[Ads-l] Modern Proverb: There ain't no such thing as free lunch

Shapiro, Fred fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Mon Oct 26 01:19:28 UTC 2015


When I search Google Books and limit the search to earlier items, I get a very interesting snippet from a source called "Business and Technology Sources" (published by the Cleveland Public Library).  The snippet shows a reference to a Cleveland Press article dated May 31, 1949 and titled "Economics in eight words, by Jake Falstaff."  An annotation states: "In the style of a fable these words become 'there is no such thing as free lunch.'  This is a reprint of a column written before Jake Falstaff's (Herman Fetzer) death in 1935."

Fred Shapiro



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From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] on behalf of ADSGarson O'Toole [adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM]
Sent: Sunday, October 25, 2015 8:17 AM
To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU
Subject: Modern Proverb: There ain't no such thing as free lunch

The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs (2012) has an entry for the proverb
given in the subject line of this message. This popular expression has
been discussed on the ADS list in the past. This message is focused on
the figurative use of the expression and not the literal use.

The key citation for the figurative use is dated June 27, 1938 and
appeared in the "El Paso Herald Post" of El Paso Texas. The proverb
was presented as the punch line of an elaborate fable in which a king
asked his counselors to summarize economics in a brief and
understandable manner. After various tribulations a graybeard
economist stated that he could distill the meaning of economics into
eight words: "There ain't no such thing as free lunch."

The instance in the "El Paso Herald Post" did not list the name of the
author of the fable, but other later citations have pointed to Walter
Morrow.

This message provides a lead to an instance of the fable that lists
the author name and may have been published before the instance in the
"El Paso Herald Post". The lead comes from a periodical that is
restricted to snippet view in the Google Books database. The
periodical points to the "New York World-Telegram".

Year: 1937 or 1938
Periodical: Public Service Magazine
Volumes: 62-65
Quote Page 220
Publisher: Harvey J. Gonden, St. Paul, Minnesota (Based on snippet)
(Google Books Snippet View; Data may be inaccurate and should be
checked on paper)

[Begin excerpt]
ECONOMICS IN EIGHT WORDS
Walter Morrow in the New York World-Telegram

ONCE upon a time a great and wise king ruled a populous and prosperous
land. The width and breadth of his kingdom were measured by thousands
of leagues . . .

"Sire, in eight words I will reveal to you all the wisdom that I have
distilled through all these years from all the writings of all the
economists. Here is my text: "There ain't no such thing as free
lunch."
[End excerpt]

Does some list member have access to the "New York World-Telegram" in
1937 and 1938? Has it been digitized or indexed? If you can access
"Public Service Magazine" in 1937 and 1938 that would also be helpful.

Garson

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