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.

Recent entries:
“Why does no one starve in a desert?” (joke) (11/27)
“How many apples grow on a tree?/"All of them.” (11/27)
“How many cranberries grow on a bush?"/"All of them.” (11/27)
“What’s the best thing to put into a cake or pie?"/"Your teeth.” (11/26)
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Entry from June 20, 2009
“Today is a gift—that’s why it’s called the present”

"Today is a gift—that’s why it’s called the present” has been cited in print since at least 1993 and possibly originated on a Hallmark greeting card. The newspaper comic strip “The Family Circus” by Bill Keane, published on August 31, 1994, contained this wisdom: “Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a GIFT. That’s why it’s called the present.” The phrase is often changed slightly: “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift—that’s why it’s called the present.” The saying “yesterday is history, tomorrow’s a mystery”—without “today is a gift”—has been cited in print since at least 1967.

The newspaper comic strip “Ziggy” by Tom Wilson had this by at least 1996 (when it was published in an anthology): “Today is a gift...That’s why it’s called ‘The present.’”

A similar phrase is: “Yesterday is a canceled check. Tomorrow is a promissory note. Today is ready cash—spend it wisely.”

[This entry was prepared with assistance from Jonathan Lighter of the American Dialect Society.]


11 July 1967, Altoona (PA) Mirror, Family Weekly, pg. 13:
You must forget the past. Yesterday is history, tomorrow’s a mystery. Follow the AA philosophy of quitting one day at a time and seeking divine guidance.

2 August 1993, Galveston (TX) Daily News, pg. 11A, col. 2 ad:
Today is a gift, thats (sic) why its called the present
MAINLAND FLORAL, INC.
Hallmark

31 August 1994, Aiken (SC) Standard, ‘The Family Circus” (comic strip) by Bill Keane, pg. 13:
“Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a GIFT. That’s why it’s called the present.”

Google Books
Real Moments
By Barbara De Angelis
New York, NY: Dell
1994
Pg. 28:
Yesterday is history.
Tomorrow is a mystery.
Today is a gift.
That’s why we call it “the present.”

27 October 1994, Indiana (PA) Gazette, “Dear Abby"(Abigail Van Buren) column, pg. 12:
If you read only one book this year, make it “Real Moments,” by Barbara De Angelis (Delacorte Press). (...) Another gem from this philosophical little book: “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why we call it ‘the present.’”

Google News Archive
18 August 1995, Bryan (TX) Times, pg. 10, col. 4:
In the comic sections of the newspapers, one can find plenty of good theology in very simple terms for us to understand. One of those messages was in the comic strip, “The Family Circus,” by Bill Keane.

Dolly was explaining a thought to her younger brother in child-like understanding. “yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.”

Google Books
The First 25 Years Are the Hardest
(Ziggy cartoons—ed.)
By Tom Wilson
Kansas City, MO: Andrews and McMell
1996
Back cover:
There’s Ziggy at Mom’s Diner, Ziggy addressing the heavens, and, very often, looking straight at us, while dispensing such wisdom as, “Today is a gift...That’s why it’s called ‘The present.’”

Google Books
The Little Book of Wisdom
By Richard Torregrossa
Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc.
1996
Pg. 78:
Yesterday is history, tomorrow is mystery, and today is a gift; that’s why they call it the present.
-- Source Unknown

31 March 1996, Lexington (KY) , “Food for Thought,” pg. K1:
One of her favorites is a “Ziggy” cartoon that she keeps posted on her refrigerator that says: “Today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.”

14 January 1997, Austin (TX) American-Statesman, “So They Say” by kevin Haggis, pg. C2:
I ran across a piece of prose from a guy who said, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.”

5 November 1997, Deer Park (TX) Broadcaster, “Evelyn’s Hearsays” by Evelyn Huddleston, pg. 4, col. 2:
Yesterday is history, tomorrow a mystery, today a gift; that is why it is cvalled the present.

Google Books
The Ten Habits of Naturally Slim People
By Jill H. Podjasek with Jennifer Carney
Chicago, IL: Contemporary Books
1998
Pg. 62:
I read the following wisdom in a greeting card years ago: “Yesterday is history; tomorrow is mystery; today is a gift; that is why they call it the present.”

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityBanking/Finance/Insurance • (0) Comments • Saturday, June 20, 2009 • Permalink