Leo Rosten: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Did you know ...

  • the famous quote "No man who hates dogs and children can be all bad" generally attributed to Leo Rosten was actually first used in 1930 by future war correspondent Byron Darnton?

More interesting facts on Leo Rosten

Include this on your site/blog:


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Leo Calvin Rosten (April 11, 1908 - February 19, 1997) was born in Lodz, Russian Empire (now Poland) and died in New York City. He was a teacher and academic, but is best known as a humorist in the fields of scriptwriting, storywriting, journalism and Yiddish lexicography.




Rosten was a successful screenwriter. He wrote the story for The Dark Corner, a film noir starring Mark Stevens; and Lured, the Douglas Sirk-directed period drama featuring Lucille Ball. He is listed as one of the writers for Captain Newman, M.D. adapted from his novel of the same title. Other films: Mechanized Patrolling (1943) (as Leonard Q. Ross), They Got Me Covered (1943) (story) (as Leonard Q. Ross), All Through the Night (1942) (story) (as Leonard Q. Ross), The Conspirators (1944) (screenplay), The Velvet Touch (1948), Sleep, My Love (1948) (novel) (screenplay), Double Dynamite (1951) (story), Walk East on Beacon (1952), and Mister Cory (1957) (story).

Stories and books

Rosten is best remembered for his stories about the night-school "prodigy" Hyman Kaplan (first published in The New Yorker in the 1930s, and later reprinted in two volumes—The Education of H*Y*M*A*N K*A*P*L*A*N and The Return of H*Y*M*A*N K*A*P*L*A*N, under the pseudonym Leonard Q. Ross).

He is also well-known for his encyclopedic volume The Joys of Yiddish (1968), a guide to the Yiddish language and to Jewish culture (as well as a source for anecdotes and Jewish humor). It was followed by O K*A*P*L*A*N! My K*A*P*L*A*N! 1976, and Hooray for Yiddish! (1982) , a humorous lexicon of the American language as influenced by Jewish culture. Another Rosen work is Leo Rosten's Treasury of Jewish Quotations.


Among his own many quotations are: "A conservative is one who admires radicals centuries after they're dead," "Truth is stranger than fiction; fiction has to make sense," "We see things as we are, not as they are," and "I cannot believe that the purpose of life is to be happy. I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be compassionate. It is, above all to matter, to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all."

At a tribute dinner to fellow humorist W. C. Fields, a youngish and reportedly nervous Rosten came up with the unscripted remark about Fields that "anyone who hates babies and dogs can't be all bad!" This statement is often misattributed to Fields himself.

Personal life

In 1935, Rosten married Priscilla Ann "Pam" Mead (1911-1959), sister of anthropologist Margaret Mead. They had two daughters: Madeline Rosten and Margaret Ramsey Rosten, and a son, Philip Rosten (1938-1996), who in turn had 6 grandchildren, Josh and Ben Lee (Madeline), Seth Muir (Margaret), and Alexander, Carrie and Pamela Rosten (Phillip). Carrie followed in her grandfather's literary footsteps and has authored three books, including a young adult novel, Chloe Leiberman (Sometimes Wong). Leo's and Pam's marriage ended in divorce. Rosten's second wife, whom he married in 1960, was Gertrude Zimmerman (1915-1995).[1]

According to Alex Abella's Soldiers of Reason, Rosten was influential in forming the Social Sciences division of RAND Corporation.


  • The Education of H*Y*M*A*N K*A*P*L*A*N (1930s) (as Leonard Q. Ross)
  • The Return of H*Y*M*A*N K*A*P*L*A*N (1930s) (as Leonard Q. Ross)
  • All Through the Night (1941) (story) (as Leonard Q. Ross)
  • They Got Me Covered (1943) (story) (as Leonard Q. Ross)
  • Mechanized Patrolling (1943) (as Leonard Q. Ross)
  • The Conspirators (1944) (screenplay)
  • The Dark Corner (1946) (story)
  • Lured (1947)
  • Sleep, My Love (1948) (novel) (screenplay)
  • The Velvet Touch (1948)
  • Double Dynamite (1951) (story)
  • Walk East on Beacon! (1952)
  • Mister Cory (1957) (story)
  • Leo Rosten Bedside Book (1962)
  • Captain Newman, M.D. (1963) (novel)
  • The Joys of Yiddish (1968)
  • People I Have Loved, Known or Admired (1970)
  • A Most Private Intrigue (1970)
  • Rome Wasn't Burned In a Day: The Mischief of Language (1972)
  • Home is where to learn how to hate (1973)
  • A Trumpet for Reason (1974)
  • The Washington Correspondents (Politics and People) (1974)
  • Dear (1975)
  • The Cook Book (1975)
  • Religions of America (1975)
  • Hollywood: Movie Colony the Movie Makers (1975)
  • Dear Herm (1975)
  • O K*A*P*L*A*N! My K*A*P*L*A*N! (1976)
  • The 3:10 to anywhere (1976)
  • Look Book (1976)
  • Leo Rosten's Treasury of Jewish Quotations (1977)
  • The Power of Positive Nonsense
  • Passions & Prejudices: Or, Some of My Best Friends Are People (1978)
  • Silky. A Detective Story (1979)
  • Infinite Riches (1979)
  • King Silky (1981)
  • Hooray for Yiddish: A Book About English
  • Giant Book of Laughter (1985)
  • Leo Rosten's Book of Laughter (1986)
  • Hebrew-English Lexicon of the Bible (1987)
  • The Joys of Yinglish (1988)
  • Leo Rosten's Giant Book of Laugh (1989)
  • Leo Rosten's Carnival of Wit: From Aristotle to Woody Allen (1996)

See also


  1. ^ NY Times obituary, February 20, 1997.


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

What's green, hangs on a wall and whistles?

Leo Calvin Rosten (11 April 190819 February 1997) was an American teacher, academic and humorist best remembered for his stories about the night-school "prodigy" Hyman Kaplan and for The Joys of Yiddish (1968).


  • The only thing I can say about W. C. Fields ... is this: Any man who hates dogs and babies can't be all bad.
    • Although a very common misconception is to attribute the final part of this quote to W.C. Fields himself, it was actually first said about him by Rosten during a "roast" of Fields at the Masquer's Club in Hollywood in 1939, as Rosten explains in his book, The Power of Positive Nonsense (1977).
  • I learned that it is the weak who are cruel, and that gentleness is to be expected only from the strong.
    • Captain Newman, M. D (1962), p. 328; this is also sometimes attributed to Leo Buscaglia, who often quoted it in his addresses and in his book Living, Loving and Learning (1982).
  • What's green, hangs on a wall and whistles?
    • Riddle presented in The Joys of Yiddish (1968) The answer: "A Herring" — because you can paint it green, nail it to the wall — and the whistling part is added just to make the riddle hard. Rosten did not claim to be the author of this riddle, but he popularized it.
  • Extremists think "communication" means agreeing with them.
    • As quoted in Peter's Quotations: Ideas for Our Time (1979) compiled by Laurence J. Peter, p. 100

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address