[Ads-l] Adage: Do not take life quite so seriously -- you surely will never get out of it alive

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Mon May 17 13:37:37 UTC 2021

There is an entry for the saying in the subject line in "The
Dictionary of Modern Proverbs" compiled by Charles Clay Doyle,
Wolfgang Mieder, and Fred R. Shapiro. The first citation is dated 1911
with Elbert Hubbard receiving credit.

A French correspondent sent me an inquiry on this topic because he had
seen the saying attributed to the 17th century author Bernard Le
Bovier de Fontenelle.

Here is a link to the Quote Investigator article:

I was able to locate a December 1900 essay by Elbert Hubbard
containing the adage, but I found no substantive evidence that
Fontenelle authored the adage. Fontenelle was receiving credit in
French texts by the 1970s.

Below is the earliest attribution to Fontenelle that I came across.
Interestingly, There are earlier citations in French that point to
Fernand Gregh and Elbert Hubbard.

Year: 1972
Title: Ce qui reste de jour: 1966-1972
Author: Julien Green
Quote Page GB 340
Database: Google Books Snippet; this data may be inaccurate and should
be verified with hardcopy or scans

[Begin excerpt]
De Fontenelle, cité par Louis Gabriel Robinet, ce mot charmant : « Ne
prenez pas la vie au sérieux, de toute façon vous n ' en sortirez pas
vivant. »
[End excerpt]

[Begin Google translation (modified)]
De Fontenelle, quoted by Louis Gabriel Robinet, this charming saying:
"Do not take life seriously, in any case you will not come out alive."
[End Google translation]

Feedback welcome
Garson O'Toole

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

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