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 08, 2014
“I wouldn’t start from here” (joke)

An old joke is told about a big city motorist who is lost in the countryside. He asks a local how to get to a big city. (Various cities have been named in the joke.) The local tries to give him directions, then gives up and says, “If I wanted to get there, I wouldn’t start from here.”

The joke has been cited in print since at least 1924, when an Englishman asked an Irishman for directions. The joke has been applied to mean that if a person wanted to get there (a successful place), he or she wouldn’t start from here (a humble place).


Google Books
The Hibbert Journal:
A Quarterly Review of Religion, Theology, and Philosophy

Volume 22
1924
Pg. 417:
A GENIAL Irishman, cutting peat in the wilds of Connemara, was once asked by a pedestrian Englishman to direct him on his way to Letterfrack. With the wonted enthusiasm of his race the Irishman flung himself into the problem and, taking the wayfarer to the top of a hill commanding a wide prospect of bogs, lakes, and mountains, proceeded to give him, with more eloquence than precision, a copious account of the route to be taken. He then concluded as follows: “‘Tis the divil’s own country, sorr, to find your way in. But a gintleman with a face like your honour’s can’t miss the road; though, if it was meself that was going to Letterfrack, faith, I wouldn’t start from here.”

17 February 1927, Morning Sun (IA) News-Herald, pg. 7, col. 6:
How to Get There
An Englishman, who was far off his course and confused about his next directions, asked an Irishman, cutting peat in the wilds of Connemara, how to get to Letterfrack. The Irishman labored over the directions, so intricate and roundabout were the roads, until, having done his best, he added this: “If it was meself that was going to Letterfrack, faith I wouldn’t start from here!”—New Outlook.

18 March 1929, The Evening Repository (Canton, OH), pg. 4, col. 6:
THE START IS EVERYTHING.
Burton Brown comes across with the story about the motorist who sat in a pouring rain in a southern town, drenched, unhappy and utterly bewildered. Ultimately a native came along. “Can you direct me how to get to Louisville?” asked the motorist.

“Well,” was the reply, “you can go straight down this road about a mile and then turn left three blocks—no; I guess it would be better to keep on for about two miles until you come to a big monument, and then turn right as far as the cemetery, when...wait a minute, that’s wrong...What you’d better do is to go back about six blocks and...”

Here the native hesitated for a few seconds, scratched his ear, and exclaimed, “Aw, if I was going to Louisville, mister, I wouldn’t start from here.”

23 February 1930, The Sunday Oregonian (Portland, OR), “Where to Start” by Bruce Barton, magazine sec., pg. 8, col. 3:
I told him about a friend of mine who was driving through the Kentucky mountains. Wanting to get to Cincinnati for the night, he asked directions of a native.

“Go down this road about ten miles, then take your right turn,” the native began. Then he stopped and spat. “No, I think you’d do better to go the other way and take your first left.” He spat again, thought deeply and then, in a sudden burst of confidence, exclaimed: “Tell you what, neighbors. If I was aiming to go to Cincinnati I wouldn’t start from here.”

13 November 1931, Hyde Park Herald (Chicago, IL), pg. 10, col. 3:
Don’t Start From Here!
Story told by Dr. L. P. Jacks, recently retired from the principalship of Manchester College in Oxford:

A genial Irishman, cutting peat in the wilds of Connemara, was once asked by a pedestrian Englishman to direct him on his way to Letterfrack. With the wonted enthusiasm of his race, the Irishman flung himself into the problem, and taking the wayfarer to the top of the hill commanding a wide prospect of bogs, lakes, and mountains, proceeded to give him, with more eloquence than precision, a copious account of the route to be taken. He then concluded as follows: “‘Tis the devil’s own country, sorr, to find your way in. If it was myself that was going to Letterfrack, faith, I wouldn’t start from here.”

14 May 1933, Springfield (MA) Sunday Union and Republican, “LAUGHS in the lives of the FAMOUS” by Lee Frank, pg. 3D, col. 5:
C. F. KETTERING, president of General Motors Research Corporation, says that there are two parts of an automobile which have not yet been perfected. One sits at the steering wheel, the other stands in the roadway and gives wrong directions.

Mr. Kettering was touring Ohio and he asked a farmer the right road to Cincinnati.

The farmer advised: “You go down to the fork of the road; it doesn’t matter which part of the road you take. To tell the truth, if I was going to Cincinnati, I wouldn;t start from here at all.”

Google News Archive
3 April 1952, The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA), “Senator Soaper Says,” pg. 4, col. 2;
It becomes harder all the while to point out the way to peace. As the mountaineer said to the lost motorist, “If I was going to Portland, I wouldn’t start from here.”

Google News Archive
7 January 1961, The Gazette (Montreal, Quebec), “‘There Is A Way From You To Heaven’—Cleric” by Rev. John Pearce, pg. 33, col. 2:
This makes me thing of a traveller who was lost in a country district of England. He stopped a man and asked: “Can you tell me how to get to London?” The farmer scratched his head for a while and then said: ‘Well, if I wanted to get to London, I wouldn’t start from here.” The traveller had to reply: “Well, I am sorry, but here is where I am, and if I am going to get to London, I must start from here.”

Googe Books
Seeing Through Photographs
By Michael Hiley
London: Gordon Fraser
1983
Pg. 12:
Like the countryman in the joke giving directions to a passing motorist who thought carefully and then advised ‘Well, sir, if I were you I wouldn’t start from here . . .’, let me say that the best place to look for modern art is not in the art galleries.

Google Books
Remembering God:
Reflections on Islam

By Gai Eaton
Chicago, IL: ABC International Group: Kazi Publications [distributor]
2000
Pg. 196:
There is a hoary old joke that has been going the rounds for at least half a century but which has many applications. A traveller asks an Irishman the best way to his destination. After some thought, he replies: “If I were going there, I wouldn’t start from here.”

Google Books
International Financial Markets:
The Challenge of Globalization

Edited by Leonardo Auernheimer
Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press
2003
Pg. 318:
In other words, it is like the old joke about the city slicker lost in the countryside in New England and asking the old crotchety mean farmer how to get to Boston, and the farmer’s answer is “Well, if I were you I wouldn’t start from here.” [Laughter]

Google Books
The Way of the Dog:
The Art of Making Success Inevitable

By Geoff Burch
Chichester, West Sussex: Capstone
2005
Pg. ?:
I love the joke of the person asking the way and being told, ‘If I wanted to get there, I wouldn’t start from here!’ Well, you do start from here, so be certain where here is and don’t fool yourself into thinking you are somewhere else

allAfrica
7 AUGUST 2014
Africa: Poverty Is Not a Disease
ANALYSIS
By Martin Kirk and Joe Brewer
(...)
Judging by what’s being produced, though, we have a serious problem. The best way to describe it is with an old joke: There’s a man driving through the countryside, trying to find a nearby town. He’s desperately lost and so when he sees a woman by the side of the road he pulls over and asks for directions. The woman scratches her head and says, “Well, I wouldn’t start from here.”

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityBanking/Finance/Insurance • Friday, August 08, 2014 • Permalink