(Further) antedating quote about spelling
aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Thu Jan 14 17:51:05 UTC 2010
I did a modified search on GB and found a few interesting things, but no
further antedating. A brief summary--I'll have a long post likely tonight.
1) Some alleged Mark Twain quotations are slightly different in that
they include "little genius" to describe the target. That may either
make the attribution possibly authentic--to that particular wording--or
that someone got creative both with language and with attribution and
others quickly copied.
2) A number of attributions are to Andrew Jackson or, simply, to General
3) Yet more attributions are to "Josh Billings" (Henry Wheeler Shaw),
and not without reason. But "Billings" is assumed to have started
writing as a journalist in 1858 and added satire almost a decade later.
It is certainly possible that he penned the 1855 versions, but there is
no evidence of that. Conversely, some of his humor might have been
influenced by the expression.
4) A number of citations attribute the expression to "the Irishman", a
couple more to "the negro".
5) Marshal Brown's book suffered a number of editions, some of which
predate the 1880 citation. The version of the story refers to "Hon. Mr.
R--" and duplicates nearly verbatim the Harper's version with Huram
Runnels--of course, now there is a problem that the citation below uses
the same language and the name of Nyrum Reynolds. In particular, all
contain the expression "successful pettifogger", which the Dec 1855
Liverpool version does not.
6) "History of Wyoming County, NY" identifies a real lawyer and
associate judge Nyrum Reynolds as being an early and long-term resident
of Gainesville, NY. The citation is from 1880, but it also attributes
the quip to Reynolds.
7) A number of autobiographical sketches and other comments on potential
spelling reforms attribute the quip to random people from their lives,
unnamed ministers, congressmen, etc.
Overall, the Nyrum Reynolds bit looks the most authentic from
literature, but it's likely the expression had already acquired
proverbial nature when he used it. It's also possible that Andrew
Jackson and Mark Twain both used modified versions of the phrase later,
but there is no direct evidence for this and the original quip clearly
predates both of them.
On 1/14/2010 9:02 AM, Joel S. Berson wrote:
> At 1/14/2010 07:47 AM, Stephen Goranson wrote:
>> Here's an apparent slight antedating:
>> The Carlisle Journal Friday, October 19, 1855
> And one slightly earlier than that, from Sept. 13, 1855:
> Farmer's Cabinet, published as The Farmers'
> Cabinet.; Date: 09-13-1855; Volume: 54; Issue: 6;
> Page: ; Location: Amherst, New Hampshire. [EAN]
> The narrative is reminiscent of Garson's 1855
> November, Harper's Magazine, citation, but there are variations. It begins:
> Spelling Words More than One Way.---Several years
> ago, "when the country was new," Hon. Nyrum
> Reynolds, of Wyoming county, enjoyed quite a
> reputation as a successful pettifogger.
> Further down, we read:
> "Gen'l'men of the Jury," said Reynolds, when he
> "sumed up'"--and every word weighed a
> pound---"the learned counsel on the other side
> finds fault with my ritin' and spilling', as
> though the merits of this case depended on sich
> matters! I'm agin lugging in any sich outside
> affairs, but I will say that _a man must be a
> great fool who can't spell a word more than one
> way._" The Jury sympathized with Judge R. and
> rendered a decision in favor of his client."
> And there is more of the trail to be followed --
> at the end of its article the Farmers' Cabinet of
> Amherst, NH, credits the "Olean (N. Y.)
> Journal." (EAN disclaims holding more than 5
> titles throughout the U.S. in 1855.)
>> Content-Transfer-Encoding: 8bit
>> Content-Disposition: inline
>> Quoting Garson O'Toole<adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>:
>>> Fred Shapiro in The Yale Book of Quotationsâ€Ž (YBQ) discusses a quote
>>> about spelling that is often attributed to Mark Twain:
>>> I have no respect for a man who can spell a word only one way.
>>> Attributed in Chicago Daily Tribune, 22 May 1932. Without attribution
>>> to Twain, this appears as early as 1880, in Marshall Brown, Wit and
>>> Humor: "A man must be a great fool who can't spell a word more than
>>> one way."
>>> Based on a check that included the ADS archive, WikiQuote,
>>> TwainQuotes, YBQ, Ralph Keyes work, and Barry Popik's website these
>>> cites appear to be the earliest currently known for this quote. The
>>> TwainQuotes site of Barbara Schmidt includes an excellent webpage on
>>> the theme of spelling, but none of the quotes featured really match
>>> the joke.
>>> Below we present an attribution of the joke to Mark Twain in 1895, to
>>> Nyrum Reynolds in December 1855, and to Hiram Runnels in November
>>> Citation: 1895 November, The New Education, Vol. 8, No. 6, Concerning
>>> Spelling by Caroline Martin, Page 94, Snap Shot Publishing, New York.
>>> Addison tells us that Will Honeycomb claimed to spell like a gentleman
>>> rather than like a scholar; and Mark Twain says it isn't much of a
>>> genius who can only spell a word in one way;
>>> Citation: 1855 December 8, The Latter-Day Saints Millennial Star, Vol.
>>> 17, No. 49, Page 784, F. D. Richards, Islington.
>>> (I have attempted below to preserve the spelling in the original document.)
>>> The Hon. Nyrum Reynolds, of Wyoming county, one of the American
>>> barristers of a former generation, was one day accused in court of bad
>>> penmanship and worse spelling. "Gent'l'men of the jury," said he "the
>>> learned counsel on the other side finds fault with my writin' and
>>> spellin', as though the merits of the case depended upon such matters!
>>> I'm agin luggin' in any sich outside affairs, but I will say that a
>>> man must be a great fool who can't spell a word more than one way."
>>> The jury sympathised with Reynolds, and rendered a decision in favour
>>> of his client.
>>> Citation: 1855 November, Harper's Magazine, Vol. 11, No. 66, Editor's
>>> Drawer, Page 860, Harper's Magazine Company.
>>> (Again I have attempted below to preserve the spelling in the original
>>> Some years ago the Hon. Hiram Runnels, of Wyoming, Pennsylvania, had
>>> quite a reputation as a pettifogger. His knowledge of books was very
>>> small, and his main reliance was upon his own tact and shrewdness,
>>> which rarely failed him, and lasts to this day. On one occasion he was
>>> pitted against a smart, well-dressed limb of the law from the city,
>>> who made fun of a paper which Runnels had submitted to the court. "All
>>> law papers," said the learned counselor, "ought be written in the
>>> English language, but I submit to the court that there are no words in
>>> the language spelled as these in the document now before us. I insist
>>> that it ought to be excluded." Runnels replied: "The learned counsel
>>> on the other side finds fault with my spellin', as though the merits
>>> of the case depended on sich outside matters. I'm agin luggin' in any
>>> sich forin' affairs, but I will say that a man must be a great fool
>>> who can't spell a word more than one way."
>> Well done! And a self-illustrating case, spelling the speaker's name more than
>> one way. But, rather than Hiram Runnels, I currently prefer Nyrum Reynolds.
>> Here's an apparent slight antedating:
>> The Carlisle Journal Friday, October 19, 1855
>> Borrowed Trifles.
>> The Spanish Priest and the Soldier.
>> A Spanish priest once exhorting the soldiers to fight like lions,
>> added, in the
>> ardour of enthusiasm: "Reflect, my brethren, that whosoever falls to-day in
>> battle sups to-night in Paradise." Thunders of applause followed the
>> sentiment. The fight began, the ranks wavered, the priest took to his heels;
>> when a soldier, stopping him, reproachfully referred to the promised supper in
>> Paradise. "True, my son-true, " said the priest, "but I never eat suppers."
>> A sensible Patient.
>> Dr. ABERNETHY, the celebrated physician, was never more displeased than by
>> hearing a patient detail a long account of troubles. A woman, knowing
>> ABERNETHY'S love of the laconic, having burned her hand, called at his
>> house. Showing him her hand, she said "A burn." "A poultice," quietly
>> answered the
>> learned doctor. The next day she returned and said "Better." "Continue
>> poultice," replied Dr. A. In a week she made her last call, and her
>> speech was
>> lengthened to these words "Well your Fee? "Nothing," said the gratified
>> physician, "you are the most sensible woman I ever saw."
>> Spelling Words more than one Way.
>> Several years ago "when the country was new," Hon. Nyrum REYNOLDS, of Wyoming
>> county, enjoyed quite a reputation as a successful pettifogger. He
>> wasn't very
>> well posted up either in "book larnin" or the learning of the law; but relied
>> principally upon his own native tact and shrewdness, his stock of which
>> has not
>> failed him to this day. His great success created quite an active demand for
>> his services. On one occasion he was pitted against a "smart
>> appearing," well
>> dressed limb of the law from a neighbouring village, who made
>> considerable sport
>> of a paper which Reynolds had submitted to the court, remarking, among other
>> things, that "all law papers were required to be written in the English
>> language, and that the one under consideration, from its bad spelling and
>> penmanship, ought in fairness, therefore, to be excluded." "Gen'l men of the
>> jury," said REYNOLDS, when he "summed up," and every word weighed a
>> pound, "the
>> learned counsel on the other side finds fault with my ritin" and spellin", as
>> though the merits of the case depended upon such matters! I'm again luggin in
>> any sich outside affairs, but I will say that a man must be a great fool who
>> can't spell a word more than one way." The jury sympathized with Judge
>> REYNOLDS, and rendered a decision in favour of his client.
>> Stephen Goranson
>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
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