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 February 03, 2011
“A waist is a terrible thing to mind”

"A waist is a terrible thing to mind” is a dieter’s motto, taken from the United Negro College Fund’s motto of “A mind is a terrible thing to waste” (in trademarked use since 1975). The transposition of the words “waste/waist” and “mind” makes this a “transpositional pun” or an “anti-proverb.”

“A waist is a terrible thing to mind” has been cited in print since at least 1977. Overweight Atlanta Braves baseball pitcher Terry Forster appeared on David Letterman’s late-night television show and made fun of his fat, popularizing “A waist is a terrible thing to mind” for a mass audience.


Wikipedia: Transpositional pun
A transpositional pun is a complicated pun format with two aspects. It involves transposing the words in a well-known phrase or saying to get a daffynition-like clever redefinition of a well-known word unrelated to the original phrase. The redefinition is thus the first aspect, the transposition the second aspect.

As a result, transpositional puns are considered among the most difficult to create, and commonly the most challenging to comprehend, particularly for non-native speakers of the language in which they’re given (most commonly English).

Examples
Pun:
Dieting: A waist is a terrible thing to mind.
Original reference:
“A mind is a terrible thing to waste”, the motto of the United Negro College Fund.

Wikipedia: Anti-proverb
An anti-proverb is the transformation of a stereotype word sequence – as e. g. a proverb, a quotation, or an idiom – for humorous effect. To have full effect, an anti-proverb must be based on a known proverb. For example, “If at first you don’t succeed, quit” is only funny if the hearer knows the standard proverb “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Anti-proverbs are used commonly in advertising.

Stereotype sequences are essentially defined phrases well-known to many people, as e. g. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you. When this sequence slightly changed (Don’t bite the hand that looks dirty) it is termed a transformation.

Classification on formal criteria
. Permutation: While keeping the syntactic structure, the words are jumbled: A waist is a terrible thing to mind.

20 August 1977, Oregonian (Portland, OR), pg. B7, col. 1:
Now that I am past 60, and am fighting a spare tire around the middle, I have discovered that a waist is a terrible thing to mind!—HUGH A. SCOTT, Tigard.

New York (NY) Times
SCOUTING; Forster Finds Fat Bringing Fame
By Robert McG. Thomas Jr. and Thomas Rogers (The New York Times); Sports Desk
August 15, 1985, Thursday
Late City Final Edition, Section B, Page 13, Column 1, 343 words
Sticks and stones may break his bones, but when it comes to verbal assaults on his softer tissue, words merely egg Terry Forster on. That seems to have been the case when the pudgy pitcher for the Atlanta Braves was held up to ridicule on national television as ‘’the fattest man in professional sports.’’ The insult, delivered in June by David Letterman on his late-night television show, was not far off the mark. Forster, a 6-foot-4-inch middle reliever, is listed in the Atlanta roster at 220 pounds, which seems to represent at least 30 pounds worth of wishful thinking by the Braves’ statisticians. But, instead of complaining about Letterman’s assault, Forster has cashed in on his new fame as a glutton. First he accepted a guest appearance on the Letterman show, walking on stage eating a sandwich and remarking at one point, ‘’A waist is a terrible thing to mind.’’

Google News Archive
23 August 1985, Meriden (CT) Record-Journal, “Leisure Laffs” by Ray Morin, pg. 27, col. 1:
Educators say a mind is a terrible thing to waste. Dieters say a waist is a terrible thing to mind.

Google News Archive
15 November 1985, Washington (PA) Observer-Reporter, Byron Smialek column, pg. C5, col. 1:
Bumper snicker: A waist is a terrible thing to mind.

OCLC WorldCat record
A waist is a terrible thing to mind
Author: Jan Phillips; Cathy Conheim; Marie-Christine Forester
Publisher: La Jolla, Calif. : Breakthrough Press, ©2000.
Edition/Format:  Book : English

OCLC WorldCat record
A waist is a terrible thing to mind : loving your body, accepting yourself, and living without regret
Author: Karen Scalf Linamen
Publisher: Colorado Springs, Colo. : WaterBrook Press, ©2010.
Edition/Format:  Book : English : 1st ed

(Trademark)
Word Mark “A MIND IS A TERRIBLE THING TO WASTE” UNCF
Goods and Services IC 036. US 102. G & S: charitable fund raising. FIRST USE: 19750100. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19750100
Mark Drawing Code (3) DESIGN PLUS WORDS, LETTERS, AND/OR NUMBERS
Design Search Code 13.01.02 - Blow torch; Propane torches; Torches; Welding torch
Serial Number 74177318
Filing Date June 17, 1991
Current Filing Basis 1A
Original Filing Basis 1A
Published for Opposition March 31, 1992
Registration Number 1696481
Registration Date June 23, 1992
Owner (REGISTRANT) UNITED NEGRO COLLEGE FUND, INC. CORPORATION NEW YORK 8260 WILLOW OAKS CORPORATE DRIVE P. O. BOX 10444 FAIRFAX VIRGINIA 220314511
Attorney of Record Edward W. Gray, Jr.
Type of Mark SERVICE MARK
Register PRINCIPAL
Affidavit Text SECT 15. SECT 8 (6-YR). SECTION 8(10-YR) 20020829.
Renewal 1ST RENEWAL 20020829
Live/Dead Indicator LIVE

(Trademark)
Word Mark A WAIST IS A TERRIBLE THING TO MIND
Goods and Services (ABANDONED) IC 030. US 046. G & S: frozen yogurt
(ABANDONED) IC 042. US 100. G & S: restaurant services
Mark Drawing Code (1) TYPED DRAWING
Serial Number 74219825
Filing Date November 7, 1991
Current Filing Basis 1B
Original Filing Basis 1B
Published for Opposition May 19, 1992
Owner (APPLICANT) I CAN’T BELIEVE IT’S YOGURT, LTD. composed of Brice Foods, Inc., a Texas corporation LIMITED PARTNERSHIP TEXAS 5005 LBJ Freeway, Suite 700 Dallas TEXAS 75244
Attorney of Record Jefferson Perkins
Type of Mark TRADEMARK. SERVICE MARK
Register PRINCIPAL
Live/Dead Indicator DEAD
Abandonment Date February 12, 1993

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • (0) Comments • Thursday, February 03, 2011 • Permalink