Nothing Is More Responsible for the Good Old Days than a Bad Memory

Franklin P. Adams? Franklin P. Jones? H. B. Meyers? Sylvia Strum Bremer? Loring Smith? Mike Connolly? Steven Pinker?

Dear Quote Investigator: Public intellectual Steven Pinker recently published the bestselling book “Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress” which includes an entertaining quotation about nostalgia attributed to a prominent newspaper columnist: 1

As the columnist Franklin Pierce Adams pointed out, “Nothing is more responsible for the good old days than a bad memory.”

I have been unable to find a solid citation. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: This saying was attributed to Franklin Pierce Adams in 1964 by the prominent publisher and quotation collector Bennett Cerf, but Adams had died in 1960, and Cerf is occasionally unreliable.

More than a decade before Adams received credit, the remark was ascribed to a columnist with a similar name, Franklin P. Jones. So Cerf may have confused the two names. Interestingly, the initial evidence found by QI occurred even earlier, and the saying appears to have evolved over time.

The May 1913 issue of “The American Food Journal” contained a prolix match within an editorial. H. B. Meyers was the editor, managing editor, and publisher of the journal. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 2

“THE GOOD OLD DAYS.”

A certain class of people are fond of talking about “the good old days,” but they are for the most part individuals without imagination and with a very poor memory. As a matter of fact, there never was a time in the history of the world when the days were as good as they are right now in this year of our Lord 1913.

In 1950 a columnist in an Iowa newspaper, Sylvia Strum Bremer, presented a more concise version of the sentiment: 3

Everybody is always talking about “the good old days,” and a lot of the nostalgia expressed is simply the result of poor memory.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Nothing Is More Responsible for the Good Old Days than a Bad Memory

Notes:

  1. 2018, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress by Steven Pinker, Chapter 4: Progressophobia, Quote Page 48, Viking, New York. (Google Books Preview)
  2. 1913 May, The American Food Journal, Volume 8, Number 5, “The Good Old Days”, Start Page 131, Quote Page 131, H. B. Meyers & Company, Chicago, Illinois. (Google Books Full View) link
  3. 1950 December 26, The Daily Times, Syl-o-ettes by Sylvia Strum Bremer, Quote Page 14A, Column 3, Davenport, Iowa. (Newspapers_com)

I Don’t Like Spinach, and I’m Glad I Don’t, Because If I Liked It I’d Eat It, and I’d Just Hate It

Clarence Darrow? George Sand? Charles Paul de Kock? Henry Monnier? Eddie Drake? Heywood Broun? Irvin S. Cobb? Steven Pinker? Anonymous?

Disliked Food: Spinach? Carp Head? Eels? Oysters? Lobster? Lettuce? Green Peas? Beets?

Dear Quote Investigator: The famous defense lawyer Clarence Darrow apparently had a very low opinion of the vegetable favored by the cartoon character Popeye. Darrow has been credited with the following comical tantrum:

I don’t like spinach, and I’m glad I don’t, because if I liked it I’d eat it, and I just hate it.

Would you please explore the history of this logically twisted humor?

Quote Investigator: During 1834 and 1835 the prominent French author George Sand wrote her thoughts down in a private journal while she conducted a tempestuous love affair with the poet Alfred de Musset. Many years later in 1904 the periodical “La Renaissance Latine” published material from the journal including the following statement about épinards (spinach). Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

. . . je serais bien fâchée d’aimer les épinards, car si je les aimais, j’en mangerais, et je ne les peux souffrir.

In 1929 an English translation appeared under the title “The Intimate Journal of George Sand”. The text showed clearly that the remark about spinach was already in circulation circa 1835, and Sand disclaimed credit: 2

Here is some logic I heard the other day. I’m glad I don’t care for spinach, for if I liked it I should eat it, and I cannot bear spinach.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Don’t Like Spinach, and I’m Glad I Don’t, Because If I Liked It I’d Eat It, and I’d Just Hate It

Notes:

  1. 1904 July to September, La Renaissance Latine, Volume 3, Encore George Sand et Musset, Start Page 5, Quote Page 18, Paris, France. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 1976 (Copyright 1929), The Intimate Journal of George Sand by George Sand, Translation and Notes by Marie Jenney Howe, Section: Journal of George Sand to Alfred de Musset, Quote Page 34, (Reprint of 1929 edition from Williams & Norgate, London), Haskell House Publishers, New York. (Verified with hard copy)