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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