"Always be sincere, even if you don’t mean it” is often credited to Harry S. Truman (1884-1972) but there’s no evidence that he ever said it. The earliest citations for the saying do not credit Truman.
“My dear, there’s nothing like being sincere, whether you mean it or not!” is from the “Modest Maidens” comic strip by Jay Alan (pen name of J. Alan Klein) in July 1951. Mortimer Snerd, a puppet of ventriloquist Edgar Bergen (1903-1978), suggested in April 1954, “Always be sincere, whether you mean it or not.” The British comedy duo of Flanders and Swann is often credited for the saying, but Michael Flanders and Donald Swann began their popular collaboration in December 1956. “Always be sincere whether you mean it or not” was credited to a Flanders and Swann show in 1959.
“All lists of personality tips include ‘be sincere.’ Even if you don’t mean it” was cited in print in February 1959. The “sincerity” saying remains popular in business and in politics.
Wikiquote: Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman (May 8, 1884 – December 26, 1972) was the thirty-third President of the United States (1945–1953); as vice president, he succeeded to the office upon the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Always be sincere, even if you don’t mean it.
. Attributed without citation in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (1992) by Angela Partington, disputed in The Quote Verifier : Who Said What, Where, and When (2006) by Ralph Keyes, p. 224, as something Truman is not known to have said, nor was likely to have said.
Wikipedia: Edgar Bergen
Edgar John Bergen (February 16, 1903 – September 30, 1978) was an American actor and radio performer, best known as a ventriloquist.
Their initial appearance (December 17, 1936) was so successful that the following year they were given their own show, as part of The Chase and Sanborn Hour. Under various sponsors (and two different networks), they were on the air from May 9, 1937 to July 1, 1956. The popularity of a ventriloquist on radio, when one could see neither the dummies nor his skill, surprised and puzzled many critics, then and now. Even knowing that Bergen provided the voice, listeners perceived Charlie as a genuine person, but only through artwork rather than photos could the character be seen as truly lifelike
For the radio program, Bergen developed other characters, notably the slow-witted Mortimer Snerd and the man-hungry Effie Klinker.
23 July 1951, Corpus Christi (TX) Times, “Modest Maidens” comic strip by Jay Alan (pen name of J. Alan Klein), pg. 15, col. 2:
“My dear, there’s nothing like being sincere, whether you mean it or not!”
14 April 1954, San Diego (CA) Union, “For Comedians” by Donald Freeman, pg. A10, col. 2:
And Mortimer Snerd suggests: “Always be sincere, whether you mean it or not.”
12 December 1954, Chicago (IL) Daily Tribune. “Radio-TV Gag Bag” culled by Larry Wolters, pg. Q45:
Mortimer Snerd: “Always be sincere, whether you mean it or not.”
Google News Archive
28 May 1955, Milwaukee (WI) Journal, “Droodles” by Roger Price, Green Sheet, pg. 1, col. 7:
Here’s one I thought up this morning which you can use as a guide to a richer, fuller life: “Always Be Sincere— Whether You Mean It or Not!” Isn’t that touching?
Volume 23, Issues 18-25
What kind of fellow do you like, Winnie?
Well, like you said, the fellow should be chivalrous. And he ought to mean what he says.
You mean he should be sincere?
That’s right, Jack. That’s what I always say — be sincere — whether you mean it or not.
14 February 1959, Salt Lake Tribune (Salt Lake City, UT), pg. 14, col. 2:
All lists of personality tips include “be sincere.” Even if you don’t mean it.
Google News Archive
1 December 1959, Milwaukee (WI) Sentinel, “English Quizzes Noel (Honest)” by Earl Wilson, pt. 1, pg. 11, col. 4:
“Always be sincere whether you mean it or not” is one of the pearls of advice tossed off by Flanders in the brilliantly brittle performance.
(The comedy team of Michael Flanders and Donald Swann—ed.)
Engineering Experiment Station Bulletin
West Virginia University. Engineering Experiment Station
Personal relationships must be rooted in a sincerity which can be trusted. Have you ever heard Mortimer Snerd’s definition of sincerity? Well, Mortimer Snerd said, “Always be sincere, even if you don’t mean it.’’
13 March 1963, Big Spring (TX) Herald,, “Cleric Deplores ‘Substitutions’” (AP), pg. 2A, cols. 1-2:
The Rev. Mr. Coggins delivered a paper Tuesday to the seventh annual workshop sponsored by the Christian Life Commission of the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
“Sincerity,” he added, “is another substitute for character. It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are sincere. Always be sincere even if you don’t mean it.”
(Rev. Ross Coggins of Nashville, TN—ed.)
Once Upon a Tree;
Devotional Essays on the Cross
By Calvin Miller
Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House
No wonder some wag has said, “Be sincere, even if you don’t mean it!”
30 October 1972, Greensboro (NC) Record, Earl Wilson entertainment column, pg. C9, col. 1:
Have you noticed that fortune cookies corner all the wisdom? Such as: “Be sincere even if you don’t mean it.”
How To Say It For Executives:
The Complete Guide to Communication for Leaders
By Phyllis Mindell
New York, NY: The Berkley Publishing Goup
“Always be sincere whether you mean it or not.” These funny words uttered by Flanders and Swann, English comedians of several decades ago, tell a basic truth. People believe those who seem sincere.
The Quote Verifier:
Who Said What, Where, and When
By Ralph Keyes
New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press
The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations credits Truman with “Always be sincere, even if you don’t mean it,” which is not something the president is known to have said or is likely to have said.
Harry Truman - Mis-quoted
by FDR on Saturday, June 14, 2008 at 3:57pm
And i did find some other information which credits Mortimer Snerd with saying something similar - “Always be sincere, whether you mean it or not.” Though this quote is also credited to Flanders and Swann, a British comedy duo. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flanders_and_Swann
Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I love the research. I will remove this from my site this evening.
On Point with Tom Ashbrook
uly 25, 2012 at 11:00 AM
A Case Against Sincerity
“Always be sincere even if you don’t mean it.”
Mortimer Snerd—Snerd’s words for the birds
07/25/2012 03:31 PM
New York City • Work/Businesses • (0) Comments • Tuesday, September 18, 2012 • Permalink