Sigmund Freud: Sometimes a Cigar is Just a Cigar

Ah the burdens of celebrity are mighty, especially when you’re a famous intellectual. Of course, I’m referring to myself, Buzzkillers, but other brainiacs have suffered before me. Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis and one of the most famous scientists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, has been heavily burdened with a lot of quote attributions since his death, including the “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar” line. As you know, Freudian analysis placed a lot of analytical weight on the symbolic and psychological meanings how people used and valued common items, such as cigars and cigarettes.

Among other things, Freud was more or less a smoking addict by the time he finished medical school. He became especially fond of cigars and even gradually became annoyed in social circles where smoking was frowned upon or where other men weren’t smoking. As Freud’s stature grew and he became a noted professor, people noticed that his students and medical assistants made sure to take up cigar smoking.

As I said, many everyday objects seemed packed with symbolism and psychological meaning, especially when people seem addicted to their use. Further, many things seemed phallic to Freud. But did this include the humble cigar?

If you are a devotee of the inter-webs and a follower of one of the endless number of “Quote of the Day” Twitter feeds, you are convinced by now that Freud famously dismissed over-thinking and over-analysis by saying, “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” But did he ever say it?

No, Buzzkillers. But you’d be forgiven for thinking that the good doctor was the father of this quote because expert psychiatrists and biographers of Freud said he was. Reference to this supposed Freudian quip appeared in reputable journals from the 1950s through the 1970s. Those authors often said it was a “well-known” Freudianism.

The Quote or No Quote research experts here at the Institute have relied on the work of Garson O’Toole, the Quote Investigator, as well as Fred Shapiro of the Yale Book of Quotations to conclude that there’s no evidence that Freud ever said it. When Dr. Alan Elms, a psychology professor and historian of psychology concurred in an article entitled “Apocryphal Freud: Sigmund Freud’s Most Famous ‘Quotations’ and Their Actual Sources,” the chapter was closed on this famous saying being one of Freud’s.

After all, Buzzkillers, sometimes a quote is just a no quote.

Buzzkill Bookshelf:

Leave a Comment