Quotes Uncovered: Heaven on Earth and Third-World

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.

Ruth asked:

From the advice column Annie‘s Mailbox:

“Dear Annie: Do you know the rest of the poem with the line ‘Dance like no one’s watching’? I can’t find it. — Virginia Beach, Va.

Dear Virginia Beach: William Watson Purkey is credited with writing, ‘Dance like nobody’s watching; love like you’ve never been hurt. Sing like nobody’s listening; live like it’s heaven on earth.’ Later, the phrase ‘Work like you don’t need the money’ was added, often credited to baseball great Satchel Paige. This poem obviously speaks to a lot of people, because over the years, many others have created their own additions. We think the sentiments are life-affirming.”

This sounds like a different source; is the song lyric really the origin?

In the realm of word and quotation origins, there is so much misinformation and misremembering that authorities such as the Oxford English Dictionary and the Yale Book of Quotations generally do not accept undocumented claims of priority. I have corresponded with Mr. Purkey about this and he was unable to supply reliable documentation.

Robert Corcoran Neves asked:

The origin of the phrase “third world”? And while we’re at it, where is the second world?

The “second world” meant the Communist bloc. “Third World” is usually said to derive from the French “tiers monde,” coined by the French economist and demographer Alfred Sauvy in L’Observateur, August 14, 1952.

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

Alan Epstein

Forgive me if I missed it, but I didn't see anything about the quote "Heaven on Earth."

Garson O'Toole

A joke concerning a cigarette was discussed on this blog by Fred Shapiro on February 12, 2009. I have found an 1855 reference in the New York Times that I think is relevant because it provides evidence that the quip was not created by Ambrose Bierce. First, here is the interchange from February 12:

Bill asks: I think that this is from Ambrose Bierce, but I haven't been able to track it down. “Definition — cigarette: a small roll of paper, filled with tobacco and drugs, having a small flame at one end, and a large fool at the other.”

Fred Shapiro answers: I'm not sure about the Bierce quote, but The Yale Book of Quotations has the following under Jonathan Swift: [Of angling:] A stick and a string, with a fly at one end and a fool at the other. It was quoted in The Indicator, Oct. 27, 1819. A similar remark has also been attributed to Samuel Johnson.

The 1855 reference I found attributes the smoking joke to "Dr. Johnson", i.e., Samuel Johnson, and the jest is about a cigar instead of a cigarette:

"What does Dr. Johnson say about this! – what is his definition of a cigar? A little roll of tobacco with a fire at one end of it and a fool at the other." Citation: "State Temperance Convention at Utica: Entire Proceedings", page 7, New York Times, Wednesday, October 5, 1855.

If the joke about angling precedes the joke about smoking then it is conceivable that the smoking joke was constructed by analogy and then attributed to Johnson to provide it with a prestigious lineage. In any case, Bierce was born June 24, 1842 according to Britannica and would have been only 13 years old in 1855. Thus, Bierce did not create the joke unless he was very precocious.



The third world was used to categorize those who were not aligned with the US nor the Communist bloc (second world).

Anonymous Canuck

I prefer the variant to the "Sing.. Dance.." quote that includes "Dance like you don't need the money", but I don't envy anyone the task of tracking down the first use...

Garson O'Toole

Senator John Kerry has on his website the transcript of a speech he delivered at Faneuil Hall on April 22, 2006. The speech contains an interesting and controversial quote worth tracing:

"No wonder Thomas Jefferson himself said: "Dissent is the greatest form of patriotism.""

The online Jefferson Encyclopedia at Monticello.org says:"Dissent is the highest form of patriotism" is often attributed to Thomas Jefferson, but to date we have found no evidence that he said or wrote this. Its true origins are uncertain, but the saying may have entered popular culture during the Vietnam era.

I tried to trace the quote back through time and found a close paraphrase from 1916 by David Starr Jordan who was the first president of Stanford University.

"To oppose one's own nation has been in history the highest form of patriotism."

Citation: 'Patriotism, Nationalism and Peace" by David Starr Jordan article in "The Advocate of Peace", page 43, vol. LXXVIII, Number 2, February, 1916, published by "American Peace Society".



What I think interesting is: In Brazil we cannot say "third world". No way. You need to say "developing countries". You will have an F in your test if you write third world. But I say third worls all the time.


"half a loaf is better than none"? same math as "a bird in the hand....". same source?

I have been taught the term "third world" comes, through the French "tiers monde", from the analogy with the "tiers état", or third state, which included, under the Old Regime, all those who were neither noble (aristocrats) nor members of the clergy (these being the two first states). The French Revolution was essentially launched by people trying to give this Third State some kind of political weight, which it totally lacked, in spite of being by far the most populous. The analogy then would apply to the developing world this same condition: the suffering part of the world, rarely-listened-to, but extremely important in % of the total population.
BTW, Erica, in France we were also told (in my high school years, that is in ths 90s) that "Third World" was an outdated and offensive term, that had given way to "en voie de développement" (on the way to development" and then to "in development".



What Jérémie said.


I've tried to find the source for this quote before 'safe as houses'. I can't recall all the details at the moment but all the standard sources dated it to to post-WWII and I was reading a book from the 1800s or early 1900s that used the phrase.

Jared Bernstein

Still looking for "there's nothing so practical as a good theory", which is a rejoinder to those who say -- "that works in theory, but not in practice" or otherwise denigrate theory. Someone said it was Wm James or Lord Kelvin (whatever his real name is.).