[Ads-l] Repartee: "He is his own worst enemy" "Not while I'm alive" (Request search in New York Herald Tribune)

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Wed Apr 22 03:06:39 UTC 2020

The riposte in the subject line has been credited to Franklin P.
Adams, Groucho Marx, "Old Cotton" Ed Smith, George S. Kaufman,  Alan
Hale (The Fighting 69th) and others.

There is an interesting match in Google Books (GB) for the same joke
using a different phrasing. This is the earliest potential match I
have currently identified. The match occurs within a volume for which
GB has specified the unhelpful title of "Books" and the semi-accurate
year of 1933.


The target snippet does not show the text (a common problem with GB).
But some other snippets show the following in the header:

New York Herald Tribune Books, Sunday

This message is a request to search the ProQuest "New York Herald
Tribune" for the text given below. Admittedly, the match might be
absent if the Sunday Books section is in a separate database.

[Begin extracted text - raw OCR – spelling might be inaccurate]
N. Y. Herald Tribune
Dear Booksy — In reply to your request re requesting me to write what
I think about Mr. Lardner's book would state am happy to comply with
same as fellows', hopeing same will be . . .
. . . much of a writer of anything exc. poetry and my friends unite in
telling me I am a dreamer with my head in the clouds and only the
other night when I said I am my own worst enemy 4 fellows rushed in to
say loyaly not while they was alive.
[End extracted text]

The GB page number is roman numeral "VIII" which is probably inaccurate.

The main target snippet does not point to the book review by F.P.
Adams. It seems to point to another book review on the same page for
Philips Gibbs's "The Way of Escape" which was published in 1933.
Happily, this provides good evidence that the target year is 1933 or
1934. However, other snippets within the volume indicate that issues
from 1933 up to at least 1938 are present. So the year remains

Please search any databases you have that contain material from the
"New York Herald Tribune".

Also, I found a solid match in newspapers.com for an unnamed U.S.
Senator criticizing Franklin D. Roosevelt published on May 10, 1939.
Earlier matches would be helpful:

[Begin excerpt]
"After all, the president's his own worst enemy." One of the elder
senators pounded on the table. "Not while I'm alive!" he shouted.
[End excerpt]

Thanks for your help,
Garson O'Toole

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

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