Pun: the lesser of two weevils

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Thu May 8 20:37:10 UTC 2014

The character Jack Aubrey employed a pun about weevils in "The Fortune
of War" by Patrick O'Brian I am told. In the fictional timeline the
pun was employed circa 1812.

The earliest evidence of the pun type I have located so far appeared
in 1865. Of course, in O'Brian's fictional universe, Jack Aubrey may
have originated the pun; hence the usage is not strictly

Evidence of the pun before 1865 would greatly interest me. Thanks.
Here are some cites.

The pun was also spoken in the movie "Master and Commander: The Far
Side of the World" (2003) according to IMDB and WikiQuote. Here is the
IMDB version:


[Begin excerpt]
Capt. Jack Aubrey: Do you see those two weevils doctor?
Dr. Stephen Maturin: I do.
Capt. Jack Aubrey: Which would you choose?
Dr. Stephen Maturin: [sighs annoyed] Neither; there is not a scrap a
difference between them. They are the same species of Curculio.
Capt. Jack Aubrey: If you had to choose. If you were forced to make a
choice. If there was no other response...
Dr. Stephen Maturin: [Exasperated] Well then if you are going to *push* me...
[the doctor studies the weevils briefly]
Dr. Stephen Maturin: ...I would choose the right hand weevil; it
has... significant advantage in both length and breadth.
[the captain thumps his fist in the table]
Capt. Jack Aubrey: There, I have you! You're completely dished! Do you
not know that in the service...
Capt. Jack Aubrey: ...one must always choose the lesser of two weevils.
[the officers burst out in laughter]
[Begin excerpt]

Periodical: The Illinois Teacher
Date: January 1865
Article: Editor's Table
Start Page 25, Quote Page 30
Publisher: N. C. Nason, Peoria, Illinois


[Begin excerpt]
HARD-TACK PHILOSOPHY BY A SOLDIER. - Of all weevils, choose the least.
[End excerpt]

Periodical: The Saturday Magazine: A Journal of Home & Foreign Literature
Date: December 14, 1878
Volume 1, Number 2
Article: Amenities
Quote Page 60, Column 2
Publisher: Office of Publication (The Saturday Magazine), Boston, Massachusetts.
Database: Google Books Full View


[Begin excerpt]
Agricultural Maxim. - Of two weevils choose the least.
[End excerpt]


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

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