Sees glass half full or half empty (1935, by Josiah Stamp?)

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Mon Dec 27 07:26:03 UTC 2004

On Sun, 26 Dec 2004 12:44:47 EST, Bapopik at AOL.COM wrote:

>This is like the doughnut and the hole idea. When did this start? What does
>Fred have?
>13 November 1935, New York Times, pg. 20:
>To the Editor of The New York Times:
>May I offer a tentative term to designate one who is neither a pessimist
>nor an optimist? Perspectivist.
>Both optimism and pessimism are terms which denote an emotional attitude.
>Perspectivism defines a rational position.
>I came recently upon a graphic distinction drawn by Sir Josiah Stamp
>between an optimist and a pessimist: "A pessimist looks at his glass and
>says it is half empty; an optimist looks at it and says it is half full."
>New York, Nov. 11, 1935.

Slightly earlier (unattributed) variants:

  Los Angeles Times, Feb 26, 1933, p. 14
  Two men were looking at a bottle of milk. Said one with a groan,
  "The bottle is half empty." Said the other with a grin, "The bottle
  is half full." The first belonged to the courters of disasters,
  forever bemoaning their losses; the second to the invincibles who
  win by counting their blessings.

  Ironwood (Michigan) Daily Globe, May 12, 1933, p. 4
  A wit says business is better when the owner of a building reports
  it is half full instead of half empty.

On Newspaperarchive there are various jokes in the late '20s and early
'30s hinging on a foolish motorist trying to figure out if his or
(usually) her gas tank is half-full or half-empty.

--Ben Zimmer

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