[Ads-l] Modern Proverb: The best things in life are not things

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Sun Oct 8 03:06:59 UTC 2017

"The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs" (DMP) compiled by Charles Clay
Doyle, Wolfgang Mieder, and Fred R. Shapiro has an entry for the
following saying:

[Begin excerpt]
The best things in life are not things.
[End excerpt]

The first DMP citation is dated 1977. Quotation expert Mardy Grothe
noted that the adage has been credited to humorist Art Buchwald, and
he asked me to investigate. Now the Quote investigator website has an


I located a citation in 1945 that I characterized as a strong match.

[ref] 1948 October 24, Illinois State Journal and Register, The Fine
Things of Life, Quote Page 6, Column 1, Springfield, Illinois.

[Begin excerpt]
A person recently bereaved of an only sister, wrote to a friend:
“Isn’t it wonderful that the really fine things of life are not things
at all.” And so it is. Love, friendship, appreciation, kindness,
honesty, thrift, and a multitude of life’s finest qualities, are
intangible and spiritual but nevertheless, very real.
[End excerpt]

Closer matches appeared in 1971 and 1972. Feedback welcome.


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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list