I Do Most of My Work Sitting Down. That’s Where I Shine

Robert Benchley? James G. Berrien? Anonymous?

benchley14Dear Quote Investigator: Some regions of garments develop a shiny appearance when fibers are repeatedly compressed. Hence, the seats of pants sometimes become shiny. A few fabrics are particularly susceptible to this problem; in the past, blue serge suits were well-known for becoming undesirably shiny. The verb ‘to shine’ also has an alternative meaning: ‘to excel’. The popular humorist and actor Robert Benchley crafted a clever apposite joke:

I do most of my writing sitting down. That’s where I shine.

Should Benchley really receive credit?

Quote Investigator: In October 1942 the widely-distributed Sunday newspaper supplement “This Week Magazine” published a profile with the title “He Works Sitting Down” and the subtititle “And that’s where Robert Benchley shines” by Irving Wallace. Thus, Benchley’s quip was built into the header of the article. It was also repeated in the article body. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

But Benchley won’t forget his gags, either. He can’t stay away from humor.
“I shouldn’t complain,” he says with one of these apologetic chuckles. “After all, I do most of my work sitting down. That’s where I shine.”

QI believes that Benchley should receive credit for this formulation using sharp wordplay; however, amusing precursors were circulating by the 1920s.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Do Most of My Work Sitting Down. That’s Where I Shine

Notes:

  1. 1942 October 4, The Los Angeles Times, Section: This Week Magazine, He Works Sitting Down And that’s where Robert Benchley shines by Irving Wallace, Start Page 10, Quote Page 11, Column 2, Los Angeles, California. (Newspapers_com)