Ole Mr. Micawber: “Result, Misery”

I’m back to 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 researches.

Photo: tibchris

Groatman asked:

“What is the saying that says something like ‘balance your accounts and if you’re groat over, happiness, and if you’re a groat under, misery’ and who said it and when and where? I believe Ben Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac had a later similar version of this aphorism, but, if I remember correctly, he substituted a ‘penny’ and didn’t use the word ‘groat.’  What was it he said exactly?”

I’m not aware of Franklin saying something like this. The well-known version is by Charles Dickens, given by the Yale Book of Quotations as follows:

“‘My other piece of advice, Copperfield,’ said Mr. Micawber, ‘you know. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds nought and six, result misery.”
David Copperfield (1850)

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

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  1. Ben says:

    Using the suffix “gate” has become a fairly common way of naming a scandal. The phrase obviously derives from the Watergate scandal, but when did it pass into a more generic usage?

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  2. Greg says:

    My wife and I were talking about “Flying by the seat of [one’s] pants.” It seems strange, and online sources suggest disparate first uses.

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  3. Sam_L says:

    Why do we “throw a party”? Why not bat, hurl, kick, etc a party?

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  4. Lee says:

    “We’re using money we don’t have to kill people we don’t know for reasons we don’t understand.”

    — Penn Jillette just attributed this to his partner Teller in a Marc Maron podcast posted 11/29/2011


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  5. Pete says:

    If not for America, the French would all speak German. If not for France, Americans would all speak English.

    Who said it first?

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  6. Nik WalkingBear says:

    First World War fighter pilots who used there backsides for weight displacement when they had problems with the planes guidance. Bare in mind they were all string and wood affairs.

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