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 13, 2018
“It wasn’t school John disliked, it was just the principal of it”

"Principal” and “principle” are often confused. A joke was published in Life (a New York City humor magazine) on February 4, 1926, and was frequently reprinted in newspapers:

Teacher:, WHY DON’T YOU LIKE OUR SCHOOL, WILLIE?
Willie: OH, IT’S NOT SO MUCH THE SCHOOL—IT’S THE PRINCIPAL OF THE THING.

“It wasn’t school John disliked, it was just the principal of it” is a one-line form of the joke that has been cited in print since at least 1996.


4 February 1926, Life (New York, NY), pg. 6, col. 2:
Teacher:, WHY DON’T YOU LIKE OUR SCHOOL, WILLIE?
Willie: OH, IT’S NOT SO MUCH THE SCHOOL—IT’S THE PRINCIPAL OF THE THING.

6 March 1926, Waterloo (IA) Evening Courier, “The Fun Box,” pg. 5, col. 6:
OFTEN THE CASE
“It’s not the school,” said the little boy to his mother; “it’s the principal of the thing.”

4 April 1930, Brook (IN) Reporter, “The ‘Principal’ of the Thing” by Genevra Cook, pg. 6, col. 2:
WILMA DAILEY gazed pensively out of the window. Before her on the writing table lay the unanswered letter of the family. “What is the matter with Brantwood High?” they wanted to know. “Don’t you like teaching? Isn’t it a good school?”

With a sigh born of long hours of unaccustomed dignity, Wilma ran her fingers rebelliously through her bright hair, seized her pen, and scrawled flippantly through the white sheet, making an impudent little face as she wrote:

Dear Family:
It’s not the school. It’s the principal of the thing.

4 June 1930, Miami (FL) Daily News, pg. 4, col. 3:
Students strike when school head is dismissed. It wasn’t that they didn’t like the school; it was the principal of the thing.

12 September 1930, Chicago (IL) Daily Tribune, “A Line O’ Type Or Two,” pg. 14, col. 4: 
THINKOGRAMS.
It’s not school that children fear so much but the principal of the thing.

29 August 1935, Republican and New Age (Tunkhannock, PA), pg. 6, col. 1:
Disgruntled school boy: “It’s not the school I dislike, it’s the principal of the thing.”

7 September 1939, Milwaukee (WI) Journal, pg. 18, col. 6:
The Reason
From the Sheffield (England) Weekly Telegraph.
There was no doubt about it. Little Johnny just hated going to school. His father tried for a long time to get at the real reason without any success. lhe decided to refer the problem to the headmaster.

“Now tell me, Johnny, why don’t you like school?” the head asked the next morning.

“Oh,” explained Johnny, in all innocence, “it isn’t so much the school I dislike! It’s the principal of the thing!”

18 January 1945, Fayette County Leader (Fayette, IA), pg. 1, col. 6:
Disgruntled school boy: “It’s not the school I dislike, it’s the principal of the thing.”

19 August 1996, The Arizona Republic (Phoenix, AZ), “Web adds postcards bulb jokes” by David Hoye, pg. E1, col. 1:
“It wasn’t school John disliked, it was just the principal of it.”

Google Groups: bit.listserv.travel-l
puns for the weekend
Sonnie Willis
9/14/96
Past Puns of the day
(...)
32. It wasn’t school John disliked, it was just the principal of it.

Google Books
Kids’ Nuttiest Jokes
By Mike Benny
New York, NY: Sterling Publishing Company, Inc.
2003
Pg. 15:
Did you hear about the kid who didn’t like something about school?
It was the principal of the thing.

Twitter
PUNS‏
@omgthatspunny
It wasn’t school John disliked it was just the principal of it. #punny
2:20 PM - 5 Jan 2012

Twitter
Grammarly‏
@Grammarly
It’s not school I dislike, just the principal of it. #pun #English http://bit.ly/29i9tjX
11:00 AM - 6 Jul 2016

Reddit—Oneliners
It wasn’t school John disliked, it was just the principal of it.
submitted February 14, 2018 by wonliners

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityEducation/Schools • Tuesday, February 13, 2018 • Permalink