To Be Wrecktangles

Jacob M. Braude? Robert Byrne? Sally’s Sallies? Mary Pettibone Poole? Bob Burns? Jimmie Fidler? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: I love terrible puns and the following is a great example:[1] 2012, The 2,548 Wittiest Things Anybody Ever Said by Robert Byrne, No Page Number, Quote Number 283, Touchstone: A Division of Simon & Schuster, New York. (Verified on paper)

Most love triangles are wrecktangles.

The quotation collector Robert Byrne included this statement in “The 2,548 Wittiest Things Anybody Ever Said” with an attribution to Jacob Braude. Would you please tell me more about its provenance?

Quote Investigator: Jacob M. Braude published a large number of compilations of sayings, quotations, and anecdotes. In 1955 he placed an instance with a slightly different phrasing into one of his books, and a detailed citation is given further below. However, this form of wordplay has a much longer history.

In 1866 “wreck-tangle” was used in the maritime realm instead of the domain of amour. Boldface has been added to excerpts:[2] 1866 June 9, Bangor Daily Whig and Courier, Local and Other Items, Quote Page 3, Column 4, Bangor, Maine. (Newspapers_com)

How can you describe the cordage of a vessel, which has run ashore and broken up? By a wreck-tangle.

In 1877 “The Boston Daily Globe” engaged in more elaborate maritime wordplay by adding the groan-inducing terms “try-angle” and “rye-tangle”:[3] 1877 January 16, The Boston Daily Globe, Table Gossip, Quote Page 3, Column 1, Boston, Massachusetts. (NewspaperArchive)

The unlucky captain of a New Bedford mackerel smack says he doesn’t want any more geometry in his. The fishing season coming round he went out for a try-angle and brought back a wreck-tangle.—Graphic. His misfortunes were probably caused by an overdose of rye-tangle.

By 1889 “The Weekly Pantagraph” of Bloomington, Illinois published another seaworthy geometrical variant:[4] 1889 September 27, The Weekly Pantagraph (Bloomington Weekly Pantagraph), (Filler item), Quote Page 3, Column 3, Bloomington, Illinois. (NewspaperArchive)

It is no wonder that a square-rigged ship becomes a wreck-tangle in a storm.

Finally, by 1921 an anonymous joker applied the pun to illicit liaisons, and the result was printed in multiple newspapers such as “The Wichita Daily Eagle” of Wichita, Kansas and “Brooklyn Life” of Brooklyn, New York:[5] 1921 January 29, The Wichita Daily Eagle, (Untitled filler item), Quote Page 3, Column 3, Wichita, Kansas. (Newspapers_com)[6] 1921 March 26, Brooklyn Life: An Illustrated Home Weekly for Brooklyn and Long Island, Week in Society, Start Page 10, Quote Page 10, Column 1, Brooklyn, New York. (Newspapers_com)

Al. Bert: “How do these love triangles usually end?”
Phil. Bert: “Most of them turn into a ‘wreck-tangle.'”

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Love Triangles Generally Turn Out To Be Wrecktangles

References

References
1 2012, The 2,548 Wittiest Things Anybody Ever Said by Robert Byrne, No Page Number, Quote Number 283, Touchstone: A Division of Simon & Schuster, New York. (Verified on paper)
2 1866 June 9, Bangor Daily Whig and Courier, Local and Other Items, Quote Page 3, Column 4, Bangor, Maine. (Newspapers_com)
3 1877 January 16, The Boston Daily Globe, Table Gossip, Quote Page 3, Column 1, Boston, Massachusetts. (NewspaperArchive)
4 1889 September 27, The Weekly Pantagraph (Bloomington Weekly Pantagraph), (Filler item), Quote Page 3, Column 3, Bloomington, Illinois. (NewspaperArchive)
5 1921 January 29, The Wichita Daily Eagle, (Untitled filler item), Quote Page 3, Column 3, Wichita, Kansas. (Newspapers_com)
6 1921 March 26, Brooklyn Life: An Illustrated Home Weekly for Brooklyn and Long Island, Week in Society, Start Page 10, Quote Page 10, Column 1, Brooklyn, New York. (Newspapers_com)