Fred and Stephen in the NYT

Shapiro, Fred fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Sat Nov 28 15:17:07 UTC 2009

ADS-L is specifically credited in the New York Times as the outlet where Stephen announced his find!

Thanks to Stephen for making this discovery.  The NYT article is accurate as far as I have noticed, although two auxiliary items are not.  On the front page there is a squib directing people to the article inside; the front-page squib states "A Yale librarian who cast doubt on the origins of the Serenity Prayer says new evidence has persuaded him that the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr is indeed the author."  This overstates my position.  I don't regard the new discovery as conclusively settling the question (I don't believe Stephen does either), rather the language I have been using is that it significantly strengthens the case for RN being the originator.  I see it as an 80%-20% kind of proposition at this point.  Then there is a sidebar with the article that presents "Niebuhr's Serenity Prayer (abbreviated version)," then gives a version that neither I nor Niebuhr's daughter would recognize as "Niebuhr's version."

The question of what the correct wording was that RN used in Heath, Massachusetts in 1943 is emerging in my mind as one of equal interest to the authorship question.  It appears to me that the version that the Niebuhr family says was his preferred one, as well as being the one he used at Heath, as well as being the one he authorized for publication, as well as being the one that they view as far superior to the "dumbed-down" Alcoholics Anonymous version, actually does not appear in print until 25 or more years later.  And it appears to me that the real wording he used at Heath is identical to the disparaged Alcoholics Anonymous version.  I may publish a discussion of this issue somewhere.

Fred Shapiro

From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of Jesse Sheidlower [jester at PANIX.COM]
Sent: Friday, November 27, 2009 10:39 PM
Subject: Fred and Stephen in the NYT

More Serenity Prayer fun:

Jesse Sheidlower

The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list