Never Put Off Till Tomorrow What You Can Do The Day After Tomorrow Just As Well

Mark Twain? Oscar Wilde? Josh Billings? Spanish Proverb? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Everyone is guilty of some procrastination.  Even the industrious humorist Mark Twain was credited with a quotation sympathetic to the indolent:

Never put off till tomorrow, what you can do the day after tomorrow.

Puzzlingly, this same quip has been ascribed to the famous wit Oscar Wilde. Who said it first?

Quote Investigator: In July 1870 an article by Mark Twain was published in “The Galaxy” magazine. One section of the article expressed unhappiness with the aphorisms popularized by Benjamin Franklin. Twain stated the following desire:[1]1870 July, The Galaxy, Memoranda by Mark Twain, Subsection: The Late Benjamin Franklin, Start Page 133, Quote Page 138, W. C. and F. P. Church, New York. (Reprint edition published in 1965 by AMS … Continue reading

… snub those pretentious maxims of his; which he worked up with a great show of originality out of truisms that had become wearisome platitudes as early as the dispersion from Babel …

Twain constructed a comical adage that he farcically attributed to Franklin:

Never put off till to-morrow what you can do day after to-morrow just as well.—B. F.

This is the earliest evidence QI has found for this type of quip from Twain or Wilde. The word “the” was omitted before the phrase “day after to-morrow”. A similar adage was credited to Oscar Wilde in a biography published in 1946, and the details are given further below. However, this evidence was weak because Wilde died decades earlier in 1900.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Never Put Off Till Tomorrow What You Can Do The Day After Tomorrow Just As Well

References

References
1 1870 July, The Galaxy, Memoranda by Mark Twain, Subsection: The Late Benjamin Franklin, Start Page 133, Quote Page 138, W. C. and F. P. Church, New York. (Reprint edition published in 1965 by AMS Press Inc., New York) (HathiTrust) link  link

The Squeaky Wheel Gets the Grease

Josh Billings? Josh Weathersby? Cal Stewart? Ring Lardner? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Individuals who complain often receive the most attention. There is a popular analogy about squeaky wheels that I think has been incorrectly attributed to the humorist Josh Billings who was a famous lecturer in the 1800s. (Billings was the pseudonym of Henry Wheeler Shaw.) Here are three versions of the maxim:

The wheel that squeaks the loudest is the one that gets the grease.
The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
The squeaky wheel gets the oil.

Some reference works credit Josh Billings, but none of these works present a solid citation. Would you please attempt to uncover the truth about the provenance of this adage?

Quote Investigator: Some books have suggested that the maxim appeared in a poem called “The Kicker” that was supposedly composed by Josh Billings circa 1870. But the careful and scholarly reference “The Yale Book of Quotations” remarked that the existence of “The Kicker” by Billings has never been verified.[1] 2006, The Yale Book of Quotations by Fred R. Shapiro, Section Josh Billings, Quote Page 85, Yale University Press, New Haven. (Verified on paper) Indeed, QI believes that the attribution to Billings is unsupported.

The earliest appearance of this expression located by QI occurred in a collection of stories published in 1903. The author Cal Stewart constructed a colorful raconteur character that he called Uncle Josh Weathersby. The saying under investigation was contained in an epigraph that was ascribed to this character:[2] 1903, Uncle Josh Weathersby’s “Punkin Centre” stories by Cal Stewart, Page 6, Regan Printing House, Chicago. (Google Books full view; also HathiTrust) link

“I don’t believe in kickin’,
It aint apt to bring one peace;
But the wheel what squeaks the loudest
is the one what gets the grease.”
—Josh Weathersby.

The word “kickin” was a slang term that referred to complaining or causing a disturbance..

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Squeaky Wheel Gets the Grease

References

References
1 2006, The Yale Book of Quotations by Fred R. Shapiro, Section Josh Billings, Quote Page 85, Yale University Press, New Haven. (Verified on paper)
2 1903, Uncle Josh Weathersby’s “Punkin Centre” stories by Cal Stewart, Page 6, Regan Printing House, Chicago. (Google Books full view; also HathiTrust) link