Quote: fool born every minute (antedating earliest variant) (1806) (attrib P. T. Barnum 1890)
adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Sun Apr 13 21:27:52 UTC 2014
Jonathan Lighter wrote:
> Am too lazy to check the source, but I recall a cite in HDAS
> from the early 20th C. (or maybe the 1890s) that says,
> "There's a sucker born every minute, and they never die."
Thanks for your response JL. Do you recall the entry headword. The
"sucker" entry is not published, unfortunately.
There are several extended versions of the saying which I have not
really explored in depth to locate early instances. Here is a version
with the tagline "majority of them live"
[ref] 1877 August 18, The West-End News and London Advertiser, Betting
Agencies and Fools, Quote Page 3, Column 1, London, Middlesex.
"There is a fool born every hour," said one of these sharpers to an
informant of Mr. Anderson, the member for Glasgow, "and, thank Heaven,
the majority of them live!"
Here is an instance in 1899 with the tag line "none die".
[ref] 1899 December 10, Fort Worth Morning Register, His Art Is a
Sham: Jesse Tourville Admits Telling Fortunes because it Pays Quote
Page 12, Column 3, Fort Worth, Texas. (GenealogyBank)[/ref]
Jesse Tourville discussed his "profession" as follows:
"There's a fool born every minute and none die. A judge at Caseyville,
Ill., says that there is no law to protect fools and idiots, and those
are the people who pay for charms.
A biography of P.T. Barnum in 1989 mentioned some information
contained in a manuscript written by Joseph McCaddon who was the
brother-in-law of Barnum's rival promoter James Anthony Bailey. No
date is given for the manuscript. McCaddon recounted the words of a
police captain named Alexander Williams. This instance used the tag
line "none of them ever die":
[ref] 1989, P.T. Barnum: The Legend and the Man by A. H. Saxon,
Appendix: Barnum Apocrypha, Start Page 333, Quote Page 336, Published
by Columbia University Press, New York. (Verified on paper)[/ref]
According to Williams, the expression was first used in the early
1880s by a notorious confidence man known to the police as "Paper
Collar Joe" (real name, Joseph Bessimer). And the complete statement,
as McCaddon reports it, was "There is a sucker born every minute, but
none of them ever die."
Fred included the above version of the quotation in the YBQ commentary
for the quotation "There's a sucker born every minute."
Here is an instance in 1906 with the tagline "two to catch him":
[ref] 1906 June 7, American Machinist, Letters to the Editor: Doing
Worthless Work--Gold Bricks--Modern Advertising Methods, Quote Page 741,
Column 1, Hill Publishing Co., New York. (Google Books Full View) link
They brought vividly to mind these quotations from three of the most
eminent specialists in human nature that I know of, Barnum, David
Harum and Abe Lincoln. Barnum said "the American people love to be
humbugged," David Harum is responsible for the theory that "there's a
sucker born every minute and two to catch him," while Lincoln believed
that "you can fool some of the people all of the time."
> On Sat, Apr 12, 2014 at 11:41 AM, Jonathan Lighter
> <wuxxmupp2000 at gmail.com>wrote:
>> Just to extend the list, there is the now frequent, allusive form,
>> "There's one born every minute."
>> It seems not to require explanation.
>> But Garson knew that.
>> On Fri, Apr 11, 2014 at 12:20 PM, ADSGarson O'Toole <
>> adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:
>>> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>>> Sender: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>> Poster: ADSGarson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>
>>> Subject: Re: Quote: fool born every minute (antedating earliest
>>> (1806) (attrib P. T. Barnum 1890)
>>> Back in March 2010 I posted about the famous slogan attributed to P. T.
>>> There's a sucker born every minute.
>>> There's a fool born every minute.
>>> Now there is an entry on the QI website. Special thanks to Bill
>>> Mullins who located the January 7, 1882 citation for the "sucker"
>>> variant back in 2008. Also, thanks to Barry for his great work and to
>>> others who have examined this topic.
>>> Scans of the valuable 1885 bio of Hungry Joe Lewis were placed online
>>> by Harvard as part of a pamphlet digitization program. Compliments to
>>> The July 21, 1892 cite attributing "there was a sucker born every
>>> minute" to P.T. Barnum was the earliest linkage of Barnum to the
>>> "sucker" variant that I was able to find. Back in 2010 I found an
>>> earlier October 19, 1890 linkage of Barnum to the "fool" variant.
>>> There's a Sucker Born Every Minute
>>> [Begin excerpt]
>>> There exists a family of closely related expressions with a long
>>> history. Here is a sampling together with years of occurrence. The
>>> first item listed employed dialectical spelling. The word "flat" was a
>>> synonym for "fool". The abbreviation "attrib" means that the words
>>> were attributed to an individual, but the evidence was indirect:
>>> 1806: there vash von fool born every minute
>>> 1826: a new fool is born every day
>>> 1839: there is a flat born every minute
>>> 1877: there is a fool born every hour
>>> 1882: there was a sucker born every minute (attrib anon con man)
>>> 1885: there was a sucker born every minute (attrib Hungry Joe)
>>> 1888: there is a sucker born every minute (attrib Artemus Ward)
>>> 1889: a sucker is born every minute (attrib Mike McDonald)
>>> 1890: a fool was born every minute (attrib P.T. Barnum)
>>> 1892: there was a sucker born every minute (attrib P.T. Barnum)
>>> The above listing is a snapshot of current research results, and it
>>> will certainly change over time as more data is gathered. The earliest
>>> instances of these expressions were anonymous, and QI believes that
>>> later attributions had inadequate support.
>>> [End excerpt]
>>> On Sat, Mar 6, 2010 at 1:30 PM, Garson O'Toole
>>> <adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:
>>> > There's a sucker born every minute.
>>> > This saying has long been attributed to P. T. Barnum (Phineas Taylor
>>> > Barnum). It is discussed in the Yale Book of Quotations, the Oxford
>>> > Dictionary of American Quotations (and other Oxford Quotation books),
>>> > Barry Popik's website, WikiQuote, and Wikipedia. Many messages about
>>> > the saying are found in the ADS-L archive.
>>> > Variants of the maxim substitute words such as fool, flat, and toot
>>> > for the word sucker. Other variants substitute time-period terms such
>>> > as week, day, and hour for minute. I attempted to find the earliest
>>> > citation while allowing any of the variants.
>>> > 1806 is the date of the earliest cite that I found. The text uses the
>>> > term fool instead of sucker, and it contains an anti-Semitic
>>> > stereotype.
>>> > Citation: 1806 January, The European Magazine And London Review, Essay
>>> > on False Genius, Page 26, Vol. XLIX, James Asperne, London. (Google
>>> > Books full view, also NewspaperArchive)
>>> > ... "That there vash von fool born every minute." And perhaps the
>>> > calculation might be brought to the proof, that not more than fifty
>>> > men of genius are born in half a century.
>>> > http://books.google.com/books?id=dccPAAAAQAAJ&q=fool+born#v=snippet&
>>> > The earliest attribution to P. T. Barnum I could locate is in an
>>> > advertisement dated 1890 in the Chicago Tribune for a company that
>>> > sells tailor-made clothes called Willoughby & Hill. The saying uses
>>> > the term fool instead of sucker.
>>> > Citation: 1890 October 19, Chicago Daily Tribune, Display Ad 67 by
>>> > Willoughby & Hill, Page 39. (ProQuest Historical Newspapers)
>>> > Any of these so-called Dry Goods stores go into the Clothing business
>>> > by hiring a salesman from some clothing house, send him down to New
>>> > York, and when he returns they "ADVERTISE" his purchases 40 per cent
>>> > LESS than Clothing Store Prices. However, they don't care a "---" what
>>> > they say in the papers, anything to get the crowd. Barnum said many
>>> > years ago that a fool was born every minute.
>>> > http://bit.ly/aZrSQk
>>> > The second earliest attribution to P. T. Barnum that I found is also
>>> > in an advertisement by "Willoughby & Hill, American Clothiers" in the
>>> > Chicago Tribune.
>>> > Citation: 1891 November 6, Chicago Daily Tribune, Display Ad 3 by
>>> > Willoughby & Hill, Page 5. (ProQuest Historical Newspapers)
>>> > The "Immortal" Barnum said every minute a new fool is born, and he
>>> > catered that way and was successful. He could have kept successfully a
>>> > "Department" Store.
>>> > http://bit.ly/9wuBoZ
>>> > Garson
>>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>> "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the
> "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
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