Dear Quote Investigator: The following hyperbolic proverb encouraging skepticism has been attributed to the master of mystery and the macabre Edgar Allan Poe:

Believe fifty percent of what you see and nothing of what friend hear.

You are watching: Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear meaning

Did Poe handmade this saying?

Quote Investigator: The brief story “The device of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether” by Edgar Allan Poe showed up in the November 1845 worry of “Graham’s Magazine”. The tale was collection in a personal hospital because that the mentally ill, and the adage was spoken by the nominal head the the institution. Emphasis added by QI: 1

“You space young yet, my friend,” responded my host, “but the moment will arrive when you will learn to judge for yourself of what is going on in the world, without trusting to the gossip that others. Believe nothing friend hear, and only one fifty percent that girlfriend see.

This was the earliest solid match known to QI. Hence, Poe is the leading candidate for coiner that this expression although the phrasing differed slightly from the popular modern-day versions.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In might 1849 a Buffalo, new York newspaper published an account from san Francisco, California around the ongoing gold rush. The correspondent dubbed the declare an “old saying” and also expressed disagreement: 2

I will write to you indigenous the mines and also then shall be able to speak the my very own knowledge. I believe all that is told, because that this reason, that an ext than every I have actually heard has been establish by observation, and the old saying the you are to think nothing you hear and also but half you see, will fail here.

In November 1849 a Louisville, Kentucky newspaper published a various account from san Francisco that was a bit much more suspicious that the gold rush: 3

The account from the mines are very contradictory; you can think nothing that you hear in this country, and only one half of what friend see; however I am perfect satisfied that there is gold in diversity here, and also that the is to be derived only v the hardest sort of labor, hardships and privations.

In 1872 “The Raleigh daily News” of Raleigh, north Carolina printed an instance without attribution: 4

In regard to the outlaws it appears we must embrace the old rule—“Believe nothing girlfriend hear, and but fifty percent you see.”

In 1942 H. L. Mencken had the saying in “A new Dictionary of quotations on Historical principles from old and modern-day Sources”, but he provided a citation that appeared after Poe’s tale: 5

Believe only fifty percent of what friend see and nothing that you hear.

See more: Convert 160 Ml Equals How Many Cups, Etc, 160 Ml To Cups

DINAH MULOCK CRAIK: A Woman’s Thoughts, 1858 (Quoted together “a downhearted saying”)

In 1966 Norman Whitfield and Barrett solid crafted the hit song “I Heard It through the Grapevine”. The most well-known rendition was videotaped by Marvin Gaye for his 1968 album “In the Groove”. The lyrics contained an instance of the saying: 6

People speak believe fifty percent of what you see Son and also none of what you hearBut i can’t assist but it is in confusedIf it’s true you re welcome tell me dear

In 2014 the “Chicago Tribune” printed a review of the movie “Stonehearst Asylum” which was loosely based on Poe’s story: 7

The crucial line in the script comes straight out the Poe: “Believe nothing girlfriend hear, and also only one half that girlfriend see.”

In conclusion, the earliest nearby match appeared in a tale written through Edgar Allan Poe in 1845, and also he might be the originator.

(Great many thanks to Jonathan Lighter who inquiry led QI to build this question and also perform this exploration. Also, many thanks to twitter discussants Benjamin Dreyer, Iain MacDonald, and also Max Maven. Macdonald suggested adding a citation because that “I Heard It with the Grapevine”.)


Posted on June 23, 2017December 30, 2020Author quoteresearchCategories Edgar Allan PoeTags Edgar Allan Poe

Post navigation