Yogi Berra? Jim Prior? Clifford Terry? John Anders? Tish Baldrige? Anonymous? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: Déjà vu is the eerie and intense sensation that something you are experiencing has happened before. This feeling is often illusory because the event being experienced is genuinely novel. The term déjà vu can also be used to simply reference an event or circumstance that has happened many times before.
Yogi Berra is famous for his magnificent baseball skills and for his comical statements known as Yogiisms. Here are two humorously redundant or exaggerated phrases containing “déjà vu”. The second is usually attributed to Yogi:
It’s déjà vu again.
It’s déjà vu all over again.
I have been unable to find a solid citation ascribing this sentence to Yogi, and I know some Yogiisms are misquotations. What do you think?
Quote Investigator: Analysis of this quotation is complicated by the conflicting testimony provided by Yogi Berra. In 1987 the New York Times language columnist William Safire spoke to Berra by phone, and Berra denied that the phrase was his. However, by 1998 Berra had embraced the quotation, and he presented a scenario circa 1961 in which he made the remark during a baseball game. Of course, it is unfair to demand from a person perfect memory for all utterances. The details for these citations are given further below.
The earliest evidence located by QI was printed in a Florida newspaper in 1962. A humorous love poem titled “Thanks To You” by Jim Prior used the expression in the first line of the first verse. The poem was composed of six verses, and these were the first two: 1
It’s Deja Vu again
Out of the blue again
Truer than true again
Thanks to you.
It’s homerun time again
Rhymes seem to rhyme again
My chimes can chime again
Thanks to you.
The jocular tone suggests to QI that the author knew the phrase was pleonastic. Semantically, he could have said “It’s Déjà vu”, but the longer phrase fit the rhythm and rhyme scheme.
The more elaborate statement: “It’s déjà vu all over again” appeared in a movie review in the Chicago Tribune in 1966. The singer and comedian Dean Martin starred in a vehicle called “The Silencers” which spoofed the secret-super-spy genre popularized by James Bond extravaganzas. The reviewer was not impressed by the fancy gizmos and the provocative women featured on screen: 2
It’s déjà vu all over again—the usual gaggle of gimmicks [miniature hand grenades disguised as coat buttons, a gun that shoots backwards], and the familiar covey of quail [Stella Stevens, Daliah Lavi, Cyd Charisse, Beverly Adams] that frequently makes the put-on more of a take-off.
This is the earliest known citation for the most common modern version of the saying, and it is listed in the Yale Book of Quotations. 3
Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 1962 September 22, Evening Independent, People to People: Poem: “Thanks To You” by Jim Prior of South Pasadena, Page 4B (GN Page 19), St. Petersburg, Florida. (Google News archive) ↩
- 1966 February 22, Chicago Tribune, Gimmicks Jam ‘The Silencers’ by Clifford Terry, Page B5, Chicago, Illinois. (ProQuest) ↩
- 2006, The Yale Book of Quotations by Fred R. Shapiro, Section Yogi Berra, Quote Page 58, Yale University Press, New Haven. (Verified on paper) ↩