Neil deGrasse Tyson? Robert Benchley? Kenneth Boulding? Ross F. Papprill? Groucho Marx? Jeremy Bentham? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: I enjoy humor based on clever self-referential statements, and a great example is the following:
There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who divide everybody into two kinds of people, and those who don’t.
The version of the joke given above appeared in a tweet by the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. 1 Do you know who originated this quip?
Quote Investigator: The earliest instance of this joke located by QI was published in “Vanity Fair” magazine in February 1920. The humorist and actor Robert Benchley wrote “an extremely literary review” of an unlikely book, a massive tome with densely printed type: The New York City Telephone Directory. Benchley was unhappy with the “plot” and said, “It lacks coherence. It lacks stability.” His article included the following memorable remark. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 2
There may be said to be two classes of people in the world; those who constantly divide the people of the world into two classes, and those who do not. Both classes are extremely unpleasant to meet socially, leaving practically no one in the world whom one cares very much to know.
Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- Tweet by Neil deGrasse Tyson @neiltyson, Tweet date: December 13, 2013, Tweet time: 11:25 AM, Retweets: 3,845, Favorites: 2,847, Tweet text: There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who divide everybody into two kinds of people, and those who don’t. (Accessed twitter.com on February 7, 2014) link ↩
- 1920 February, Vanity Fair, “The Most Popular Book of the Month: An Extremely Literary Review of the Latest Edition of the New York City Telephone Directory” by Vanity Fair’s Book Reviewer (Robert Benchley), Start Page 69, Quote Page 69, Conde Nast, New York. (HathiTrust) link link ↩