Quotes Uncovered: Beer or Wine as Proof?

Photo: iStockphoto

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.

Todd asked:

Many have heard the quote “Beer is proof God loves us and wants us to be happy” attributed to Benjamin Franklin; a few less know that our friend Ben didn’t really say that, and that the quote is paraphrasing and taking poetic liberty regarding wine.  But just when and where did the misquoting of the original Benjamin Franklin quote occur?

You are spot-on about this originally being a wine quote.  In an undated letter to the Abbe Morellet, Franklin wrote (this is a translation of the original French):  “We hear of the conversion of water into wine at the marriage in Cana, as of a miracle.  But this conversion is, through the goodness of God, made every day before our eyes.  Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards, and which incorporates itself with the grapes to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy!”

Finding the earliest misquoting of Franklin is of course very difficult.  When I search LexisNexis, the earliest I find for the “beer” version is Beverage World, Feb. 1, 1996.  It makes sense that the transition from extolling wine to extolling beer would happen in the era of Homer Simpson.  Can one of the ace researchers who regularly comments on my postings here push it back further than 1996?

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


I heard recently that the quote, "A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes," usually attributed to Mark Twain, is not actually by him. Which is delightfully ironic, if true.


I thought this was going to be about why alcoholic beverages are listed as "XX Proof". And also, why is it that proof is just % x 2?


"chief cook and bottle washer"?


I as well thought this would be a reference to alcoholic proof. Why is alcohol referred to in proof and not a simple percentage?


This is what I've always heard: At 50% alcohol content (100 proof), the liquid is flammable. So if a distiller delivers a batch that can be burned, it's "proof" that it hasn't been diluted. (I guess they figured 50% was acceptable)


You can wake up a sleeping man with the slightest sound but no amount of noise, no matter how loud, can wake someone pretending to sleep. (Jonathan Safran Foer, "Eating Animals")

Any earlier source for this quote, or something similar?


Your little stab at the beer-drinking Homer Simpsons of the late 20th century only serves to reveal your own bias. There are plenty of quotes about how great beer is dating back many thousands of years.

Eric M. Jones

It was at least attributed to Ben Franklin quite early, although for wine, not beer. The "beer part" is almost certainly Homer Simpson.

Ben Franklin: "...Behold the water which falls from the skies upon our vineyards; there it enters into the roots of the vines to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and that he loves to see us happy."

There are several early sources for this.


I'm curious when a the pot first called the kettle black. My pots are steel and my kettle is painted white. I assume all pots were black at one point, but I'm uncertain when. Nowadays with pots and kettles coming in a variety of colors the quote makes no sense, but people still use it.


I always heard it was first in print from Cervantes, Don Quixote, Chapter 67.

"It seems to me," said Sancho, "that your worship is like the common
saying, 'Said the frying-pan to the kettle, Get away, blackbreech.'
You chide me for uttering proverbs, and you string them in couples

But obviously, it was a pretty common saying before then.


How can I submit a quote to be used in this section? And if the answer is right here then, where did the quote/saying "beer before liquor you've never been sicker, liquor before beer your in the clear" come from?

Garrett Pendergast

How about "In the end only People pay taxes.


I sense a disrespect for beer in your answer. This may have occurred in the era of Homer Simpson, but it also happened in the era of micro-breweries after Jimmy Carter's deregulation of beer. Did I just say Jimmy carter's deregulation of beer?

Ashley Dershwertiz

why so many under class working poor Americans couples of paychecks from jail always claim they are "Middle Class", why majority of Americans are so phony???

Dan Isaac

OK how is this for a quote "Beer is ABV*2 proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy" Dan Isaac

Colin Whitfield

Before the mechanism was understood where yeast turns sugars into alcohol, I believe that this unknown air-borne ingredient was known as 'God is good'.