Here are more quote authors and origins Shapiro’s tracked down recently.
Quotes Uncovered: Who Said "No Cigar"?
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 researches by me. Hundreds of people have responded via comments or e-mails. I am responding as best I can, a few per week.
Marc Anthony asked:
“You can’t make your cake and eat it too,” refers to having everything work your way. Please research. This is a ridiculously clichéd quote. I made the cake. I will eat the cake.
In last week’s posting I completely screwed this one up, responding about an entirely different “cake” quotation (“Let them eat cake”). The Yale Book of Quotations, which attempts to trace all famous quotations to their accurate origins, has the following for the other “cake” quote:
“A man cannot eat his cake and haue it stil.” John Davies, Scourge of Folly (1611). The Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs quotes an earlier version: “Wolde ye bothe eate your cake, and haue your cake?” (John Heywood, Dialogue of Proverbs ).
Can you find the origin of the phrase “Close, but no cigar”? Not only do I not know where it comes from, but I have never really been able to figure out what it means.
I actually wrote about this in Cigar Aficionado Magazine:
“Close, but no cigar” is widely used to signal a near miss. The earliest instance of its use anyone has found is in the 1935 film Annie Oakley, which has the line “Close, Colonel, but no cigar!” Why a cigar? The reference appears to be to a carnival game of strength (the “Highball” or “Hi-Striker”) in which the contestant hits a lever with a sledgehammer to try to drive a weight high enough up a column to ring a bell at the top. The standard reward for ringing the bell is a cigar.
The Google project to digitize all books may produce a revolution in tracing quotes.
Yes, Google Books, along with other databases such as ProQuest Historical Newspapers and Newspaperarchive, has already produced such a revolution — it’s called The Yale Book of Quotations! The YBQ uses a wide range of online historical text collections to push quotation origins much further back than other reference works, such as Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, do. For example, the Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs traces “Justice delayed is justice denied” back to 1999, but The Yale Book of Quotations demonstrates by using historical databases that it was introduced by William E. Gladstone in a Parliamentary speech in 1868.
Do any readers have any other quotations whose origins they would like me to attempt to trace?