Sherlock Holmes’ Famous Saying Wasn’t Part of the Original Works
By Kaye Nemec
The fictional character, Sherlock Holmes, was brought to life in 1887 by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who authored 56 short stories and 4 novels about Holmes. The majority of the stories, all but 4, were narrated by Holmes’ fictional friend, Dr. Watson. The stories were hugely popular and the last one was published in 1927, they were and even still are adapted to stage and screen.
Even if you haven’t read any Sherlock Holmes stories, you’ve probably heard people quote Holmes’ popular phrase, “Elementary, my dear Watson.” Although this quotation is synonymous with Sherlock Holmes, it was not written by Sherlock Holmes author Conan Doyle.
The phrase was written by P. G. Woodhouse in his novel, Psmith Journalist in 1915. Its next known use was at the end of the film The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1929) which was the first Sherlock Holmes film with sound. The phrase grew in popularity from there, through various radio, screen and stage shows.
Not once in any of the 60 Sherlock Holmes’ stories written by Conan Doyle does Holmes say the exact words, “Elementary, my dear Watson.” He often refers to his more logical conclusions as “elementary” and, once in a while, he does refer to Dr. Watson as “my dear Watson” but he never used them together.
David Shore, creator of the popular TV medical drama House, pays homage to Sherlock Holmes throughout the series. For example, Sherlock Holmes lived at 221B Baker Street and the main character in the show, Dr. Gregory House, lives in apartment 221B. Holmes occasionally used cocaine; House was addicted to Vicodin until season 6. Shore also says he chose the name House because it was a play on the name Holmes. In addition, both Holmes and House have only one true friend. Holmes has Dr. Watson and House has Dr. Wilson.