Pauline Friedman Phillips, better known by her pen name, Abigail Van Buren, died on Thursday at age 94, after a decade-long battle with Alzheimer's. She was born 17 minutes after her identical twin sister, Esther Lederer, and published her first Dear Abby column in 1956, three months after Esther's debut as Ann Landers. Phillips chose her pen name from the Bible ("Then David said to Abigail 'Blessed is your advice and blessed are you'" —the Book of Samuel) and our eighth president (she liked the "old-family, presidential ring" of Van Buren, says Margalit Fox in The New York Times). And after charming and cajoling her way into an advice columnist job at the San Francisco Chronicle, Abby transformed the staid, prudish world of dishing out syndicated advice, along with her sister.
"Any of us who do this owe them such a debt," advice columnist Carolyn Hax tells the AP. "The advice column was a backwater of the newspaper, and now it is so woven into our cultural fabric. These columns are loved and widely read, by people you wouldn't expect. That couldn't have happened without them." But as intertwined as the sisters' rival columns were, they "differed in style," says the AP's Jocelyn Noveck. "While Ann Landers responded to questioners with homey, detailed advice, Abby's replies were more flippant and occasionally risqué." Here's are some of Dear Abby's best one-liners, frisky or otherwise:
Dear Abby: My boyfriend is going to be 20 years old next month. I'd like to give him something nice for his birthday. What do you think he'd like? —Carol
Dear Carol: Nevermind what he'd like, give him a tie.
Dear Abby: Our son married a girl when he was in the service. They were married in February and she had an 8 1/2-pound baby girl in August. She said the baby was premature. Can an 8 1/2-pound baby be this premature? —Wanting to Know
Dear Wanting: The baby was on time. The wedding was late. Forget it.
Dear Abby: Is it possible for a man to be in love with two women at the same time? —Jake
Dear Jake: Yes, and also hazardous.
Dear Abby: I've been going with this girl for a year. How can I get her to say yes? —Don
Dear Don: What's the question?
Dear Abby: I've been going steady with this man for six years. We see each other every night. He says he loves me, and I know I love him, but he never mentions marriage. Do you think he's going out with me just for what he can get? —Gertie
Dear Gertie: I don't know. What's he getting?
Dear Abby: My wife sleeps in the raw. Then she showers, brushes her teeth and fixes our breakfast — still in the buff. We're newlyweds and there are just the two of us, so I suppose there's really nothing wrong with it. What do you think? —Ed
Dear Ed: It's O.K. with me. But tell her to put on an apron when she's frying bacon.
Dear Abby: What's the difference between a wife and a mistress? —Bess
Dear Bess: Night and Day.
Dear Abby: About four months ago, the house across the street was sold to a "father and son" — or so we thought. We later learned it was an older man about 50 and a young fellow about 24. This was a respectable neighborhood before this "odd couple" moved in. They have all sorts of strange-looking company. Men who look like women, women who look like men, blacks, whites, Indians. Yesterday I even saw two nuns go in there!... Abby, these weirdos are wrecking our property values! How can we improve the quality of this once-respectable neighborhood? —Up In Arms
Dear UP: You could move.
Dear Abby: I joined the Navy to see the world. I've seen it. Now, how do I get out?
Dear Navy: Simple. Go to your superior officer and say these 2 words: I'm Gay.
Dear Abby: I have always wanted to have my family history traced, but I can't afford to spend a lot of money to do it. Have you any suggestions? —M.J.B. in Oakland, Calif.
Dear M.J.B.: Yes. Run for a public office.
Dear Abby: What inspires you most to write? —Ted
Dear Ted: The Bureau of Internal Revenue.
Dear Abby: Are birth control pills deductible? —Bertie
Dear Bertie: Only if they don't work.
Dear Abby: I know boys will be boys, but my 'boy' is seventy-three and he's still chasing women. Any suggestions? —Annie
Dear Annie: Don't worry. My dog has been chasing cars for years, but if he ever caught one, he wouldn't know what to do with it.