Modern Proverb: Life is just one damn thing after another (slight antedating 1909 July 20)

Alison Murie sagehen7470 at ATT.NET
Fri Mar 19 22:56:28 UTC 2010

On Mar 19, 2010, at 6:14 PM, Charles Doyle wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Charles Doyle <cdoyle at UGA.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: Modern Proverb: Life is just one damn thing after
> another
>              (slight antedating 1909 July 20)
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> It should be noted that the attestation in _The Practical Printer_
> (Jul. 1909) is an instance of what Wolfgang Mieder has termed an
> "anti-proverb"--a parody or ironic contextualization of a proverb.
> In the present case, the saying occurs in an ad for a process of
> reporducing book-length text (somehow) by the use of carbon
> paper--"one after another." Of course, an anti-proverb constitutes
> evidence that the proverb itself is expected to be known to readers,
> who can then appreciate the irony.
> --Charlie
> ---- Original message ----
>> Date: Fri, 19 Mar 2010 17:05:18 -0400
>> From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> (on behalf
>> of "Garson O'Toole" <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>)
>> Subject: Modern Proverb: Life is just one damn thing after another
>> (slight antedating 1909 July 20)
>> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> Life is just one damned thing after another.
>> This quote appears in the online Oxford Dictionary of Quotations
>> (also
>> Modern and Concise). A citation is given to the writer Elbert Hubbard
>> in the periodical Philistine dated December 1909. The copy of the
>> December issue of Philistine in Google Books contains the phrase with
>> a minor difference: Life is just one damn thing after another. I was
>> unable to find the phrase with "damned" in the December issue.
>> The Yale Book of Quotations contains a citation for the phrase "Life
>> is just one darn thing after another" dated 1909 July 22 in the
>> Washington Post along with the comment that the cite "indicates that
>> the expression predated Hubbard."
>> Immediately below are three cites: a newspaper article published two
>> days earlier on 1909 July 20, an advertisement in the July issue of a
>> monthly periodical called "The Practical Printer", and a book
>> published in 1909. In the book the phrase is presented as a motto
>> on a
>> wall.
>> Citation: 1909 July 20, Anaconda Standard, Page 6, Column 3,
>> Anaconda,
>> Montana. (NewspaperArchive)
>> After the Thaw inquiry, the Sutton investigation. As One pessimistic
>> philosopher puts it: "Life is just one damn thing after another."
>> Citation: 1909 July, The Practical Printer, Advertisement title, Page
>> 107, Vol 11, No. 7, Inland Type Foundry, Saint Louis. (Google Books
>> full view)
>> Manifold books are here to stay. The printer may as well get busy and
>> learn how to handle the profitable line.
>> id=lJHPAAAAMAAJ&q=darn#v=snippet&q=darn&f=false
>> Citation: 1909, The Concentrations of Bee by Lilian Bell, Page 241,
>> Grosset & Dunlap, New York. (Google Books full view)
>> "Bob has a motto on his wall which says 'Life is just one damned
>> thing
>> after another!'" said Jimmie. But I refused to smile. I was too
>> distinctly annoyed.
>> +thing#v=snippet&
>> After July 1909 I found several more citations in 1909. Also there
>> are
>> some matching items in the Google Books database in snippet view mode
>> with uncertain dates. This item may have a 1909 publication date.
>> Citation: Circa 1909???, History of the Class of 1903, Yale College,
>> Page 175, Yale University. (Google Books snippet view only)
>> Since then the daily round has continued in much the same manner as
>> formerly, for, after all, 'Life is only one damned thing after
>> another.' My title has been changed and now I am called 'betterment
>> recorder.'
>> The word darn and the term d--n are sometimes substituted for damn.
>> The power of the word to shock listeners is recorded in the following
>> cite which also shows the proliferation of the phrase.
>> Citation: 1909 October 24, San Antonio Light and Gazette, Gambler's
>> Motto His Pulpit Theme, Page 26 (NewspaperArchive numbering), San
>> Antonio, Texas.  (NewspaperArchive)
>> "Life is just one damn thing after another," said the Rev. Dr. Percy
>> S. Grant, rector of the Church of the Ascension, Fifth avenue and
>> Tenth street, as a preface to a talk yesterday. Members of the
>> congregation sat bolt upright, and some gasped in decorous
>> astonishment. A deaf woman in the front pew took down her black
>> trumpet from her right ear and refused to listen. Afterward curiosity
>> overcame her and the trumpet went up again.
>> Dr. Grant had received a postal card with the words quoted above
>> early
>> in the week, and the cynical sentiment of the missive so aroused his
>> indignation that the rector preached against its acceptance in his
>> sermon.
>> The following 1910 citation is the first attribution that I found.
>> But
>> who is Bruce Calvert?
>> Citation: 1910 March, Wood Craft, Page 167, Column 2, The Gardner
>> Publishing Co., Cleveland. (Hathi Trust full view)
>> "I would like to have my shop free from accident of every kind, both
>> to operators and to stock, but I don't suppose that state of things
>> will be actually brought to pass. It's too much like a dream of the
>> next world to find something in this one which is not like Bruce
>> Calvert's idea of life which he says is: 'Just one damned thing after
>> another.'"
>> Permanent Hathi URL:
>> The terms substituted for damn in the following 1910 citation are
>> entertaining.
>> Citation: 1910 October 15, The National Provisioner, Chicago Section,
>> Page 34, Food Trade Publishing Co., New York. (Google Books full
>> view)
>> It is better to be a "has been" than a "never was," says Uncle
>> Joseph,
>> and adds "What is life, anyway, but one doggoned, golbinged,
>> dodrotted
>> thing after another !!!***???!!!???!! anyhow?"
>> Garson O'Toole
John Masefield wrote a book called ODTAA,  and a recent, though late,
popular detective story writer (can't think of his name, worked as a
chef in France but wrote in English) had a book in which the central
couple found the expression "Odtaa" a useful adjective, as in "That's
very odtaa."  It was left to the reader to figure out what was meant
by the word.

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