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.

Recent entries:
“Build a man a fire and he’ll be warm for a night…” (joke) (3/23)
“Why are women and children evacuated first?” (joke) (3/23)
“I’ll have a rum and coke” (joke) (3/23)
“I’ve had so much coffee today I can see noises” (3/23)
“The most dangerous drinking game is seeing how long I can go without coffee” (3/23)
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Entry from December 15, 2009
“A politician is someone who will lay down your life for his country”

The greatest form of patriotism is said to be someone who lays down his life for his country. A joke circulated in the American Legion Weekly in 1923 that the definition of an “orator” is someone who is willing to “lay down your life for his country.” The humor magazine Judge changed the joke definition from “orator” to “militarist.” By 1933. this joke was given as the definition of a “politician.”

The line is often credited to New York City saloon keeper Texas Guinan (1884-1933), but the early 1920s and 1930s citations do not mention her name.


Google Books
The Universalist Leader
v. 26, nos. 1-26 - 1923
Buck: Can you give me a definition of an orator?
Private: Sure. He’s the fellow who’s always ready to lay down your life for his country.
-- American Legion Weekly.

13 July 1929, New Orleans (LA) Times-Picayune, “Cull’s Corner,” pg. 20, col. 1:
What Our Town Needs Is Some Good Orators
You know—these boys who will gladly—lay down YOUR life for HIS country.

2 January 1930, Chadwick (IL) Review, “Answering Duty’s Call,” pg. 2, col. 3:
Buck—Can you give me a definition of an orator?
Private—Sure. He’s the fellow who’s always ready to lay down your life for his country.

20 January 1933, Albert Lea (MN) Evening Tribune, pg. 2, col. 2:
Judge: A militarist is just a man who is always ready to lay down your life for his country.

30 January 1933, La Crosse (WI) Tribune and Leader-Press, ‘The Coulee Chanticleer” by Ray Peacock, pg. 2, col. 2:
Definitions: A politician—a man who is willing to lay down your life for his country.

Google Books
Money talks, but mine just says goodbye:
More bumper stickers from the information highway

By Arthur Goldstuck and William Ramwell
Joahnnesburg: Zebra
1996
Pg. 97:
Politician: A fellow who’ll lay down your life for his country.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • (0) Comments • Tuesday, December 15, 2009 • Permalink