Friday, 6 October 2017

First against the wall

Having been a long-term fan of Douglas Adams, I have many favourite quotes from his writing. One of them is from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, when Arthur and Ford have been plucked from space by the Heart of Gold's improbability drive, and are meeting Zaphod and Trillian (not forgetting Marvin).

There is an aside at this point, from the book, which reads (Adams, 1979, p. 73): 
The Encyclopedia Galactica defines a robot as a mechanical apparatus designed to do the work of a man. The marketing division of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation defines a robot as "Your Plastic Pal Who's Fun to Be With. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy defines the marketing devision of the Sirius Cybernetic Corporation as "a bunch of mindless jerks who'll be the first against the wall when the revolution comes”.

Ah, it still makes me smile after all these years. However, I suddenly realised that Douglas Adams really can't be the first to formalise the phrase: that [x] will be "first against the wall when the revolution comes". This must pre-date Mr Adams: in fact, it feels quite early twentieth century. I went to try and find an earlier source. However, I haven't been able to find anything earlier than Mr Adams on the web.

So I have turned to the Quote Investigator. Hopefully, one day, enough of us will have asked him to push the request up to the top of his very, very long queue of requests.

And if any of you know where that comes from, I would love to hear it!


  • Adams. D. (1979). The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. UK: Pan Books.
  • O'Toole, Garson (n.d.). Quote Investigator. Retrieved 17 August 2017 from

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