(A personal obsession – which I return to in August 2015)
We’ve all got favourite quotations, and I guess many are shared. “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars”. “Die ? That is the last thing I shall do”. “I don’t want to join any club that would have me as a member”. “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others”. “It’s not what people don’t know that’s the problem, it’s what they do know for certain that isn’t true”.
There is also a list of quotations that actually didn’t happen, or were said by people less distinguished, and much later, than is usually assumed. You can find many of them here. Any pub quiz bore knows Shakespeare didn’t say all that glitters is not gold, and Rick didn’t cross his bar in Casablanca to tell Sam to play it again. The famous Roman quotation about the fatuity of endless reorganization has been traced back all the way to … 1957. Emma Goldman didn’t say “if I can’t dance, I don’t want your revolution”, and you can’t find Voltaire saying “I disapprove of what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it. I guess the reason those sayings live on is that they fit closely to what those people believed. On the other hand, Lenin probably did believe that “liberty is so precious it needs to be rationed”, even if we can’t pin down when he said it.
I have some favourite quotations that aren’t well known, aren’t obviously wrongly attributed, but I can’t pin down even with the benefit of Google. Keynes was asked to change his recommendations for the post-war economic world, because the Americans wouldn’t agree with them. He replied “So, because they won’t listen to sense, you want me to talk nonsense ?”. It sounds just like the man, who I admire beyond words, and should be written into every consultant’s terms of engagement. And as soon as I heard Wittgenstein pointing out “that which is simply asserted can be simply denied”, I whooped in recognition of a great simple truth enormously useful in rebutting idiots. Problem is that I can’t find the origin of either. Anyone help out there ?