March 9, 2005

The Gruesome Origins of a Common Catchphrase

WHILE DIVING DEEP INSIDE the Los Angeles Public Library's vast online photo collection, I came across this image from 1928:

As it was part of a larger image search that had nothing to do with one "Sanford Clark," it gave me a brief moment of amusement. It is has become a common catchphrase in the last few years, to say with a small laugh or a knowing smirk, "That's my story and I'm sticking to it." People tend to use it following the telling of a silly story or when relating an absurd rationalization. I saved the image and went on to pursuing my original subject. Sorting through about 500 saved images from that search this morning, I came upon the image again. Noting that the item was from, according to the information that accompanied it, 1928, it struck me that this was a very early use of a catch-phrase in common usage today. There are fashions, fads, and phases in our common language (Where is "Where's the beef?" today? Does it "Sleep with the fishes?"). Still it seemed that this was a very early example of a contemporary chunk of current conversation. What did it actually mean? What was the story that this Sanford Clark "will stick to?"

As usual, Google supplied the answer to "Sanford Clark" and "crime" by pointing me to and a long gone poultry ranch in Riverside, California in the 1920s; a poultry ranch that contained many chickens, a few axes, a mother in league with her son (a serial killer with a pedophile's obsessions) and the single appearance in history of a nephew named Sanford Clark.

"The outbursts reportedly upset his nephew, who was "training for the priesthood" by tending chickens at age 15. Under investigation, the neighbor recalled seeing Gordon beat Clark on occasion, and he urged detectives to "find out what goes on" at Northcott's ranch. Immigration officials struck first, taking Clark into custody on a complaint from his Canadian parents, and the boy regaled authorities with tales of murder, pointing out newly-excavated "grave sites" on the ranch. Detectives dug up blood-soaked earth, unearthing human ankle bones and fingers on September 17. They also found a bloodstained ax and hatchet on the premises, that Clark said had been used on human prey, as well as chickens." is pleased, as these sites always are, to supply more grisly details that will confirm you in the belief that some souls are beyond redemption, and that there is no evil that humans are not capable of committing. Reading it, it has ruined this particular catchphrase for me. I'll never use it lightly again.

That is my story and I will stick to it.

Posted by Vanderleun at March 9, 2005 9:17 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.


Posted by: alex at March 9, 2006 2:41 PM

I don't know why, but I'm one of those who would rather know. As for redemption, eh, that's not my purview. But I'd rather know.

Strangely enough, these sorts of stories make me optimistic. There are monsters living among us and we're still doing pretty well, which speaks volumes about the human character.

Posted by: B. Durbin at March 10, 2006 11:48 AM

Aimee Semple McPherson repeatedly used this phrase over the radio during 1926 in her defense to critics of her claim she'd been kidnapped. She was a very public persona, as well known as Babe Ruth and Charles Lindberg at that time, so her using this phrase would likely cause it to catch on.

Posted by: Bill Schroeder at October 14, 2011 6:29 PM

This person actually claims the term was coined by Aimee McPherson -

Posted by: Bill Schroeder at October 14, 2011 6:51 PM