What Is a Highbrow? He Is a Man Who Has Found Something More Interesting Than Women

Edgar Wallace? Aldous Huxley? Paul Larmer? Russell Lynes? Katharine Whitehorn? Wayne C. Booth? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Human thoughts are often focused on relationships and intimacy. Yet, other cerebral pursuits may predominate when the mind shifts focus. Here are three closely related versions of a humorous definition:

  • A highbrow is a person who has found something more interesting than women.
  • Egghead: a guy who’s found something more interesting than women.
  • An intellectual is someone who has found something more interesting than sex.

The first two versions are presented from a stance of gynephilia. The third is more general. This quip has been attributed to the popular and prolific English thriller writer Edgar Wallace. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The first match known to QI appeared in “The New York Times” in January 1932. A journalist interviewed Edgar Wallace and asked him about his prodigious output of stories. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Mr. Wallace insists there is no mystery about his quick writing. “I’m a newspaper man, and in the hard training of a newspaper office I have learned to marshal my thoughts and give them terse expression.

“The highbrows tell me that my writing is not literature, and I retort that literature is too often unintelligible. What is a highbrow? He is a man who has found something more interesting than women. When I get that way I’ll stop writing and take to art.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading What Is a Highbrow? He Is a Man Who Has Found Something More Interesting Than Women

Notes:

  1. 1932 January 24, The New York Times, Edgar Wallace Enjoys Hollywood, Quote Page X6, Column 4, New York. (ProQuest)

Opportunity Is Missed Because It Is Dressed in Overalls and Looks Like Work

Thomas Edison? Henry Dodd? Isaiah Hale? Paul Larmer? Lila Kroppmann? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The following quote is credited to Thomas Edison:

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.

Do you know when he said this and to whom?

Quote Investigator: Both QI and top researcher Barry Popik explored this saying and this entry is based on results from both investigators. The first attribution to Edison known to QI appeared in 1962. Since Edison died in 1931 this is very weak evidence.

May 1921 was the date of the earliest citation for a closely matching expression known to QI. The words were printed in a newspaper in Indiana, and the adage was not credited to any specific person [LPTI]:

The reason most people do not recognize an opportunity when they meet it is because it usually goes around wearing overalls and looking like Hard Work

An interesting precursor to this statement was in circulation by 1911. The precursor did not mention overalls but it did contain other key elements of the saying. No attribution was listed [ODHW]:

The successful man was out and on the job long before opportunity came a-knocking.
And this same opportunity, by the way, is ofttimes disguised as hard work

Another interesting precursor that was closer to the target quotation was in print by 1913. No specific name was given for attribution [ASAM]:

The reason a lot of people can’t find Opportunity is because old Op usually goes around disguised as Hard Work.

In May 1921 a version of the quotation under investigation using the word overalls was published as detailed previously in this post.

In June 1921 the same statement was printed in another newspaper in Indiana without attribution [BNAN], and in July 1922 it was printed without ascription in “The Beaver”, a magazine based in Winnipeg, Canada that was published by the Hudson’s Bay Company for their employees [TBWC].

In September 1922 the expression was printed in “The Rotarian” magazine published by Rotary International. Many sayings were grouped together in a section called “Take It From Me—” by quotation collector and coiner Coleman Cox. The adage was finally credited to a specific individual [RTHD]:

Henry Dodd says, “The reason most people do not recognize an opportunity when they meet it is because it usually goes around wearing overalls and looking like Hard Work.”

In later years the expression was assigned to other people, e.g., Paul Larmer, Lila Kroppmann, and Thomas Edison. The details are given further below.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Opportunity Is Missed Because It Is Dressed in Overalls and Looks Like Work