Wise Man Say: Politically Incorrect Comic No Funny

Vintage Cartoon Book "Confucius Say" Cartoon illustration Confucius

In this collection of bawdy, jokes offending women or race is no concern. Whether sexual harassment at work, date rape or body shaming all is fair game. Vintage Book “Confucius Say” 1940

In the joke books we are never going to see again department, an honorary mention goes to this well-worn 1940 book Confucius Say which for a mere 25 cents manages to offend both women and Asian Americans in one fell swoop.

Today when comics and comedians are afraid to crack controversial jokes for fear of offending politically correct sensibilities, the PC police would have tripped over themselves in the rush to confiscate this cartoon book which in its 40 pages is unabashedly sexist and racist.


Vintage Cartoon Chinese Man in rickshaw being pulled by woman

Cartoon from Vintage Book “Confucius Say” 1940

Confucius Say: He Who Can’t Take  Joke, Never Laugh.

vintage cartoon confuscius goes to laundry

Cartoon from Vintage Book “Confucius Say” 1940

Sure, sexist, misogynist humor was a staple among comics in the good old days before the PC Police came and put the kibosh on good American fun; what gives this book its double bang for your buck in sheer tastelessness is its portrayal of Confucius as a dirty old man, dispensing his wisdom in the ways of the ladies.


Vintage cartoon confuscious with sexy girl on his arm

Cartoon from Vintage Book “Confucius Say” 1940

The wise Chinese philosopher beloved by some Americans as the father of fortune cookie wisdom, took a decidedly more bawdy tone in this collection of “adult” cartoons where he expresses his racy remarks in mangled English.


Vintage cartoon Confucius reading

Cartoon from Vintage Book “Confucius Say” 1940

Filled with sage advice about gold diggers and dumb blondes, objectification is fair game when it comes to the fairer sex

Crazy for Confucius

vintage cartoon Confucius War and Peace

Cartoon from Vintage Book “Confucius Say” 1940

In 1940 when this paper back book appeared, Confucius, China’s most important teacher who lived and taught 500 years before Christ, was suddenly making a comeback.

For a year in which the world seemed on the precipice of destruction as Hitler goosestepped all over Europe and daily bombardments of England stunned Americans, a search for some meaning in such perilous times would be understandable.

But, no there was not a renewed interest in the great philosopher’s moral teachings .

Because Americans like their morality lite, it was Confucius Say jokes that were all the rage.

vintage cartoon confuscious in river floating

Cartoon from Vintage Book “Confucius Say” 1940

Suddenly on city street corners and at newsstands, hundreds of pitchmen hawked pamphlets containing 200 “Witty” Daring, Confucius” remarks.

In night clubs and over the radio, singers chanted a new hit called “Confucians Say” performed by Mr. Auld Lang Syn himself Guy Lombardo. Many major American newspapers began carrying a “Confucius Say” column with content solicited by readers.

chinese lettering

In February of that year Life magazine commented on the craze in an article:

In every city and village from coast to coast last week, Americans were stopping other Americans and chortling: ‘You know what Confucius say? “Girl with future should beware of man with past.’…or any one of the hundreds of similar stylized apothegms published and un published good and bad, clean and dirty.

Wise Man Say: The Jokes on You

Walter Winchel Newspaper

The man responsible for this sudden surge of Confucius wisdom was none other than that snap-brim fedora wearing Broadway columnist Walter Winchell. A year earlier the godfather of gossip began using Confucius parodies in his widely read columns.

Syndicated in 2000 newspapers one can’t underestimate the influence that Winchell held.Through it, in a world not yet transformed by television, he amassed extraordinary power, often wielded ruthlessly, as a purveyor of gossip, innuendo, and decidedly politically incorrect jokes (If a married couple broke up, Winchell found them “sharing separate tepees.”)
It wasn’t long before comedians Jack and Benny Fred Allen picked up the trick of Confucius Say on their radio programs.

The rage spread.

Sage Advice

Cartoon from Vintage Book "Confucius Say" 1940

In this collection of bawdy, jokes offending women or race is no concern. Whether sexual harassment at work, date rape or body shaming all is fair game. Cartoon from Vintage Book “Confucius Say” 1940

Lets take a peek at some of those pearls of wisdom offered in this book  that promised to help make dinner table wits of even the dullest of dudes.

vintage cartoon confucious

Cartoon from Vintage Book “Confucius Say” 1940

chinese lettering SWScan05199

                                                           Old maid is woman who has been good- for nothing.

vintage cartoon confuscious

Cartoon from Vintage Book “Confucius Say” 1940

She who laugh last probably had it explained to her.

vintage cartoon Confucius painting nude model

Cartoon from Vintage Book “Confucius Say” 1940

Man will forgive woman for being 2 faced but not for being double chinned.

Vintage cartoon confusious

Cartoon from Vintage Book “Confucius Say” 1940

Old maid book-keeper count on fingers but young girl count on legs.


Vintage cartoon confuscious

Cartoon from Vintage Book “Confucius Say” 1940


Confuscious sexist SWScan05206


Vintage cartoon confuscius and sexy woman

Cartoon from Vintage Book “Confucius Say” 1940

Funny what girl do for drink but lot funnier what she do after drink.

vintage cartoon confuscious with dragon

Cartoon from Vintage Book “Confucius Say” 1940

                                             Some girls like cigarettes not very satisfying until lit.

The Sages Advice is especially instructive to the working girl:

Confuscious say cartoon

Cartoon from Vintage Book “Confucius Say” 1940

Secretary not office fixture until she’s on desk.

text stenorapher SWScan05208                                      

In business secretary who work for rich boss find self in lap of luxury.

                                         To get ahead, girl pretty as a picture must also show action in close-ups.

                                         Man offering girl movie contract often like to pull a few strings first.

vintage cartoon Confucius

Cartoon from Vintage Book “Confucius Say” 1940

Girl who go out with Tom Dick and Harry also have eye peeled for Jack.

sexist type SWScan05207

Women without principle draw considerable interest.

text SWScan05227

Vintage cartoon confucius

Cartoon from Vintage Book “Confucius Say” 1940

Diamonds don’t grow on trees but right kind of limbs get them.

And the final pearl of wisdom says it all:

Confucious Say SWScan05217

© Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



  1. On the Web, I stumbled across some pamphlets and cartoon drawings about “The Yellow Peril” – which seems to have been the West Coast’s own version of the “N**ro Problem”. But you never hear about it these days – at least not over here in Europe. By the way, when did the (polite) N-word became taboo? Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, used it about 16 times in his famous speech “I have a dream” that he held at the Lincoln Monument in Washington, D.C. for the 200.000+ who had marched the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom”.The speech took place August 28, 1963. It got extensive coverage by the Swedish television. In those days, we had only one (1) channel, so everybody saw the same programs and could discuss them the next day at school or at work. I wouldn’t be surprised if they will beep out the word if and when the maybe best rhetoric speech ever would be aired again.

    We have a growing number of people here, trying to make their career by being PK and hunting down and demonizing anybody who is not 100 percent conforming or just slipping. I can’t but think about the witch hunts of the 17th century, or senator Joseph McCarty’s hunt for communists – and when he ran out of communists, he persecuted homosexuals instead. In spite of himself being homosexual – as another powerful homophobic – the FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. If there is a reward in money or status for finding “heretics”, heretics will be found.

    Then, and several years after that, it was correct to use the N-word spelled with a capital N. When the Black Power movement appeared, with the Black Panthers and so on, you could also use the word “the Blacks” without any bad feelings. The term “African American” isn’t perfect, as if e.g. a white Boer from South Africa moves to the USA – what should he be called? Colored is also taboo – but not “man of Color”? Or should it be “Man of Color” and “Woman of Color”?

    Europeans writing in English encounter many traps. We don’t use capitalization as much. Christian is in Swedish “kristen”, English is “engelska”, a Chinese is “kines” – and July is “juli”, Monday is “måndag”, Christmas Eve is “julafton”. But God is Gud – but only the Christian God gets the courtesy. But I can’t really remember – should it be the Devil or devil, Hell or hell?

    But I think I will go out lobbying for capitalization for the days of the week and months – and the Sun and the Moon and the Earth and so on, in Swedish too. It kind of feels better – why should Aldebaran and Betelgeuse be spelled with capitals in Swedish, but not the Sun, the Moon and the Earth? For the Earth we could use Tellus or Terra, and for the Sun Sol, but why not be consistent? Would be much easier in our bi-lingual times.
    Inverted racism, social “blackface” – or what? Could you became a honorary Black?
    “Rachel Dolezal, the former Spokane, Wash., N.A.A.C.P. chief, was ensnared in a national debate about identity and race last month when her parents told reporters that although she claimed to be black she was born Caucasian.

    The resulting controversy exploded on social media and cost Ms. Dolezal friends and jobs, she has said. But speaking to Vanity Fair in an article published over the weekend, she was unrepentant. Indeed, she doubled down on her claim: “I wouldn’t say I’m African-American, but I would say I’m black, and there’s a difference in those terms.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • I don’t believe you are correct in stating that Martin Luther King used what we call the “N” word in his famous speech. He did use the “N” word – Negro, which was the popular term of that time period for African Americans. There are some doctored speeches on line which insert the “N” word into Dr Kings speeches but those were falsified.


      • A misunderstanding! Seems like we Swedes have succeeded to overtake the USA in Political Correctness! You get as much public shaming for using the “MLK-word” – Negro – as you over there would by usning the “redneck-K.K.K.-n-word” A young woman lost her freelance job for the TV after she wrote the N-word in her blog, in the context like “I think N are nice people”. A shitstorm grade 5 raged for a week or two.

        Leader of the lynch-mob was a young African, adopted I think, that makes a good living doing third class rapping and is often hired by political organizations and so on. Then we were a couple who pointed out that Adam Tensta used the word all the times in his rapping, and not the polite N-word but the KKK-n-word (with two ‘g’). So his groupies said that was a long time ago, but I found the lyrics from this spring, peppered with n-words between the usual like calling women ‘bitches’ and ‘hoes’.

        But just like in the US, there are a lot of lilly white boys who tries to be rap stars – and somehow they seem to have been awarded some kind of licence for using the word, or have being appointed to honorary N. There was just a sort of mild breeze of criticism over EMINEM:s latest recordings – where he is bragging of his capacity as ‘lover’ with lines saying that “even the bitches I rape are coming”. So the rappers are something like the Master Race of our times – standing above the law, so to speak. And wearing a cultural black-face is no problem.

        About variation in skin color or hues – as far as I know, mostly for thousands of old blues lyrics, terms like yellow, high yellow, brown, black, seal skin black and so on. The words Mulatto, Octoroon, Quadroon, Quintroon and so on – along with Mestizo several more – I think you’ll only meet them in older books, like 100 year old boys’ western stories

        Derogatives for N are many, some of the even used by themselves. There seems to be quite common among the N to use the n-double g word, on the web, and in Facebook. But I am very careful to not use them – it probably is similar to Jews telling Jewish jokes – the can do it, but not the likes of me.

        I thought the word ‘honky’ or ‘honkies’ was ‘invented’ in the 60’s – but the other day I heard it in a blues from 1935. James “Kokomo” Arnold – Busy bootin’ — “I met your mama in the alley way x3; she’s catching honkies both night and day” – as the song has lyrics that qualify for the top one percent of “dirtyness”, I won’t post the link here. But it stems from the same roots as Little Richard’s “Keep A-Knockin'” and so on.

        Seems like it is possible that Pete Seeger wrote this. Seeger must have been the nicest Stalinist ever?
        There is several versions of this song around.
        ‘Black, Brown And White’ BIG BILL BROONZY (1951)

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Susan

    I hope someone will accurately translate the two sets of Chinese characters for us (one seems to begin with a date.) I doubt that the joke book’s writers had a translator on staff. The series of 1930’s Charlie Chan movies starring Causasian actors probably contributed to the popularity of “Confucius say” in popular culture. America’s history of anti-Chinese legislation is appalling, and so is our ignorance of the contribution of Chinese immigrants to American history.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s a small world – and strange! Warner Oland – the actor who made the Charlie Chan detective movie series a success was – a Swede playing a Chines detective in the USA!
      “Warner Oland (October 3, 1879 – August 6, 1938) was a Swedish American actor most remembered for his screen role as the detective Charlie Chan. He moved to the United States when he was 13 and pursued a film career that would include time on Broadway and dozens of film appearances. He starred in a total of 16 Charlie Chan films.”

      “He was born Johan Verner Ölund in the village of Nyby, Bjurholm Municipality, Västerbotten County, Sweden. He claimed that his vaguely Asian appearance was due to possessing some Mongolian ancestry,though his known ancestry contains no indication that this was so.”

      Note: Västerbotten couldn’t be compared to any county, it is about the same size as Connecticut – but Connecticut has 22 times as many inhabitants

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, our history of ant-Chinese legislation and our fear of the “Yellow Peril” is shameful.


    • I guess that it would be a nightmare for any unskilled laborer if there came people that would be glad to do his work for half the pay. Minimum wages big enough to sustain a family – or strong unions would stop dumping of wages, and then most of the problem would be solved.


  4. This is awful, but it shows the strength of this blog.
    People get all nostalgic about the early-to-mid 1900’s, thinking it must have been a wonderful time, better than today. But your blog shows, in many ways, it wasn’t. It’s sickening.
    Great work!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Robert Merritt

    I’m looking for some information into this book as a collector of vintage things. I found a copy of this Confucious say magazine and request ant additional insight as to its value. I like how you blog explains how our society was in the mid 1900s but provides a reflection of how our nation has progressed. I believe this to be a racist and sexist book but also feel it serves as historical reflection to educate how we have changed.


    • I’m glad you enjoyed the post. What was once socially acceptable is rightfully now viewed through a more contemporary sensitive lens I’d quite offensive. I’ve no doubt in 20 years hence we can view some of today’s pop culture through a different lense and find it off putting.
      I don’t have any information on the market value of the magazine. I often check ebay to see what something is selling for if you can find it there which might be able to


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