A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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“What do you call a nightmare about paper?"/"A bad ream.” (10/17)
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Entry from November 16, 2011
“A friend in need is a damned nuisance”

"A friend (when one is in) need is a friend indeed” is an English proverb almost as old as England. An American spin to “a friend in need” defines this as “a needy friend”—one who keeps asking for money.

“A friend in need is a bloody/damn/damned/terrible nuisance” has been cited in print since at least 1934. “A friend in need is a pest” has been popularly used by comics since at least 1946.

“A friend in need is a friend you don’t need” and “A friend in need is a friend to avoid” have both been cited in print since at least 1913.


The Phrase Finder
A friend in need is a friend indeed
(...)
A version of this proverb was known by the 3rd century BC. Quintus Ennius wrote: ‘Amicu certus in re incerta cernitur’. This translates from the Latin as ‘a sure friend is known when in difficulty’.

The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations lists it as existing in English from the 11th century.
(...)
By the 16th century, when the proverb was recorded in John Heywood’s A Dialogue Conteynyng Prouerbes and Epigrammes, 1562:

Prove [i.e. test] thy friend ere [before] thou have need; but, in-deed
A friend is never known till a man have need.
Before I had need, my most present foes
Seemed my most friends; but thus the world goes.

21 January 1893, Biloxi (MS) Herald, “Pith and Point,” pg. 6:
“A friend in need is a friend indeed;” but a friend who is not in need is the most desirable acquaintance.

25 November 1894, Boston (MA) Herald, “Pocket Wisdom” (From Kate Field’s Washington), pg. 24, col. 7:
A friend in need is a friend to feed.

26 December 1905, Jersey Journal (Jersey City, NJ), “Revised Proverbs” (January Lippincott’s), pg. 8, col. 4:
A friend in need is a friend to steer shy of.

4 May 1912, The State (Columbia, SC), “The State’s Survey,” pg. 4:
A friend in need is usually a friend snubbed.

9 December 1913, Springfield (MA) Daily News, pg. 12, col. 3:
A friend in need is a friend to avoid.—Vermont Crabbe.

Papers Past
15 December 1913, The New Zealand Observer and Free Lance , pg. 15:
A friend in need is a friend you don’t need.

Google Books
Hearst’s International combined with Cosmopolitan
Volume 97
1934
Pg. 50:
In which Freddie Widgeon discovers that a friend in need is— a terrible nuisance.

Google News Archive
18 August 1946, Spokane (WA) Spokesman-Review, pg. 12, col. 4:
THE THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
A Friend in Need Is a Pest…
Avoid Him

Google Books
Joey Adams’ Encyclopedia of Humor
By Joey Adams
New York, NY: Bonanza Books
1968
Pg. 292:
A friend in need — is a pest.

Google Books
The Language of Money
By William Davis
Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin
1973
Pg. 43:
Friends like that are not always easy to find; a lot of people believe in the old British dictum that “a friend in need is a bloody nuisance.”

Google Books
The Comic Encyclopedia:
A library of the literature and history of humor containing thousands of gags, sayings, and stories

By Evan Esar
Garden City, NY: Doubleday
1978
Pg. 305:
A FRIEND IN NEED
A friend in need is a friend to keep away from.
A friend in need is what most of us have.
A friend in need will keep you broke.
A friend in need is a friend you don’t need.
A friend in need is a damn nuisance.
A friend in need is a friend who has been playing the horses.

The Independent (UK)
The Starr Report: Key players in America’s endgame
Andrew Marshall in Washington
Saturday 12 September 1998
AS THE old saying goes, a friend in need is a damned nuisance.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityBanking/Finance/Insurance • (0) Comments • Wednesday, November 16, 2011 • Permalink