January 12, 2020

“Suppose they gave a war and nobody came.”


THE ORIGINAL INSPIRATION FOR THE SIXTIES SLOGAN:

“Sometime they’ll give a war and nobody will come.”
      
Carl Sandburg (1878-1967)
       American poet and writer
       A line from Sandburg’s epic prose poem The People, Yes (1936)
       In the 1960s, several variations of an anti-war slogan began appearing on posters, in print and in songs. The version that became most common (as shown by the
comparatively huge number of Google hits it gets) is “Suppose they gave a war and nobody came.” Other variations include “Suppose they gave a war and no one came” and “What if they gave a war and nobody came.” It’s not certain who coined the most familiar version, but this much is clear: all of the various iterations of the saying are ultimately descended from a line in Carl Sandburg’s book-length ode to America and it’s citizens, The People, Yes, first published in 1936.
       In the poem, the line is said by a little girl who sees a group of soldiers marching in a parade. It’s from a part of the poem in which Sandburg seems to foresee the potential devastation of a second and possibly a third world war:
       “
The first world war came and its cost was laid on the people.
       The second world war — the third — what will be the cost.
       And will it repay the people for what they pay?...
       The little girl saw her first troop parade and asked, 
       ‘What are those?’
       ‘Soldiers.’
       ‘What are soldiers?’
       ‘They are for war. They fight and each tries to kill as many of the other side as he can.’
       The girl held still and studied. 
       ‘Do you know ... I know something?’
       ‘Yes, what is it you know?’
       ‘Sometime they’ll give a war and nobody will come.’


THE EVOLUTION OF THE SIXTIES SLOGAN:

“Suppose they gave a war and nobody came.” 
       Possibly coined by
James R. Newman 
       American mathematician, writer and editor of Scientific American magazine
 
       In the 1960s, several updated versions of Carl Sandburg’s line became popular. They were often used in the context of opposition to the Vietnam War. The most common version, “Suppose they gave a war and nobody came,” was used as a slogan on posters that were sold in Hippie shops in the late Sixties (like the blacklight poster shown at left). It was also used as the title of
a comedy movie in 1970, giving it even broader recognition. Some posts on the Internet claim the now familiar words were first written by Bertolt Brecht in the 1930s. However, they give no source and I couldn’t find one, so I deem that claim doubtful. (As Abraham Lincoln said, “The problem with Internet quotations is that many are not genuine.”) 
       In contrast, the origin of the variation “Suppose They Gave a War and No One Came” is well documented. It was used as
the title of a widely-read article written by the American poet and author Charlotte E. Keyes (1914-1980). The article, about her growing admiration for the anti-war activism of her son Gene, was published in the October 1966 issue of McCall’s magazine. Charlotte’s other son happens to be the quote and phrase maven Ralph Keyes. He noted in his excellent book The Quote Verifier (2006) that his mother saw the phrase “Suppose they gave a war and nobody came” in a 1961 letter to the editor in The Washington Post, written by James R. Newman. Newman was referencing, but apparently misremembering, Sandburg’s line. Charlotte cut out and kept the letter for future reference and later adapted the title of her article from it. Newman may or may not have coined “Suppose they gave a war and nobody came.” That paraphrase of Sandburg may already have been floating around at the time. However, I found no use of those words dated earlier than Newman’s 1961 letter in any newspaper archive or anywhere else online. So, he may deserve credit for creating the Sixties slogan (though perhaps inadvertently.) 
       Another variation, “What If They Gave a War and No One Came,” surfaced in 1968 as the title of a song by the now forgotten "Symphonopop" composer and musician
Jonna Gault. And, in 1972, poet Allen Ginsberg echoed her version in his 1972 poem “Graffiti,” which included the lines “What if someone gave a war & Nobody came? / Life would ring the bells of Ecstasy and Forever be Itself again.”


A VARIATION ABOUT A DONALD TRUMP DEBATE NOBODY REMEMBERS:

“What if they gave a debate and nobody came?”
       Brad Knickerbocker
       Staff writer and editor for the Christian Science Monitor 
       His humorous question
in an article about the December 2011 Republican “debate” hosted by Donald Trump, which all but two Republican presidential candidates declined to participate in. (Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum were the only candidates who agreed to appear.)


THE VIAGRA VARIATION:

“What if You Took Viagra and Nobody Came?” 
       Double entendre title of
an article in the Jan.-Feb. 1999 issue of Mother Jones magazine
       The tongue-in-cheek article discussed some non-drug alternatives to Viagra, such as an artificial nylon-polypropylene penis, penile implant surgery — or a Corvette.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Comments? Corrections? Post them on the Famous Quotations Facebook page.

Related reading…

October 27, 2019

“I never promised you a rose garden.”

               

 THE ORIGIN OF THE FAMOUS LINE:

“I Never Promised You a Rose Garden” 
       Hannah Green (pen name of Joanne Greenberg; 1927–1996)
       American author
       Title of
her 1964 novel              
       This novel is the apparent source of the saying, though it was made even more famous by country music singer Lynn Anderson’s 1970 hit song
of the same name. The well-known opening lyrics of the song, written by singer/songwriter Joe South, are: “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden.”
        Greenberg’s novel is a semi-autobiographical account of her struggle with schizophrenia as a teenager. In an emotional scene in the book, psychotherapist Dr. Clara Fried tells the main character, Deborah Blau: “I never promised you a rose garden. I never promised you perfect justice and I never promised you peace or happiness. My help is that so you can be free to fight for all of these things. The only reality I offer is challenge, and being well is being free to accept it or not at whatever level you are capable. I never promise lies, and the rose-garden world of perfection is a lie...and a bore too!” Dr. Fried is based on Greenberg's real psychiatrist, Dr. Frieda Fromm-Reichmann, who treated her at the Chestnut Lodge hospital in Rockville, Maryland.
       The novel was adapted into a movie in 1977. It starred Kathleen Quinlan as Deborah and Bibi Andersson as Dr. Fried. Mel Gibson made his screen debut in the film, in a small uncredited role as a baseball player. Many years later, Mel uttered his own scary quote about a garden. (See below.)

               

 THE BADASS MARINE SLOGAN:

“We didn’t promise you a rose garden.”
        U.S. Marines recruiting slogan
used from late 1971 until mid-1984
        The “Rose Garden” slogan was used in the first series of posters and ads that featured the tagline “The Marines are looking for a few good men.” Several posters in series showed Marine Drill Instructors yelling at new recruits, like the one shown here. The drill instructor in it is Sgt. Charles A. Taliano, who passed away in 2010.


  

                  

THE BADASS JUDGE VERSION:

“Nobody promised them [prison inmates] a rose garden…They have been convicted of crime, and there is nothing in the Constitution which forbids their being penalized as a result of that conviction.”
       William Rehnquist (1924-2005)
       Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court 
       From his written decision
on the 1981 U.S. Supreme Court case Atiyeh v. Capps, explaining why the court rejected a lawsuit brought by a group of Oregon prison inmates against the State of Oregon. The inmates wanted Oregon prisons to be forced to reduce prison overcrowding conditions they contended were inhumane and illegal.


THE PASSION OF MEL VERSION:

“Apparently Mel Gibson did promise his babymama Oksana Grigorieva a rose garden…But totally not in a good way. In the latest round of the seemingly endless parade of embarrassing tape leaks purporting to capture the Passion of the Christ helmsman in full meltdown mode, a new snippet of conversation has emerged, in which Gibson reportedly threatens to bury Grigorieva in the flower bed of his Malibu, California, mansion.”
       From a now-deleted
post on the PEACE FM Online site, July 9, 2010 

                  

THE PRESIDENTIAL VERSION:

“I never promised you a rose garden but I guess [Press Secretary] Ron Nessen did. So, I hope you enjoy this new setting and the new format, and I hope I enjoy it, too.”
      
President Gerald R. Ford (1913-2006)              
       Comment in a
news conference on October 9, 1974
       Ford was joking about his newly announced plan to hold press conferences in the White House Rose Garden. When Ford and other presidents later started using this option during campaign periods to avoid the usual campaign travel grind while still generating news stories and looking presidential, it was dubbed the “Rose Garden Strategy.”

                      

THE BIONIC VERSION:

Col. Steve Austin (actor Lee Majors): “Now wait a minute, Jaime, you're not going out a torpedo tube. Now you felt the sub, it’s gonna be rough out there.” 
Jaime Sommers (actress Lindsay Wagner): “You never promised me a rose garden.”              
       Banter from the
“Kill Oscar: Part 3” episode of the American TV series The Bionic Woman (Season 2, Episode 6, first aired in 1976).              
      

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Comments? Corrections? Questions? Email me or post them on my Famous Quotations Facebook page.

Related reading, viewing and listening…

October 1, 2019

“Whatever is worth doing...”


LORD CHESTERFIELD’S MAXIM:

“Whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well.”
       Lord Chesterfield (Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield; 1694-1773)
       British statesman and diplomat
       One of the many bits of fatherly advice Chesterfield imparted in letters to his illegitimate son, Philip Stanhope. This one is from a letter dated March 10, 1746.
        Chesterfield’s use is generally thought to have led to the modern proverbial version: “If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.”


THE ECDYSIAST’S COUNTERQUOTE:

“If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing slowly — very slowly.”
        Gypsy Rose Lee (Rose Louise Hovick; 1911-1970)
        American Burlesque queen and author
        This quip has been widely attributed to Lee in the decades since her death and appears to have been a favorite witticism of hers. However, there doesn’t seem to be any record of her saying it or using it in any of her books while she was alive.


CHESTERTON’S COUNTERQUOTE:

“If a thing is worth doing it is worth doing badly.”
       G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936) 
       English writer, philosopher and critic
       A line from his book What’s Wrong with the World (1913). In context, it was his way of praising hobbies and other activities done by amateurs for pleasure, even if they have no special talent for them.


WALLY’S WISDOM:

“My philosophy is that anything worth doing is too hard.”
        The character Wally, in the December 27, 2004 edition of Scott Adams’ comic strip Dilbert.


MAYBE MICK’S MOTTO?:

“Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.”
        This saying is widely attributed to Mick Jagger, but without any specific citation of when he may have said it. The Yale Dictionary of Modern Proverbs says it dates back to at least 1962, when it was used in the headline of an ad for Jantzen Sportswear.


THE SUCKY BEGINNINGS PRINCIPLE:

“Anything worth doing is going to suck at the beginning. Anything worth doing is meant to require pain and sacrifice. Herein lies the problem facing America, which originally was built on the moral of impulse control. What once used to be a country filled with people sacrificing momentary pleasure for a better future, the overpowering message of today is live for the moment.”
        Benjamin P. Hardy
        American columnist and author
        In one of his posts on the TheLadders.com site (Jan. 22, 2019)

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Comments? Corrections? Questions? Email me or post them on my Famous Quotations Facebook page.

Related reading, viewing and listening…

September 17, 2019

War as politics, politics as war – and various other things “continued by other means”...


THE MISTRANSLATED MAXIM:

“War is the continuation of politics by other means.” 
      
Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831)
       Prussian general and military theorist
       On War (1832-1834), Bk. VIII, Ch. VI, Section B: “War is an Instrument of Policy”

       This is the traditional English translation of a line from On War (Vom Kriege), a collection of writings by Clausewitz that was published posthumously by his wife in three volumes between 1832 and 1834. It encapsulates a point Clausewitz made, but it’s not an exact translation. One issue is that some words can be translated several ways. For example, the German word politik can mean either ‘politics’ or ‘policy.’ In German, the full sentence the maxim comes from says: “Wir behaupten dagegen, der Krieg ist nichts als eine Fortsetzung des politischen Verkehrs mit Einmischung anderer Mittel.” This can be and has been translated in several ways, but essentially says something like: “We maintain [or ‘assert’] however, that war is nothing but a continuation of politics [or ‘policy’] with the admixture [or ‘addition’] of other means [or ‘resources’].” In context, the point Clausewitz was making is that he disagreed with the idea that war amounted to an end of political ‘intercourse’ (Verkehr) or discourse. He asserted that war is merely another kind of political communication that has its own ‘grammar’ (Grammatik). In short, while the oft-quoted maxim does seem to reflect Clausewitz’s line of thought, the common English translation is not literally correct.


A MODERN POLITICAL VARIATION:

“American politics is now the continuation of ‘war by other means.’...Government shutdowns, threatened debt default, racism, homophobia and Islamophobia can seem like discrete political struggles for democracy, good governance, and equal rights. Progressives and moderates make a huge mistake when they do not see the connections extremists make among them. It is crucial to see that to the extreme right-wing that is hijacking our political process right now, these are not discrete issues but part of a cosmic war on Satan played out in our American political life.”
       Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite
       Professor of Theology at the Chicago Theological Seminary, author of #Occupy the Bible: What Jesus Really Said (and Did) About Money and Power  
       In an opinion piece in the Washington Post, October 15, 2013
       (Cartoon by David Horsey)


AN ARMS SUPPLIER’S VERSION:

“War is the improvement of investment climates by other means.” 
       Ben Kingsley as the character Walken, The Viceroy
       In the satirical anti-war movie War, Inc.
 (2008)


A TECH VISIONARY’S VERSION:

“Technology is the continuation of evolution by other means, and is itself an evolutionary process.”
       Ray Kurzweil
       American inventor, author and futurist
       In his book The Age of Spiritual Machines
(2000)


LEGAL VARIATION #1:

“Law in a good society is first and foremost the continuation of morality by other means.”
       Amitai Etzioni
       German-born American sociologist
       In his book The New Golden Rule
(1998)


LEGAL VARIATION #2:

“Litigation...the continuation of business by other means.”
       Frederick L. Whitmer
       Professional litigator and author
       In his book
Litigation Is War (2007)

THE STOOGES MEET THE EVIL DEAD VERSION:

“Mr. Raimi [movie director Sam Raimi]...has cited the Three Stooges as his comic inspiration, and indeed, Evil Dead II is a sort of continuation of Stoogism by other means. Here, an eyeball isn’t just poked, but poked out and sent flying across the room, to be swallowed by an innocent bystander. Of such things, Moe Howard could only dream.” 
       Dave Kehr
       American film critic
       Referring to the famed
“eyeball popping” scene in the horror film Evil Dead 2 (1987)
       In
a DVD review in the New York Times, October 18, 2005

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Comments? Corrections? Questions? Email me or post them on my Famous Quotations Facebook page.

September 7, 2019

Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable…


THE LINE THAT LED TO A FAMOUS MISQUOTE:

“Th’ newspaper does ivrything f’r us...comforts th’ afflicted, afflicts th’ comfortable.”
        Finley Peter Dunne (1867-1936)
        American journalist and humorist
        Dunne put this quote in the mouth of “Mr. Dooley,” the witty Irish character who was featured in Dunne’s popular newspaper column relating what Dooley said on various topics in a heavy Irish brogue. The line was first used in a column titled “Mr. Dooley on Newspaper Publicity,” published in many US newspapers on October 5, 1902 and reprinted in the book collecting Dunne’s columns, Observations by Mr. Dooley (1902). Dooley’s remark led to many other quotes about comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.
        The full quote as Dunne wrote it is:
        “Th’ newspaper does ivrything f’r us. It runs th’ polis foorce an’ th’ banks, commands th’ milishy, conthrols th’ ligislachure, baptizes th’ young, marries th’ foolish, comforts th’ afflicted, afflicts th’ comfortable, buries th’ dead an’ roasts thim aftherward.”
        The plain English “translation” is:
        “The newspaper does everything for us. It runs the police force and the banks, commands the militia, controls the legislature, baptizes the young, marries the foolish, comforts the afflicted, afflicts the comfortable, buries the dead and roasts them afterward.”
        Dunne’s quote is often misquoted as “The duty [or job] of a newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” Indeed, that version has become a kind of motto for defenders of the free press. Ironically, Dunne’s piece was not meant as praise of the press. It’s actually a negative jab at newspapers who Mr. Dooley thinks print far too much minutiae about almost everything and everyone and pokes into the private lives of citizens far too much.
        Mr. Dooley complains that, because newspapers regularly print gossip and photos about local citizens, “There are no such things as private citizens” anymore. Interestingly, many of his criticisms of newspapers sound similar to modern concerns about the internet and social media.


THE NEWSPAPER VERSION:

“Mr. Brady, it is the duty of a newspaper to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”
        Actor Spencer Tracy, in the 1960 movie Inherit the Wind. Tracy, playing defense lawyer Henry Drummond, says the line to Fredric March, playing prosecuting attorney Matthew Harrison Brady.
        The film is an adaptation of the 1955 play of the same name, a fictionalized account of the infamous “Scopes Monkey Trial.” Tracy’s famous line is not in the play, which was written by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee. The movie script based on the play was written by Nedrick Young and Harold Jacob Smith. I suspect the famous line was created by Young, who was blacklisted as a Communist sympathizer during the McCarthy era and hired (secretly) by the film’s director Stanley Kramer. Young didn’t coin the saying. As noted in a post on the Quote Investigator site, a filler item in 1914 a newspaper in Danville, Kentucky said: “Mr. Dooley says the duty of the newspapers is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.” That was followed by many similar uses of this saying about newspapers that predate the movie Inherit the Wind, which premiered in London on July 7, 1960.


THE FAUX CLARENCE DARROW QUOTE:

“The most human thing we can do is comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”
        Clarence Darrow (1857-1938)
        American lawyer and free speech activist
        It’s interesting that many internet posts and some books published in recent decades attribute this quote to Darrow, the defense attorney in the real life Scopes Monkey Trial. I couldn’t find any evidence that Darrow ever said or wrote such a line. I think it’s probably a faux quote created after the movie line in Inherit the Wind became famous.


THE FAUX WOODY GUTHRIE QUOTE:

“It’s a folk singer’s job to comfort disturbed people and to disturb comfortable people.”
        Woody Guthrie (1912-1967)
        American folk musician and liberal political activist
        This line is widely attributed to Guthrie in internet posts, but never with any specific source. As far as I can tell, he never actually said it.


THE CHRISTIAN VERSION:

“The business of the ministry is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”
        Frederick W. Burnham (1871-1960)
        Pastor in Richmond, Virginia
        In a March 1944 editorial in a Latrobe, Pennsylvania newspaper, Burnham attributed this saying to an unnamed “young minister.” It’s an early version of many quotes that have applied the “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” concept to Christianity and Christian ministries.


THE ELEANOR ROOSEVELT APPLICATION:

“No woman has ever so comforted the distressed – or distressed the comfortable.”
        Clare Boothe Luce (1903-1987)
        American author, Conservative Republican politician and US Ambassador     
        Luce used this line speech in which she praised Eleanor Roosevelt at a May 1950 event, during which the left-leaning, Democratic widow of President Franklin D. Roosevelt received an award for her service to the poor and “underprivileged.” Back then, political opponents actually said some nice things about each other.


J.K. GALBRAITH’S VARIATION:

“In all life one should comfort the afflicted, but verily, also, one should afflict the comfortable, and especially when they are comfortably, contentedly, even happily wrong.”
        John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006)
        Canadian-born economist, public official, and liberal activist
        From his 1989 commencement speech at Smith College, Massachusetts, titled “In Pursuit of the Simple Truth.” (Because London’s Guardian newspaper reprinted the speech on July 28, 1989, that is the usual citation for the source, rather than the commencement speech.)

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Comments? Corrections? Questions? Email me or post them on my Famous Quotations Facebook page.

Related reading, viewing and stuff…

Copyrights, Disclaimers & Privacy Policy


Creative Commons License
Copyright © Subtropic Productions LLC

The Quote/Counterquote blog is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License. Any duplicative or remixed use of the original text written for this blog and any exact duplications the specific sets of quotations collected for the posts shown here must include an attribution to QuoteCounterquote.com and, if online, a link to http://www.quotecounterquote.com/

To the best of our knowledge, the non-original content posted here is used in a way that is allowed under the fair use doctrine. If you own the copyright to something we've posted and think we may have violated fair use standards, please let me know.

Subtropic Productions LLC and QuoteCounterquote.com are committed to protecting your privacy. We will not sell your email address, etc. For more details, read this blog's full Privacy Policy.