[Ads-l] Quote: Owe your banker =?UTF-8?Q?=C2=A31=2C000_and_you_are_at_his_mercy=3B_owe_him_=C2=A31_?=million and the position is reversed.

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Wed Apr 24 09:11:29 UTC 2019

A couple years ago a magazine editor asked me to explore the saying in
the subject line and variants such as:

If you owe the bank $100, that’s your problem; if you owe the bank
$100 million, that’s the bank’s problem.

A Wikiquote editor had found the version using pounds sterling in
volume 24 of “The Collected Writings of John Maynard Keynes”. The
expression appeared in a 1945 memo circulated to the British War
Cabinet, but Keynes disclaimed credit by using the label "old saying".

While researching the topic I found an intriguing snippet match in Google Books:

Year: 1940-1952
Periodical: Journal of the Insurance Institute of London
Publisher: London : The Institute
Volumes: 34 to 40
Quote Page: 58 (According to Google Books and HathiTrust)


The date range from 1940 to 1952 was quite large because seven volumes
had been combined in the Google Books database. If the actual date of
the citation had been before 1945 then this citation would have been
the earliest. The journal was not widely held, and the metadata was
incomplete and perhaps inaccurate.

Happily, librarian Rand Hartsell of the University of Illinois,
Urbana-Champaign responded to my request. He precisely located and
verified the citation in the “Journal of the Insurance Institute of
London”. Hartsell determined found that economist Paul Bareau used the
saying during an address delivered to the Insurance Institute of
London on October 8, 1951.

So the 1945 citation remains the earliest evidence. Nevertheless, I
decided to create a QI entry on this topic to save future researchers
from reduplicating the work need to verify the enticing/misleading GB
snippet match.


Barry Popik examined this topic way back in 2009, and he reprinted the
information from the Wikiquote Keynes entry that listed the 1945
citation. So the Wikiquote editor deserves credit for sharing the
earliest citation currently known, I think.



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

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