[Ads-l] Quote: A diplomat is a person who always remembers a woman's birthday but never remembers her age

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Mon Aug 28 01:27:58 UTC 2023

I received a request to explore the old-fashioned quip in the subject
line which is often attributed to U.S. poet Robert Frost. Barry Popik
explored this topic back in 2012, and he found excellent citations
beginning in 1913. He also found an attribution to Frost in 1949.
Barry’s website is still off-line.

Here are links to the new Quote Investigator article:
Full: https://quoteinvestigator.medium.com/f31c9ea6dde4
Abbrev: https://quoteinvestigator.com/2023/08/27/diplomat-age/

The core of the joke appeared as a filler item in a Rochester, New
York newspaper in May 1896. The remark was ascribed to a German humor
magazine called "Fliegende Blätter" ("Flying Pages"). A diplomat was
not mentioned in this version:

[ref] 1896 May 10, Democrat and Chronicle, (Filler item), Quote Page
8, Column 5, Rochester, New York. (Newspapers_com) [/ref]

[Begin excerpt]
Husband - Strange, but my wife always wants me to remember her
birthday, but to forget her age. - Fliegende Blatter.
[End excerpt]

In 1912 several newspapers printed an anecdote in which the prominent
actress Lillian Russell received credit for a version of the joke
using the word "diplomat":

[ref] 1912 February 4, The Journal and Tribune, Section: The Woman's
Page, A Ladies' Diplomat, Quote Page 3A, Column 4 and 5, Knoxville,
Tennessee. (Newspapers_com) [/ref]

[Begin excerpt]
Miss Lillian Russell, more beautiful than ever, was serving tea at the
Professional Woman's League bazaar at the Waldorf-Astoria. A member of
the Spanish legation passed with two charming girls, and Miss Russell

"No wonder that young man is so popular with the ladies. He is a
ladies' diplomat."

"How a ladies' diplomat?" a composer asked.

"Well," explained Miss Russell, "he is the sort of chap who always
remembers a woman’s birthday and forgets her age."
[End excerpt]

In 1939 an instance was credited to "Frost" in a Jackson, Tennessee newspaper:

[ref] 1939 November 5, The Jackson Sun, Wise Sayings Of Wise Men by W.
A. Caldwell (Secretary-Treasurer of Sun Publishing Co.), Quote Page 4,
Column 4, Jackson, Tennessee. (Newspapers_com) [/ref]

[Begin excerpt]
"A diplomatist is a man who always remembers a woman's birthday, but
never remembers her age." – Frost
[End excerpt]

Feedback welcome
Garson O’Toole

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

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