[Ads-l] Optimist: The glass is half full. Pessimist: The glass is half empty

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Wed Apr 6 17:20:48 UTC 2022

Not half-bad is not the half of it, but better. I don't know if this counts as a precursor. Maybe you saw it--given the GB sometimes-annoying practice of including similar words-- but did not mention. Several earlier texts have, more of less (fully?) an opimist (or optimism) means (being) willing to meet fortune or trouble (more than) half-way.

From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of ADSGarson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>
Sent: Wednesday, April 6, 2022 12:03 PM
Subject: Optimist: The glass is half full. Pessimist: The glass is half empty

I received a request to explore the saying in the subject line. A
related saying says "The glass is either half empty or half full".

The Quote Investigator article is here:

"The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs" has a pertinent 1930 citation.
"The New Yale Book of Quotations" has an attribution to English
economist Josiah Stamp printed in "The New York Times" on November 13,
Wikipedia has an entry for "Is the glass half empty or half full?",
but the accompanying citation is dated 2001.

The earliest match I have found for the optimist/pessimist saying
appeared in April 1929:

[ref] 1929 April 9, The Evening Sun, (Filler item), Quote Page 1,
Column 2, Baltimore, Maryland. (Newspapers_com) [/ref]

[Begin excerpt]
If he says his gas tank is half-full he’s an optimist. If he says it’s
half-empty he’s a pessimist.
[End except]

I also found direct testimony that Josiah Stamp used the saying in a
speech in London in April 1935:

[ref] 1935 April 4, The Daily Telegraph, The Optimist and the
Pessimist, Quote Page 9, Column 4, London, England. (Newspapers_com)

[Begin excerpt]
Sir Josiah Stamp gave this definition of an optimist and a pessimist
when he spoke at the dinner of the Society of Incorporated Accountants
and Auditors in London last night:

An optimist is the man who looks at his glass and says it is half
full. The pessimist is he who looks at it and says it is half empty.
[End except]

Feedback welcome,

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