Life Is Uncertain. Eat Dessert First

Ernestine Ulmer? Arthur Murray? Earl Wilson? Leopold Fechtner? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: T-shirts and bumper stickers present a modern proverb about the precariousness of existence. Here are two versions:

  • Eat dessert first because life is uncertain.
  • Life is uncertain, so eat dessert first.

Ernestine Ulmer often receives credit although that name is somewhat obscure. Would you please explore the provenance of this expression?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in the popular syndicated column of Earl Wilson in 1962. The well-known ballroom dancer and entrepreneur Arthur Murray received credit. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Arthur Murray says he always eats dessert first, because life is so uncertain.

The statement above referred to a single person; hence, it was not in proverbial form, but the phrasing evolved over time.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Life Is Uncertain. Eat Dessert First


  1. 1962 July 18, The Lima News, Eydie Gorme Will Work, Hubby Steve Explains by Earl Wilson, Quote Page 32, Column 3, Lima, Ohio. (Newspapers_com)