Quotes Uncovered: The Punchline, Please

Quotes Uncovered

75 ThumbnailHere are more quote authors and origins Shapiro’s tracked down recently.

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 research by me. Hundreds of people have responded via comments or e-mails. I am responding as best I can, a few per week.

Javy asked:

Scientists (professors, physicians) will know more and more about less and less until they know everything about nothing, or will know less and less about more and more until they know nothing about everything.

The Yale Book of Quotations, which attempts to trace all famous quotations to their earliest findable sources, has the following:

“A specialist is a man who knows more and more about less and less.” William J. Mayo, Quoted in Reader’s Digest, November 1927.

Joe T asked:

Re: “free lunch” as punchline, what was the rest of the joke?

O.K., here’s the outline of the joke that may have given rise to “There’s no such thing as a free lunch”; it appears in an article in the El Paso Herald-Post, June 27, 1938, entitled “Economics in Eight Words.”

This is a fable in which a king asks his advisers to summarize economics in a “short and simple text.” They respond with 87 volumes of 600 pages each, drawing the king’s wrath and accompanying executions. Further demands and more executions force ever-briefer summations, until, finally, the last economist, “a man of profound wisdom,” speaks:

Sire, in eight words I will reveal to you all the wisdom that I have distilled through all these years from all the writings of all the economists who once practiced their science in your kingdom. Here is my text: “There ain’t no such thing as free lunch.”

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

science minded

a scientist knows as much as she can be certain about and scienists will have the ability to know as much as is generally `possible' or that they specifically can

science minded

ps- it is just a bit more complicated - but I would prefer to publish than to perish- at the appropriate time.


I've seen it attributed to John McCain, but I don't expect anything original to come out of the mouth of a politician. Who originally said, “Washington is Hollywood for ugly people”?


"There's more than one way to skin a cat." Who said it, and why are all these people skinning cats?

and by

who said "by hook or by crook" and "get your act togeather and take it down the road" these both traveling expressions my mother used to say? what were they talking about?

science minded

Dear Alex;

It's summer-- when cats shed their hair -- especially academic fat cats.

Dear Steve;

FYI and contrary to your expectation--the original idea of family. See Goldstein, 1991 Dissertation, the Graduate Center CUNY

Randall Roberts

I heard this quote at sales seminar in the 1970's, it stuck with me but I failed to remember the person using it.
"It's better to aim at a star and only hit an eagle than to aim at an eagle and only hit a rock." I would like to know who said it first.


isn't “A specialist is a man who knows more and more about less and less.” just a rework of an ancient adage? i mean, would we attribute it to Montaigne just because he wrote: "A little of everything and nothing thoroughly, after the French fashion." 500 years ago?

Junnie Pips

"By Hook or by Crook, as i have been told, were two sea ports in Ireland. At the time of the great famine, those who could left the country by one of these sea ports.
Hence: To accomplish your mission one way or the other.