origin of ‘I’ve got the time if you’ve got the inclination’

The phrase I’ve got, or we’ve got, the time if you’ve got the inclination, and variants, are used when making an offer of services—as, for example, in this advertisement published in the Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, New York) of Friday 2nd October 1970:

'we've got the time if you've got the inclination' - Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, N.Y.) - 2 October 1970

. . . WE’VE GOT THE TIME
. . . IF YOU’VE GOT THE
INCLINATION . . . TO
TALK ABOUT YOUR
REAL ESTATE PROBLEM
. . . WHATEVER IT IS . . .
CALL US
385-2280
WINSTON REAL ESTATE

This phrase seems to have originated in a joke which first occurred in print in the column The Marquee, by Dick Kleiner (1921-2002), published in several U.S. newspapers in December 1955 and January 1956—for example in the Shamokin News-Dispatch (Shamokin, Pennsylvania) of Thursday 8th December 1955:

TV Toppers—Bennett Cerf 1 (“What’s My Line?” CBS-TV): Said the Tower of London to the Tower of Pisa, “I’ve got the time and you’ve got the inclination.”

1 The U.S. publisher Bennett Cerf (1898-1971) was an occasional panellist on the television game show Who Said That?.

However, the joke was ascribed to someone else in the Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Florida) of Monday 23rd January 1956:

Arlene Francis 2 claims she overheard the Tower of London say to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, “Let’s get together, kid. I’ve got the time—and you’ve got the inclination!”

2 The U.S. actress, and radio and television talk-show host, Arlene Francis (Arline Francis Kazanjian – 1907-2001) was a regular panellist on the television game show Who Said That?.

From 1956 onwards, the joke often reappeared in some version or another.

It was in particular used in advertisements; for example:

– In this advertisement for Ray Lamberson’s Conoco Service Station, published in The Collinsville News (Collinsville, Oklahoma) of Thursday 15th March 1956:

Said the Tower of London to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, “I’ve got the time, you’ve got the inclination.”
Take the time to bring your car in for a grease job and change of oil. We have the inclination to visit, too.

– In this advertisement for Dinner Horn Food Store, published in the Ogden Standard-Examiner (Ogden, Utah) of Thursday 19th April 1956:

“Do you know what the Leaning Tower of Pisa said to the Tower of Westminster Abbey?” Ans: “If you’ve got the time, I’ve got the inclination.”

Published in many U.S. newspapers in June 1956—for example in The Daily Telegram (Columbus, Nebraska) of Tuesday the 19th— the following by H. D. Quigg, United-Press staff correspondent, probably popularised the joke:

New York (UP)—Reports from Italy hint that the leaning tower of Pisa may have to be rebuilt. […]
[…]
We have checked and found there is no truth in the ancient legend that Conrad Hilton is going to buy the tower, turn it into a hotel, and name it “The Tiltin’ Hilton.”
Nor is there substance to the report that it is going to be turned into a restaurant called “The Leaning Tower of Pizza.”
There was a rumor, some months ago, that the leaning tower sent a note to Big Ben in London. The note said: “You’ve got the time and I’ve got the inclination.”
This is true. We wouldn’t end this piece on a false note.

In his column Laughs from the Air, published in the Daily News (New York City, N.Y.) of Sunday 23rd September and Sunday 7th October 1956, George Maksian attributed the joke to the U.S. singer-songwriter Jim Lowe (1923-2016):

On CBS-radio’s “Upbeat Saturday Night” Jim Lowe sprang this quip: “Did you hear what the Westminster Tower said to the Tower of Pisa? Let’s you and me get together. I’ve got the time and you’ve got the inclination.”

Phyllis Battelle punned on both time and inclination in her column Assignment America, published in several U.S. newspapers in December 1957—for example in The Morning Telegraph (Tyler, Texas) of Tuesday 17th:

New York (INS)—There is a new disturbing note in these days of scuttling satellites.
It involves young love, and what’s to become of the ancient art of gazing at the sunset, otherwise known as stellar smoochmanship.
Visualize the modern couple—usually a little shy, a trifle reverent, in love with love, as they stroll into the dusk . . .
He: “Lovely night and you’re lovely.”
She: “Thanks.”
He: “Do you know that that little twinkle up there is the North Star?”
She: “Yeah?”
He: “And if we stand here long enough, we’ll see the Milky Way, and I’ll give you a kiss for every pint.”
She: “Wow. You got the time? On a watch, I mean?”
He: “6:45.”
She: “You got any inclination?”
He: “Baby . . .”
She: “Not that kind, Buster. Sputnik 3 inclination.”
He: “65 degrees. Flight path, northwest to southeast. But doesn’t it matter I love you?”
She: “Sure, sweetheart. You ready for action?”
And when the young man finally opens his eyes, she is gone—having scurried to the nearest perchable rock or porch step to watch the latest whatsnik speed across the sky.

3 The noun sputnik designates each of a series of Soviet artificial satellites, the first of which, launched on Friday 4th October 1957, was the first satellite to be placed in orbit.