I assume you have heard of Doug Baker. Your recent column on cops and bagpipes reminded me of something Baker once said: "A gentleman is a man who knows how to play the bagpipes, but does not play them." —Richard C.
I'm going to be honest with you, Richard: I wouldn't have known Doug Baker if he'd come up and bit me on the ass. (Although I'm sure I'd have gotten to know him subsequently.) However, several of our newsroom's most esteemed centenarians looked up from their walkers, eyes seeming almost to focus, at the mention of his name.
Doug Baker, it turns out, was a columnist for the late, lamented Oregon Journal, back in the 20th century when they wouldn't give a column to just any asshole off the street.
Unfortunately, while Mr. Baker may have been a fine fellow—the aforementioned centenarians seem to regard him with a reverence they normally reserve for Matlock—he didn't originate the bon mot you're giving him credit for.
Don't feel too bad, though—many of our most well-worn quotations weren't said by the people they're credited to (usually Winston Churchill, Mark Twain, Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein or Gandhi).
You can combat this tsunami of misattribution—quotations expert Nigel Rees has christened it "Churchillian drift"—by fact-checking your ripostes at QuoteInvestigator.com, a resource nearly as invaluable as Snopes.com for those who tend to begin their (who am I kidding, our) sentences with the word "actually."
QI is how I learned that a version of the zinger above first appeared (as "my idea of a gentleman is he who can play a cornet and won't") in a Kansas newspaper in 1917, well before Baker's midcentury heyday. Since then the gag has been variously attributed to Twain, Oscar Wilde, Will Rogers and, probably at least once, to Churchill.
In 1965, it even appeared (unattributed) on the front page of Portland's other daily, The Oregonian, as "Today's Chuckle," a daily 25-word "column" created in 1948 by journalist Tom Collins. (Imagine an early, text-based version of The Family Circus.)
Incidentally, "Today's Chuckle"—a daily dad joke that probably shared material with Laffy Taffy riddles—was at one point the most widely syndicated front-page feature in the world. It was such a valuable franchise that when Collins died, he passed it down to his son Harlan, who creates it to this very day. I guess I'm in the wrong line of work. Oh, wait.
Questions? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org