What is the origin of the expression "you argue with someone who buys ink by the barrel"? I heard it on the news and I would like to know who coined the expression.
- Anybody can ask a question
- Anybody can answer
- The best answers are voted up and rise to the top
It basically means don't pick a fight with the press or media.
It sometimes called "Greener's Law" and attributed to William Greener, but according to this page, it was Congressman Charles Brownson who coined it in 1964.
Charles Doyle, Wolfgang Mieder & Fred Shapiro, The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs (Yale University Press, 2012) has this entry:
Roaring Fish is correct in identifying "Bornson" as Representative Charles Brownson (Republican—Indiana), It is unclear, however, whether Brownson used to make his quip about high-volume ink buyers while he was in Congress or only afterward. The Wikipedia article for Brownson notes that he served in Congress from January 3, 1951, to January 3, 1959, and thereafter worked as a congressional liaison (until 1964) and as a public relations professional (until his retirement in 1985). It seems more accurate to say that he made the statement by 1964 (when he was quoted to that effect in Leibowitz's book) than that he made the statement in 1964.
"Greener's Law" is cited in Fred Shapiro, The Yale Book of Quotations (2006), as follows:
The 1931 quotation from Steward in Yale's Dictionary of Modern Proverbs is interesting as an early expression of the idea of the power of one who buys ink in bulk. An even earlier expression of this idea appears in a bit of doggerel in Educational Review (1927) [combined snippets]:
The William H. Allen mentioned in the first line appears to have been William Harvey Allen, director of the Institute for Public Service, and a big wheel in New York in the 1910s and 1920s.
Also from 1927 is this excerpt from a book review of The Public Life of Thomas Cooper, 1783–1839, in North Carolina Historical Review [combined snippets]:
So it appears that the propensity to use "ink by the gallon" was already viewed in 1927 as making a political figure formidable. But in the absence of more-specific information, the crown for formulating the proverb as we know it today goes to Charles Bownson, who had done so by 1964.
protected by tchrist Jan 7 '15 at 0:54
Thank you for your interest in this question.
Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.
Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?