There are several well known Sherlock Holmes quotes and phrases from the classic detective stories written by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930).
There’s the famed phrase “a three-pipe problem” from "The Red-Headed League" (1891); “The game is afoot” from “The Adventure of the Abbey Grange” (1904); and, “the curious incident of the dog in the night-time” (curious because the dog did nothing) in “Silver Blaze” (1893).
There are also two famous Sherlock Holmes quotations that weren’t in the original stories.
In Doyle’s tale “The Crooked Man” (1893), Sherlock does say “Elementary” to his friend Doctor Watson. However, he doesn’t say “Elementary, my dear Watson.” That quote actually comes from Sherlock Holmes movies. It was first used in the film The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1929), which starred Clive Brook as Sherlock, and was further popularized by its use in later Holmes flicks.
And, there’s nothing even close to the oft-quoted line “Quick, Watson, the needle” in A.C. Doyle’s stories. That comes from a comedic operetta titled The Red Mill (1906), which premiered on Broadway on September 24, 1906. (Thus solving the mystery of how today’s post on This Day in Quotes is linked to September 24th.)
That old operetta is not a Sherlock Holmes story. The “needle” line is a quip by a con man who is impersonating Sherlock as part of a scam. But somehow it became famous as “a Sherlock Holmes quote.”
The 1939 film Hound of the Baskervilles further confused the facts about whether it was “real” Sherlock quotation. In that film – one of the best of a series Holmes films that starred Basil Rathbone as the sleuth – Basil as Holmes says “Oh, Watson, the needle.”
There’s no quote like that in Doyle’s stories. But the stories do tell us that Sherlock was a user of both cocaine and morphine. In “A Study in Scarlet” (1887), Watson comments that he often found Sherlock in a dreamlike state and “suspected him of being addicted to the use of some narcotic.”
Three years later, in Doyle’s “The Sign of Four,” fans of Sherlock first read about the “seven-percent-solution.”
As that story begins, Watson sees Sherlock injecting himself with a needle and notices ugly track marks on his arm. “Which is it today,” Watson asks, “morphine or cocaine?”
“It is cocaine,” Sherlock replied, “a seven-per-cent solution. Would you care to try it?”
Since then, the drug habit of the world’s greatest detective has sparked continuing controversy, articles, books and a great movie, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976).
Here are some of the other famous quotes and phrases linked to SEPTEMBER 24:
• “Who are those guys?” - Repeated question posed by Robert Redford to Paul Newman in the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, which was released in the U.S. on September 24, 1969.
• “Smells Like Teen Spirit” – Famed grunge song title and lyric by the band Nirvana, written by Kurt Cobain, from the Nevermind album – which was released on September 24, 1991.
• “In Iran, we don't have homosexuals, like in your country.” - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaking at Columbia University in New York, September 24, 2007.