“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”

This funny quote, commonly attributed to comedian Groucho Marx, might have a much cooler origin story.

One researcher and author says the quip might have originated in the “Think & Grin” section of Boys’ Life magazine.

According to a post on Quote Investigator, a website dedicated to finding the true provenance of popular quotes, the earliest mention of Groucho’s joke is in 1974.

That’s a full 20 years after Jim Brewer of Cleveland shared the following joke with Boys’ Life magazine: “A book is man’s best friend outside of a dog, and inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”

The joke appeared on page 78 of the February 1954 issue, which you can see below. Jim’s joke is the second from bottom in the first column.

Quote Investigator admits that Jim might have heard the joke somewhere — maybe even from Groucho himself.

Groucho Marx was active as a comedian before 1954, and it is possible that he told the joke before this date. The Boys’ Life communicant may have heard the gag directly or indirectly from Groucho, but QI has not yet located any evidence to support this possibility. Alternatively, the quip may have been reassigned to a prestigious comedian such as Groucho to enhance its popularity.

Another theory: Groucho was an avid Boys’ Life reader, saw the joke in his favorite magazine and started telling it to everyone he met. (Hey, a guy can dream!)

The mystery of the quote continues, but one truth is indisputable: You can find some pretty funny jokes in Boys’ Life magazine — then and now.

Thanks to James DeLorey for the blog post idea.

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