It's a case for Fred Shapiro!

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Jan 24 06:22:48 UTC 2001

At 12:49 PM -0500 1/24/01, GEORGE THOMPSON wrote:
>         In a new book I find the following allusion to a very familiar
>expression, referring to the fact that Anne Perry, the mystery
>writer, had been identified as having been involved in a murder when
>a teen-ager in Australia: "Perry was terrified that the revelation of
>her past . . . would destroy her career, but as it turned out, the
>ensuing wave of interest actually increased her sales, confirming the
>old wisdom that there is no such thing as bad publicity."  Martha
>Hailey DuBose, Women of Mystery. . . , NY, 2000/2001, p. 426.
>         This is one of those popular expressions which are very hard to
>document because they are very variable in their formulation.  It
>exists in both a negative form, as above, and a positive one: all
>publicity is good publicity.
>         I find in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, 5th ed., 1999 and the
>Oxford Dictionary of Phrase, Saying and Quotation, 1997, the same
>citation, attributed to Brendan Behan: all publicity is good
>publicity, except your own obituary.  I think that this is obviously
>Behan's elaboration of a previously familiar expression.  The ODQ
>further dates the idea to the early 20th century.  The 1986 edition
>of Partridge's Dictionary of Catchphrases gives it with the
>concluding qualification "so long as they spell your name right" and
>dates it to the mid 1930s.  This is the form familiar to me.

Then there's the related "Call me whatever you want, as long as it's
not late for dinner"


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