Quote: up with which I will not put (1942) (antedating attrib Winston Churchill 1945 Sept 15)
adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Wed Mar 3 02:42:44 UTC 2010
This is the kind of pedantic nonsense up with which I shall not put.
When Winston Churchill was criticized for ending a sentence with a
preposition the comment above was his supposed response. This
delightful and very popular story has many variations. Ben Zimmer
performed fantastic investigatory work in 2004 and 2005 on this topic.
This post presents an incremental update that includes the earliest
attribution of the phrase "up with which I will not put" to Churchill
in 1945 together with two additional cites in 1942 and miscellaneous
If you have access to a superior library please read a little further
to see a request.
Here are links to Ben Zimmer's wonderful work:
The earliest known instance of this anecdote does not mention
Churchill's name, and it was found by Ben Zimmer in The Strand
magazine. However, the exact issue and page number are not currently
known because the information about the citation is indirect. The Wall
Street Journal republished the story from The Strand in 1942 and gave
an undated acknowledgment.
The issue of The Strand containing the cite is now in the Google Books
archive, and I was hoping that someone with access to a library
containing The Strand in 1942 would be willing to verify the cite on
paper and determine the details. There are no libraries close to me
with the desired volume. Here is an excerpt and a link:
Citation: Circa 1942, The Strand Magazine, Volume 103, Page 75, G.
Newnes. (Google Books snippet view. Not verified on paper.)
The End of a Sentence
WHEN a memorandum passed round a certain Government department, one
young pedant scribbled a postscript drawing attention to the fact that
the sentence ended with a preposition, which caused the original
writer to circulate another memorandum complaining that the anonymous
postscript was "offensive impertinence, up with which I will not put."
Searching the document for the word "July" provides evidence that the
July issue of 1942 starts on page eleven; however, the volume may
contain several different pages each numbered eleven. The target text
is on page 75 according to GB. The WSJ article is dated 1942 September
30, and that provides an upper bound on the date.
Perhaps someone has already traced this quotation to its location in
The Strand, but I have found no evidence of it via personal
communication with Ben Zimmer or via searches in the ADS archive, YBQ,
WikiQuote, Barry Popik's website, or the Oxford Online Quotation
While on the topic of The Strand I have one more request. The anecdote
reappears in The Strand in 1949. If someone would be willing to verify
this cite on paper and gather the specifics of the date and issue
number that would be very kind.
Citation: Circa 1949, The Strand Magazine, Volume 117, Page 23, G.
Newnes. (Google Books snippet view. Not verified on paper.)
A Minister, in his efforts to avoid ending a sentence with a
preposition, had produced an extremely complicated and pompous minute.
Churchill's scribbled comment was: "This is an example of bastard and
stilted English, up with which I will not put. WSC"
Search probes of the form "month, 1949" show that table of contents
for April, May, June, July, August and September are all located on
page number 15. So GB may be resetting the page number counter with
each issue. The target text is on page 23.
Below is the earliest citation that I could find containing the phrase
"up with which I will not put" attributed to Winston Churchill.
Earlier cites referred to an anonymous or generic personage, e.g., a
government functionary, an English clerk, a captain, a foreigner, or a
script writer (see examples further below).
A different set of earlier cites in 1944 attributed the following two
phrases to Winston Churchill: "which I will not put up with" and "with
which I will not put up". But these cites did not contain the classic
comical quip "up with which I will not put."
Citation: 1945 September 15, The (Montreal) Gazette, Up With Which I
Will Not Put, Page 8, Column 2, Montreal, Canada.
He had been presented with a ponderous legal report, in which the
plain meaning shone obscurely through many a whereas, whereof and
wherefore. Mr. Churchill did his duty and read the report. But he
returned it to those who had prepared it with this notation: "Whereas
this report must be rewritten. Wherefore such stuff up with which I
will not put."
The final section of this post contains a series of supplementary
citations to complement the work of Ben Zimmer. The cites are in
chronological order and start in 1942.
Citation: 1942 August 5, The Evening (Ottawa) Citizen, Once Over
Lightly, Page not numbered (Editorials page, GN Page 33), Ottawa,
Canada. (The Google News database gives a date of August 4 but the
page image says August 5, 1942.)
Someone has chided us for ending a sentence with a preposition. In the
words of an English clerk who was impaled for the same offense, this
is a bit of pedantry "up with which we cannot put."
Chronologically, the 1942 September 30 cite in The Wall Street Journal
found by Ben Zimmer fits here in the sequence. The WSJ cite reprints
the joke from the 1942 issue of The Strand.
Citation: 1942 December 2, The Evening (Ottawa) Citizen, Press
Paragraphs: Warning: June Provines in Chicago Sun, Page not numbered
(Editorials page)(GN Page 23), Ottawa, Canada.
An army captain who lacked formal education posted a notice on the
company bulletin board that was so constructed grammatically that it
ended with a preposition. A Harvard-educated private in the outfit
read it and commented: "Isn't it awful for a man with my education to
have to take orders from a man who ends a sentence with a
preposition?" The captain learned of the private's remark and
constructed a new notice:
"There is a certain amount of insubordination in this company up
with which I shall not put."
Citation: 1943, John O'London's Weekly, Page 70, Issue 1197-1209.
(Google Books snippet view only. Not verified on paper.)
The story of the foreigner who, having been warned that "a preposition
should not be used to end a sentence with," carefully explained that
he had recently received treatment from a Government Department " up
with which he would not put," had, I thought, popularly exploded the
On 1944 February 5, the joke appeared in a profile of the United
States Armed Forces Radio Services (AFRS) in Billboard magazine. An
officer in the Navy who is a performer working at AFRS berates a lower
ranked script writer about ending a sentence with a preposition.
Citation: 1944 February 5, Billboard, Army Broadcasting Selling The
World as It Entertains G.I.'s on All Six Continents, Page 19, Nielsen
The performer, an officer, went into a tirade about his script. He
concluded with "a fine writer you are. Thank God we're in the navy. In
civilian life all I could do was bawl you out. But here such work as
this, imagine ending a sentence with a preposition, is a violation of
orders and rank insubordination."
To which the writer is supposed to have replied: "Yes, sir. It is
rank insubordination. Up with which you should not have to put."
Ben Zimmer noted that multiple news stories datelined "London, Feb.
27" appeared on 1944 February 28 based on a cable message. Here is
another instance. The (Montreal) Gazette story contains a version of
the phrase attributed to Churchill that is the same as the one used in
the New York Times: "which I will not put up with". This differs from
the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times versions: "with which I will
not put up".
Citation: 1944 February 28, The (Montreal) Gazette, Rambling Reports
Get Under Churchill's Skin, (By Cable to The New York Times and The
Gazette), Page 20, Col. 5, Montreal, Canada.
Faced with a long, rambling "minute" written on a minor subject by one
minister, Mr. Churchill scrawled the following across it in red ink:
"This is the kind of tedious nonsense which I will not put up with."
Just to make his intention plain, the Prime Minister underscored "up"
An intriguing version of the joke appears on 1944 March 4. The
newspaper does not attribute the phrase "up with which I shall not
put" to Churchill. Instead, the paper indicates that Churchill should
have used the phrase but did not.
Citation: 1944 March 4, The Evening (Ottawa) Citizen, Once Over
Lightly, Page 22, Col. 4, Ottawa, Canada.
"This is the kind of tedious nonsense that I shall not put up with."
Mr. Churchill said. Such prepositional inelegance is perhaps
forgivable in wartime, though from a prime minister of his scholarly
background one would normally expect ". . up with which I shall not
Chronologically, the 1945 September 15 cite in the Montreal Gazette
that first attributes the full phrase of the quip to Winston Churchill
fits here in the sequence. The details were presented earlier in this
On 1946 January 21, the popular newspaper columnist Walter Winchell
told the joke with famous actor Rudy Vallee complaining to a script
writer about preposition placement.
Citation: 1946 January 21, Spartanburg Herald (Herald-Journal), How
Current Broadway Shows Rate With the Critics by Walter Winchell, Page
4 (GN says Page 6), Col. 3, Spartanburg, South Carolina. (Google News
Archive full view)
The Funnies: Rudy Vallee (Still going big as he did a decade ago) now
and then gets into a pet with his script writers. One day Rudy blew up
because one of his lines ended in "with" . . . He ranted and raved
about ending a sentence with a preposition . . . The chief scripter
just sat and stared at him . . . Finally, when he could get a word in
sideways, he cooed: "I agree, Mr. Vallee. That is something up with
which you should not have to put."
Chronologically, the 1946 April 7 cite in the Los Angeles Times found
by Ben Zimmer fits here in the sequence. This cite is the second time
that the full phrase of the quip is attributed to Winston Churchill.
The next cite uses the phrase "bastard and stilted" that also appears
in the story when it returns to The Strand in 1949.
Citation: 1946 May 2, Milwaukee Journal, Winnie's War on the English
(From the International Digest), Page 22, Col. 6, Milwaukee,
Winston Churchill once ordered the simplification of the language used
in official documents. Referring to one lengthy memorandum, Churchill
wrote, "This is an example of bastard and stilted English up with
which I will not put."
More citations occur in 1946 and the number keeps growing with time,
but I will stop here.
Thanks to anyone that tracks down the specifics for The Strand,
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
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