August 22, 2017

“The squeaky wheel get the grease”

Squeaky Wheel Gets the Grease meme


“I hate to be a kicker, I always long for peace,
But the wheel that does the squeaking is the one that gets the grease.”
       Attributed to
Josh Billings (1818-1885)
       American humorist    
       The 1937 edition of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations attributed these lines to Billings, the pen name of Henry Wheeler Shaw, and claimed they came from a poem he wrote around 1870 called “The Kicker.” (In the 1800s, kicker was a slang term for someone who complained a lot.) The attribution to Billings was accepted and repeated for many years. So was the suggestion that the poem was the origin of the saying “The squeaky wheel gets the grease,” an idiom that means the most noticeable problems or loudest complainers are most likely to get attention and be fixed or placated. (Sometimes given as “The squeaky wheel gets the oil.”)              
      Modern quote mavens, like Fred Shapiro, editor of
The Yale Book of Quotations, have found no proof that Billings wrote any such poem. It does not appear in any of his published works.
       As noted in a post by Garson O’Toole
on his Quote Investigator site, the earliest documented appearance of the squeaky wheel idiom is in a collection of stories by vaudeville performer and author Cal Stewart published in 1903, titled Uncle Josh Weathersby’s “Punkin Centre” Stories. In that book, Stewart attributes the following epigram to his character Josh Weathersby: 
              “I don’t believe in kickin’,
              It aint apt to bring one peace;
              But the wheel what squeaks the loudest
              Is the one what gets the grease.”

       I think it’s likely that the linguistic concept of squeaky wheels getting greased predates Stewart and Billings. What is certain is that uses and variations of it continue to this day.



“The squeaky wheel gets replaced.”
       Peter H. Diamandis             
       Greek American engineer, physician, and entrepreneur
       In his book
How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World (2015)
       This is one of the principles Diamandis calls
“Peter’s Laws: The Creed for the Sociopathic Obsessive Compulsive” in the book.

Oteo Shamaya pic           


“You know just because the majority thinks something is right, doesn’t make it right. So, it is up to us, the people that see the wrong, that see the injustice, that stay educated, stay informed, stay involved. And there’s an old phrase ‘the squeaky wheel gets the oil.’ Right now, our wheels aren’t very squeaky; the other side, they’re the ones making all the racket...We just have to get up, stand up, speak out, and don’t be silent.”
Otep Shamaya
       Heavy metal musician and liberal activist
       In an interview posted in 2009 on the now defunct site

John Tantillo


“Folks, the squeaky wheel of activist conservatism and American populism might be getting the grease (i.e., a lot of media attention) right now, but when election time comes the buzz and passion of a new movement will matter less than appealing to the widest group of voters possible with the most credible candidate possible.”
John Tantillo
       American marketing consultant and columnist for Fox News  
       A comment he made about political trends during the 2010 election, in a
post on the Fox News website. Given the results of the 2016 presidential election, Tantillo’s prediction seems faulty in more ways than one.

Deborah Tannen        


“Whereas Americans believe, ‘The squeaky wheel gets the grease’ (so it’s best to speak up), the Japanese say, ‘The nail that sticks out gets hammered back in’ (so it’s best to remain silent if you don’t want to be hit on the head).” 
Deborah Tannen  
       American professor of linguistics and author
       In her book
Talking from 9 to 5: Women and Men at Work (1994)

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August 10, 2017

"Don’t Worry, Be Happy" (Just Slap Me!)

Meher Baba & Bobby McFerrin, Don't Worry Be Happy WM


“Don’t worry, be happy.”             
       First popularized by Meher Baba (1894-1969); made even more famous by Bobby McFerrin              
       “Don’t worry, be happy” is a catchphrase used by Indian spiritual master Meher Baba and featured on his posters and “inspiration cards” in the mid-1960s.
       Baba probably coined the saying. But it achieved far wider fame after being borrowed as the title and chorus of the 1988 song written by McFerrin, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” McFerrin’s original recording was a huge hit, becoming the first a cappella song to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It has since been covered by many other musicians and bands.
       Most people now know (and either love or hate) the song, which starts with the following lyrics:
              Here's a little song I wrote             
              You might want to sing it note for note
              Don’t worry, be happy
              In every life we have some trouble
              But when you worry you make it double
              Don’t worry, be happy      
              Don’t worry, be happy now

Public Enemy Fight the power live


“Don’t worry be happy
Was a number one jam
Damn, if I say it you can slap me right here”

       Public Enemy
       Pioneering American hip hop group formed in 1986             
       This was Public Enemy’s mocking response to Bobby McFerrin’s feel-good hit “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” in the lyrics of their song “Fight the Power.” The original version of the song was on the soundtrack of Spike Lee’s 1989 film Do the Right Thing. A second version was featured on Public Enemy's 1990 studio album Fear of a Black Planet.

Putin says don't worry be happy


“Don't worry, be happy...This accord has not yet come into effect; it is supposed to come into effect as of 2021…so we still have time. If we are all constructive in what we do, there are things that we can agree on.”
       Vladimir Putin             
       President of Russia             
       This was Putin’s widely-quoted response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw United States from the Paris Climate Change Accord, an agreement to reduce the use of fossil fuels to mitigate the global warming.
       Putin himself had two reasons not to worry. For him, Trump’s decision was a win-win, since it made the U.S. look bad and because Russia is the third biggest oil producing country in the world (slightly behind the U.S. and Saudi Arabia).
Don't worry be grumpy book


“Don’t Worry, Be Grumpy”
       Ajahn Brahm            
       Australian Buddhist teacher and writer
       The title of a book he published in 2015, subtitled “Inspiring Stories for Making the Most of Each Moment.” I wonder if it sold better than his earlier book “Who Ordered This Truckload of Dung?: Inspiring Stories for Welcoming Life's Difficulties.”

Don't Worry Be Crabby, Crabby Bill's


“Don’t Worry, Be Crabby”
       The motto of Crabby Bill’s
       A Florida-based chain of seafood restaurants

Don't worry it gets worse book


“Don’t Worry, It Gets Worse”
       Alida Nugent
       American writer and actress
       The title of Nugent’s book about what she describes in the subtitle as her “(Mostly Failed) Attempts at Adulthood.”

Don't Worry Be NAPPY


“Don’t Worry, Be NAPPY!”
      Jeffery Bradley
      American author and Internet entrepreneur
      The title of his book about “maintaining and living with dreadlocks, a hairstyle that most in American society consider impractical.” (Alas, a hairstyle that for me is impossible, as much as I’d love to have dreads.)     

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July 29, 2017

Hemingway’s “grace under pressure” – original uses & interesting variations...

The New Yorker, Nov 30, 1929 - grace under pressure QC


“Exactly what do you mean by ‘guts’?”
“I mean,” Ernest Hemingway said, “grace under pressure.”
       Ernest Hemingway‘s definition of guts (or courage), as quoted by Dorothy Parker in her profile of Hemingway in the November 30, 1929 issue of New Yorker magazine.             
       Some books and websites mistakenly claim that Hemingway said, “Courage is grace under pressure.” He didn’t. However, according to Parker, what he did say was part of a conversation about courage.
       Here’s the full context of the quote in Parker’s article:
       “That brings me to the point which I have been trying to reach all this time: Ernest Hemingway’s definition of courage...Mr. Hemingway did not use the term ‘courage.’ Ever the euphemist, he referred to the quality as ‘guts,’ and he was attributing its possession to an absent friend.
       “Now just a minute,” somebody said, for it was one of those argumentative evenings. “Listen. Look here a minute. Exactly what do you mean by ‘guts’?”
       “I mean,” Ernest Hemingway said, “grace under pressure.”

       Parker’s profile of Hemingway, titled “The Artist’s Reward,” made the phrase “grace under pressure” famous. But Hemingway had used it before. One previous recorded use was in a letter Hemingway wrote to his fellow writer and frenemy F. Scott Fitzgerald on April 20, 1926.
       Fitzgerald had mentioned to “Papa” that he’d told a mutual friend something Hemingway once said about the bravery involved in bullfighting. Interestingly, in the 1926 letter, Hemingway specified that he “was not referring to guts but to something else. Grace under pressure. Guts never made any money for anybody except violin string manufacturers.”
       Thus, either Hemingway later changed his mind about the meaning “grace under pressure” or Parker put that spin on it in her New Yorker piece.
       In the book Zelda Fitzgerald: Her Voice in Paradise, author Sally Cline documents a third reported use of “grace under pressure” by Hemingway and suggests it may have been a favorite phrase he liked to use. It also appears that Hemingway coined the phrase, since his is the earliest documented use.
       EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks to my friend, environmental activist Tamela Fish, for asking me about the origin of “grace under pressure,” which led to this post.

Peter Murtagh


“I went to a bullfight once in Mallorca. It was ghastly; horrific. No grace under pressure, no death with dignity. Just cruelty and butchery and degradation of man and beast.”
       Peter Murtagh             
       Irish journalist and author.
       An observation he makes in the book Buen Camino!, co-written with his daughter Natasha            



“Real courage is not grace under pressure. It’s doing the right thing when it’s frightening and hurts.”
       Ramsey Clark
       American lawyer and activist who served at U.S. Attorney General under Lyndon B. Johnson 
       A comment he made about feisty attorney Stephen Yagman, who is known for taking unpopular cases, particularly lawsuits against local and federal law enforcement officials, in an article in George magazine, June 1998.            

A-Rod & Derek Jeter


“It is a bonus for baseball fans that Derek Jeter’s final season as a New York Yankee will be one that Alex Rodriguez spends in baseball banishment. Jeter will be feted in 2014, A-Rod will be forgotten. It would have been indecorous and incongruous to see them sharing the left side of the Yankees infield, Jeter at shortstop and Rodriguez at third base, the captain and the charlatan, grace under pressure next to disgrace under pressure.”
       Christopher L. Gasper
       Sports columnist for the Boston Globe
       In his February 14, 2014 column in the Boston Globe
       Gasper went on to explain: “Jeter will be remembered as one of baseball’s classiest competitors and a consummate winner. A-Rod, sitting out the 2014 season with the longest performance-enhancing drug suspension in major league history, will be remembered as one of baseball’s biggest frauds and fallen heroes.”            

dead cat graphic bd


“When they make the Bill Frist biopic, it's got to be called Disgrace Under Pressure. (Either that or Silence of the Kittens, given his med-school penchant for adopting shelter kitties and then dissecting them for ‘science.’)”
       Shelley Lewis
       American journalist, news producer and writer             
       One of the comments Lewis makes about William H. Frist in her book Naked Republicans: A Full-frontal Exposure of Right-wing Hypocrisy and Greed
       Frist is a doctor who became a Conservative Republican politician, serving two terms as U.S. Senator for Tennessee. As noted by his political opponents and critics like Lewis, when Frist was a medical school student in the 1970s he performed fatal medical experiments on cats he acquired from animal shelters by falsely claiming he wanted to adopt them.

Jeff Danziger cartoon - Ivanka Trump


“It took real courage for Ivanka to stand before 35 million help advance substantive policies that will dramatically improve U.S. law in favor of all women, parents and children. Grace under pressure is what she does best.”
       Jared Kushner             
       Wealthy businessman and husband of Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump
       In an he wrote article titled “Why Ivanka Trump Is the Perfect Champion for Women’s Issues,” published in Variety magazine in September 2016
       (Cartoon by the great political cartoonist Jeff Danziger. To read some of the news stories behind it, click this link.)

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July 14, 2017

“I paint what I see” – or not...

J.M.W. Turner & Manet montage 02


“I paint what I see.”
       Widely attributed to both J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851) and Edouard Manet (1832-1883).
       Many books and websites credit this proverbial artists’ response to criticism or questions about their work to British landscape artist Joseph Mallord William Turner. Many others credit it French artist Edouard Manet.
       The attribution to Turner is derived from an anecdote noted by British art critic John Ruskin in a lecture he gave at the University of Oxford on February 29, 1872 titled “The Eagle’s Nest.” (Later reprinted in Vol. 22 of Ruskin’s widely-read collected works, published in 1906.)
       Ruskin said Turner once showed a drawing he’d made of Plymouth Harbor at sunset to a friend who was a naval officer. His friend “objected with very justifiable indignation” that the ships in the drawing had no portholes.
       “No,” said Turner, “certainly not. If you will walk up to Mount Edgecumbe, and look at the ships against the sunset, you will find you can’t see the portholes.”
       The naval officer said “Well, but you know the portholes are there.”
       “Yes,” said Turner, “I know that well enough; but my business is to draw what I see, and not what I know is there.”
       Later retellings changed draw to paint, probably because Turner was famous as a painter. Eventually he was wrongly credited with saying “I paint what I see.”
       The second common attribution is based on another legendary art anecdote, this one about the pioneering Impressionist painter Edouard Manet. As a young man, Manet studied at the studio of traditionalist painter Thomas Couture. According Manet’s biographers, Couture once criticized a painting by Manet that presaged his non-traditional style.
       Manet’s insolent response is variously given as “I paint what I see and not what it pleases others to see” or “I paint what I see, and not what others like to see” (with the emphasis on the word I, not see.)
       I suspect that “I paint what I see” was already a philosophical principle and an inside joke familiar to many artists even before Manet said it.

Pablo Picasso with Cubist painting


“I paint objects as I think them, not as I see them.”
       Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
       Spanish artist who pioneered new styles in art in the 20th Century, most notably Cubism
       A quote by Picasso included in John Golding’s influential book Cubism: a History and Analysis (1959), later cited by thousands of books and websites

Edvard Munch & The Scream 02


“I do not paint what I see, but what I saw.”
       Edvard Munch (1863-1944)
       Norwegian Expressionist painter and printmaker
        An oft-quoted comment he is said to have made in 1890 regarding the key role his personal emotional memories played in his choice of subjects and distinctive style, as embodied in paintings like “The Scream” (1893)

Edgar Degas & The Absinthe Drinker, 1876


“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.”             
       Attributed to Edgar Degas (1834-1917)             
       Many books and sites say Degas write those words, but I’ve been unable to find the original source. If you know it, please send me an email and let me know or post a comment on The Famous Quotations Facebook page.

Norman Rockwell self portrait cropped


“I paint what I like to paint. And somehow, for some reason, a good part of the time it coincides with what a lot of people like, it’s popular. Which some (the art critics, for instance) would say, makes me a low type, mediocre, slightly despicable, et cetera. And it may be true (when I’m depressed I think it is)... But there’s really nothing I can do about it. I paint the way I do because that’s the way I'm made...I paint what I do the way I do because that’s how I feel about things.”
       Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)
       American illustration artist
       In his autobiography My Adventures as an Illustrator (1960)

David Hockney, A Bigger Splash 1967


“I paint what I like, when I like, and where I like, with occasional nostalgic journeys.”
       David Hockney (b. 1937)
       British Pop artist             
       From the “personal statement” he submitted for a catalogue about a 1962 art show that included his work           

Gahan Wilson I Paint What I See book


“I Paint What I See”
       Gahan Wilson (b. 1937)
       American illustrator known for his dark-humored magazine cartoons depicting monsters, horror and fantasy             
       For the cover of his book I Paint What I See (1971) Wilson used an illustration he did of himself working on a painting of “scary” creatures, suggesting that they are the kinds of things he sees.

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June 23, 2017

“You are what you eat” (among other things)…



“You Are What You Eat”             
Dr. Victor Hugo Lindlahr (1895-1969)
       Pioneering American health food advocate
       The title of
his popular and influential book, first published in 1942, which promotes the idea that eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables (a “Catabolic Diet” by Lindlahr) is the key to good health.
       Lindlahr is generally credited with popularizing the phrase, though a
s noted on the great Phrase Finder site, versions had been floating around as far back as the early 1800s French food gourmet Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826) included the aphorism “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are” in his 1825 book The Physiology of Taste. German philosopher Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach (1804-1872) said in an 1863 essay “A man is what he eats.” 
       “You are what you eat” was picked up and recycled by many nutritionists and food writers in the 1950s. In the 1960s, it gained new popularity as a slogan used by organic food advocates, further popularized by the 1968 semi-documentary music/comedy film
You Are What You Eat, which features musicians Peter Yarrow, Barry McGuire, Tiny Tim, Paul Butterfield and lots of Hippies.

Donald Trump Think Big book


“You are what you think you are…Oftentimes, perception is more important than fact.”              
Donald Trump
       Former businessman turned politician; elected the 45th President of the United States in November 2016
       A comment Trump made in book
Think Big and Kick Ass in Business and Life (originally published in 2007)
       I suspect many people would likely agree that The Donald has adhered to this belief throughout his business and political career.

Social Media Logotype Background


“You are what you post.”              
       An aphorism about social media posts on the internet – made by
more than 800,000 posts on the internet. 



“You are what you is
You is what you am
A cow don’t make ham...
You are what you is
An’ that’s all it ‘tis.”

Frank Zappa
       American musician, filmmaker and entrepreneur
       Lyrics from the title song of Zappa's 1981 double album You Are What You Is

Farla Efros


“You are what you wear. Today, it’s becoming more and more important to choose your apparel consciously and to make sustainable fashion choices.”             
Farla Efros
       President of retail strategic firm HRC Advisory, which advises corporations on ethical operating practices
       Quoted in
a 2016 HuffingtonPost article about “fair trade” fashion wear

James Burke, producer & author


“You are what you know.”              
James Burke
       British science historian, documentary producer and author
       In his excellent book
The Day the Universe Changed (1985)

Critters movies DVD collection boxset UK, starring Dee Wallace, Scott Grimes, Leonardo DiCaprio, Angela Bassett, Don Keith Opper, Terrence Mann, Lin Shaye, Billy Zane, Aimee Brooks, Brad Dourif, Eric DaRe and many more -


“You are what they eat.”              
       Advertising slogan for the movie
Critters 3 (1991), one of Leonardo DiCaprio’s early films



“We are what we think.”              
Buddha (563-483 B.C.)
       Indian spiritual teacher whose teachings are the foundation of the Buddhist religion
       This is the popular English translation of the opening words of Verse 1 of
The Dhammapada, as translated by Thomas Byrom in the mid-1970s. Although Byrom’s version has been widely read and quoted, it’s a loose, creative translation that has been criticized as inaccurate by some Buddhist scholars. Another alternate, somewhat more literal translation of the line is: “All things have the nature of mind.”

Weekly World News, Nov 6, 2001


“You are what you were. Expert reveals how past lives control everything you do – TODAY!”              
       Headlines from a story on page 15 of
the November 6, 2001 issue of the Weekly World News
       I still miss the print version of WWN, but I’m glad there’s
an online version now.

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