[Ads-l] Saying: Half of what we teach you is wrong, but we don't know which half

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Sat Apr 30 15:07:02 UTC 2022

The Quote Investigator website now has an article about the saying in
the subject line.

One Half of What I Have Told You May Be Proved Untrue. Unfortunately,
I Cannot Tell You Which Half

[Begin acknowledgment]
Great thanks to Jonathan Lighter and Marc Sacks whose comments led QI
to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Special
thanks to researcher Barry Popik whose exploration of a related
expression about advertising led him to identify the Boswell precursor
and to locate pertinent citations beginning in 1953.
[End acknowledgment]

Feedback welcome

On Wed, Apr 13, 2022 at 5:28 PM ADSGarson O'Toole
<adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:
> Thanks to JL and Marc Sacks for their responses mentioning sayings of
> the type presented in the subject line in which a lecturer or educator
> admits that the knowledge being transmitted to recipients is flawed
> and incomplete.
> Barry Popik mentioned these sayings within his article about "Half the
> money spent on advertising is wasted …"  Barry listed citations in the
> medical domain in 1953, 1956, 1961, 1995, 2001, and 2008.
> This family of sayings is difficult to trace (for me). Here are a few
> selected items I found today. In 1917 C. P. Dadant used a version of
> the saying while delivering a lecture about bees:
> [ref] 1917, The Twenty-Second Annual Report of the Illinois Farmers’
> Institute: A Handbook of Agriculture, Proceedings of the Twenty-Second
> Annual Meeting, Held in Streator, Illinois on February 21, 22, and 23,
> 1917, Friday Afternoon Session on February 23, 1917, The Usefulness of
> Bees in Horticulture and the Value of Honey as a Diet by Mr. C. P.
> Dadant, Start Page 176, Quote Page 177, Illinois State Journal
> Company, Springfield, Illinois. (Google Books Full View) link [/ref]
> https://books.google.com/books?id=a00gAQAAIAAJ&q=%22half+of+what%22#v=snippet&
> [Begin excerpt]
> Josh Billings said: “What is the use of knowing so much when half of
> what we do know ain’t so?” [Laughter] It is quite probable that half
> of what I am going to tell you to-day ain’t so, but I don’t know which
> half. It will be for you to find out. [Laughter.]
> [End excerpt]
> In 1944 G.M. executive Charles F. Kettering attributing an instance to
> an unnamed medical educator:

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

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