"Bad publicity" (1931) & "Spell my name right" (1928)

Bapopik at AOL.COM Bapopik at AOL.COM
Tue Dec 30 07:15:37 UTC 2003

   My apologies again for the errors in the thumbnails.  I copy directly from
the scrambled material provided.
   Apologies again for the spelling errors I added in the last post.  You
see, they're supposed to have twelve judges, and they have six, and there are
over 200 people waiting after the place has officially closed, and it's twelve
hours nonstop again of parking tickets, and I work again tomorrow, and the again
next day...
   Maybe in my spare time each day at 5 a.m. I can write a Food Dictionary.


   See "bad publicity" in the ADS-L archives, from 2001.  It's listed as "a
case for Fred Shapiro."
   Fred Shapiro responded with this:

All right, here's my response.  This is the earliest example I have of
the"publicity" saying:1950 Hortense Powdermaker _Hollywood the Dream Factory_ 241
The Hollywoodproverb that "The only bad publicity is no publicity" would seem
to haveconsiderable truth behind it, even if publicity alone is not
generallysufficient to make a star.

Fred Shapiro

   Then, Fred Shapiro added this:

I previously posted a response about "the only bad publicity is nopublicity"
and similar phrases.  Subsequently, I have come across thefollowing in

An almost proverbial saying, which I first heard in the 1960s but which
isprobably as old as the public relations industry.  Alternative formsinclude:
'There's no such thing as bad publicity', 'There's no such thingas over-exposure
-- only bad exposure', 'Don't read it -- measure it' and'I don't care what the
papers say about me as long as they spell my nameright'.  The latter saying
has been attributed to the American Tammanyleader 'Big Tim' Sullivan.

Concise Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs includes it in the form 'Anypublicity
is good publicity' but finds no example before 1974.  However,in Dominic
Behan's _My Brother Brendan_ (1965), the Irish playwright isquoted as saying: 'There
is no such thing as bad publicty except your own obituary.'  And James Agee
in _Ego_ 7 (for 19 February 1944) quotes ArnoldBennett, 'All praise is good',
and adds: 'I suppose the same could be saidabout publicity.'"

Fred Shapiro

   Then, George Thompson added this:

In January of 2001 I set off a train of discussion among us regardingthe
antiquity of the expression "There's no such thing as bad publicity".  I then had
only a very recent citation to contribute ,along with the statement that I had
heard it or variants of it at onetime or another in the past, going back to
the mid-1960s.  Fred Shapiro was able to produce a version from 1950 and a
passage from 1943 that seemed to allude to it.  Others also chipped in.

I can now contribute this inversion of the phrase, from 1934:

Without publicity it is doubtful if Alphonse Capone ever would havebeen sent
to prison.  It is axiomatic among all intelligent criminalsthat all publicity
is bad publicity.  Stanley Walker, City Editor, N.Y.: Frederick A. Stokes,
1934, p. 31.

This is one of those expressions that are so highly variable in formthat they
are very difficult to trace.  I associate it with showbusiness, and in that
racket, publicity is always good, but theexpression can be phrased either as an
affirmative or anegative: "there's no such thing as bad publicity" (or a
variant) asopposed to "all publicity is good publicity"/"every knock is a
boost"(or variants).  In criminal circles, publicity = heat, and heat isalways bad.


Daily Northwestern - 7/14/1931
...York the saying is, "NO PUBLICITY is BAD PUBLICITY. Anything else is
fine." Madam.....are d-awn out. Acids and cause of pain, BAD odors. itching,
burning and are destroyed.....Had a Word for i the assumption being, NO doubt. that
the lattrr title was more..
Oshkosh, Wisconsin Tuesday, July 14, 1931  544 k
   14 July 1931, DAILY NORTHWESTERN (Oshkosh, Wisconsin), pg. 5, col. 4:
_My New York_
By James Aswell
   And, curiously, customers brave choking dust and precariously poised
bricks to dart from limousines into their ship.  In New York  the saying is, "No
publicity is bad publicity.  Anything else is fine."

Daily Northwestern - 9/19/1931
...do NOt lack Ingenuity. NO PUBLICITY is BAD PUBLICITY. That is the cardinal
presumption.....of times year An ambitious wooer of PUBLICITY got in touch
with one of Mr.....they ousted him they meant just that and NO "maybe" either.
NO longer is "Tommy" the.....portrayed as slightly ridiculous, It makes NO
difference. The lineage is achieved. The..
Oshkosh, Wisconsin Saturday, September 19, 1931  782 k
   9 September 1931, DAILY NORTHWESTERN (Oshkosh, WIsconsin), pg. 9, col. 2:
_My New York_
By James Aswell
   New York--The fevered operations of Manhattan press agents are a source of
perpetual amusement, admiration and dismay to the observer.  The brides of
ballyhoo lack humor, but they do not lack ingenuity.  No publicity is bad
publicity.  That is the cardinal presumption; and if clients are portrayed as
slightly ridiculous, it makes no difference.  The lineage is achieved.  The
scrapbooks bulge.
   This is a characteristic episode which undoubtedly occurs, with
variations, thousands of times a year.

Lethbridge Herald - 5/5/1954
...don't appreciate the fact thai even BAD PUBLICITY is better NO PUBLICITY.
3Snd you, I.....course, with NO thanks being necessary: the BAD PUBLICITY is
NOt expected, and of course.....heaven the moment it feels it is receiving' BAD
PUBLICITY or a raw deal. In short, the.....if it weren't for the tons of free
PUBLICITY they receive from news papers radio..

Great Bend Daily Tribune - 11/13/1961
...adage: "The only thing worse than BAD PUBLICITY is no PUBLICITY at all."
It could.....institution has come in for a peck of BAD PUBLICITY, it has reaped
a bushel of good.....project. It seems that things got so BAD in Nevada that
on the Halloween of 1946 a.....the training school hospital more favorable
PUBLICITY than it has ever before enjoyed. Dr..

Times Recorder - 12/2/1973
...play, he said, "because no PUBLICITY is BAD PUBLICITY, and what the hell,
you're going to.....with Etleen Heckart 'You know I did a BAD western with
Martene Dietricfe once..
Zanesville, Ohio Sunday, December 02, 1973  602 k

Fond Du Lac Reporter - 4/8/1976
...belief that for an entertainment act, BAD PUBLICITY is better than NO
PUBLICITY.....to each of the three performances. Sounds BAD snuffed aster Time for
family get.....response from Mercury-PhoNOgram Records' PUBLICITY department
Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin Thursday, April 08, 1976  435 k

Gettysburg Times - 3/29/1990
...Barry also saidhe didn'tbelieve that BAD PUBLICITY was better than no
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania Thursday, March 29, 1990  768 k

Chronicle Telegram - 7/12/1995
...the adage that there's no such thing as BAD PUBLICITY when it reported
that more than..
Elyria, Ohio Wednesday, July 12, 1995  575k


   In the 2001 "It's a case for Fred Shapiro" post, George Thompson added

     I find in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, 5th ed., 1999 and
theOxford Dictionary of Phrase, Saying and Quotation, 1997, the samecitation,
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" anddates it to the
mid 1930s.  This is the form familiar to me.Hamilton's Dictionary of Canadian
Quotations cites a minor-league Canadian politician as expressing the idea
without using either canonical formulation.  He says, in effect, that since
people only read the headlines in the newspaper, the trick is to get your name
mentioned, and whether the reference in favorable or otherwise inimmaterial.  I
well remember that a prizefight promoter from Boston,who staged well club
fights in Portland, Maine in the late 1960s expressed the thought in another
formulation: every knock is a boost.(I was living in Portland at the time, attended
most of the fightshows, and read this in the Portland Press-Herald.)

How early can this be dated?


Fort Wayne Sentinel - 3/22/1895
...can you do for me? Why 'ou can SPELL MY NAME RIGHT in you. account of MY
death.' 'The.....who ever afte; took pains to SPELL his NAME RIGHT, and that's
what I want you to do.....have been able to give this law, MY im pression and
it is but a vague im.....of tho magical growth of egion nndor the SPELL of nu
enchanter's In 1 380 the great..
Fort Wayne, Indiana Friday, March 22, 1895  876 k

Edwardsville Intelligencer - 10/18/1928
...if you must this old gray beard but SPELL MY NAME RIGHT on. the casualty
list. t t.....to give them now and little, else to do, MY daughters all are
women grown, MY sons as.....Even though you are not suffering from a SPELL o ay
fever at present, you can often.....of ficials and interested property owners,
RIGHT of way fo construction of route ICO..
Edwardsville, Illinois Thursday, October 18, 1928  620 k
   18 October 1928, EDWARDSVILLE INTELLIGENCER (Edwardsville, Illinois),
pg.4, col. 6:
   Shoot if you must this old, gray beard--but spell my name right on the
casualty list.

Charleston Daily Mail - 12/2/1934
...O. K., shoot. I don't mind but please SPELL MY NAME RIGHT I'm Jack Benny
and not Jack.....impressions oC arid some of the things MY work. i I was not
thrilled at MY first.....in broadcasting 1 feel about to New NAME of Trio
Doesn't Fool Fans Gertrude.....before he is satisfied with the result. His RIGHT
hand assistant in these long sessions..
Charleston, West Virginia   Sunday, December 02, 1934  1177 k
   2 December 1934, CHARLESTON DAILY MAIL (Charleston, West Virginia), pg.
10, col. 4:
   "Oh that's O. K., shoot.  I don't mind but please spell my name right--I'm
Jack Benny and not Jack Denny of orchestra 'ennys.  Get it right.  Benny--B,
as in Bean Soup--E, as in Sharkee, the fighter--N, as in Knickers--another N,
as in pneumonia and Y, as in the state of Yoming."

Reno Evening Gazette - 3/21/1950
...America say abovrt me so long as they SPELL MY NAME RIGHT. Others on
Time's were Sen.....party. I am flattered that he considers MY opposition worthy of
his attention. I don.....Monday on a charge of falsifying her NAME and
address on. doctor's prescriptions.....campaign to the 3950 program. Shown left to
RIGHT are Miss Marion Barfknecht, physical..
Reno, Nevada Tuesday, March 21, 1950  752 k

Nevada State Journal - 8/30/1958
...say about you as long as they SPELL YOUR NAME RIGHT. The book Jane came
across was not.....the owner wrote in his book was his own NAME and the NAMEs
and addresses of his.....area. Crash Yidim Held RE-ELECT AS YOUR Fish Game
Commissioner REWARD For.....those little books you passed among YOUR friends back
when you were in grade..
Reno, Nevada Saturday, August 30, 1958  710 k
   30 August 1958, NEVADA STATE JOURNAL, pg. 3, col. 3:
   What appeared to evade the grasp of the school authorities was the fact
many more "slam books" were initiated by the slamee himself as a sort of Gallup
Poll-in-the-rough, the idea being a grammar school version of the adult
concept of it doesn't matter what they say about you as long as they spell your name

Newark Advocate - 2/13/1959
...York, used to say: "As -long as they SPELL MY NAME RIGHT they can say
anything about me.....reads, roughly from left to RIGHT, with MY good friend
Holmes playing deep RIGHT.....up his daily newspaper, secretly hopes his NAME will
be favorably mentioned by one or.....Alexander may appear at the conclusion of
MY says a distinguished Senator. Thus do the..
Newark, Ohio Friday, February 13, 1959  666 k

Coshocton Tribune - 3/24/1976
...they write, as long as thfcy SPELL YOUR NAME RIGHT. Hays gets furious
ujben he sees.....his NAME misSPELLed. It sometimes is printed.....his CB
microphone: parking lot, you got YOUR ears Later, in his Capitol office.....a Hays
speech. replied Hays, at YOUR peril. Gross sat down. was a great he..
Coshocton, Ohio Wednesday, March 24, 1976  542 k

Chronicle Telegram - 10/3/1995
...bad to her. Hey, as long as they SPELL YOUR NAME RIGHT, RIGHT? Doing the
RIGHT thing.....judge ruled Friday that the rapper real NAME Calvin Broadus
must wear an electronic.....think that has been on video before, you're RIGHT. It
was released in 1988 for a short.....can talk to about never being mentioned
in YOUR magazine again? I'm serious bad or the..
Elyria, Ohio Tuesday, October 03, 1995  515 k

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