Quotes Uncovered: Showing Up and Fair Play

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Each week, I’ve been inviting readers to submit quotations whose origins they want me to try to trace, using my book, The Yale Book of Quotations, and my more recent research. Here is the latest round.

bsdetector asked:

“Turnabout is fairplay.” Methunk t’was Shakespeare, but alas, no.

According to the esteemed reference work, The Yale Book of Quotations, the earliest known occurrence of the proverb “Turnabout is fair play” is in The Life and Uncommon Adventures of Capt. Dudley Bradstreet (1755).

Eric M. Jones asked:

Just for your amusement: What you can find on the web….

Ninety percent of life is just showing up. … Woody Allen
“Eighty percent of success is just showing up” – Woody Allen. Seventy percent of success in life is showing up
Woody Allen once said, “Fifty percent of life is just showing up.”

The Yale Book of Quotations, which attempts to trace all famous quotations to their earliest discoverable source, records “Showing up is 80 percent of life” from The New York Times, Aug. 21, 1977 (attributed there to Allen). If any reader can supply earlier documentation than that, I would love to hear about it.

Zach asked:

Can you find the origin of the phrase “My Bad”


Garson O’Toole, whose great website?quoteinvestigator.com is well worth checking out, has traced “my bad” to 1985 using Google News:

1985 November 14, Gainesville Sun, “Welcome to the wonderful, wacky world of SEC football” by Bobby Tyler, Page 3E, Gainesville, Florida.
(Google News archive. The assigned Google date misses by a day)
“Yes, the Vols still must host Vandy the following weekend, but c’mon, Vandy? Oops, my bad, I forgot for a moment what the Commodore did to Georgis. Silly me.”

This predates the Manute Bol usage in 1989, so Bol probably did not originate it.

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

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  1. Luloy says:

    I have one, Mr. Shapiro.

    “99% of all the friction in the world is caused by the wrong tone of voice.”

    Could you find out please who said that first? He/she must be an extremely gracious person to have had that insight.

    Thank you.

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  2. rachel says:

    I’d like to know the origin of this phrase:
    “Academia is where the rubber meets the sky”


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  3. Corey White says:

    I’m dying to know where this phrase originates:

    “Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

    It’s been attributed to everyone under the sun and I’m hopeful it’s fabricated.

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  4. Travis says:

    Where does the phrase “fog of war” come from, and what was it originally intended to refer to?

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  5. Nick says:

    What’s the origin of “You can’t polish a turd?”

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  6. Drill-Baby-Drill Drill Team says:

    “Show Up and Play Fair”

    I like the Corollary:
    ” Arrive Late, Concoct Some Excuse and Cheat”

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  7. Eric M. Jones says:

    “Ninety-six percent of success is just showing up. …” Woody Allen

    Of course, the number is 80% and it is from the film Annie Hall in 1977. My intention in commenting on it was to introduce the notion that numbers in quotes have a way of floating around.

    I can’t find anything earlier, so it might be a clever invention of Woody Allen’s, but as pure speculation he may have read “New Dimensions” Robert Silverberg – 1972
    “… ninety-nine percent of life is sheer abstraction….”

    Only a guess, but the time is about right.

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  8. Michael Dennis Mooney, Albany, NY says:

    How about:

    “Those who can’t do teach.
    Those who can’t teach
    teach gym.”

    How about:

    “Outside of a dog, a book
    is a man’s best friend.
    Inside of a dog, it’s too
    dark to read.”

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