“I Am My Own Worst Enemy” “Not While I’m Alive”

Groucho Marx? Ernest Bevin? George S. Kaufman? Cotton Ed Smith? Franklin P. Adams? Alan Hale? Walter F. George? Oscar Levant?

Dear Quote Investigator: A comment which acknowledges criticism has been coupled with a harshly comical riposte. Here are three examples:

  1. “I’m my own worst enemy. ” “Not while I’m in the room.”
  2. “She is her own worst enemy.” “Not while I am around.”
  3. “He is his own greatest enemy” “Not while I’m alive, he ain’t.”

Would you please explore the provenance of this type of exchange?

Quote Investigator: The earliest instance of this schema located by QI appeared in a 1933 article by Franklin P. Adams in the “New York Herald Tribune”. Adams was reviewing a book filled with abbreviations, informal language, and flexible spelling; hence, he decided to retain that style in his analysis. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

. . . only the other night when I said I am my own worst enemy 4 fellows rushed in to say loyaly not while they was alive.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading “I Am My Own Worst Enemy” “Not While I’m Alive”

Notes:

  1. 1933 March 12, New York Herald Tribune, Section: Books, Life Is Just a Game of Baseball by Franklin P. Adams, (Book Review of “Lose With a Smile” by Ring Lardner), Quote Page 4, Column 1, New York, New York. (ProQuest)