Quotes Uncovered: The Full Monty
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.
I was told that Thomas Jefferson said this. But the wording doesn’t sound like it is from that era: “I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.” Can you determine if it is a quote from Jefferson or what his real words were?
As I have said before, when you hear a quote attributed to Lincoln or Jefferson, and it sounds too modern, and it accords with some political agenda, usually a conservative one, you can take it to the bank that it’s phony. The same holds for quotes attributed to Lenin, Stalin or Hitler, although in those cases the quote usually expresses a viewpoint opposite to the agenda of whoever is quoting them.
The expression “The only way (I’ll lose) is if you catch me in bed with a live man or dead girl” recently came up, and I thought it was a Huey Long quote, but Google has it was actually as recent as the 1980’s, albeit still a governor of Louisiana, Edwin Edwards (whom I retain a great fondness for, as “Vote for the Crook, It’s Important” is the finest electioneering bumper sticker ever created). Did Edwin Edwards originate the quote after all, or did he make an obscure expression famous?
It’s often hard to tell whether the earliest known user of an expression is the coiner, or is merely repeating an already-existing saying. But the earliest citation for this in the files of the forthcoming Yale Book of Modern Proverbs is the following:
Throughout his 1983 campaign, [Edwin] Edwards entertained voters with such boasts as: “The only way I can lose is if I’m found in bed with a dead girl or a live boy.” (Pacific Stars and Stripes, Dec. 20, 1984).
Other early occurrences also associate it with Edwards, and in The Yale Book of Quotations I list it under his name.
This makes me wonder about the “Full Monty” – the British equivalent of “Whole Nine Yards”
The Oxford English Dictionary summarizes the current state of the “full Monty” scholarship as follows:
Many theories are proposed as to the origin of this phrase, but none of them is supported by reliable historical evidence. Perh. the most plausible is that it is from a colloquial shortening of the name of Montague Maurice Burton (1885-1952), men’s tailor, and referred originally to the purchase of a complete three-piece suit. Also popular but unsubstantiated is the belief that the phrase is somehow derived from Monty, the nickname of Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery (1887-1976). However, the sheer variety of often vague, purely anecdotal, and mutually contradictory explanations for the connection-ranging from his wartime briefing style to his breakfasting habits – renders this less credible. Other suggestions, including references to MONTY n. and MONTE n.1, are still more speculative. Earlier currency is app. implied by the following names of fish and chip shops: 1982 Yellow Pages: Manchester North 264/3 Full Monty Chippy The, 30 Townley St, Middleton..Fullmonty Chippy, 61 Radclyffe St, Chadderton.
Ian Gilbert asked:
Is Dirksen also the source for Dirksen’s Third Rule of Politics, “Don’t get mad, get even.”?
This is associated with the Kennedys, and with Massachusetts rather than Illinois. The Yale Book of Quotations notes that the earliest known occurrence is in the Chicago Tribune, Feb. 21, 1967: “The motto of the Irish Mafia which Bobby [Kennedy] inherited has always been, ‘Don’t get mad — get even,’ a slogan which predates the Kennedys in Massachusetts politics.”
Do any readers have any other quotations whose origins they would like me to attempt to trace?