[Ads-l] where to find sympathy

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Thu Oct 19 07:02:09 UTC 2017

Thanks for mentioning some QI entries, Ben.

A version of the dictionary joke probably appeared in 1959 according
to a Google Books (GB) snippet match. Ben observed that the
alphabetization is oddly inaccurate for some versions of this joke.
This problem is present in the instance below: "sympathy" is supposed
to be between "something" and "sweat".

Year: 1959 (sayeth GB)
Title: Journal of Proceedings of the National Marine Engineers'
Beneficial Association of the United States of America: Record of the
Publisher: National Marine Engineers' Beneficial Association (U.S.)
Quote Page 239 (sayeth GB)
Database: Google Books snippet; metadata may be inaccurate; search for
"1959" indicates that 1959 convention record is in the volume. Search
for "1960" suggests that it is a date in the future.

[Begin extracted text]
And you can find "sympathy" in the dictionary.
DELEGATE CALHOON: Between "something" and "sweat." (Laughter) I am not
going to look for it.
[End extracted text]

Here is a variant dictionary quip based on sympathy ascribed to Wilson
Mizner that was published in 1935.

Year: 1935 Copyright
Title: The Fabulous Wilson Mizner
Author: Edward Dean Sullivan
Publisher: The Henkle Company, New York, New York
Chapter 21: The Main Event
Quote Page 322
Verified with hardcopy

[Begin excerpt]
Powerfully built at fifty-six and never having been seriously ill,
Mizner recalled that after he left Florida and spent a most enjoyable
and all-encompassing month of gayety at Reno he had written back to
his brother Addison, remarking that he feared he was losing his

Addison wired back: "What do you care, you've heard everything."

"Which proved my contention," Wilson remarked, "that you'll find
sympathy under 'symp' in the dictionary."
[End excerpt]

Charlie Doyle examined this topic within an article published in the
journal "Proverbium" last year. Charlie (and coauthor) shared the
valuable 1961 citation.

[ref] 2016, Proverbium: Yearbook of International Proverb Scholarship,
Volume 33,The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs: A Supplement by Charles
Clay Doyle and Wolfgang Mieder, Start Page 85, Quote Page 113,
Published by The University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont. (Verified
on paper)[/ref]

[Begin excerpt]
You (can) find SYMPATHY between shit (sin) and syphilis (in the dictionary).

1961 George Henry Johnston, Closer to the Sun (New York: Morrow) 154:
'"If I want sympathy, brother,' he said in a lower voice, 'I can find
it where I've always found it—in the dictionary, between "sin" and
"syphilis"!'" 1967 Hal Travers, Voyage Sixty-Nine (Rancocas NJ:
Dorset) 335: "We often found much relief by weeping on each other's
shoulders. I didn't have to look in the dictionary between shit and
syphilis so long as he was available."
[End excerpt]


On Thu, Oct 19, 2017 at 12:07 AM, Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at gmail.com> wrote:
> On the Strong Language blog, I look into variations on a saying we
> discussed a couple of years ago: "If you're looking for sympathy, you can
> find it in the dictionary between 'shit' and 'syphilis.'"
> https://stronglang.wordpress.com/2017/10/19/where-can-you-find-sympathy/
> Linking back to our earlier discussion:
> http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/ads-l/2015-March/136422.html
> JL will be glad to know that I tracked down the example he remembered in
> the "World at War" miniseries.
> --bgz
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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