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Life begins at 40 from the 1940's

Posted by ESC on June 18, 2004

In Reply to: Life begins at 40 from the 1940's posted by Word Camel on June 18, 2004

: : : : : HI. Thanks for your help.
: : : : : I'm developing a thesis that midlife and midlife crises and the idea of a rich and meaningful middle years (35 to 60) really emerged in the U.S. only in the last 50 years. The 1900 census only considered peole in the age range 19-44!

: : : : : so I am looking for when the phrase "life begins at 40" entered the culture. It seems to be a common cliche today. But when did peopel start saying it? Any help on this one?
: : : : : Thanks again
: : : : : Please write me directly.
: : : : : Philip Belove.

: : : : I think they started in January 2003 in preparation for November that year. At least that's what I noticed.

: : : I'll check my references this evening and post if I find anything.

: : "The 1900 census only considered peole in the age range 19-44!"

: : What do you mean by this?

: : As to the saying "Life begins at 40" I don't know that it is any more of a popular phrase than "at 50" or "at 60". In fact, I am sure I have heard it less than either of those two figures.

: : My favorite was a sticker I saw that covered the lower half of a motorcycle's speedometer - "Life begins at 65"

: It means that in the 1900 census they didn't count people over age 44 or under 19. Perhaps it has something to so with mortality rates?

: Life begins at 40, according to Eric Partridge's Dictionary of Catch Phrases, "was generated in the 1940's by a much-read book so titled - and by a popular song. I'm guessing this was the original that spawned the other "life begins at..." phrases.

LIFE BEGINS AT 40 -- "Middle age marks the start of a welcome new stage of life. Maturity is the best time of life. Generally attributed to American writer W. B. Pitkin (1878-1953)...
1932: 'Life Begins at Forty' -- Title of a book by W. B. Pitking.
1937: 'Life begins at Forty' -- Title of a song by Jack Yellen & Ted Shapiro, sung by Sophie Tucker.
1990: Life may begin at 40, but so too does age discrimination, at least according to the law -- Daniel Moreau, 'Take Charge of Your Career.'
1991: All our age benchmarks, which used to seem solid as rocks, have turned into shifting sands. 'Life begins at 40? More like 60' -- New York Times..."

From "Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings" by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996). Page 214.