H. L. Mencken? Robert E. Adams? Apocryphal? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: Acerbic commentator H. L. Mencken has received credit for a figurative remark that mentions military bands and military cooks. Yet, I have been unable to find a solid citation. Would you please examine this topic?
Quote Investigator: In 1942 H. L. Mencken published a massive compilation titled “A New Dictionary of Quotations on Historical Principles from Ancient and Modern Sources”, and he included the following entry: 1
When I hear artists or authors making fun of business men I think of a regiment in which the band makes fun of the cooks. IBID.
The term “IBID” meant that the source for the quotation was the same as the source for the previous quotation. Interestingly, the previous quotation listed in the book specified “Author unidentified”. Thus, the quotation under analysis is anonymous.
The 1944 occurrence is the earliest one located by QI. The confusion about authorship is due to the presence of the quotation in Mencken’s compilation. Some readers ignored or misunderstood the fact that Mencken had labeled the statement anonymous.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 1942, A New Dictionary of Quotations on Historical Principles from Ancient and Modern Sources, Selected and Edited by H. L. Mencken (Henry Louis Mencken), Topic: Business, Quote Page 134, Column 2, Alfred A. Knopf. New York. (Verified with hardcopy) ↩