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

Pete Morris mr_peter_morris at OUTLOOK.COM
Fri May 28 20:47:37 UTC 2021

>From The Rotarian, Google dated to 1939.  Usual caveats apply.

<< It was optimism that originated the steam boiler. It blew up. Then 
pessimism came along and invented the steam valve. Optimism built the 
steam engine, and it ran away until pessimism invented the governor.  
Optimism laid down the railroad , but pessimism made it practicable with 
the air brake and the block - signal system . Optimism designed a ship 
to sail daringly into the skies — and fall perhaps at times . So 
pessimism designed the parachute .>>


------ Original Message ------
From: "ADSGarson O'Toole" <adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com>
To: ADS-L at listserv.uga.edu
Sent: 28/05/2021 15:53:14
Subject: Optimists invent airplanes; pessimists invent parachutes

>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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