Origin of Deckchairs on the Titanic.

Many people have written me about the origin or original meaning of the aphorism “Arranging the Deckchairs on the Titanic,” and I’ve spent a good deal of time researching it on the Web, with very little to show for it. The saying essentially means, of course, doing ridiculous activites in the face of crippling adversity. I believe that the title, recommended by friend V.S. for this blog a few years ago, is ironically apt and, in fact, perhaps applies to many weblogs. I mean this as a compliment.
More interestingly, I asked a Google Researcher to help with finding more information about the aphorism and I found, much to my great surprise, that it originates sometime in the early 1970s, when I was a tike, and not in the 1920s, when I was, well, nothing. It appears that the phrase was originally in reference to PR debacle. The researcher, who was paid for his services through the excellent Google Answers wrote:
The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (5th Ed. 1999), page 533, lists a
quotation from the Washington Post, 16 May 1976, by Rogers Morton,
American public relations officer: “I’m not going to rearrange the
furniture on the deck of the Titanic.” The context, according to the
dictionary, was that Morton had lost five of the last six primaries as
President Ford’s campaign manager.

I’ll write more about this later, but here is the full Google report.

One thought on “Origin of Deckchairs on the Titanic.”

  1. I’m going to this titanic exhibit next week, I’ll be sure to inquire further:

    “This blockbuster exhibit allows you to experience the sights, sounds, and feelings of this epic tragedy. Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition features hundreds of artifacts recovered from the Titanic wreck site and a chronological journey from the ships design and construction, through its fateful maiden voyage and sinking, to the scientific recovery efforts that made this exhibit possible.”

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