[Ads-l] Optimists invent airplanes; pessimists invent parachutes

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Fri May 28 14:53:14 UTC 2021

A retired librarian contacted me and inquired about the saying in the
subject line. The earliest match I found appeared in the “Chicago
Tribune” within the long-running column called “A Line O’ Type Or

[ref] 1967 September 1, Chicago Tribune, A Line O' Type Or Two, Quote
Page 16, Column 3, Chicago, Illinois. (Newspapers_com) [/ref]

[Begin excerpt]
Both optimists and pessimists contribute to our society. The optimist
invents the airplane and the pessimist the parachute.
Gil Stern
[End excerpt]

Gil Stern was a humorist who supplied jokes to several columnists.
Currently, he is the leading candidate for originator of this quip.
The first attributions to other people occurred years afterwards. Here
is a link to the QI article:

The Optimist Invents the Airplane and the Pessimist the Parachute

After I found the "Chicago Tribune" citation I discovered that Barry
Popik had previously written an excellent piece on this topic. Barry's
earliest citation was dated September 7, 1967, and no attribution was
provided by that citation. I thought that the "Chicago Tribune"
citation presented important information, so I moved forward with
posting a QI article with an acknowledgment.

[Begin acknowledgement]
Great thanks to Stephen Bridge whose inquiry led QI to formulate this
question and perform this exploration. Bridge pointed out that
confusion may have been caused by similar names.

Special thanks to researcher Barry Popik who posted a webpage on this
topic located here. Popik’s first citation was dated September 7,
1967. The citation provided no attribution. Popik also located helpful
citations with attributions to Mack McGinnis, Gladys Bronwyn Stern,
and Gil Stern.
[End acknowledgement]

Feedback welcome

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

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