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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Entry from June 14, 2015
“A pat on the back is only a few vertebrae removed from a kick in the pants”

"A pat on the back is only a few vertebrae removed from a kick in the pants” is a saying that originated in the 1940s. “There are only 18 inches between a pat on the back and a kick in the pants” was cited in several newspapers in 1943 and originally credited to Josephus Henry of the Scottsbluff (NE) Star-Herald.. “A pat on the back, though only a few vertebrae removed from a kick in the pants, is miles ahead in results” was cited in many newspapers in 1948. The authorship is unknown.

“A pat on the back is only a few vertebrae removed from a kick in the pants, but is miles ahead in results. —V. WILCOX” was cited in the book The Peter Prescription (1972) by Laurence J. Peter. It’s not known who “V. Wilcox” is, but the late citation is probably incorrect. A different Wilcox—American author and poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919)—has been credited with the line since the 1980s. Ella Wheeler Wilcox never wrote it.


9 July 1943, Morning World-Herald (Omaha, NE), “Nebraska Scene” by John Bentley, pg. 20, col. 4:
A reader did all the figuring so it was easy for Josephus Henry, Scottsbluff Star-Herald, to proclaim that there are only 18 inches between a pat on the back and a kick in the pants.

Old Fulton NY Post Cards
31 August 1943, Kingston (NY) Daily Freeman, “Office Cat” by Junius, pg. 6, col. 2:
A man figured it out today: “There is only 18 inches from a pat on the back and a kick in the pants.”

15 April 1948, The Courier-Crescent (Orrville, OH), pg. 2, col. 8:
A pat on the back, though only a few vertebrae removed from a kick in the pants, is miles ahead in results.

Old Fulton NY Post Cards
25 June 1948, Steuben Advocate (Bath, NY), pg. 19, col. 1:
A pat on the back, though only a few vertebrae removed from a kick in the pants, is miles ahead in results.

Old Fulton NY Post Cards
9 September 1948, The Chenango Union (Norwich, NY), pg. 1, col. 1:
Thought for the week—A pat on the back, though only a few vertebrae removed from a kick in the pants, is miles ahead in results.

19 October 1949, Trenton (NJ) Evening Times, pg. 30, col. 5:
“A pat on the back though only a few vertebrae removed from a kick in the pants is miles ahead in results.”—The Gilcrafter.

4 September 1955, Trenton (NJ) Sunday Times-Advertiser, “Looking & Listening,” pg. 6, col. 2:
REMINDER—Galen Drake says “never get conceited; a pat on the back is only 16 inches from a kick in the pants.”

20 November 1958, San Marino (CA) Tribune, “Along the Drive,” pg. 1, col. 3:
A pat on the back is only a few vertebrae from a kick in the pants, but what a difference it makes in getting results.

Google Books
The Peter Prescription
By Laurence J. Peter
New York, NY: William Morrow
1972
Pg. 195:
A pat on the back is only a few vertebrae removed from a kick in the pants, but is miles ahead in results. —V. WILCOX

8 March 1974, Frederick (MD) Post, pg. 1, right masthead:
A pat on the back is only a few vertebrae removed from a kick in the pants, but is miles ahead in results.
V. Wilcox

Google News Archive
12 February 1975, Ely (MN) Echo, pg. 4, col. 2:
A pat on the back is only a few vertebrae removed from a kick in the pants, but is miles ahead in results.
W. Wilcox

Google Books
They Shoot Managers Don’t They:
Making Conflict Work in a Changing World

By Terry L. Paulson
Santa Monica, CA: Lee Canter & Associates
1988
Pg. 104:
A pat on the back is only a few vertebrae removed from a kick in the pants, but it is miles ahead in results.” —Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Twitter
Motivational Quotes
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A pat on the back is only a few vertebrae removed from a kick in the pants, but is miles ahead in results. -Ella Wilcox
3:39 AM - 27 May 2015

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityWork/Businesses • Sunday, June 14, 2015 • Permalink