Quote: Speak when you are angry - and you will make the best speech you'll ever regret. Bierce? Groucho?

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Fri Jan 31 17:48:42 UTC 2014

A request was sent to me to research the saying in the subject line
which has been attributed to Henry Ward Beecher, Ambrose Bierce,
Lawrence J. Peter and others.

The Oxford Dictionary of American Quotations (Second edition) credited
this quotation to Ambrose Bierce and specified the following source:
"The Devil's Dictionary, 1906".

However, I have been unable to find the quotation in any of the
editions of the "The Devil's Dictionary" that I have examined. Most of
the quotations in this work conform to the format of a definition. Can
some list member find this quotation in a work by Bierce?

The earliest strong match I've found was published in 1954 and the
words were ascribed to Groucho Marx.

[ref] 1954 November 3, Greensboro Record, Inside TV by Eve Starr,
Quote Page B3, Column 4, Greensboro, North Carolina.

[Begin excerpt]
Groucho quips: "It takes a heap of spending to make a house a home."
His best advice to contestants is: "If you speak when angry, you'll
make the best speech you'll ever regret."
[End excerpt]

Would love to see instances of this quotation before 1954. Also
interested in attributions to Bierce. GB has an attribution
(unverified) in 1977.

Here are a limited number of selected citations.

[ref] 1957 July 18, The Geneva Times, Thought for Today (Saying in
upper left corner), Quote Page 1, Column 1, Geneva, New York.(Old

[Begin excerpt]
Thought For Today
"Speak when you are angry, and you'll make the best speech you'll ever regret."
           -- Harry H. Jones
[End excerpt]

[ref] 1958 December 2, Aberdeen American-News (Aberdeen Daily News),
Earl Wilson's New York, Quote Page 4, Column 5, Aberdeen, South
Dakota. (GenealogyBank)[/ref]

[Begin excerpt]
Speak when you're angry and you'll make the best speech you ever regretted.
[End excerpt]

[ref] 1958, Reader's Digest Treasury of Wit and Humor, Selected by the
Editors of the Reader's Digest, Capsule Wisdom, Quote Page 467, Column
2, Reader's Digest Association, Inc., Pleasantville, New
York.(Verified with scans) [/ref]

[Begin excerpt]
Capsule Wisdom
Speak when you're angry and you'll make the best speech you'll ever regret.
[End excerpt]

[ref] 1977, "Peter's Quotations: Ideas for Our Time" by Laurence J.
Peter, Section: Anger, Quote Page 51, William Morrow and Company, New
York. (Verified on paper) [/ref]

[Begin excerpt]
Never forget what a man says to you when he is angry.
--Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887) (Speak when you're angry--and you'll
make the best speech you'll ever regret.)
[End excerpt]

The 1977 citation above has caused confusion. The parenthetical remark
was not being ascribed to Beecher. Instead, the editor Peter inserted
the remark as a commentary or elaboration on Beecher's quotation.

Thanks for any help you can provide

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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