This Is On Me

Dorothy Parker? William P. Rothwell? Soaker? Apocryphal? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The notable wit Dorothy Parker was also known as an imbiber. She would sometimes generously buy a round of drinks for her companions using the phrase:

This is on me.

Once when asked to create an epitaph for her tombstone she selected the expression above because of its dual meanings. One interpretation would remind her friends of convivial occasions. The other interpretation would prosaically specify that the stone stood above her mortal remains. Did Parker really choose this inscription, and is it on her tombstone?

Quote Investigator: QI plans to examine at least five different epitaphs that have been attributed to Dorothy Parker. Here is a link to a webpage that will have pointers to the five separate analyses when they are completed.

Dorothy Parker died in 1967, and books published in 1968 and 1970 asserted that Parker mentioned this expression as a possible humorous epitaph. Detailed citations are given further below. Nevertheless, the words did not appear on the marker above her ashes. The actual commemorative statement can be read near the end of this article.

This joke has a long history and instances have been circulating for more than one hundred years. For example, in July 1896 the humor magazine “Life” printed a comical dialog about a grave marker. The term “soaker” referred to a heavy drinker. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

BRIGGS. That was rather an appropriate inscription they put on Soaker’s tombstone.
GRIGGS: What was it?
“‘This is on me.'”

Dorothy Parker was born in 1893; therefore, barring preternatural precocity, she did not craft this quip though she may have employed it.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading This Is On Me

Notes:

  1. 1896 July 16, Life, Volume 28, Issue 707, (Short untitled item), Quote Page 572, Column 3, Published by Life Office, New York. (ProQuest)