Saturday, 30 November 2013


"Through a great thundering mist, Alexander Jones heard THE WORDS.
"'Not at all. Elementary, my dear Watson!'"

- Poul Anderson and Gordon R Dickson, Earthman's Burden (New York, 1979), p. 121.

It had to happen.

People rightly say that Holmes never said that. But then why is it attributed to him? There are reasons why I think that it is a legitimate quotation. It would be more accurate if it were punctuated, " dear Watson!" but that is grammatically awkward.

(i) Holmes does say, "Elementary."
(ii) He does say, "My dear Watson."
(iii) Once, and I am not going to look it up now, he says both in quick succession in the course of a single conversation over two or three pages.

Therefore, it is legitimate to:

infer that Holmes would have said THE WORDS at some time in an off-stage conversation;
attribute THE WORDS to him in some of the many sequels and adaptations.

In Casablanca: I think that the line "Play it again," is addressed to a character called Sam, hence that other spurious quotation, "Play it again, Sam."

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