"I don't know much about art, but I know what I like"

AAllan at AOL.COM AAllan at AOL.COM
Wed Aug 1 19:20:45 UTC 2001

Barry found this:

<< I don't know anything about music, really, but I know what I like.

--GELETT BURGESS, "Bromide no. 1,"

in _Are You a Bromide?_, 1906

(Burgess was making fun of this cliche, so useful to the uninformed.  He
coined this sense of _bromide_, see Burgess under DIFFERENCES.) >>

I have before me (courtesy of the Knox College Library) a copy of this very
book, open to page 24, and it reads, under roman numeral I, the first of
xlviii "bromidioms" or hackneyed phrases:

"I don't know much about Art, but I know what I like."

Now Barry's quotation may come from the original article, published in _The
Smart Set_ (that prefiguration of the New Yorker) for April 1906. Mine is
from a little book (derived from the article) with the full title _Are You a
Bromide? Or, The Sulphitic Theory Expounded and Exemplified According to the
Most Recent Researches Into the Psychology of Boredom, Including Many
Well-Known Bromidioms Now in Use_.

Burgess was a highly successful humorous writer and illustrator of the turn
of the century. He is celebrated as the inventor of "blurb." That success,
and the success of "bromide," inspired him to invent a whole bookful of words
(100 of them, in _Burgess Unabridged_, 1914), not one of which survives.

His "bromidioms," on the other hand, are as freshly hackneyed as ever. Here
are a few more:

XI. I thought I loved him at the time, but of course it wasn't really love.
XII. Funny how some people can never learn to spell!
XVI. Why, I know you better than you know yourself!
XVII. Now, this thing really happened!
XXIII. It isn't so much the heat (or the cold), as the humidity in the air.
XXVI. After I've shampooed my hair I can't do a thing with it.
XXXIX. You can live twenty years in New York and never know who your
next-door neighbor is.
XLVI. He's told that lie so often that he believes it himself, now.
XLVIII. Don't worry; that won't help matters any.

- Allan Metcalf

More information about the Ads-l mailing list