Quotes Uncovered: Giving Richard Lewis Credit

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 research.

Marcus Brute asked:

How about “the _____ from Hell” (e.g. “the mother-in-law from Hell”)? Was Richard Lewis really the first to use the expression?

An episode of the TV show Curb Your Enthusiasm focused on Richard Lewis’s obsession with convincing Bartlett’s Quotations that he was the originator of this expression. Bartlett’s answered him with some lame excuse for failing to recognize him as such. The Yale Book of Quotations, however, has the following entry under Lewis’s name:

[Self-description:] Comedian from hell.
Quoted in Chicago Tribune, Apr. 20, 1986. Earliest documented example of the expression “from hell” referring to a person.

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

Daniel MacLeay

How about the use of ...-meister, as in the Spin-Meister or whatever?

Ania Thiemann

I already asked about "Hair of the dog" -- are you going to investigate that one? Would love to know the answer!


"Not so much." I say Paul Reiser during his Mad About You Days, my husband thinks more that Borat did it...


I remember this discussion from a few years ago. I read the following blog post:
which attributes the following insults to PG Wodehouse:
- sheepfaced, shambling refugee from hell
- gastly sheepfaced fugitive from hell

You can see my comment and the author's response.


The Wodehouse examples seem to me to have a different sense than "comedian from hell". Wodehouse says "fugitive from hell" and "refugee from hell", where "from hell" isn't a non sequitur.

James Curran

Consider the unrest in the Middle East, I'm reminded of this widely attributed saying.

Can you track down by whom and about whom the following statement was first made?

" He's a son-of-a-bitch, but he's OUR son-of-a-bitch".


What about the term, "Kick Your Ass"?

Eric M. Jones

"Here's your hat. What's your hurry?" Certainly was said my Pres. McKinley in 1899 or at least was shown saying it in a cartoon. But is there an earlier source?

Joshua Northey

""Not so much." I say Paul Reiser during his Mad About You Days, my husband thinks more that Borat did it...
Reply "

Well my uncles were saying that in Minnesota in the early 90s, so I don't think Borat can take credit.

Eric M. Jones

I asked this a couple years ago but here it still is:

What boxer said something about...Youth has too much energy to learn the economy of motion that makes for a good boxer?


cram it in the boot


Here is a quote that I have not been able to source. "Perception is important but reality is more important" I had incorrectly been verbally told it was from William Churchill. I have looked on and off the last few years and can not find the source. Thanks


I was watching "Network" again last night, and I was wondering if the famous quote "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore" originated with that movie, or if it was used previously in print or other media.

Crazy how that scene always makes me laugh and shake my head and gives me goose bumps all at the same time.


Dear Freakonomics,

How about the expression "pardon my french"? That's another Larry David-related quotation (George Costanza claimed he invented it)

Hope you read this!

Phil Kryder

"one well designed experiment is worth a thousand expert opinions"


"There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven't yet met." seen it attributed to Yates, but never w/ reference.


"gravy train"

Cañada Kid

Read Between The Lines. I know all about the Culper Spy Ring and how they used secretly written messages between the lines of letters and notes, actually originating from Washington himself (or so I thought). These secret messages were used in the Revolutionary War: I became curious as to where that saying originated and how often it was used.

Master Reseller


Great Job...
I like to read all information on this Blog.

Cañada Kid

I was wondering about "head over heels." The saying doesn't make sense, because it is used (usually) when someone is falling, and one's head is always above their heels as they walk, let alone fall.