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June 24, 2015


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Hola, Alan Wald, behold chiasmus |kīˈazməs|, noun, a rhetorical or literary figure in which words, grammatical constructions, or concepts are repeated in reverse order, in the same or a modified form; e.g. "Poetry is the record of the best and happiest moments of the happiest and best minds." DERIVATIVES
chiastic |kīˈastik| adjective
ORIGIN mid 17th cent. (in the general sense ‘crosswise arrangement’): modern Latin, from Greek khiasmos ‘crosswise arrangement,’ from khiazein ‘mark with the letter chi,’ from khi ‘chi.’ (from my Mac's New American Oxford Dictionary)

Here's another Yogi Berra-ism that correctly should be attributed to columnist Herb Caen: "It was such a beautiful day I decided to stay in bed."

We've just been narwhal'd by John.

Editor: Did you drink one too many energy drinks last night? How about switching over to chamomile tea?

Dear Quote Investigator: An amusing anecdote states that baseball great Yogi Berra was once asked whether he wished to have dinner at a highly-regarded restaurant, and he replied with a remark combining wisdom with contradiction:

Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.

Is this an authentic Yogiism?

Quote Investigator: Berra has stated on multiple occasions that he did make this remark, and detailed citations for this claim are given further below.

Yet, this joke has a long history, and it was already circulating before Berra was born. A thematic precursor about parties was published in 1882 in a London periodical called “The Nonconformist and Independent”. The comedy hinged on the impossibility of all the guests delaying attendance until all the other guests had already arrived: 1

“I’m afraid you’ll be late at the party,” said an old lady to her stylish granddaughter, who replied, ” Oh, you dear grandma, don’t you know that in our fashionable set nobody ever goes to a party till everybody gets there?”

The earliest strong match known to QI was published in December 1907 in a New York newspaper humor column called “Sparklets”. The creator of the joke was unidentified, and the person delivering the punchline was also not named: 2

Ambiguous, Yet Clear—Oh, don’t go there on Saturday; it’s so frightfully crowded! Nobody goes there then!”

In the ensuing days, months, and years the jest was reprinted with minor alterations in other papers such as “The Philadelphia Inquirer” in Pennsylvania. 3 4 It was still circulating in 1914 when the same text was printed in the “Middletown Daily Times-Press” of Middletown, New York. 5 Thanks to top researcher Barry Popik who identified this primal version and located other valuable citations. 6

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In 1941 Hollywood gossip columnist of Paul Harrison spoke with a comedian named Rags Ragland who claimed that his girlfriend, Suzanne Ridgeway, used a version of the quip. However, it was possible that Ragland was simply providing entertaining fodder for Harrison’s newspaper readers by recycling an old joke. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 7 8

For laughs off the set, Rags goes around with a flutter-brained cutie named Suzanne Ridgeway. He says he took her to a concert at the Hollywood Bowl the other night, and as they inched their way up the ramp with the throng she remarked: “Now I know why nobody ever comes here; it’s too crowded.”

In 1943 “The New Yorker” magazine published a short tale titled “Some Nights When Nothing Happens Are the Best Nights in This Place” by the journalist John McNulty whose lauded literary style was distinctive. McNulty included an instance of the expression: 9

Johnny, one of the hackmen outside, put the whole thing in a nutshell one night when they were talking about a certain hangout and Johnny said, “Nobody goes there any more. It’s too crowded.”

Also in 1943 the joke was assigned to an archetypal Irishman in a column by a sportswriter in a Pennsylvanian newspaper: 10

“Speaking of places did you see that one about the Irishman who says ‘No one goes to Murphy’s saloon anymore because it’s too crowded.’
“If you don’t get that one on the first hop it’s not the fault of the gag.”

In January 1961 the columnist Earl Wilson indicated that the jest was still being used by comedians such as Ukie Sherin: 11

Appearing at the Losers Club in Hollywood, Ukie said, “No wonder nobody ever comes in here — it’s too crowded.”

In April 1962 the joke was assigned to Yogi Berra in the pages of the “Cleveland Plain Dealer” of Ohio: 12

A Yogi Berraism: At Ft. Lauderdale Yogi was listening to his teammates talk about a restaurant in the area. Said Yogi, “Aw, nobody ever goes there. It’s too crowded.”

In 1963 the gag was ascribed to Berra again, but a detail of the story was changed; the restaurant was in New York instead of Ft. Lauderdale: 13

New York Yankee coach Jim Hegan attributes this story to Yogi Berra, the new resident genius of the Bombers.

Berra was asked if a certain restaurant in New York was as popular as ever. “Naw,” quoth Yogi. “Nobody ever goes there anymore — it’s too crowded.”

In 1984 the writer Roy Blount Jr. published a profile of Berra in “Sports Illustrated” magazine, and he inquired about the history of the well-known quip: 14

“How about the one about the restaurant being so crowded nobody ever goes there?” I asked. “You didn’t really say that, did you?”
Yogi smiled. “Yeah! I said that one,” he assured me.
“You did?” I said. “About Charlie’s in Minneapolis?”
“Nahhh, it was about Ruggeri’s in St. Louis. When I was headwaiter there.” That would have been in 1948.
“No,” said Carmen, “you said that in New York.”
“St. Louis,” Yogi said firmly.
So there you are.

In 1996 a journalist named Joe Sharkey spoke to Berra and printed his comments about the saying in “The New York Times”: 15

We were stalled in crosstown traffic. Mr. Berra glanced at a restaurant awning on 50th Street and recalled something he once said about a nightclub. “That place, it’s so crowded nobody goes there anymore.”
Mrs. Berra shook him off. “No, you said, ‘It’s so popular nobody goes there,'” she said.
“Right, popular,” he agreed, and tossed out another one: “Thank you for making this day necessary.”

In 1998 Berra published “The Yogi Book” which discussed many of his celebrated remarks, and the volume included a date and setting for the joke under investigation: 16

Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”
I was talking to Stan Musial and Joe Garagiola in 1959 about Ruggeri’s restaurant in my old neighborhood in St. Louis. It was true!

In conclusion, the earliest instances of this remark were anonymous. The comedians Rags Ragland and Ukie Sherin employed the quip, as did the writer John McNulty. In addition, there is some evidence that Yogi Berra employed the joke, but in all cases the jest was already in circulation.

If nobody goes there, how can there be too many people? Maybe nobody who is anybody? Or have I, once again, failed to get the joke? Or maybe I am just too uptight, bracing for an onslaught of narwhal humor.

Nobody goes to Linda Mar Beach anymore. Too many people and dogs there.

Wowzerz, I wonder if there are photos or videos on someone's phone.

Yep, Jane, the very reason why I never take my dog out there anymore.

Years ago we pretty much fished the beaches at night and only on occasion ran into a homeless guy going from San Francisco to Santa Cruz who slept on the beach at night.

I wish Pacifica could really do things to bring in some revenue-producing projects. Maybe then they could hire some new cops and be back up at staffing levels.

So many addicts, drunks, and pitbulls on that beach 24/7.

I won't take my daughters there anymore. We drive a few miles south to Montara. It's like Linda Mar was when we were kids.

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