Born with a Silver Foot in His or Her Mouth

Speaker: George Dixon? Ann Richards? Vito Marcantonio? Oliver Herford?

Target: Harold Ickes? George H. W. Bush? Newbold Morris? Jones?

Dear Quote Investigator: A person who is born into a wealthy and successful family is “born with a silver spoon in his or her mouth” according to a longstanding idiom. There is a funny variant that applies to a gaffe-prone person:

Born with a silver foot in his or her mouth.

Would you please explore who crafted this barb, and who was targeted?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI occurred in the syndicated column of George Dixon in November 1944. Dixon aimed his criticism at Harold Ickes, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, who helped to implement President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s ‘New Deal’ policies. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Suppose Ickes was gone? What would I do on dull days? I’d have to scurry around and do some work, that’s what I’d have to do.

But, the way things transpired, I will always have him on tap when I need him. And he never fails. If ever a man was born with a silver foot in his mouth, it was old Harold.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Born with a Silver Foot in His or Her Mouth


  1. 1944 November 10, Evening Herald (Republican and Herald), Washington Scene by George Dixon, Quote Page 2, Column 4, Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com)

A Drama Critic Leaves No Turn Unstoned

George Bernard Shaw? Catholic Standard and Times? Ethel Watts Mumford? Oliver Herford? Addison Mizner? Arthur Wimperis? Colette d’Arville? Ogden Nash? Diana Rigg?

Dear Quote Investigator: The famous playwright George Bernard Shaw has been credited with a clever bit of wordplay concerning the role of a critic. The quip transforms the following venerable idiom describing a thorough search:

Leave no stone unturned

Shaw’s challenging plays sometimes received poor reviews, and according to legend he once responded:

A dramatic critic is a man who leaves no turn unstoned.

The word “turn” refers to the performance given by an individual on the stage. Would you please help me to trace this comical phrase?

Quote Investigator: George Bernard Shaw received credit for this expression from a journalist in London in 1930. See further below. Yet, no precise source was specified, and the joke had already been circulating for many years.

In 1899 the characters “Hi Tragerdy” and “Lowe Comerdy” exchanged lines about an unsuccessful vaudeville show encountering a hostile audience. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

“Your experience in vaudeville, then, was not very pleasant?” Hi Tragerdy was saying.
“No,” replied Lowe Comerdy; “at Oshkosh they threw rocks at each one of us as we came on for our acts.”
“Pretty severe way of showing their disapproval.”
“Yes; in their efforts to impress us with their utter disgust they left no turn unstoned.”-Standard and Catholic Times

The above item appeared in multiple periodicals such as “The Dallas Morning News” of Dallas, Texas; “The Daily Northwestern” of Oshkosh, Wisconsin; 2 “The Record-Union” of Sacramento, California; 3 and “Puck” of New York City. 4 The Texas newspaper acknowledged the “Standard and Catholic Times”. The other three acknowledged the “Catholic Standard and Times”.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading A Drama Critic Leaves No Turn Unstoned


  1. 1899 August 17, The Dallas Morning News, Light Things, Quote Page 6, Column 5, Dallas, Texas. (GenealogyBank)
  2. 1899 August 29, The Daily Northwestern (The Oshkosh Northwestern), Short Notes, Quote Page 6, Column 1, Oshkosh, Wisconsin. (Newspapers_com)
  3. 1899 September 15, The Record-Union, One Bad Turn Deserves Another (Filler item), Quote Page 2, Column 4, Sacramento, California. (Newspapers_com)
  4. 1899 October 11, Puck, Volume 46, Issue 1170, One Bad Turn Deserved Another, Quote Page 15, Column 4, New York. (ProQuest American Periodicals)