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Half the Fun

In response to:

The Getty: For Better and Worse from the November 16, 2006 issue

To the Editors:

Did Olympic Airways steal their advertising slogan, “Half the fun is getting there” (as quoted by Martin Filler in “The Getty: For Better and Worse,” NYR, November 16, 2006), from Cunard Steamship Lines’ “Getting there is half the fun,” or did Cunard steal theirs from Olympic?

Ian MacDougall

Tokyo, Japan

Martin Filler replies:

Ian MacDougall is quite tactful in supposing there might have been a later Olympic Airways variant of the famous Cunard Line slogan “Getting there is half the fun.” However, in my Getty Villa piece, I erroneously quoted the phrase, in reverse, as “Half the fun is getting there,” and thereby ensued an instructive example of undue belief in the veracity of the Internet. Mr. MacDougall has proved his mettle in challenging John Mullar’s reading of no less than Fanny Burney in the London Review of Books (September 20, 2001), and it is his kind of readership that keeps us writers up, up on our toes.

Indeed, I first thought a steamship company had used the motto as I misremembered it. However, as it is difficult to find such references to advertising in printed sources, I searched Google instead. Alas, my backward construction took me to a Wikipedia entry erroneously citing Olympic Airways as sponsor of that catchy line. I remained doubtful, but unable to contact the shade of Aristotle S. Onassis for verification, I fell into the electronic trap.

There is no question that the Internet, and particularly the miracle of LexisNexis, now allows writers quick access to a greater range of published information than ever before. It would be easy to claim, as Rick Blaine did in Casablanca, “I was misinformed.” Yet my experience shows how questions of a nonscholarly nature can lead to regrettable lapses. In matters of architectural dating, for example, I first consult the published works of Henry-Russell Hitchcock, whose scrupulousness about such seemingly mundane details will never be surpassed. I am particularly grateful to Mr. MacDougall for the timeliness of his response, which allows me to correct my mistake in time for publication of Makers of Modern Architecture, the collection of my essays that New York Review Books will bring out this spring.

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