Quote: everybody talks about the weather (1897) (antedating attrib Charles Dudley Warner 1901, attrib Mark Twain 1915)

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Tue Jan 26 10:54:49 UTC 2010

Victor Steinbok wrote:
> Give how different the phrasing is from the other quotes, this is a
> great find!

Thanks. I especially appreciate that compliment from someone who's
overcome similar difficulties.

I have located two more early examples of Charles Dudley Warner's
version of the famous weather quote. Neither predates the 1884
citation. The 1889 cite below opens the possibility that the quote
appeared in an essay by Warner about the weather in New England.

Citation: 1889 March, The Book Buyer: A Summary of American and
Foreign Literature, Vol. VI, No. 2, The Author of "My Summer Garden",
Page 57, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. (Google Books full view)

His article, after Victor Hugo, on the New England climate is another
sketch which has called out much sympathy and admiration. "The weather
in New England," said Mr. Warner "is a matter about which a great deal
is said and very little done." He himself has always had a quarrel
with it.


In the 1903 cite below Joseph H. Twichell discusses the humor of
Warner and quotes a somewhat clumsy version of the weather adage that
Twichell says he heard directly from Charles Dudley Warner.

Citation: 1903 January, Century Magazine, Vol. LXV, No. 3, Qualities
of Warner's Humor by Joseph H. Twichell, Page 380, The Century Co.
(Google Books full view)

Thus the force and flavor of what I once heard him reply to an
outburst against a spell of bad weather - "Respecting weather, I have
always noted that there is nothing besides about which so much is
said, and so little done" - mostly fails to be reproduced in the
verbal report of it.


Victor Steinbok wrote:
> There is an interesting quality about this expression and ones like it.
> "Talking about the weather" was a euphemism for empty conversation long
> before this appeared--and no justification needed to be made that
> "nothing is done about it". There are even *recommendations* to talk
> about the weather if you have nothing to say and also
> observations/recommendations that talking about the weather is a
> conversation starter. Some of these go back at least to the
> 1840s--although this might have been a quintessentially British custom,
> at one point, especially if involved complaining. ;-)
> I am forgoing the links--if anyone is interested, I will share them.

Wonderful work. The saying, in part, is a satirical jibe at the
conventions of polite conversation I think. You've unearthed overt
written codifications of these conventions in the time frame.

> On 1/25/2010 5:44 PM, Garson O'Toole wrote:
>> The quote below suggests that Charles Dudley Warner was communicating
>> the core idea of the weather quote before 1897.
>> Citation: 1884 November 18, Proceedings of the Chamber of Commerce of
>> the State of New York, Twenty Seventh Annual Report.
>> As to the latter I think your action reminded me of the observation of
>> my old friend and partner, DUDLEY WARNER, concerning New England
>> weather - it is a matter about which a great deal is said, but very
>> little done.
>> http://books.google.com/books?id=SQWGAAAAIAAJ&q=Dudley+Warner#v=snippet&q=Dudley%20Warner&f=false
>> Garson

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

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