"Fish without bicycle"(1973); Gandhi's "eye for eye"(1982); Eyes/England(1943)

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Thu Jan 20 07:48:10 UTC 2005

On Thu, 20 Jan 2005 01:31:13 EST, Bapopik at AOL.COM wrote:

>I don't know if this helps. Is it earlier or later than the feminist
>     _ Stevens Point Daily Journal _
>Saturday, July 21,  1973 _Stevens  Point,_
>...mAn WITHOUT  A God is like A FISH WITHOUT A  BICYCLE. is the
>periodic.....been Able to roll out A  pie crust WITHOUT the edges
crAcking All the  wAy..
>Pg. 6, col.  7:
>The term graffiti  no longer has a derogatory meaning at the University pf
>Wisconsin-Stevens  Point. (...)
>"A man without a  God is like a fish without a bicycle."
>"War is the  periodic failure of politics."

This has come up on the alt.usage.english newsgroup.  Quoting what I wrote:


There's also "A man without *God* is like a fish without a bicycle."
This version is remembered by a contributor to the Phrase Finder forum
as a graffito c. 1961:


A New York Times article from Aug 20, 1975 ("Quick Time of Modern Life
Takes Hold In a Village Isolated in Alaskan Tundra") mentions the same
version on a wall of graffiti in Bethel, Alaska.

(And see below.)

> A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle   OR
> A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle

> Sighted by a.u.e. participant on a T-shirt in 1973; as graffiti in 1976.
> Attributed by some references to Gloria Steinem.
> But believed by many feminists to be by civil rights lawyer Florynce R.
> Kennedy. Steinem wrote a March 1973 article in MS Magazine about her
> witticisms, "The Verbal Karate of Florynce R. Kennedy, Esq."

Gloria Steinem gave credit to Irina Dunn in a letter to Time Magazine,
according to a posting on the AWAD forum in October 2000:


        This news just in from last week's Time magazine:

        "In your note on my new and happy marital partnership with
        David Bale, you credit me with the witticism 'A woman needs
        a man like a fish needs a bicycle.' In fact, Irina Dunn, a
        distinguished Australian educator, journalist and politician,
        coined the phrase back in 1970 when she was a student at the
        University of Sydney. She paraphrased the philosopher who
        said, "Man needs God like fish needs a bicycle." Dunn
        deserves credit for creating such a popular and durable spoof
        of the old idea that women need men more than vice versa."
        -Gloria Steinem

More corroboration here:


        Irina Dunn has confirmed this story, in an e-mail of January
        28, 2002:

        Yes, indeed, I am the one Gloria referred to. I was
        paraphrasing from a phrase I read in a philosophical text
        I was reading for my Honours year in English Literature and
        Language in 1970. It was "A man needs God like a fish needs
        a bicycle". My inspiration arose from being involved in the
        renascent women's movement at the time, and from being a bit
        of a smart-arse. I scribbled the phrase on the backs of two
        toilet doors, would you believe, one at Sydney University
        where I was a student, and the other at Soren's Wine Bar at
        Woolloomooloo, a seedy suburb in south Sydney. The doors, I
        have to add, were already favoured graffiti sites.


--Ben Zimmer

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