None of us washes our rental cars (antedating 1985)

Dave Wilton dave at WILTON.NET
Mon Jan 18 17:14:35 UTC 2010

A similar concept and political sentiment is expressed by P.J. O'Rourke in
"How to Drive Fast on Drugs While Getting Your Wing-Wang Squeezed and Not
Spill Your Drink," in _Republican Party Reptile_, Atlantic Monthly Press,
1987. (The piece evidently appeared earlier in _National Lampoon_; I don't
know the date or issue.):

"There's a lot of debate on this subject--about what kind of car handles
best. Some say a front-engined car; some say a rear-engined  car. I say a
*rented* car. Nothing handles better than a rented car. You can go faster,
turn corners sharper, and put the transmission into reverse while going
forward at a higher rate of speed in a rented car than in any other kind.
You can also park without looking, and can use the trunk as an ice chest.
Another thing about a rented car is that it's an all-terrain vehicle. Mud,
snow, water, woods--you can take a rented car anywhere. True, you can't
always get it back--but that's not your problem, is it?"

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of
Jonathan Lighter
Sent: Monday, January 18, 2010 7:58 AM
Subject: Re: None of us washes our rental cars (antedating 1985)

The greater the fallacy, the better the proverb.


On Mon, Jan 18, 2010 at 10:48 AM, Laurence Horn
<laurence.horn at>wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: None of us washes our rental cars (antedating 1985)
> At 7:06 AM -0800 1/18/10, Dave Wilton wrote:
> >Of course the rental car companies wash their cars (they also own them).
> >They do so, along with interior cleaning and making sure the gas tank is
> >full, between each customer. So finding a citation of a want ad that
> >includes car washing is beside the point. The point of the quote is that
> the
> >renter never washes one.
> Perhaps, but as I believe John Baker pointed out in this thread,
> those with longterm leases do.  And I seem to recall that renters of
> apartments and houses do occasionally vacuum their rented carpeting,
> clean their rented ovens, and on occasion even paint their rented
> walls. Those who rent motel rooms don't.  So I believe there's a
> fallacy in the reasoning, even though it's endorsed by otherwise
> logically impeccable thinkers.
> LH
> >
> >-----Original Message-----
> >From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf
> Of
> >Garson O'Toole
> >Sent: Sunday, January 17, 2010 9:01 PM
> >Subject: None of us washes our rental cars (antedating 1985)
> >
> >A favorite maxim of conservative and libertarian commentators concerns
> >the maintenance of rental cars by non-owners.
> >
> >Citation: 2009 May 8, Could Profit Motive Put an End to Piracy? by
> >John Stossel and Andrew Kirell, ABC News website.
> >
> >Economists have said "what nobody owns, nobody takes care of," and "no
> >one washes a rental car."
> >
> >
> >
> >Jonathan Lighter noted that the politician Eliot Spitzer on CNN said
> >recently:   "Somebody once said, 'Nobody washes their rental car.'
> >Ownership is good.'" This shows that the adage is not restricted to
> >conservatives and libertarians. A 1991 citation for the saying was
> >given during a discussion in the ADS archive in 2006. Also, in the
> >archive Charles Doyle remarked on the difficulty of determining "What
> >'counts' as an INSTANCE of (or evidence for the existence of) a given
> >proverb?" A wonderful quote from Shakespeare illustrated his point.
> >
> >
> >
> >Below we exhibit a citation from a business book that was a bestseller
> >in the 1980s, "A Passion for Excellence". The book reports on a
> >variety of case studies including one that analyzes a reorganization
> >of airplane maintenance staff within the military instigated by
> >General Bill Creech. The new organization assigns staff to maintain
> >specific planes on a long-term basis instead of shifting personnel
> >between multiple planes, and this new arrangement is successful
> >according to the authors. The core of the maxim is pronounced by "one
> >of Bill Creech's noncommissioned officers (NCOs)."
> >
> >Citation: 1985, A Passion for Excellence by Thomas J. Peters and Nancy
> >Austin, Page 239, Random House. (Google Books snippet view only.
> >Metadata is sometimes inaccurate. The excerpt below is based on Google
> >snippets and Amazon Look Inside.)
> >
> >The general asked him what the difference was between the old,
> >specialist organization and the new organization, in which the plane
> >and the sortie are the "customer," where the supervisor ("designated
> >crew chief," remember) "owns" the plane. The NCO's to-the-point reply:
> >"General, when's the last time you washed a rental car?" We think that
> >may say it all. None of us washes our rental cars. There's no
> >ownership. And there's no ownership if you're a specialist, no matter
> >how well trained, if you're responsible only for two square feet of
> >the right wing of a hundred planes. Only whole planes fly.
> >
> >
> >
> >I think that this cite points to the starting point of the process of
> >conversion of the phrase into a modern proverb. However, it is also
> >possible that the NCO heard the phrase beforehand as a proverb, and he
> >was transmitting it to the General. If that is the case then this
> >citation marks an important locus of popularization.
> >
> >Of course, rental cars may not gleam, but they are not usually caked
> >with inches of dirt, and I found another cite that caused a chuckle at
> >the time.
> >
> >Citation: 1966 November 17, Wisconsin State Journal, Page 60, Column
> >3, Madison, Wisconsin. (Newspaperarchive)
> >
> >[Classified Advertisement] CAR RENTAL AGENCY ATTENDANT - part time,
> >Excellent opportunity for college student. Wash rental cars and wait
> >on customers.
> >
> >Garson O'Toole
> >
> >------------------------------------------------------------
> >The American Dialect Society -
> >
> >------------------------------------------------------------
> >The American Dialect Society -
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