Vince Lombardi? note Twain? Arthur Brisbane? Vidal Sassoon? Stubby Currence? Anonymous?

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Dear Quote Investigator: over there is an astute saying about gaining success through initiative that deftly describes the alphabetical order the a dictionary. Here are 2 versions:

1) Success comes prior to work just in the dictionary.2) The thesaurus is the only place where success comes before work.

You are watching: The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.

This expression has actually been attributed come football coach Vince Lombardi, humorist mark Twain, newspaper editor Arthur Brisbane, hair stylist Vidal Sassoon, and others. Would you please check out its origin?

Quote Investigator: QI has discovered no substantive evidence that note Twain do this statement. That is not provided on Barbara Schmidt’s TwainQuotes.com website, vital reference device for check expressions ascribed to the luminary. Also, it does not show up in the large compilation “Mark two at her Fingertips”.

The earliest solid match for this saying situated by QI was published in 1935 by a newspaper columnist named Stubby Currence. The details space given more below.

QI conjectures the the expression emerged from a precursor statement that remained in circulation through the 1920s. The complying with was published in a new Castle, Pennsylvania newspaper in 1925, and also the very same statement through the indigenous “for it” deleted was published in a Humboldt, Iowa newspaper in 1926: 1

One method to uncover success without working for that is come look it increase in the dictionary.

Three vital vocabulary items were common with the saying under investigation: “success”, “working”, and also “dictionary”. However the meaning here was somewhat different. The reader might find the word “success” merely by feather it increase in a dictionary, but this action was unique from actually obtaining worldly success. The wordplay and also joke structure here were distinguishable, yet there to be multiple point out of similarity with the expression being traced.

In 1932 “The News-Herald” newspaper of Franklin, Pennsylvania printed one more version that the precursor quip. This circumstances semantically matched the 1925 citation, but syntactically it to be closer to the following citation in 1935: 2

In a thesaurus is the only location one can uncover success without working for it.

In 1935 an expression solidly matching the one given by the questioner was released in the “Bluefield daily Telegraph” the Bluefield, West Virginia. The words appeared in a column called “The push Box” by Stubby Currence who extended sports because that the paper. QI walk not understand whether Currence to be the crafter that the jape or simply the transmitter: 3

BUFF SAYS: “The thesaurus is the only ar where you come to SUCCESS before you obtain to WORK.”

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In 1941 “The Pampa News” that Pampa, Texas published a pillar titled “Just between Us Girls” include an unattributed circumstances of the saying that provided dialectical spelling: 4

Dictionary to be de only location where you involved success befor’ girlfriend git to work.

In 1953 “The Echo” newspaper that Richardson, Texas released an unattributed instance together with a miscellaneous collection of unrelated items under the title “Moments”: 5

Only in the thesaurus will you find success coming prior to work.

In 1954 the speak was integrated in a classified advertising in a Syracuse, brand-new York paper: 6

“THE thesaurus IS THE ONLY ar where success comes prior to work.”SEE us FOR THE finest JOBSNational Vocational Ser.

In 1957 the energetic quotation collector and widely-syndicated columnist Bennett Cerf ascribed the saying to Arthur Brisbane who was a well known newspaper editor based in brand-new York who passed away in 1936. QI has not found any earlier assistance for this amazing attribution; hence, that is status continues to be uncertain: 7

Arthur Brisbane chosen to suggest out the the thesaurus is the only ar where success comes before work.

In 1980 “The Penguin thesaurus of modern-day Quotations” included an entry for the saying through a affiliation to hairdresser and also businessman Vidal Sassoon who attributed an unnamed teacher: 8

The only place where success comes before work is in a dictionary.

In 1994 the adage was ascribed come Vince Lombardi in a sports column of “The Seattle Times” in Washington. Lombardi passed away in 1970: 9

QUOTE ‘The thesaurus is the only place where success comes prior to work. Tough work is the price we need to all pay for success.’ Vince Lombardi

In conclusion, QI would certainly tentatively credit transaction Stubby Currence based upon the 1935 citation. The attributions come Arthur Brisbane and Vince Lombardi were just weakly supported by really late citations. The citation because that Vidal Sassoon was substantive, yet the saying was already in circulation. This entry to represent a picture of what QI has discovered and additional data later may transition the ascription.

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Image Notes: Open publication from PublicDomainPictures at Pixabay. Excerpts indigenous the 1817 edition of “A thesaurus of the English Language: Compiled because that the usage of usual Schools in the unified States” by young name Webster released by George Goodwin.

(Great thanks to David Barnhart, Ben Zimmer, and wikicitas who inquiries led QI to formulate this question and also perform this exploration. Special thanks to Barry Popik who additionally fruitfully examined this saying, and to “The dictionary of modern-day Proverbs” which has actually a valuable entry top top this topic.)