[Ads-l] It's not the size of the dog in the fight, ...

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Tue Oct 6 17:52:37 UTC 2015


Thanks for pointing to an interesting saying attributed to Mark Twain,
Joel. There is no substantive support for the linkage to Twain which
seems to be modern. The wonderful Dictionary of Modern Proverbs (DMP)
does have an entry for this saying.  I have located a pertinent
citation that appeared one day before the earliest DMP cite.

The most common modern instances have employed antimetabole that
shifts the order of "size", "dog", and "fight". The following instance
in 1911 was slightly different. The word "size" was not repeated:

[ref] 1911 April 20, East Oregonian, Edition: Evening, (Untitled
filler item), Quote Page 10, Column 4, Pendleton, Oregon. (Chronicling
America)[/ref]

[Begin excerpt]
It is not the size of the dog in the fight that counts, but the fight
in the dog that wins.
[End excerpt]

The earliest DMP citation also did not repeat the word "size".

[ref] 2012, The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs, Compiled by Charles
Clay Doyle, Wolfgang Mieder, and Fred R. Shapiro, Quote Page 232, Yale
University Press, New Haven. (Verified on paper) [/ref]

[Begin excerpt]
It's not the size of the dog in the fight that matters; it's the size
of the fight in the dog.

1911 Arthur G. Lewis, "Stub Ends of Thoughts," Book of the Royal Blue
(magazine of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad) 14, no. 7 (Apr.) 21 (in a
collection of sayings): "It is not the size of the dog in the fight
that counts, but the fight in the dog that matters."
[End excerpt]

In April 1929 a coach in the state of Washington used a full instance
that repeated "size" "dog" and "fight".

[ref] 1929 April 18, The Daily Olympian (Morning Olympian), Sweater
Are Awarded to Athletes at Lacey, Quote Page 1, Column 5, Olympia,
Washington. (GenealogyBank)[/ref]

[Begin excerpt]
It isn't so much the size of the dog in the fight that counts, it's
the size of the fight in the dog.

So reminded Clarence (Hec) Edmundson, basketball and track coach at
the University of Washington, in an address on the value of athletics,
delivered at the annual basketball banquet of St. Martin's college
held Wednesday evening in the college banquet hall.
[End excerpt]

In June 1929 an instance was used in the caption of a syndicated
one-panel cartoon called "Jabby":

[ref] 1929 June 18, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Jabby (caption of one
panel cartoon showing a small dog intimidating a larger dog; cartoon
from Register and Tribune Syndicate), Quote Page 4, Column 4,
Cleveland, Ohio. (GenealogyBank)[/ref]

[Begin excerpt]
"The decidin' point isn't the size of the dog in the fight but the
size of the fight in the dog."
{End excerpt]

The saying is often ascribed to President Dwight Eisenhower, and he
did use it in a speech delivered January 31, 1958 as reported in "The
New York Times" and many other newspapers;

[ref] 1958 February 1, New York Times, Eisenhower Spurs G.O.P. Vote
Drive to Win Congress by William S. White (Dateline January 31, 1958;
Special to The New York Times),Quote Page 1, Column 4, New York.
(ProQuest)[/ref]

[Begin excerpt]
...the President acknowledged that "the political prophets" had
predicted hard times for his party this year.

"But," he went on, "these calculations overlook the decisive element:
What counts is not the size of the dog in the fight--it's the size of
the fight in the dog."
[End excerpt]

By 1998 the adage had been reassigned to Mark Twain:

[ref] 1998 July 17, Daily Press, Section: Local, Survival Guide, Quote
Page C2, Newport News, Virginia. (NewsBank Access World News)[/ref]

[Begin Excerpt]
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY
"It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight
in the dog." - Mark Twain
[End Excerpt]

Garson

On Mon, Oct 5, 2015 at 11:21 PM, Joel Berson <berson at att.net> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Joel Berson <berson at ATT.NET>
> Subject:      It's not the size of the dog in the fight, ...
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>
> Prompted by today's video of the French bulldog (a small breed) chasing two medium-sized bears out of its masters' fenced back yard; the bears were so intimidated they climbed over the 5- or 6-foot fence to escape.
>
>
> ... it's the size of the fight in the dog.
>
> Attributed by the newscaster to Mark Twain, but others may know better.
>
> Joel
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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