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 August 12, 2012
“A diplomat is anyone who thinks twice before saying nothing”

"Diplomat: A gent who thinks twice before he says nothing” is a jocular saying that has been cited in print since at least August 1953. Another version is, “"A diplomat is anyone who thinks twice before saying nothing.” The saying has appeared in many collections of one-liners and also has a version where “husband” replaces “diplomat.”

Frederick Sawyer (an American writer born in 1947) has been credited with the saying since at least 1989, but he could not have popularized it by 1953.

[The earliest citation in 1953 was found with the assistance of the Quote Investigator.]


August 1953, Reader’s Digest, “Toward More Picturesque Speech,” pg. 37, col. 1:
Diplomat — a gent who thinks twice before he says nothing (The Flint Weekly Review).

19 November 1953, Pella (IA) Chronicle, “Quips From Here, There Everywhere,” pg. 3, col. 3:
Diplomat: A gent who thinks twice before he says nothing.

13 December 1953, Billings (MT) Gazette, “The Nebbs” by Hess (comic strip), pg. 7:
(Young girl, on family road trip to Washington, DC—ed.) WHAT’S A DIPLOMAT?
(Father—ed.) A DIPLOMAT IS A MAN WHO THINKS TWICE BEFORE HE SAYS NOTHING!

Google Books
January 1954, Changing Times: The Kiplinger Magazine, pg. 2, col. 1:
Diplomat — One who thinks twice before saying nothing.

15 January 1954, San Antonio (TX) Express, pg. 4A, col. 3:
Changing Times defines a diplomat as “one who thinks twice before saying nothing.” One who speaks without saying anything and without thinking at all is Russia’s chief delegate to U.N.

5 August 1954, State-Times (Baton Rouge, LA), “Pull Up a Chair” by Neal O’Hara, pg. 4A, cols. 6-7:
Definition snipped from somewhere: “Diplomat—One who thinks twice before saying nothing.”

Google Books
January 1956, Boys’ Life, “Think and Grin,” pg. 71, col. 3:
Daffynishion: Diplomat — A person who thinks twice before saying nothing. — Ted Retzlaff, Orchard Park, N. Y.

Google News Archive
28 November 1956, Glasgow (Scotland) Herald, “London Correspondence: Resentment with America,” pg. 6, col. 6:
For a man who believed that his audience would apply to him that unkind description of an ambassador as a person who thinks twice before saying nothing, Sir Roger Makins, lately Britain’s Ambassador in Washington, and now Permanent Secretary to the Treasury, did very well to-day.

Google News Archive
12 September 1957, The Bladen Journal (Elizabethtown, NC), pg. 2, col. 1:
A henpecked husband is a man who thinks twice before saying nothing.

Google News Archive
15 March 1962, The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA), “Shop with Sue” (advertisement), pg. 3, col. 7:
A diplomat is anyone who thinks twice before saying nothing.

Google Books
What a piece of work is man!:
Camp’s unfamiliar quotations from 2000 B.C. to the present

Edited by Wesley Douglass Camp
Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall
1989, ©1990
Pg. 70:
DIPLOMAT ... A man who thinks twice before saying nothing.
Frederick Sawyer

Google Books
And I Quote:
The definitive collection of quotes, sayings, and jokes for the contemporary speechmaker

By Ashton Applewhite, Tripp Evans and Andrew Frothingham
New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press
1992
Pg. 273:
A diplomat is a man who thinks twice before he says nothing. — Frederick Sawyer

Google Books
Little Gems of Wisdom:
Advice from Grandpa

By J. D. Kroft and D. James Kennedy
Vienna, VA: Xulon Press
2000
Pg. 73:
A diplomat is a man who thinks twice before saying nothing. — Frederick Sawyer

Google Books
Friars Club Encyclopedia of Jokes:
Over 2000 One-Liners, Straight Lines, Stories, Gags, Roasts, Ribs & Put-downs

Compiled by Barry Dougherty abd H. Aaron Cohl
New York, NY: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Inc.
2009
Pg. 329:
A smart husband is one who thinks twice before saying nothing. 

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • (0) Comments • Sunday, August 12, 2012 • Permalink