Tag Archives: Rudy Vallee

Time Wounds All Heels

Groucho Marx? Marshall Reid? Fanny Brice? Frank Case? Jane Ace? Goodman Ace? Rudy Vallée? Verree Teasdale? Robert Bloch? Ann Landers? Anonymous?

foot08Dear Quote Investigator: The following humorous pun about comeuppance for poor behavior has been attributed to the famous comedian Groucho Marx. The slang term “heel” refers to a contemptible person:

Time wounds all heels.

The statement is a scrambled version of the following comforting aphorism about the mitigation of injuries:

Time heals all wounds.

The pun has also been attributed to hotelier Frank Case and radio performer Jane Ace. Would you please explore this saying?

Quote Investigator: Groucho Marx did deliver this comical line during the film “Go West” in 1940, but the expression was already in circulation. In addition, there is good evidence that Frank Case, Jane Ace and several other individuals employed the joke. Detailed citations are given further below.

The earliest citation located by QI appeared in a syndicated news column in December 1934. The remark was ascribed to someone named Marshall Reid. An explanatory anecdote was given to introduce the punchline. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

In a Chicago cafe the other night, an elderly man passed a table.

“There goes George,” observed an onlooker. “When he was young, he was a handsome guy. Left a wife and two kids to starve, and ran off with another woman. And now look at him. Old, broke and very sad.”

“That’s the way-it-goes,” nodded Marshall Reid. “Time wounds all heels.”

Frank Case was a prominent hotelier who owned and operated the Algonquin Hotel in New York where the celebrated Algonquin Round Table convened. He appeared multiple times on a popular radio program hosted by the entertainer Rudy Vallée. During a broadcast in 1937 Vallée asked Case about “skippers”, hotel guests who attempt to leave without paying their bills. Case’s response included the quip: 2

We don’t have much trouble with skippers. If a man can’t pay his bill he usually tells me; pays me later. Of course, they’re a few heels who get away with things, but eventually as time goes by they all get caught. What I always say is “Time wounds all heels”.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. 1934 December 21, Lowell Sun, All In A Day by Mark Hellinger (King Features Syndicate), Quote Page 14, Column 7, Lowell, Massachusetts. (NewspaperArchive)
  2. Website: Old Time Radio Downloads, Audio title: Rudy Vallee Royal Gelatin Hour Guest Tallulah Bankhead, Audio description: Frank Case was also a guest, Air Date on website: June 17, 1937, Audio quotation location: 38 mins, 58 secs of 57 mins 44 secs) Website description: Audio files of old radio show broadcasts. (Accessed oldtimeradiodownloads.com on May 26, 2017) link

This Is the Sort of Nonsense Up With Which I Will Not Put

Winston Churchill? Rudy Vallee? Army Captain? The Strand Magazine? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: My question concerns a memorable anecdote about the statesman Winston Churchill and the fine points of grammar. In the past many books offering grammatical advice told readers that they must never end a sentence with a preposition. Years ago when Churchill solicited comments by circulating a draft of an important speech he received a criticism that included a correction to his text. One of his sentences was rearranged to comply with the preposition rule. An irate Churchill responded with one of the following ripostes:

This is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put.
This is the kind of arrant pedantry up with which I will not put.
This is the type of impertinence up with which I shall not put.

I enjoy this story and have retold it on numerous occasions because it demonstrates how clumsy a sentence can become when it is mechanically rewritten to comply with a nonsensical prohibition. Sadly, I have learned that his tale may be false. Could you explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: This famous tale has attracted the interest of many researchers over the decades. Ben Zimmer, a brilliant linguist who writes for the Wall Street Journal on the topic of language, obtained the pivotal citations and located an instance of the comical phrase in the Wall Street Journal of September 30, 1942. The text referred to an earlier appearance in The Strand magazine but it did not provide an exact pointer [BZCQ] [WJGP].

Based on this lead QI has now located the earliest known instance of a version of this anecdote in the May 1942 issue of The Strand. Churchill was not mentioned in this tale titled “The End of a Sentence” which appeared in a section called “World Laughs” containing several other short humorous pieces [TSGP]:

When a memorandum passed round a certain Government department, one young pedant scribbled a postscript drawing attention to the fact that the sentence ended with a preposition, which caused the original writer to circulate another memorandum complaining that the anonymous postscript was “offensive impertinence, up with which I will not put.”

It is conceivable that this story was based on an actual incident, but the other jokes on the page emphasized humor over plausibility and used generic figures such as: “the black marketeer”, “a noted prima donna”, and “the perplexed young man”. Veracity was probably forfeited to comedy.

Winston Churchill was connected to this joke in a multi-step process that began in 1944 with a cable sent from England to North American newspapers, but tracing this tale is complicated because some newspapers apparently insisted on rewriting the key phrase. It is possible that zealous newspaper copy editors did not quite understand the intended humor and printed a garbled version of the jest. Alternatively, someone on Churchill’s staff did not fully understand the gibe and sent a phrase with a different word order.

The earliest citation located by QI that attributed the comical phrase with the proper word order to Churchill was dated September 15, 1945. Specifically, the phrase “up with which I will not put” was credited to him. The details of the evolving quip are given below with additional selected citations in chronological order.

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