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Quotes Uncovered: Did an Economist Really Coin "Free Lunch"?

Quotes Uncovered

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

Sixteen weeks ago, 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.
Kursad asked:

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” is attributed to Einstein, Ben Franklin, and Rita Mae Brown. From what I can tell, Brown is the most likely, but I still would like to know.

The Yale Book of Quotations, which attempts to trace all famous quotations to their earliest occurrences, quotes Brown as follows:

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results. Sudden Death (1983)

Rob asked:

“There is no free lunch” is a phrase used by economists since at least the 19th century, but I do not know of a firm attribution.

I don’t believe there is any evidence of economists using this in the 19th century. In my March/April 2009 quotation column in the Yale Alumni Magazine, I traced “There ain’t no such thing as free lunch” back to the El Paso Herald-Post, June 27, 1938, where it appeared as the punch line of an economics joke.


“I expect to pass through this world but once; any good thing therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.” Etienne De Grellet or William Penn?

The Yale Book of Quotations has this:

The earliest appearance of “I will not pass this way again” found for this book is in the Coshocton (Ohio) Age, January 15, 1868, where it is quoted anonymously.

Julian asked:

“If you don’t like the weather here, just wait five minutes.” People say this (or something like it) all the time about their various hometowns, but where and with whom did it originate?

According to The YBQ:

[The earliest known] version, not attributed to any individual, appeared in the Washington Post, March 4, 1934, and referred to Washington, D.C.: “Just wait five minutes for a change. That’s what the weather here will do.”

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