Lose As If You Like It, and Win As If You Are Used to It

Ralph Waldo Emerson? Eric Mark Golnik? Thomas Hitchcock, Jr.? Thomas Hitchcock, Sr.?  F. Ambrose Clark? Rosalind Russell? Jock Whitney? Desi Arnaz? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: There is a quotation about sportsmanship that I would like to learn more about:

Win as if you were used to it, lose as if you enjoyed it for a change.

I have seen these words credited to Ralph Waldo Emerson, Eric Mark Golnik, and anonymous. Could you examine this saying?

Quote Investigator: QI has found no compelling evidence linking the coinage of the saying to Emerson or Golnik. The earliest relevant citation located by QI was a precursor printed in The Times of London in 1920. An article about the Tennis Amateur Championship praised a player named E. L. Phillips [TCPH]:

Mr. Phillips has learned the most difficult thing in all games, to lose as if he liked it, and is therefore even a pleasure to play against, in spite of the fact that he often wins.

The excerpt above presented part of the saying. A more complete version appeared in a 1929 book in the domain of horse racing titled:  “Between the Flags: The Recollections of a Gentleman Rider”. The author placed the statement between quotation marks indicating that the adage was already in circulation without attribution [BFHP]:

In racing, the rough and the smooth are so quickly interchangeable that the only path safe from the ridiculous, is the one guarded by “Win as if you are used to it. Lose as if you liked it.”

In 1942 the Edwardsville Intelligencer, a newspaper in Illinois, published the maxim as a freestanding sentence without ascription, i.e., as filler material. The word “it” in the phrase “like it” was apparently accidentally omitted [LLEI]:

Lose as if you like, and win as if you were used to it.

In April 1943 a Texas newspaper assigned the adage to an individual [LRTH]:

Lose as if you like it, and win as if you were used to it — Thomas Hitchcock.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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