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ESSAY – HUMOROUS: Great Quotations and Their Origins


©1986 by David Lefkowitz


Never before in one volume have people said so much about so little. All this and less may be found in “Great Quotations,” a handy reference guide to pithy phrases you’ll never drop at a cocktail party.


DERIVATION: A common American expression, used as a surprised afterthought following mistakes or accidents.

EXAMPLE:  Q: “Mr. Kennedy, what really happened when you and your secretary went over the bridge?”

A: “Oops.”


“Squeeze my shoe; my lips are bleeding!”

DERIVATION: The most famous line of dialogue never spoken in a play. Thought to embody sado-masochistic/homosexual overtones, the line was censored from Act I, Scene II of William Shakespeare’s tragedy, Othello.

EXAMPLE: OTHELLO: Let him do his spite. My services which I have done this signiory shall out-tongue his complaints.

IAGO: Squeeze my shoe; my lips are bleeding!

OTHELLO: `Tis yet to know.

COMMENTARY: Shakespeare allegedly defended the line as a mythic expression of political angst.  (see footnote)

FOOTNOTE: Queen Elizabeth didn’t buy it either.


“They’re all disemboweled?”

COMMENTARY: Asked by Frank Shaw, principal of PS 92, East Orange, NJ.


COMMENTARY: Answered by Joseph “Moon-Unit” Wilson, substitute teacher at PS 92, East Orange, NJ.

“Shame. He was this close.”

COMMENTARY: Principal Shaw again, when asked why tenure had been denied to Joseph Wilson of Teaneck, NJ.


“Oh God, Oh God! Don’t stop!”

DERIVATION: Six months B.C. Attributed to the biblical Mary, rendering her conception something less than immaculate.


“Sheep are moist.”

DERIVATION: From an 18th Century Greek sex manual. (Chapter 26: “Bovine Fondling”)  (see footnote)

FOOTNOTE: It is not advisable to mention this phrase to most Greeks as they will A) deny it and B) kill you.


“Here. I’ll prove it isn’t loaded.”

DERIVATION: The late Jon-Erik Hexum.


“Gee, I wish I had herpes.”

DERIVATION: LeRoi Gumm, famed 20th century leper.


“We know the sound of one hand clapping. But what about the smell?”

DERIVATION: Alan Watts, shortly before he was treated for Zen burnout.


“They cut it off when you were born. Ha ha!”

DERIVATION: Sophocles to his little sister, Ethel, during a particularly heated game of Doctor. Thought to be the birth of modern psychology.


“Where’s the beef?”

DERIVATION: The last words uttered by Larry Skubble before he was murdered by a deranged short-order cook at a Burger King in San Ysidro, California.


“You mean I’ve got another one?”

DERIVATION: Laszlo Czyzrzyck after he had accidentally coughed up a lung during band practice.


“All men are created equal.”

DERIVATION: One of many hypocritical gaffes in a famous document drafted and signed by a bunch of white slave owners.


“As women, we demand equality!”

DERIVATION: (variant of the previous) Apparently distorted by the press, the actual line was, “We ant superiority, but we’ll settle for equality. For now.”


“There must be a water shortage. All we’re getting is steam.”

DERIVATION: Mendel Cohen, posthumously awarded the 1943 prize for Most Naïve German Jew.

“Is it in yet?”

EXAMPLE: (most recent usage): Karen, Michelle, Susan, Lisa, Abby, Jennifer, Phoebe, Laurie, and Lori (the twins), Brenda, Mary Ann, Heidi, and Bruce.


“How much?”

DEFINITION: The method by which Marlon Brando chooses film roles.


“This is going to hurt me a lot more than it’s going to hurt me.”

DERIVATION: Leng, just before stabbing his Siamese twin, Ling, to death with a breadknife.


“We give up!”

DEFINITION: Traditional rallying cry of the Italian Armed Forces.


“If I could walk that way, I wouldn’t need a . . . scotch tape dispenser!”

COMMENTARY: Voted the strangest punchline to an old joke for three consecutive years, 1973-1975.



DEFINITION: Generally accepted as the only word Sylvester Stallone can pronounce.


“If my great grandmother had wheels, she’d be a bus.”

DERIVATION: Origin and meaning unknown, but a great favorite of mine.


“Now this won’t hurt a bit.”

COMMENTARY: Studies have proven that 99.5% of the time, the phrase is a flat-out lie.


                                      .                        !”

DERIVATION: Helen Keller’s first complete sentence.


“The End”

DERIVATION: Cliché, but it says it.



Composed just for fun in April 1984 and reworked in final form on Jan. 16, 1986, this was (and, I believe, remains) a merry “compendium of fictitious quotations and their strange origins” Here’s the tagline from the original manuscript: “Great Quotations and Their Origins” is a humorous compilation of pithy phrases that never quite made it into Roget or Rosten.

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