It’s Déjà Vu All Over Again

Yogi Berra? Jim Prior? Clifford Terry? John Anders? Tish Baldrige? Anonymous? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Déjà vu is the eerie and intense sensation that something you are experiencing has happened before. This feeling is often illusory because the event being experienced is genuinely novel. The term déjà vu can also be used to simply reference an event or circumstance that has happened many times before.

Yogi Berra is famous for his magnificent baseball skills and for his comical statements known as Yogiisms. Here are two humorously redundant or exaggerated phrases containing “déjà vu”. The second is usually attributed to Yogi:

It’s déjà vu again.
It’s déjà vu all over again.

I have been unable to find a solid citation ascribing this sentence to Yogi, and I know some Yogiisms are misquotations. What do you think?

Quote Investigator: Analysis of this quotation is complicated by the conflicting testimony provided by Yogi Berra. In 1987 the New York Times language columnist William Safire spoke to Berra by phone, and Berra denied that the phrase was his. However, by 1998 Berra had embraced the quotation, and he presented a scenario circa 1961 in which he made the remark during a baseball game. Of course, it is unfair to demand from a person perfect memory for all utterances. The details for these citations are given further below.

The earliest evidence located by QI was printed in a Florida newspaper in 1962. A humorous love poem titled “Thanks To You” by Jim Prior used the expression in the first line of the first verse. The poem was composed of six verses, and these were the first two: 1

It’s Deja Vu again
Out of the blue again
Truer than true again
Thanks to you.

It’s homerun time again
Rhymes seem to rhyme again
My chimes can chime again
Thanks to you.

The jocular tone suggests to QI that the author knew the phrase was pleonastic. Semantically, he could have said “It’s Déjà vu”, but the longer phrase fit the rhythm and rhyme scheme.

The more elaborate statement: “It’s déjà vu all over again” appeared in a movie review in the Chicago Tribune in 1966. The singer and comedian Dean Martin starred in a vehicle called “The Silencers” which spoofed the secret-super-spy genre popularized by James Bond extravaganzas. The reviewer was not impressed by the fancy gizmos and the provocative women featured on screen: 2

It’s déjà vu all over again—the usual gaggle of gimmicks [miniature hand grenades disguised as coat buttons, a gun that shoots backwards], and the familiar covey of quail [Stella Stevens, Daliah Lavi, Cyd Charisse, Beverly Adams] that frequently makes the put-on more of a take-off.

This is the earliest known citation for the most common modern version of the saying, and it is listed in the Yale Book of Quotations. 3

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading It’s Déjà Vu All Over Again

Notes:

  1. 1962 September 22, Evening Independent, People to People: Poem: “Thanks To You” by Jim Prior of South Pasadena, Page 4B (GN Page 19), St. Petersburg, Florida. (Google News archive)
  2. 1966 February 22, Chicago Tribune, Gimmicks Jam ‘The Silencers’ by Clifford Terry, Page B5, Chicago, Illinois. (ProQuest)
  3. 2006, The Yale Book of Quotations by Fred R. Shapiro, Section Yogi Berra, Quote Page 58, Yale University Press, New Haven. (Verified on paper)

When You Come to a Fork in the Road, Take It

Yogi Berra? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Yogi Berra was a brilliant baseball player and manager. He is also famous for his comically wise sayings which are known as ‘Yogiisms’. This is my favorite on the topic of making decisions:

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

Is this an authentic Yogiism?

Quote Investigator: This precise quotation was printed in the salient 1998 work “The Yogi Book: I Really Didn’t Say Everything I Said!”, and its author Yogi Berra provided some context for his statement: 1

I was giving Joe Garagiola directions from New York to our house in Montclair when I said this.

Garagiola was a long-time friend of Berra and a fellow baseball player.

Intriguingly, this same statement was used as part of a joke that was printed in several U.S. newspapers such as the “Fort Gibson New Era” of Gibson, Oklahoma and the “Correctionville News” of Correctionville, Iowa one hundred years ago in 1913. The humor was based on wordplay and referenced the additional meaning of ‘fork’ as a dining utensil: 2 3

Wise Directions

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
“I will, if it is a silver one.”

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading When You Come to a Fork in the Road, Take It

Notes:

  1. 1998, The Yogi Book: I Really Didn’t Say Everything I Said! by Yogi Berra, Page 48, Workman Publishing, New York. (Verified on paper)
  2. 1913 July 31, Fort Gibson New Era, Wise Directions (Filler item), Quote Page 2, Column 6, Fort Gibson, Oklahoma. (NewspaperArchive)
  3. 1913 July 31, Correctionville News, Wise Directions (Filler item), Quote Page 7, Column 6, Correctionville, Iowa. (NewspaperArchive)

Nostalgia Is Not What It Used To Be

Yogi Berra? Simone Signoret? Peter De Vries? Tommy Handley & Ronald Frankau? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Holidays sometimes make me nostalgic. They also remind me of the following clever quip:

Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be.

These words are often attributed to the famed baseball quotemaster Yogi Berra, but recently I learned of an autobiography by the prominent French actress Simone Signoret titled:

Nostalgia Isn’t What It Used To Be.

Could you explore the origin of this saying?

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence of this expression known to QI was published in a 1959 novel titled “The Tents of Wickedness” by Peter De Vries. This citation is given in the key reference work “The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs” from Yale University Press. De Vries was a popular humorist who worked at “The New Yorker” magazine and published many novels: 1 2

No. Nostalgia, as his Uncle Joshua had said, ain’t what it used to be.
Which made it pretty complete. Nothing was what it used to be — not even nostalgia.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Nostalgia Is Not What It Used To Be

Notes:

  1. 1959, The Tents of Wickedness by Peter De Vries, Quote Page 6, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, Massachusetts. (Verified on paper)
  2. 2012, The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs, Compiled by Charles Clay Doyle, Wolfgang Mieder, and Fred R. Shapiro Page 179, Yale University Press, New Haven. (Verified on paper)

Why Don’t You Carry a Wrist Watch Like Everyone Else?

Herbert Beerbohm Tree?  Frederick Henry Townsend? George du Maurier? Yogi Berra? Mutt and Jeff? An inebriate? A woman carrying packages?

Dear Quote Investigator: I have read several instances of a popular comical anecdote. Two different versions featured baseball Hall-of-Famer Yogi Berra. One night he was presented with a grandfather clock at a banquet dinner. Yogi was struggling to carry the clock down the street when a drunken individual bumped into him.

“Excuse me,” said Yogi.
The drunk looked at him unhappily and demanded, “Why don’t you carry a wrist watch like everybody else?”

In another version of the story Yogi was inebriated. He collided with a person carrying a large clock, and Yogi delivered the final humorous line.

In a third version of the tale a famous actor and theater manager in England was the protagonist. Herbert Beerbohm Tree observed a man staggering down the street under the weight of a grandfather clock and remarked: “My poor fellow, why not carry a watch?”

Can you clarify the origin of this anecdote?

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence of this basic jest known to QI appeared in a cartoon drawn by Frederick Henry Townsend in the London humor magazine Punch in March 1907. Here is the image and the caption: 1

1907PunchClock

Funny Man. “Pardon me, Sir, but wouldn’t you find it more convenient to carry a watch?”

Top quotation expert and BBC broadcaster Nigel Rees included this key citation in his compilation “Cassell’s Humorous Quotations”. 2 The joke was noticed across the ocean, and the cartoon was reprinted in The Washington Post in April 3 and a Pennsylvanian newspaper in October. 4

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Why Don’t You Carry a Wrist Watch Like Everyone Else?

Notes:

  1. 1907 March 27, Punch or The London Charivari, [Cartoon by F. H. Townsend with caption: ‘Funny Man. “Pardon Me…”‘], Page 223, Published at the Punch Office, London. (Google Books full view) link
  2. 2001, Cassell’s Humorous Quotations, Compiled by Nigel Rees, Section: Advice, Quote Page 24, [Cassell, London], Sterling Pub. Co., New York. (Verified on paper)
  3. 1907 April 14, Washington Post, [Reprint of cartoon from Punch magazine], Quote Page 12 (NArch Page 42), Washington, D. C. (NewspaperArchive)
  4. 1907 October 7, The Altoona Mirror, [Reprint of cartoon from Punch magazine], Quote Page 9, Altoona, Pennsylvania. (NewspaperArchive)

I Really Didn’t Say Everything I Said

Yogi Berra? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Thanks for working to help clear up so many incorrect quotations and attributions. I have a question about a quote that might be suitable as the motto of your website. Yogi Berra supposedly said one the following Yogi-isms:

1. I really didn’t say everything I said.
2. I didn’t say everything I said.
3. I never said half the things I said.
4. Half the things I said, I never said them.
5. I never said most of the things I said.

Did Yogi say one of these statements?

Quote Investigator: In February 1986 there is good evidence that Yogi Berra did say the first statement above as recorded in a Long Island, New York newspaper: 1

Berra was unveiled to the Southwest in the Astros’ winter caravan. “Here he was a Hall of Famer coming down to the backwoods of Texas,” publicist Rob Matwick said. “He was the most single sought-out person. He led the team in stares.”

Fans hung on Berra’s every word, hoping for a Berra-ism, many of which have been said by others but attributed to Yogi. “I really didn’t say everything I said,” Berra said, creating another original.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Really Didn’t Say Everything I Said

Notes:

  1. 1986 February 24, “Color Yogi a Happy Guy; Now wearing Astros’ rainbow uniform, Berra’s relaxed, popular” by Steve Marcus, Section Sports, Start Page 92, Newsday [Nassau and Suffolk Edition], Long Island, New York. (ProQuest)

The Future Is Not What It Used To Be

Yogi Berra? Paul Valéry? Laura Riding? Robert Graves? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: I am interested in a saying that is both humorous and shrewd:

The future is not what it used to be.

I have seen several other versions of the saying. The phrasing that uses the word “ain’t” is often credited to Yogi Berra:

The future ain’t what it used to be.
The future’s not what it was.
The future isn’t what it used to be.
The future is no longer what it used to be.

Who should be credited with this witty and sometimes rueful comment?

Quote Investigator: The baseball great Yogi Berra writing in his 1998 volume “The Yogi Book” did claim that he used this expression. A precise timeframe was not given, but the saying was accompanied with a picture from 1974. Yogi also offered an interpretation: 1

I just meant that times are different. Not necessarily better or worse. Just different.

The earliest evidence of this saying located by QI was published in 1937 in a journal called “Epilogue” within an article titled “From a Private Correspondence on Reality” by Laura Riding and Robert Graves. The authors who were both prominent literary figures asserted that the perception of the future had changed: 2

The human mind has reached the end of temporal progress: the future is not what it used to be, and people talk with less and less progenitive self-precipitation into the future, and behave with more and more fatally decisive immediacy. The future, that is, contains nothing but scientific development. It is an involuntary spending and manipulation of physical forces, empty of consciousness: it no longer matters.

Also in 1937 the poet and philosopher Paul Valéry wrote a version of the phrase in French in the essay “Notre Destin et Les Lettres”. In 1948 his words were translated and published in English in “Our Destiny and Literature” which was part of the collection “Reflections on the World Today”. Here is the French statement and the English translation with additional context: 3

L’avenir est comme le reste: il n’est plus ce qu’il était

The future, like everything else, is no longer quite what it used to be. By that I mean we can no longer think of it with any confidence in our inductions.

The above Valéry citation is listed in the important reference “The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs” from Yale University Press.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Future Is Not What It Used To Be

Notes:

  1. 1998, “The Yogi Book: I really didn’t say everything I said!” by Yogi Berra, Page 118 -119, Workman Publishing, New York. (Verified on paper)
  2. 1937 Spring, Epilogue: A Critical Summary, Volume III, Journal edited by Laura Riding and Robert Graves, Article: “From a Private Correspondence on Reality” by Laura Riding and Robert Graves, Reprinted in: 2001, “Essays from ‘Epilogue’ 1935-1937” by Laura Riding, Robert Graves, Edited by Mark Jacobs, Start Page 163, Quote Page 170, Carcanet Press Limited, Manchester, United Kingdom. (Verified on paper in 2001 reprint)
  3. 2012, The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs, Compiled by Charles Clay Doyle, Wolfgang Mieder, and Fred R. Shapiro Page 90, Column 2, Yale University Press, New Haven.(Verified on paper)

“You Look Nice and Cool.” “Thanks! You Don’t Look So Hot Yourself.”

Yogi Berra? Babe Herman? Department Store Sales Woman? Young Student? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: My favorite quotation from Yogi Berra was said when he was introduced to a beautiful model after a baseball game. She complimented him, and his fumbling reply was unintentionally funny:

She said, “You look so nice and cool in that white uniform.”
He said, “Thanks! You don’t look so hot yourself.”

Is this anecdote accurate?

Quote Investigator: This type of comical tale has a long history. In 1934 a newspaper in Illinois printed a version in which the two participants were a “young woman of our village” and a sales woman: 1

It was a hot day. She had gone to a department store office to pay her bill, and, impressed by the crisp, fresh appearance of the girl behind the counter, she had exclaimed, “My, but you look cool.” And the girl had gazed across the counter and replied briskly, “You don’t look so hot yourself.”

In July 1937 a New York newspaper printed a version of the story that featured members of the opposite sex. Once again the tale was presented as a humorous piece of non-fiction: 2

Few stories of the recent heat wave to equal that dug up by Mark Hellinger, who tells about the conversational difficulty of the young man and young woman who had to resort to the old standby, the weather.
“You don’t appear to be minding the heat,” was her gracious lead.
He tried his best to think of a complimentary comeback, but the words did not come. Finally he thought of one.
“Well, you don’t look so hot yourself,” he told her. And then the air grew much cooler.

Eventually, a jocular story of this type was told about a baseball player. Interestingly, the first player who appeared in this anecdote was Babe Herman and not Yogi Berra. An instance featuring Herman was published in 1951, and an instance with Yogi was published in 1956. Details are given further below.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading “You Look Nice and Cool.” “Thanks! You Don’t Look So Hot Yourself.”

Notes:

  1. 1934 June 17, Rockford Morning Star, Ye Towne Gossip, Page 8, Column 1, Rockford, Illinois. (GenealogyBank)
  2. 1937 July 28, Evening Recorder, Main Street by H. P. Donlon, That Language of Ours, Page 5, Column 1, Amsterdam, New York. (Old Fulton)

So I’m Ugly. So What? I Never Saw Anyone Hit with His Face

Yogi Berra? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: While looking through a book of baseball’s greatest quotations I came across this hilarious reply from Yogi Berra to someone who criticized his appearance:

So I’m ugly. So what? I never saw anyone hit with his face.

Some of the sayings credited to Yogi are bogus, but I hope this one is real. What do you think?

Quote Investigator: There is good evidence starting in 1948 that Yogi did make this quip. The book “Yankee Doodles” by the sports writer Milton Gross contained a collection of profiles of New York Yankee baseball players. The chapter on Yogi contained the following: 1

Yogi may be many things to many people, but he’s not a dope. An amiable youngster, Yogi feels that when his teammates stop kidding him half the pleasure of life will be gone. When they remind him that he’s ugly, Yogi has a pat answer.

“It don’t matter if you’re ugly in this racket. All you have to do is hit the ball and I never saw anybody hit one with his face.”

In 1949 the popular magazine “Collier’s Weekly” published a profile of the ballplayer titled: “Yankee Yogi: I’m Human, Ain’t I?” by the journalist Gordon Manning. Yogi was quoted presenting a very similar quip with the word “anybody” replaced by “nobody”: 2

But Yogi, an amiable guy of twenty-four and the absolute favorite of everybody in the clubhouse, brushes off those who rib him about his ugliness.

“It don’t matter if you’re ugly in this racket,” he says. “All you gotta do is hit the ball, and I never saw nobody hit one with his face.”

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading So I’m Ugly. So What? I Never Saw Anyone Hit with His Face

Notes:

  1. 1948, Yankee Doodles by Milton Gross, Chapter: Beauty’s Only Skin Deep, Start Page 109, Quote Page 115, House of Kent Publishing Company, Boston, Massachusetts. (Verified on paper)
  2. 1949 August 13, Collier’s Weekly, Yankee Yogi: “I’m Human, Ain’t I?” by Gordon Manning, Start Page 21, Quote Page 21, The Crowell-Collier Publishing Company, Springfield, Ohio. (Unz)

If I Could Just Make Them Up On the Spot, I’d Be Famous

Yogi Berra? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: One of the cleverest jokes credited to Yogi Berra is meta-logical. Apparently, some people were following Yogi around and expecting him to utter one of his famous Yogi-isms. Finally, in exasperation he said:

If I could just make ’em up on the spot, I’d be famous.

This response is great because it is a Yogi-ism. He did make it up on the spot, and he is famous for creating exactly this type of expression. But did this really happen?

Quote Investigator: There is good evidence that Yogi Berra did coin this Yogi-ism. In 2001 Yogi published the volume “When You Come to a Fork in the Road, Take It!” which was subtitled “Inspiration and Wisdom From One of Baseball’s Greatest Heroes”. He told of an episode that occurred at The Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center which is on the campus of Montclair State University adjacent to the Yogi Berra Stadium: 1

People always expect me to be funny. I guess that’s the popular image. “Make up a Yogi-ism,” they’ll say. I can’t. I don’t think I ever said anything intentionally funny in my life. Sometimes the quotes just happen—I just don’t know when I’ll say them.

Once a couple visiting our museum met me and asked if I could say a Yogi-ism. I told them I don’t make them up on the spot. I said if I could, I’d be famous.

The same story was told in the pages of Sport Illustrated magazine in 2011. This version presented the words of Yogi as a direct quotation: 2

Once a man and woman came up to him at the museum and asked him to invent a Yogi-ism, on the spot. He told them it doesn’t work that way. He does not just divine these phrases. He said, “If I could just make ’em up on the spot, I’d be famous.” The couple laughed happily. Yogi Berra did not know what was so funny.

In conclusion, based on the testimony of Yogi himself he did make this statement of self-referential wisdom.  Also, QI believes that it is unlikely that these words were said by someone else and then reassigned to Yogi.

(In Memoriam: Many thanks to my brother Stephen for pointing out the value of researching Yogi-isms.)

(Also, thanks to John for supplying the issue of Sports Illustrated.)

Notes:

  1. 2002 (Copyright 2001), “When You Come to a Fork in the Road, Take It!” by Yogi Berra with Dave Kaplan, Quote Page 138, Hyperion Paperback Edition, New York. (Amazon Look Inside)
  2. 2011 July 04, Sports Illustrated, Where Are They Now?: Yogi Berra Will Be a Living Legend Even After He’s Gone by Joe Posnanski, (sportsillustrated.cnn.com; SI Vault; Accessed November 13, 2012)

We’re Lost, But We’re Making Good Time!

Yogi Berra? George Lichty? Buddy Blattner? Joe Garagiola? Apocryphal? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Famed baseball player Yogi Berra is credited with many hilarious remarks. Once Yogi was driving to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York with some other players. After passing the same landmark three times a fellow player named Joe Garagiola said “Yogi, you’re lost” and he replied:

Yeah, I know it. But we’re making good time, ain’t we?

I hope this anecdote is true. What do you think?

Quote Investigator: In 1998 Yogi Berra published a short volume called “The Yogi Book” containing a series of quotations that Berra claimed were accurately ascribed to him. He presented background information explaining when and why each statement was made. This is a valuable document because a large number of spurious sayings have been attached to the good-natured and larger-than-life figure.

Berra states that he did make a remark of this type while driving to the Hall of Fame in 1972. The other occupants of the vehicle were his wife Carmen and his three sons. “Carmen was giving me a hard time, so I gave it back.” He said:

We’re lost, but we’re making good time!

This suggests that Berra was consciously making a joke. In fact, QI has traced this type of humorous comment as far back as the 1940s. A panel by the cartoonist George Lichty was published in the October 1947 issue of popular periodical Collier’s Weekly. It depicted a uniformed airplane pilot addressing his passengers with the following words [CWGL]:

We’re still lost, but we’re making very good time!

Lichty was best known for the long-running syndicated comic strip panel “Grin and Bear It”. Interestingly, he did not formulate the punchline given above. The cartoon was reprinted in Collier’s Weekly in 1948 along with commentary that identified the author of the caption as Buddy Blattner, a baseball player who later became a broadcaster [CWBB]:

The gag, incidentally, came from the fertile brain of Buddy Blattner, of the New York Giants, who sold it to Collier’s, who farmed it to Lichty.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading We’re Lost, But We’re Making Good Time!