Quotes Uncovered: Who Found Proof in the Pudding?

Quotes Uncovered

75 ThumbnailHere are more quote authors and origins Shapiro’s tracked down recently.

A while back, I invited readers to submit quotations for which they wanted me to try to trace the origins, using The Yale Book of Quotations and more recent research by me. Hundreds of people have responded via comments or e-mails. I am responding as best I can, a few per week.

Jesse asked:

How about “It’s better to ask forgiveness than permission”?

The Yale Book of Quotations,
which attempts to trace all famous quotations to their earliest findable occurrence, has the following:

“It’s always easier to apologize for something you’ve already done than to get approval for it in advance.” Grace Murray Hopper, quoted in Computerworld, September 10, 1984. “It is easier to get forgiveness than permission” appears in Arthur Bloch, Murphy’s Law Book Two (1980).

Hopper was the pioneer computer scientist whose discovery of a moth inside an early computer allegedly led to the usage of the term “bug” for a computer defect. (The Yale Book of Quotations documents much earlier usage of “bug” by Thomas Alva Edison.)

Jeff asked:

What about “The proof is in the pudding”? Some say it was Cervantes‘s Don Quixote, but others disagree.

This is a variation of the proverb “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” It does not appear in Cervantes, although some loose translations of Cervantes use it. The YBQ cites William Camden, Remains Concerning Britain (1623) as its earliest source for “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”

David Chowes, New York City asked:

Could you check so as to determine whom these quotes or paraphrases are actually attributed to? Was it Will Rogers who said, “All I know is what I read in the newspapers”? And did former President George W. Bush say, “I don’t read the newspapers”? President Bill Clinton: “I did not have sex with that woman,” and, “It depends on which woman you’re asking about.” Are the quotes apocryphal? Just curious.

The YBQ has this:

“Well, all I know is what I read in the papers.” Will Rogers, New York Times, September 30, 1923. Rogers’s use of this line made it famous, but it appears anonymously in The New York Times, November 7, 1915.

I am not familiar with George W. Bush saying he didn’t read the newspapers. Surely he read at least the sports pages and the comics. Sarah Palin famously was unable to name newspapers that she read. Bill Clinton famously said, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky,” during remarks on an after-school child-care initiative, January 26, 1998.

Do any readers have any other quotations whose origins they would like me to attempt to trace?


I'm curious to know where the phrase "god willing and the creek don't rise" came from...


"Good fences make good neighbors" - Frost made it famous in his poem "Mending Wall," but where did he pull it from?


'To Kick the Bucket'.

Bill Billingsley

on the forgiveness quote, must have been around before 1980, when I was working at BRANIFF AIRLINES in the '70.s, I had director/VP use the saying.. Don't know where he got it, but I have used it ever since..

Howard Becker

Re Jason's question about the creek rising, that was one of the first things I learned to say when I moved to Kansas City, only it was phrased a little differently, sounding more Missouri to my ears: "If the good Lord's willin' and the cricks don't rise."


Becky Hass

"Come h*ll or high water."

Neil (SM)

The actual GW Bush Quote came from an interview with Brit Hume in 2003:
"I glance at the headlines just to kind of a flavor for what's moving. I rarely read the stories, and get briefed by people who are probably read the news themselves."

He also elaborated -- full transcript is at

Scroll to the bottom, it's in the last few paragraphs.

Pat Day

The whole nine yards, I've heard it has to do with the amount of fabric for a sail, length of a belt of ammo for a machine gun and a reference to gaining yards in foottball, where does it really originate?


"the pot calling the kettle black"

Mike Duggan

Where did the expression, "THREE SHEETS TO THE WIND" originate?

bj kramer

Jason - I heard 'If the good Lord's willing and the creek don't rise' form the Last Confederate Widow, but maybe she got if from someone else?


I'm sure this was around before The Big Libowski: What about 'sometimes you eat the bar, sometimes the bar eats you', but where is it from?


9 yards = Scottish kilt


How about, "You're so open-minded your brain fell out."

Joe D

I just saw this today, attribution unknown: "Work as if it all depends on you; pray as if it all depends on God."


eight days a week. a hard day's night. all you need is love. give peace a chance. Beatles' (together and individually) lyrics and song titles are routinely used and paraphrased in newspapers, magazines and movies--did the group originate them or lift 'em from elsewhere? If so, where?

Also wondering about Robert Burns' 'auld lang syne' --does that phrase emanate from him?

'a high time in the old town tonight' is an old song but did that phrase predate it?


Not a quote, but a phrase ... Bob's your uncle ... means that everything that needs to be said has been, sometimes used to mean it's easy as in, "Just adjust the throttle... and bob's your uncle."


The phrase "the proof is in the pudding" is not a "variation" of the phrase "the proof of the pudding is in the eating." It is a misquotation, and should not be dignified with the term "variation." It is nonsense on its own.

Another example of a misquotation that has taken on a life of its own, notwithstanding the fact that it is meaningless, is "one in the same." The correct phrase is "one and the same."


What about "Everything happens for a reason."

Fred Faustroll

What is the origin of the phrase "poetry in motion"?