Where Does "Wham, bam" Come From?

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.

merry staser asked:

"'Wham, bam … thank you ma’m'" We have been looking for this one all over and can’t seem to find out where it came from … (travelling in a carriage … was one we found … but not a full explanation). Thanks."

I don't have a full explanation (and I'm not sure one is necessary, the meaning of the expression is obvious). The earliest occurrence I know of is in the 1948 play Mister Roberts, where a sailor character says "Well there goes the liberty. That was sure a wham-bam-thank-you ma'am!"

Rule of Thumb

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.

Joseph asked:

"Rule of thumb. I have heard it was a common law rule about the thickness of a switch with which no punishment would occur for spousal abuse. I have also heard that this is not correct. I cannot find a definitive source and meaning."

It Takes a Village

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.

noor asked:

“It takes a whole community to raise a child”

The Yale Book of Quotations traces the proverb "It takes a village to raise a child" back to 1989. Subsequent to the publication of the YBQ, I found that Toni Morrison was quoted in Essence, July 1981: "I don't think one parent can raise a child. I don't think two parents can raise a child. You really need the whole village." The forthcoming Yale Book of Modern Proverbs notes: "The saying is often referred to as an 'African' or a 'West African' proverb; however, no prototype from Africa has been discovered — though several sayings from that continent do urge cooperation in child rearing and other enterprises."

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

The Often Misquoted

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.

Aaron asked:

I’ve heard that Ben Franklin was misquoted when he said 'Jack of all Trades, Master of None,' and that he actually said 'Jack of all Trades, Master of Some.' Is there any truth to this?

I believe neither of these sayings appears in Benjamin Franklin's writings.

The Price of Liberty

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.

James Curran asked:

Could you try a question that is of some import to my family… The saying 'Price of Liberty is eternal vigilance' is generally attributed to Thomas Jefferson. However, the original sentiment was phrased as 'The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance' by the Irish statesman John Philpot Curran (of whom a complete lack of evidence has never stopped my family from claiming as an ancestor).

So the question becomes, did Jefferson paraphrase Curran? Or is the modern wording the work of some nameless editor who can’t quote or attribute correctly?

Ink by the Barrel

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.

Alicia Calzada asked:

Let me know if you have any luck with this one: 'Never argue with a man who buys ink by the barrel' It has been credited in case law to both Mark Twain and publicist William I. Greener, Jr. Brown v. Kelly Broad. Co., 48 Cal. 3d 711, 744 (Cal. 1989) crediting Twain as the source of the famous adage; State ex rel. Plain Dealer Publ’g Co. v. Geauga Cty. Court of Common Pleas, Juv. Div., 90 Ohio St. 3d79,89 (Pfiefer, J., dissenting) ('The majority has elevated Greener’s law' (‘Never argue with a man who buys ink by the barrel")')

It has also been credited as undetermined, which I think is most accurate: Ralph Keyes, the quote verifier: who said what, where and when 64. The Mark Twain House in Connecticut has no record of Twain saying the phrase.

Quotes Uncovered: Revenge Served Cold and Lobotomies

Each week, I've been inviting readers to submit quotations for which they want me to try to trace the origin, using The Yale Book of Quotations and my own research. Here is the latest round.

Quotes Uncovered: Finally, the Whole Nine Yards

Today I will give my long-awaited response to the many questions about the leading phraseological enigma of our time, namely the origin of the phrase "the whole nine yards." I am sorry to disappoint by having no definitive answer, but the reality is that many of the major etymological riddles have no known answer.

Quotes Uncovered: Who First Said "If You Can't Beat Em … "

Each week, I've been inviting readers to submit quotations for which they want me to try to trace the origin, using The Yale Book of Quotations and my own research. Here is the latest round:

Give Me More of Your Notable Quotations

Since last week's posting elicited many helpful comments, let me repeat it this week in hope of getting even more input:

I'm starting to think about my annual list, run by the Associated Press, of the top 10 most notable quotations of the year.