[Ads-l] Antedating of An Elephant Never Forgets

Mon Apr 12 15:19:52 UTC 2021

The Yale Book of Quotations traces this proverb, in the form "Elephants never forget," to the short story "Reginald," by Saki (1904).  Here is an example from James S. Olcott, Animal Electricity 78 (1844) (Google Books):  "The elephant never forgets nor forgives an insulting injury."

Although that is the earliest I saw, there are a number of additional examples from the 19th century.  From the Auburn (N.Y.) Weekly American (May 12, 1856) (NewspaperArchive):  "The elephant never forgets an enemy or a friend."

The statement clearly had come to be seen as proverbial no later than this example from a children's story in 1884.  From Harper's Young People (Feb. 26, 1884) (Google Books):  ""Elephants never forget," said Alice, more loudly than she intended, so that the Elephant heard, and turned and made a bow to her."

John Baker

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

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