[Ads-l] Quote: If what you gave me last was tea, I want coffee. If it was coffee, I want tea

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Thu Nov 12 14:47:13 UTC 2015

The following saying about an unpalatable beverage has often been
attributed to Abraham Lincoln:

If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea,
please bring me some coffee.

Many reference works list this jest, e.g., Oxford Dictionary of
Humorous Quotations, Brewer's Famous Quotations, The Macmillan
Dictionary of Quotations, The Times Book of Quotations, and The 637
Best Things Anybody Ever Said.

The British publications usually point to the caption of a one-panel
comic in "Punch" magazine in July 1902. Barry Popik found a great
citation in "Harper’s New Monthly Magazine" in 1852 where the quip was
ascribed to John Randolph of Roanoke. Barry also noted that Lincoln
was being credited by 1948; Barry's 2012 entry on the topic is here:

Short link:  http://bit.ly/1SLflOV

I've made some progress: The joke was circulating by June 1840. Also,
the remark was ascribed to Lincoln by 1902. Here is a link to the
entry I created after receiving a request. Barry's work was

If What You Gave Me Last Was Tea, I Want Coffee. If It Was Coffee, I Want Tea

Feedback and pertinent citations would be welcome.

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

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