[Ads-l] Saying: Half the money spent on advertising is wasted, but no one knows which half

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Wed Apr 13 14:00:38 UTC 2022

My ninth-grade science teacher, Mr. Rathman, used to say, "Half of
everything we think we know is wrong. The question is which half."


On Mon, Apr 11, 2022 at 8:09 PM ADSGarson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com>

> Way back in 2012 Arnold Zwicky posted about the saying in the subject
> line, and I replied with a few citations.
> http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/ads-l/2012-July/120540.html
> After a brief decade delay, a Quote Investigator article has now been
> posted.
> https://quoteinvestigator.com/2022/04/11/advertising/
> The earliest match in 1919 was located by Barry Popik, and it is
> listed in "The New Yale Book of Quotations".
> I found a partial match in the New York periodical "Printers' Ink: A
> Journal for Advertisers" in 1890:
> [Begin excerpt]
> … don’t forget that half of the money spent in advertising is wasted …
> [End excerpt]
> I also discovered that "The East Kent Times" of England in 1931
> reported on a speech delivered by businessman William Hulme Lever who
> co-founded Unilever. He ascribed the saying to his father William
> Hesketh Lever (Lord Leverhulme) who had died in 1925:
> [Begin excerpt]
> His father used to say that half the money spent in advertising was
> wasted, but he was unable to say which half it was. In order to solve
> the problem they had not only to study the commodity they were
> advertising but the public which they were trying to appeal to.
> [End excerpt]
> [Begin acknowledgement]
> Great thanks to George Mannes and Arnold Zwicky whose inquiries led QI
> to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Special
> thanks to pioneering researchers Ralph Keyes, Barry Popik, Nigel Rees,
> and Fred R. Shapiro. Keyes’s book "The Quote Verifier" pointed out
> that the saying had been attributed to John Wanamaker, William Hesketh
> Lever, William Wrigley Jr., and George Washington Hill. Popik located
> the key 1919 attribution to John Wanamaker.
> [End acknowledgement]
> Feedback welcome
> Garson O'Toole
> QuoteInvestigator.com
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

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

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