When You Don’t Promote, a Terrible Thing Happens . . . Nothing

P. T. Barnum? Pat Williams? Billboard? Ford Saeks? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Human attention is a scarce commodity. Considerable effort is required to attract potential customers to a new business or product. Here are two versions of a pertinent saying:

  • Without advertising, a terrible thing happens . . . Nothing.
  • Without promotion, something terrible happens . . . Nothing.

These statements have been attributed to the famous showman Phineas T. Barnum. What do you think?

Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive evidence that this saying was employed by P. T. Barnum who died in 1891.

The earliest strong match located by QI appeared in December 1975 in “The Danville Register” of Virginia. A radio station printed a message encouraging readers to purchase broadcast advertisements. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

When you don’t Promote
A terrible thing Happens
NOTHING
WDVA/RADIO

The author was unspecified, and QI believes an anonymous copywriter crafted the statement. Many years later, circa 1999, the saying was implausibly reassigned to P.T. Barnum.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading When You Don’t Promote, a Terrible Thing Happens . . . Nothing

Notes:

  1. 1975 December 7, The Danville Register, (Advertisement), Quote Page 15B, Column 3, Danville, Virginia. (Newspapers_com)

I Don’t Suffer from Insanity; I Enjoy Every Minute of It!

Edgar Allan Poe? Edward Hastings Ford? Lloyd Biggle Jr.? Pat Williams? Joss Whedon? Bumper Sticker? T-Shirt Slogan? Anonymous?

raven12Dear Quote Investigator: The following statement has been attributed to Edgar Allan Poe, the influential writer of detective fiction and the macabre:

I don’t suffer from insanity, I enjoy every minute of it!

Poe died in 1849 and I think this expression only emerged in the twentieth century. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: There is no substantive evidence that Poe said or wrote this quotation. An article titled “Did Poe Really Say That?” on the website of “The Museum of Edgar Allan Poe” in Richmond, Virginia examined the saying and concluded that it was not from Poe. 1

The earliest instance located by QI appeared in a 1946 article “That’s No Gag, That’s a Switch” published in “The New York Times”. The piece presented many examples of the construction of new jokes via the modification of existing jokes. According to the paper the quip was originally crafted by the comedian Edward Hastings Ford who performed using the persona ‘Senator’ Ed Ford. The phrasing was different, but the core jest was the same. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 2

Senator Ford, one of the best of the topical talkers, takes this oldie:

“Does anyone in your family suffer with rheumatism?”
“Sure, what else can they do but suffer with rheumatism?”

and switches it to:

“Does anyone in your family suffer from insanity?”
“No, they enjoy it.”

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Don’t Suffer from Insanity; I Enjoy Every Minute of It!

Notes:

  1. Website: The Museum of Edgar Allan Poe, Article title: Museum News: Did Poe Really Say That?, Article Author: Kelly, Date on website: September 10, 2014, Website description: Web presence of the Poe Museum of Richmond, Virginia. The Museum is located in The Old Stone House. (Accessed poemuseum.org on December 20, 2015) link
  2. 1946 May 12, New York Times, “That’s No Gag, That’s a Switch” by Joe Laurie Jr. (Stage and radio comedian), Start Page 21, Quote Page 59, New York. (ProQuest)