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 September 22, 2015
“If you don’t go to other people’s funerals, they won’t come to yours”

"If you don’t go to other people’s funerals, they won’t come to yours” is a popular joke saying to explain attendance at funerals. “If I don’t attend other people’s funerals they won’t come to mine” was cited in an 1876 book. “If you don’t go to folk’s funerals how can you expect them to come to yours?” was cited in Ally Sloper’s Half-Holiday in 1907. “Oh, well, if you never go to other people’s funerals I don’t see how you can expect them to come to yours” was cited in the humor magazine in 1911.

Yogi Berra (1925-2015), a baseball player and manager of the New York Yankees and a manager of the New York Mets, is frequently credited with the line that was popular before he was even born. “Herb Schmertz quotes Yogi Berra to illustrate the Washington games of alliance and reciprocity: ‘Always go to other people’s funerals. Otherwise, they won’t come to yours’” was cited in 1986.

[This entry was assisted with research from Stephen Goranson of the American Dialect Society listserv and from the Quote Investigator.]


Google Books
The Youth of the Period
By James Frederick Shaw Kennedy
London: Samuel Tinsley
1876
Pg. 232:
Old John Nobbs was one of those present. Going to funerals was quite a mania of his, and he attended every funeral he could for twelve miles round Ledbury.

“Confound it!” John would say. “if I don’t attend other people’s funerals they won’t come to mine.”

Google Books
1895, The Leisure Hour, “Mrs. Tonkin at Home” by Charles Lee, pg. 310, cols. 1-2:
“Ess, o’ course. I haven’ missed a berrin’ in this town for twenty year—summer or winter, cauld or het, dry or wet—and there edn’ many can say the same. ‘Do unto others as you would that they sh’d do to you,’—that’s my motty; and I turn et this way, ‘Go to other people’s berrin’s that they may come to yours.’”

“Eh—’twould be a wisht berrin’ that!” chuckled Mrs. Tonkin.

“You d’ knaw my manen, Ann,” said Mrs. Polsue placidly.

3 October 1907, New Orleans (LA) Item, pg. 23, col. 3:
AV COORSE.
Biddy—So you’re goin to Flannigan’s funeral?
Mike—Ave coorse Oi am. If you don’t go to folk’s funerals how can you expect them to come to yours?—Ally Sloper’s Half-Holiday.

Hathi Trust Digital Library
25 January 1911, Punch, or the London Charivari, pg. 69:
(Comic illustration.—ed.)
Visitor. “I’VE JUST COME FROM THE DOCTOR’S FUNERAL, BUT I DIDN’T SEE ANY OF YOU THERE.”
Hostess. “NO—MY HUSBAND WOULDN’T LET ME GO, AS FUNERALS ALWAYS UPSET HIM.”
Visitor. “OH, WELL, IF YOU NEVER GO TO OTHER PEOPLE’S FUNERALS I DON’T SEE HOW YOU CAN EXPECT THEM TO COME TO YOURS.”

16 February 1911, Oakland (CA) Tribune, pg. ?:
Visitor—I’ve just come from the doctor’s funeral, but I didn’t see any of you there.
Hostess—No—my husband didn’t care to go, as funerals always upset him.
Visitor—Oh, well, if you never go to other people’s funerals I don’t see how you can expect them to come to yours.—Punch.

27 March 1962, Oakland (CA) Tribune, pg. 25:
As Clarence Day’s mother said in that classic line in “Life With Father,” “If you don’t attend other people’s funerals, you can’t expect them to come to yours!”

27 June 1986, Washington (DC) Times, “Philosophy corner” by John Elvin, pg. 3A, col. 3:
In his new book, “Good-bye to the Low Profile, Herb Schmertz quotes Yogi Berra to illustrate the Washington games of alliance and reciprocity: “Always go to other people’s funerals. Otherwise, they won’t come to yours.”

19 May 1996, Aberdeen (SD) American News, “Bridge” by Alfred Sheinwold and Frank Stewart, pg. 10E, col. 1:
Baseball’s Yogi Berra seems to be quotable these days. Yogi on reciprocity: “Always go to other people’s funerals of they won’t some to yours”; Yogi on the late Mickey Mantle: “Great switch-hitter, just naturally amphibious.”

Google Books
The Best Things Anybody Ever Said about Sports, Management, & Marketing
By Louis E. Boone andDavid L. Kurtz
Australia ; United States: Thomson South-Western
2006
Pg. 158:
“Always go to other people’s funerals; otherwise they won’t come to yours.”
Yogi Berra (b. 1925)
American baseball player and manager


Google Books
The Ultimate Book of New York Lists:
Everything You Need to Know about the Greatest City on Earth

By Bert Randolph Sugar with C. N. Richardson
New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing
2009
Pg. 51:
YOGI BERRA-ISMS
(...)
“You should always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t come to yours.”

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • Tuesday, September 22, 2015 • Permalink