Some Cause Happiness Wherever They Go; Others Whenever They Go

Oscar Wilde? Success Magazine? Olin Miller? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Individuals with energetic, warm, and joyful personalities are welcome at most gatherings, but individuals with sullen and mean-spirited dispositions are often unwelcome. This observation accords with the following insight:

Some people bring happiness wherever they go, and others whenever they leave.

This statement is usually attributed to the famous wit Oscar Wilde, but I am skeptical because I have never seen a good citation. Would you please trace this remark?

Quote Investigator: Oscar Wilde died in 1900, and QI has found no substantive evidence that he employed this saying.

The earliest close match found by QI appeared in “Success Magazine” in May 1908. The phrasing was a bit odd. The magazine printed a short item with the title “Others Whenever”: 1

Others Whenever
Some people make happiness wherever they go.

The joke was presented with an inverted ordering, To decode the humor the reader must understand the sentence after the title and then reflect back on the meaning of the title. No attribution was given for the joke.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Some Cause Happiness Wherever They Go; Others Whenever They Go

Notes:

  1. 1908 May, Success Magazine, Volume 11, Pleasantry, Quote Page 303, Column 2, The Success Company, New York. (HathiTrust Full View) link

You’ll Worry Less About What People Think of You When You Realize How Seldom They Do

David Foster Wallace? Olin Miller? Lee Traveler? Ethel Barrett? Mark Twain? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: An astute quotation about insecurity is often attributed to the novelist and teacher David Foster Wallace:

You’ll worry less about what people think about you when you realize how seldom they do.

Versions of this statement have also been credited to famous figures such as Mark Twain and Eleanor Roosevelt, but I have not yet seen a precise citation for anyone. Would you please examine this saying?

Quote Investigator: David Foster Wallace did express this idea using a different phrasing in his 1996 novel “Infinite Jest”, and the details are given further below.

The earliest strong match located by QI appeared in December 1936. The words were credited to a jokesmith named Olin Miller. Boldface has been added to excerpts below: 1

You probably wouldn’t worry about what people think of you if you could know how seldom they do.

The second earliest strong match known to QI appeared in the widely syndicated newspaper column of Walter Winchell in January 1937. 2 The ellipsis was present in the original text of the following: 3

Olin Miller’s thought should comfort the victims of self-pity, etc. . . . “You probably,” he submits, “wouldn’t worry about what people think of you if you could know how seldom they do!”

QI believes that Olin Miller was the most likely originator of this remark. Other individuals such as David Foster Wallace and Ethel Barrett employed the saying after it was already in circulation. The phrasing has varied as the quotation has evolved over the decades. The linkages to Mark Twain and Eleanor Roosevelt appear to be spurious.

Thanks to top researcher Barry Popik who located the key Winchell citation above and other valuable citations. 4

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading You’ll Worry Less About What People Think of You When You Realize How Seldom They Do

Notes:

  1. 1936 December 19, Reno Evening Gazette, Olin Miller’s Comment, Quote Page 4, Column 2, Reno, Nevada. (Newspapers_com)
  2. 1937 January 7, Logansport Pharos-Tribune, Walter Winchell On Broadway, Quote Page 8, Column 1, Logansport, Indiana. (NewspaperArchive)
  3. 1937 January 8, The Evansville Courier (Evansville Courier and Press), On Broadway by Walter Winchell, Quote Page 8, Column 3, Evansville, Indiana. (GenealogyBank)
  4. Website: The Big Apple, Article title: “You wouldn’t worry about what people may think of you if you could know how seldom they do”, Date on website: September 01, 2013, Website description: Etymological dictionary with more than 10,000 entries. (Accessed barrypopik.com on September 9, 2014) link