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 November 07, 2014
“When a diplomat says yes, he means perhaps…”

A popular joke involves a lady and a diplomat. The lady can’t say “yes” and the diplomat can’t say “no.” The joke is from the Berliner Tageblatt and has been cited in English print since at least 1913.


Google Books
15 May 1913, The Independent, pg. 1098, col. 2:
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A LADY AND A DIPLOMAT.
When a diplomat says “yes,” he means “perhaps.”

When a diplomat says “perhaps,” he means “no.”

And when a diplomat says “no,” he is no diplomat.

When a lady says “no,” she means “perhaps.”

When a lady says “perhaps,” she means “yes.”

And when a lady says “yes,” she is no lady.
-- Berliner Tageblatt.

5 September 1913, Daily People (New York, NY), pg. 3, col. 2:
The Lady and the Diplomat.
When a diplomat says “yes,” he means “perhaps.”

“When a diplomat says “perhaps,” he means “no,” and when a diplomat says “no,” he is no diplomat.

When a lady says “no,” she means “perhaps.”

When a lady says “perhaps,” she means “yes;” and when a lady says “yes,” she is no lady.—Berlin Tageblatt.

Google Books
The Best Stories in the World
Compiled and edited by Thomas Lansing Masson
Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Page & Company
1914
Pg. 92:
A CONUNDRUM
WHAT is the difference between a diplomat and a lady?

The following has been suggested as a proper solution of this interesting conundrum.

When a diplomat says yes, he means perhaps; when he says perhaps, he means no; when he says no, he is no diplomat.

When a lady says no, she means perhaps; when she says perhaps, she means yes; when she says yes, she is no lady.

Google Books
America’s Aims and Asia’s Aspirations
By Patrick Gallagher
New York, NY: The Century Company
1920
Pg. 58:
Most people know the story about the diplomat and the lady. When a lady says “No,” she means “Perhaps”; when she says “Perhaps,” she means “Yes”; if she says “Yes,” she’s no lady. When a diplomat says “Yes,” he means “Perhaps”; if he says “Perhaps,” he means “No”; if he says “No,” he ‘s no diplomat. Mr. Balfour avoids using the word “No.”

Google Books
10 April 1920, The Independent (UK), “A Long Way from Earth” by Harold Howland, pg. 48, col. 2:
It is like the old aphorism about the difference between a diplomat and a lady. “When a diplomat says ‘yes’ he means ‘perhaps,’ when he says ‘perhaps’ he means ‘no,’ if he says ‘no’ he is no diplomat. But when a lady says ‘no’ she means ‘perhaps,’ when she says ‘perhaps’ she means ‘yes,’ if she says ‘yes’ she is no lady.”

Google News Archive
24 October 1953, Kentucky New Era (Hopkinsville, KY), “Looking At Life” by Erich Brandeis, pg. 5, col. 4:
It reminds me of an old saying, “when a diplomat says yes, he means perhaps; when he says perhaps, he means no; when he says no, he is no diplomat.”

Google News Archive
19 July 1955, Florence (AL) Times, “Shirtsleeve Diplomacy,” pg. 4, col. 1:
Once diplomacy was regarded as a skilled game played by crafty but polite gentlemen on a diplomatic chessboard. As an old proverb puts it, “if a diplomat says YES he means PERHAPS, when he says PERHAPS he means NO, but it is not becoming to a diplomat to say NO.”

Google News Archive
21 January 1957, St. Petersburg (FL) Times, “Diplomatic Double Talk Puzzling to Most of Us” by Donald J. Gonzales (UP), pg. 10, col. 3:
To sum it up, one diplomatist said he once heard something like this: “When a diplomat says yes he means perhaps; when he says perhaps he means no; when he says no he is no diplomat.”

Google News Archive
15 July 1960, Lakeland (FL) Ledger, “Today’s Chuckle,” pg. 1, col. 4:
When a diplomat says yes he means perhaps, when he says perhaps he means no, and when he says no he is no diplomat.

Google Books
Oxford Dictionary of Quotations by Subject
Edited by Susan Ratcliffe
New York, NY: Oxford University Press
2010
Pg. 307:
If a lady says No, she means Perhaps; if she says Perhaps, she means Yes; if she says Yes, she is no Lady.
If a diplomat says Yes, he means Perhaps; if he says Perhaps, he means No; if he says No, he is no Diplomat.
Lord Dawson of Penn 1864–1945 British physician; Francis Watson Dawson of Penn (1950)

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When a politician says yes, he means perhaps; when he says perhaps, he means no; and when he says no, he is no politician. - Joe Moore
7:35 PM - 7 Nov 2014

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • Friday, November 07, 2014 • Permalink