[Ads-l] sucker born every minute

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Tue May 17 02:31:39 EDT 2016

Great work, Bill. Thanks for locating and sharing that citation for
"there is a flat born every minute". Following your lead, I found a
citation for the same saying that was printed a few months earlier in
the same publication. I added another acknowledgement to you and
updated the QI website as follows:

[Begin excerpt from QI website]
In 1835 "Bell's Life In London and Sporting Chronicle" printed an
instance of the saying that used the word “flat” instead of “fool” or
“sucker”. The term "flat" in this article was applied to an individual
who mistakenly entrusted money to a swindler for safekeeping:

[ref] 1835 February 22, Bell's Life In London and Sporting Chronicle,
Police Intelligence: Union-Hall, Quote Page 4, Column 2, London,
England. (British Newspaper Archive)[/ref]

[Begin excerpt from Bell's]
It is only surprising, after the repeated exposures of this species of
robbery, that fresh flats are so frequently picked up; but, as these
ingenious speculators say, "there is a flat born every minute;" and it
is not likely the race will become extinct.
[End excerpt from Bell's]
[End excerpt from QI website]

I also re-checked the Wikipedia entry for "There's a sucker born every
minute" and found that a new earlier citation with "sucker" had been
located. Last month someone using the handle jb5911 apparently located
and clipped an 1879 citation at newspapers.com

[Begin excerpt from QI website]
In January 1879 the earliest instance using “sucker” appeared in an
article titled “Gambling in Chicago” printed in "The Inter-Ocean"
newspaper of Chicago, Illinois. The following words were attributed to
an "old-timer", and the saying was enclosed in single-quotation marks
signaling that the phrase was already in circulation:

[ref] 1879 January 2, The Inter-Ocean, Gambling in Chicago, Quote Page
5, Column 2, Chicago, Illinois. (Newspapers_com)[/ref]

[Begin excerpt from Inter-Ocean]
. . . in the season they make a bit on base ball, or on the races, and
then, you know, 'there's a sucker born every minute,' and rigid city
legislation drives the hard-up gambler, who would be a decent one of
the kind, to turn skin-dealer and sure-thing player.
[End excerpt from Inter-Ocean]
[End excerpt from QI website]


On Mon, May 16, 2016 at 11:45 PM, Bill Mullins <amcombill at hotmail.com> wrote:
> Garson has an extensive write-up:
> http://quoteinvestigator.com/2014/04/11/fool-born/
> with 1839 for the variant "flat born every minute".  It can be antedated:
> _Bells Life In London And Sporting Chronicle_ June 7, 1835 p 3 col 1 (Newspaperarchive)
> "The amusements apart from the mere
> races were such as are always provided on such occasions; and as gambling
> constitutes one of the principal inducements to the sports of the Turf, so gambling, in another shape, added to the general excitement; and as, according to the doctrine of the "thimble-riggers," there is a flat born every minute,
> there was no lack of this class to reward the ingenuity of "les chevaliers d'industrie,"
> who were wide awake to every "move," and did not fail to hook a gudgeon when he showed even the slightest disposition to "nibble." "
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list