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May 3, 2011

The elusive bon mot
Posted by Teresa at 09:03 PM * 71 comments

When I heard that Osama bin Laden was dead, a particularly apt quotation occurred to me, though I didn’t quote it at the time.

Since then, it has come to my attention that everyone* has been quoting it, everyone has been arguing about who said it, and everyone is getting it wrong. Here’s an example cited by the estimable Vnend on Boing Boing, used not because Vnend is exceptionally wrong—which would be out of character—but because the example is exceptionally convenient. Vnend observes:

It turns out that a whole SATA-drive-load of people have been passing around the quote. … It also turns out that it is really hard to find where Twain actually said it.

It took a little digging, but I found the following pairing, posted back in 2006, that might explain where it came from:

http://www.estatevaults.com/lm/archives/quotations/
August 16, 2006

TWAIN AND DARROW
Clarence Darrow
I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure.

Mark Twain
I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.


Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Vnend is correct. It is hard to find where Twain actually said it. That’s because Twain didn’t say it.

The line properly belongs to Rep. Thomas Brackett Reed of Maine, 36th* and 38th* Speaker of the House. He was noted for his sharp-tongued wit. He once said of a pair of his colleagues that “They never open their mouths without subtracting from the sum of human knowledge.” When asked whether his party might nominate him for President, he said, “They could do worse, and they probably will.” Some other good ones:

A statesman is a successful politician who is dead.

One, with God, is always a majority, but many a martyr has been burned at the stake while the votes were being counted.

All the wisdom of the world consists of shouting with the majority.

The quotation in dispute today:
“When asked whether he would attend the funeral of a political opponent, Reed said ‘No, but I approve of it.’”
There’s a standard set of names that get attached to funny remarks—Oscar Wilde, Dorothy Parker, Mark Twain, Winston Churchill, et cetera. It’s part of a larger pattern whereby loose quotations and anonymous works get attributed to the nearest big name. There were a couple of centuries when almost any collection of prophecies (then a popular form of camouflaged political writing) would be attributed to Thomas of Ercildoune, and a longer period when anything that sounded like a proverb got attributed to Alfred the Great. There’s an entire apocrypha’s worth of medieval poems that were misattributed to Chaucer. And so forth. You get the idea.

This looks to me like that process in action. The quotation was first uttered around the right time, and it sounds kind of like Twain—who, by the way, was a friend of Reed’s—so people misattribute it to the more familiar source.

How sure am I? Not. I don’t have a hardcopy primary source from a respectable publisher open in front of me. However, the line is prominently quoted in Ken Burns’ documentary on Congress, right around 1:30:00. That’s not a guarantee of accuracy, but it’s a good secondary source—Burns’s staff researched the hell out of those documentaries.

Let us therefore quote Rep. Thomas B. Reed (R-Maine), and give him his due when we quote him. He was a man of some integrity, and an interesting character. He has it coming.

Comments on The elusive bon mot:
#1 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2011, 10:01 PM:

Cheers to Reed, then :)

#2 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2011, 10:17 PM:

Monty Python's "The Oscar Wilde Sketch"

Prince: My congratulations, Wilde. Your latest play is a great success. The whole of London's talking about you.
Oscar: There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.

There follows fifteen seconds of restrained and sycophantic laughter.

Prince: Very, very witty ... very, very witty.
Whistler: There is only one thing in the world worse than being witty, and that is not being witty.

Fifteen more seconds of the same.

Oscar: I wish I had said that.
Whistler: You will, Oscar, you will. (more laughter)

Oscar: Your Majesty, have you met James McNeill Whistler?
Prince: Yes, we've played squash together.
Oscar: There is only one thing worse than playing squash together, and that is playing it by yourself. (silence)
I wish I hadn't said that.
Whistler: You did, Oscar, you did. (a little laughter)

...

#3 ::: CaseyL ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2011, 10:17 PM:

Most of what I know about "Czar" Reed is from reading Barbara Tuchman's book about the pre-WWI world, "The Proud Tower." I've been a fan of Reed's ever since, and would happily read a book that was all about him if someone here can recommend one.

#4 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2011, 11:10 PM:

CNN has picked up the Fake Quote story but, because they don't read Making Light, they attribute Reed's line ... as Twain.

#6 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2011, 11:25 PM:

The quote about Tragedy being easy while Comedy is hard was attributed to Edmund Gwenn - apparently mistakenly. Still, that made a good ending for that Twilight Zone story that has aliens wiping Earth out because deep down we really want Peace.

#7 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2011, 11:34 PM:

Clearly, this needs to be added to... http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/List_of_misquotations

#8 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2011, 02:28 AM:

Vonnegut and sunscreen.

#9 ::: Paul Herzberg ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2011, 05:18 AM:

There's something that seemingly only gets mentioned as a variant of Stigler's Law of Eponymy, "no scientific discovery is named after its original discoverer", called the Rule of the Lesser Attribution, "historical acclaim and reputation tend to be allocated to people unevenly", that seems to be at work here. But I don't know if that adds anything past giving it a title...

#10 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2011, 07:04 AM:

CaseyL, would you believe a biography of Reed was published just this month?

Mr. Speaker!: The Life and Times of Thomas B. Reed, The Man Who Broke the Filibuster, by James Grant. Simon & Schuster, 448 pages.

I don't know how well-written it is, but the material's bound to be interesting.

#11 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2011, 08:00 AM:

Vonnegut and sunscreen.

Juniper and lamplight.

(Sorry, wrong thread.)

#12 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2011, 08:06 AM:

The quote doing the rounds in my small corner of the interweb is this:

"I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."

MLK I believe.

#13 ::: Ken Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2011, 09:01 AM:

The MLK "quote" at least is close to what he actually said (Rory Costello has it quoted on her FB account, citing "Strength to Love," 1963.)

#14 ::: Dave ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2011, 09:02 AM:

Tykewriter@12: It's MLK from "Returning Hate..." onwards, but the first sentence isn't. See the links in post #5.

#15 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2011, 09:34 AM:

Tykewriter @ #11

Juniper and lamplight.

Arsenic and Old Lace.

#16 ::: paul ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2011, 10:03 AM:

Times have changed. When I was a kid, everything profound whose source you didn't know for sure was either from Shakespeare or the KJV. (Except in Germany, where the choice was between the bible and Faust Part II...)

#17 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2011, 10:07 AM:

Transnistrians and infundibulators

#19 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2011, 10:42 AM:

"Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we aim to deceive."

Walter Scott, right?
(aka the Correct Answer in Monty Python's Spot the Loony' skit.)

#20 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2011, 11:14 AM:

Serge (19): I've always seen/heard it as 'practice', not 'aim', but I'm pretty sure you're right about it being Scott.

#21 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2011, 11:18 AM:

Excellent work. Now, could we clear up the matter of "the coldest winter I ever spent was summer in San Francisco?"

#22 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2011, 11:23 AM:

A Facebook friend of mine just credited it to Clarence Darrow (but with no citation). I googled using his name and a piece of the quote, and found this bit of his autobiography, linked from kottke.org.

It looks like it may actually be his.

#23 ::: Merav ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2011, 11:50 AM:

Caroline @ 22, Dork Tower at least is popularizing the Darrow theory.

#24 ::: Rob Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2011, 12:32 PM:

I've only seen the quote once in the past few days, attributed to Clarence Darrow, who is not one of the usual susp[ects.

#25 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2011, 12:37 PM:

"The trouble with quotes over the Internet is that you never know if they are genuine." -- Abraham Lincoln

#26 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2011, 01:32 PM:

I went looking to see if we could find a better source for attributing the quote to Thomas B. Reed than "trust Ken Burns's research." (I'm sure Teresa has already done googling on this, but...)

Curiously, the quote was in Reed's Wikipedia article until 1 March 2009, when editor Barry248 removed it, saying that Mark Twain was author of the quote.

Scanning Google Books, I can find the quote attributed to Reed in multiple books, all of them published after Ken Burns's series The Civil War aired in 1990.

Mr. Bishop of Utah, quoting Reed on 4 May 2005 in the Congressional Record of the House, volume 151, part 6, page 8626:

Mr. Speaker, in the late 1880s, House Speaker Thomas Brackett Reed was easily one of the most powerful speakers that has ever served in this body, and probably one of the most sarcastic speakers that ever served. Anyone who can be asked if he is going to attend the funeral of one of his political enemies and have the presence of mind to say. ''No, but I approve of it," one has to like that kind of a speaker.

The American Past: A Survey of American History by Joseph R. Conlin, 2009:

Reporters loved Reed because he was always good for an entertaining quote. When one of his political critics died suddenly, they asked Reed if he would attend the funeral. He replied, “No, but I approve of it.”

Governing by Consent: An Introduction to American Politics by John F. Bibby, 1995:

And when asked to attend the funeral of a longtime political foe, he declined with the comment, "but that does not mean to say I do not heartily approve of it."

The Encyclopedia of the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars: A Political, Social, and Military History, Volume 1 by Spencer C. Tucker, 2009:

And when a reporter asked if he planned to attend the funeral of a political adversary, he shot back, “No, but I certainly approve of it.”

However, biographies of Reed predating 1990 fail to mention the "funeral" quote. This is suspicious.

Using "but that does not mean to say I do not heartily approve of it" turns up the quote in Edmund Morris's 1979 book The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt on page 423 of the 2001 edition. The source is offered in note 104, appearing on page 840, which reads "McCall, Samuel W., Thomas B. Reed (Houghton Mifflin, 1914) 248; character sketch, anon., TRB mss."

The McCall reference is to another witty remark of Reed's, in McCall's "funny stuff Reed said" chapter. McCall does not tell the funeral story, nor indeed does the word "funeral" appear in this book. So the story must have come from an anonymous character sketch of Reed held in the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace archive.

I don't see the story in Google Books prior to 1979, so Morris's book, which seems to have been very popular, may have injected Reed's bon mot into our modern discourse.

So one can trust Edmund Morris's research. Or one could check at TR's Birthplace in New York.

#27 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2011, 01:38 PM:

As I have before, I now recommend Ralph Keyes's marvelous book on misquotation and misattribution, Nice Guys Finish Seventh: False Phrases, Spurious Sayings, and Familiar Misquotations .

#28 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2011, 02:10 PM:

Serge @19: I believe it's "practice," not "aim." I remember it because I learned an improved version:

"Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive! But when we practice for a while, how greatly we improve our style!"

In the spirit of the topic, I'll go ahead and attribute the addition to Dorothy Parker on the basis of it sounding like the sort of thing she would say.

#29 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2011, 02:13 PM:

Glenn Hauman #25: What did he know? He was using a 110 baud modem.

#30 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2011, 02:23 PM:

And whenever people asked Abe about his address, he'd start reciting the Gettysburg one.

#31 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2011, 02:25 PM:

110 baud modem? Why, in my day we just called it 6 baud...

#32 ::: Glen Blankenship ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2011, 02:26 PM:

In Defense Lawyer Clarence Darrow Responds to a Supporter of Capital Punishment [PDF], a speech based on remarks he made during a debate with New York City judge Alfred J. Talley on the subject of capital punishment on October 27, 1924, Darrow said:

First, I deny his [Talley's] statement that every man's heart tells him it is wrong to kill. I think every man's heart desires killing. Personally, I never killed anybody that I know of. But I have had a great deal of satisfaction now and then reading obituary notices, and I used to delight, with the rest of my 100% patriotic friends, when I saw ten or fifteen thousand Germans being killed in a day.

Everybody loves killing. Some of them think it is too mussy for them. Every human being that believes in capital punishment loves killing, and the only reason they believe in capital punishment is because they get a kick out of it. Nobody kills anyone for love, unless they get over it temporarily or otherwise. But they kill the one they hate. And before you can get a trial to hang somebody or electrocute him, you must first hate him and then get a satisfaction over his death.

There is no emotion in any human being that is not in every single human being. The degree is different, that is all. And the degree is not always different in different people. It depends likewise on circumstances, on time, and on place.

#33 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2011, 02:46 PM:

Glen Blankenship #31: There is no emotion in any human being that is not in every single human being. The degree is different, that is all. And the degree is not always different in different people. It depends likewise on circumstances, on time, and on place.

And that part should be engraved somewhere.

#34 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2011, 03:29 PM:

Glenn Hauman @ #30

Why, in my day we just called it 6 baud...

Eight bits an hour, surely?

#35 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2011, 03:52 PM:

That's a pretty low wage, almost piratical (vowel shift).

#36 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2011, 03:53 PM:

I smell fanfic. "Baudy Night," anyone?

#37 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2011, 04:55 PM:

Turns out Reed wrote speculative fiction-- though he didn't publish it. As Speaker of the House, he liked to poke fun at the foibles of the Senate. In a 1914 biography, Thomas B. Reed, Samuel Walker McCall writes:

In one of his unpublished manuscripts purporting to be a "History of the United States, published in 1940," he says that the people, had grown weary of the caliber of their presidents between 1880 and 1890, and had adopted a constitutional amendment providing that they should be chosen by the Senate out of the Senate itself. He thus describes the first election:

So intense was the public excitement that the whole nation left its vocations, flung business to the winds, and assembled in front of the Capitol where, in the open day, the tremendous scene of the choice of the wisest man should be made by and out of the wisest body of men. It was by secret ballot, so that no possibility of influence by public clamor could disturb the serene judgment of the Immortals. When the ballots had been collected and spread out, the Chief Justice, who presided, was observed to hesitate and those nearest could see by his pallor that something unexpected had happened. But with a strong effort he rose to his feet and through a megaphone, then recently invented by Edison, shouted to the vast multitude the astounding result: seventy-six Senators had each received one vote. For a moment a stillness as of death settled upon the multitude. Never until that moment had the people realized that, like the Deacon's One Hoss Shay the Senate of the United States was one level mass of wisdom and virtue, perfect in all its parts, and radiant from North to South with that light of intelligence which never shone on sea or shore.

#38 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2011, 08:35 PM:

Teresa@18: Just so

Kipling?

#39 ::: Bethe Friedman ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2011, 09:09 PM:

Mary Dell@28 --

I've also heard it with a middle couplet: "Which leads me to suppose the fact is, What we need's to get more practice."

I don't think Willard Espy originated it, but he had the good taste to repeat it.

#40 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2011, 09:12 PM:

There's a famous modern quotation about how the English language has been known to follow other languages down dark alleyways to mug them for new vocabulary...which shows up (verbatim -- although without the prolegomenon using the phrase "cribhouse whore") on a number of pages, attributed to Booker T. Washington. Sigh.

#41 ::: Bethe Friedman ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2011, 09:32 PM:

Mary Dell@28 --

I've also heard it with a middle couplet: "Which leads me to suppose the fact is, What we need's to get more practice."

I don't think Willard Espy originated it, but he had the good taste to repeat it.

#42 ::: CaseyL ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2011, 09:52 PM:

Teresa - Thanks for the info! I vaguely recall hearing about that and making a mental note to follow up... shows how useful my mental notes are.

On Topic: One problem with misattributed bon mots is that the people to whom they're attributed will sometimes claim the quote if they like it enough. Kind of like Picasso claiming some forgeries of his work were indeed his because he liked them.

#43 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2011, 10:01 PM:

David @40, I've been expecting James Nicoll's "purity of the English language" bit to show up misattributed to Twain for some time now; I'm rather surprised that I haven't seen that yet. Twain seems much more plausible for that sort of thing than Booker T. Washington.

#44 ::: Erin McKean ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2011, 11:44 PM:

It is my great pleasure to be able to post the link to the concept of "Churchillian Drift" -- "the process whereby the actual originator of a quotation is often elbowed to one side and replaced by someone more famous."

#45 ::: DanR ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2011, 11:44 PM:

"It is my belief that nearly any invented quotation, played with confidence, stands a good chance to deceive."

-- King Solomon

#46 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2011, 12:53 AM:

Seen on the back of a game box, after a couple of other blurbs:

"'I did not say this fictitious quotation, and if you use my name I will sue.' -- An Anonymous Famous Person"

#47 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2011, 01:18 AM:

#34: No, 6 baud. We didn't go for none of that fancy binary numbering, no sirree.

#48 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2011, 01:26 AM:

Eight bits? Back then, sonny, email cost as much as a shave and a haircut.

#49 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2011, 01:43 AM:

I wish Google Answers hadn't been killed: I'd have sent the guy who found the exact wording for Mencken's "There is always an easy solution to every human problem--neat, plausible, and wrong." an extra five bucks, just because the wording is always quoted wrong and usually attributed to Einstein or Churchill.

#50 ::: Karl Narveson ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2011, 01:49 AM:

On your home page you quote Gustav Mahler: “Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.”

I thought I'd Google for the original German, and hit the jackpot at http://www.helmut-zenz.de/hztradit.html, where variants are attributed to:
Thomas Morus (1477/78-1535);
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790, amerik. Staatsmann);
Jean Jaurès (1859-1914, franz. Philosoph und Politiker);
Gustav Mahler (1860-1911, deutscher Komponist);
Ricarda Huch (1864-1947, deutsche Schriftstellerin); and
Johannes XXIII.

No bibliographic citations, however. Do you have one?

#51 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2011, 02:57 AM:

Bill@38: 18 to 17, obvsly.

#52 ::: mjfgates ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2011, 04:40 AM:

"There's good reason not to bother remembering the exact words of a quotation." -- They

#53 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2011, 07:02 AM:

I always liked the discovery that Finagle's Law was mis-attributed to Murphy.

#54 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2011, 07:11 AM:

I thought that Murphy's real law was that if someone can do it wrong, someone will.

#55 ::: rgh ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2011, 07:32 AM:

I think the prize goes to Malalclypse at http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2011/05/was-justice-served/comment-page-1#comment-115353:
"Many that live deserve death. And some die that deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then be not too eager to deal out death in the name of justice, fearing for your own safety. Even the wise cannot see all ends." ~ Gandalf the Grey

#56 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2011, 08:37 AM:

Murphy's Law was really promulgated by the wisecracking Col. John Stapp, according to Nick Spark's interesting account. Another instance of Stigler's Law of Eponymy, which I had not heard of before Paul Herzberg raised it in #9 above.

Stigler hails Robert K. Merton as the true discoverer of Stigler's Law. I am familiar with Merton's heroic (and entertainingly digressive) feat of quote-tracking, On the Shoulders of Giants.

#57 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2011, 09:41 AM:

Bill Higgins @ 56... I'm going to buy that book today.

#58 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2011, 09:42 AM:

"Revenge is a dish best served cold."
- old Klingon proverb

#59 ::: Steve C ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2011, 09:58 AM:

"Casserole is a dish best served hot."
- old Lutheran proverb

#60 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2011, 12:26 PM:

Steve, #59: Don't you mean hotdish?

#61 ::: Steve C ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2011, 12:40 PM:

Lee @ 60 -

:-)

#62 ::: Heather K ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2011, 09:16 PM:

"There are three kinds of lies, lies, damn lies, and statistics."

At various times, I've seen this one attributed to Mark Twain and Benjamin Disraeli. Now, here's where it gets fun. At one point, I was reading a collection of Mark Twain shorts and essays and I came across this aphorism. Mark Twain was quoting, and he attributed it to Disraeli. Well actually, he said something to the effect that he didn't know who originated it, but he'd most often seen it credited to Disraeli.

#63 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2011, 09:50 PM:

"Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive! But when we practice for a while, how greatly we improve our style!"

I once stitched a sampler on which it was attributed to one J.R. Pope, neatly conflating the wrong author for the first part (but it SOUNDS like Pope's "Rape of the Lock," doesn't it?) with an appropriate author for the second part (for those of us of a certain age who remember Dallas, that is).

#64 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2011, 09:56 PM:

Oh, and I believe the one I stitched had a second half in which the vocabulary was a better match for the first half:

Oh what a tangled we we weave
When first we practice to deceive
But when we've practiced quite a while
How vastly we improve our style

#65 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2011, 09:56 PM:

This is like the "If you're not a liberal when you're 20, you have no heart. If you're not a conservative when you're 40, you have no head" quotation often attributed to Churchill. If you can believe something from Google Answers, not so! It originates with a 19th-century Frenchman named Francois Guisot, but has since been attributed to Clemenceau, Shaw and Churchill. I'm pretty sure I've seen it credited to Bismarck and Disraeli as well.

#66 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2011, 01:30 AM:

I've seen versions of that one (re conservatives/liberals) attributed to de Gaulle: "If my son were not a communist at 20 I should disown him. If he were still a communist at 40 I should do it then."

#67 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2011, 08:55 AM:

To elaborate on Linkmeister's point in #65, Ralph Keyes has a second book on quotations, Quote Verifier. (I must get hold of it.) He writes:

In the mid-nineteenth century, however, French historian and statesman François Guizot (1787–1874) had already said, “Not to be a republican at twenty is proof of want of heart; to be one at thirty is proof of want of head." ("N'être pas republicain à vingt ans est preuve d'un manque de coeur; l' être apres trente ans est preuve d'un manque de tête.")

The Yale Book of Quotations adds that, in reviving the saying for the Twentieth Century, Georges Clemenceau swapped "socialist" for "republican."

#68 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2011, 11:53 AM:

This is like the "If you're not a liberal when you're 20, you have no heart. If you're not a conservative when you're 40, you have no head" quotation often attributed to Churchill.

Churchill did, of course, say something similar and much more entertaining (source: Roy Jenkins' biography).

"When I was a Conservative, I said a lot of very stupid things. And I became a Liberal so that I would not have to go on saying very stupid things."

This was in his 1906 election campaign - he'd just crossed the floor for the first time and his Conservative opponent was trying to embarrass him by circulating a list of all the rude things Churchill had said about Liberals when he was a Conservative.

#69 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2011, 06:54 PM:

Glen Hauman @ 47:

Originally 5 baud. We don't need no stinkin' lower case.

#70 ::: Rymenhild ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2011, 03:10 PM:

I heard a final couplet added to the "tangled web" bon mot:

Forget, my friends, this practice angle.
You'll only tangle up the tangle.

#71 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2011, 01:33 PM:

Doug @ #8:

My favourite part of the Vonnegut sunscreen imbroglio is the story that, at one point during the false commencement speech's journey around the internet, somebody sent it to Vonnegut's wife, who sent it on to all her friends and then went to ask her husband why she'd never heard him mention giving a commencement speech at MIT.

There's a very good chance that this never happened, but the story is nonetheless, in some sense, True.

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