Mock Definition: Secrecy: The art of telling a thing to only one person at a time

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Tue Jan 10 19:36:55 UTC 2012

This is another post inspired by a "QUOTE…UNQUOTE" query. The query
appears on the website and was discussed in the October 2011 and the
January 2012 issues of a "QUOTE…UNQUOTE" Newsletter.

[Begin query]
Q4302  'A secret is something you only tell one person at a time' -
known by the 1950s, is this a quotation or just a saying?
[End query]

Here is a relevant citation for an article that appeared in multiple
newspapers in 1905. The word "secrecy" was used instead of "secret'.
The title of the article was "Definitions" and it consisted of a
series of short mock definitions. The acknowledgement given at the end
of the story indicates that the text was reprinted from the "New
Orleans Times Democrat" newspaper.

Cite: 1905 July 09, Lexington Herald, Definitions [Acknowledgment: New
Orleans Times Democrat], Page 8, Column 4, Lexington,

[Begin excerpt]
Patriotism: A momentary excitement due to the explosion of powder. ...
Secrecy: The art of telling a thing to only one person at a time.
Error: The mistaken act of another.
[End excerpt]


The American Dialect Society -

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