Naval Officer? Voltaire? William Pitt Lennox? Herb Caen? Howard Jacobs? Norman R. Augustine? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: When an organization encounters difficulties, and its members experience low morale, it is counterproductive to enforce harsh discipline. This notion can be captured with the following sarcastic remark:
The beatings will continue until morale improves.
Close variants of this statement replace the word “beatings” with “whippings” or “floggings”. Would you please explore the provenance of this family of remarks?
Quote Investigator: There are many comical statements containing the phrase “until morale improves”. Some researchers have asserted that instances were circulating during World War II, but QI has found no evidence to support that claim. The saying is difficult to trace because of its mutability. Here is a sampling together with years of occurrence that provides an overview:
- 1961: . . . all liberty is canceled until morale improves
- 1964: Layoffs will continue until morale improves
- 1965: No Beer, Card Playing, Mail Call, . . . until morale improves
- 1967: . . . no leave until morale improves
- 1977: Firing will continue until morale improves
- 1986: . . . cancel all vacations until morale improved
- 1988: Restructuring will continue until morale improves
- 1988: The floggings will continue until morale improves
- 1989: The beatings will continue, until morale improves
- 1992: The Whippings Will Continue Until Morale Improves
Below are selected citations in chronological order.