What Mark Twain Didn't Say
October 16, 2002 1:31 PM   Subscribe

What Mark Twain Didn't Say
posted by archimago (30 comments total)

 
Wagner's music is better than it sounds. (Twain was quoting Bill Nye)

Bill Nye? SCIENCE!!
posted by Danelope at 1:35 PM on October 16, 2002


Very interesting post, archimago - thanks! Just this afternoon I watched an eighty-year-old James Cagney, in an old Michael Parkinson interview, explain why people thought he'd ever said "You dirty rat". "Some kids", he mumbled, "And then it sort of stuck 'cause people enjoyed saying it."

[On a sidenote, perhaps people should be warned of the annoying pop-ups arising from this link.]
posted by MiguelCardoso at 1:41 PM on October 16, 2002


just don't accept any cookies.....
posted by elwoodwiles at 1:51 PM on October 16, 2002


I would have written a shorter letter but didn't have time. (Blaise Pascal)

Just the other day on NPR I heard this quote attributed to Douglas MacArthur. Someone who had written a book on the general was giving him credit for using it in one of his letters. I guess good stuff always gets recycled.

[Yeah, the pop-ups killed my browser the first time I went there]
posted by sp dinsmoor at 1:55 PM on October 16, 2002


i'm fairly certain mark twain never said "profligate station humps descended toward the egregrious clamp duster with amorous intent."

but i may be wrong.
posted by quonsar at 1:56 PM on October 16, 2002


I'm somewhat of an attribution-geek, and I must say that I have the hardest time disproving the origin of quotes. For example, I spent about three hours last week attempting to disprove (or even prove, for that matter) that Winston Churchhill actually said "Democracy is the worst possible form of government, except for all of the others." (Or any of the many variations of this that are attributed to him.)

Along the same lines, I've been unable to determine who said "People who are willing to give up freedom for the
sake of short term security, deserve neither freedom nor security." (Or "He who sacrifices freedom for security is neither free nor secure," or any of dozens of variations on this.) It's most often attributed to Benjamin Franklin or James Madison. Again, I've never been able to locate a firsthand source for this.

Too bad that there aren't more sites providing that certain people never said anything. I learned quite a bit from this Twain site.
posted by waldo at 1:57 PM on October 16, 2002


I may be broadcasting an IP address! What should I do?

I know, I know. What really annoys me is when I try to close a pop-up and it does the little screen shuffle and I end up closing the window I was trying to see.

But still, the link was kinda interesting.
posted by cheineking at 1:59 PM on October 16, 2002


And I've heard that ("...didn't have time to write a short one) attributed to Winston Churchill. I wish whoever really said it would stand up and claim it, because it's a great and true saying.

And speaking of questionable Mark Twain quotes...

Remember when Quayle made the mistake spelling 'potato'? The next day, he quoted Twain saying something like, "It's a dull man who can spell a word only one way." It turned out that Quayle had found that quote in a book of Twain quotes, no Twain scholar could positively identify it with Twain, and Quayle came in for even more abuse. A Google search shows the phrase attributed to everyone from Twain to Thomas Jefferson to Somerset Maugham. I fully expected to find that quote on this link, as a fake Twain quote, but it's not there.

on preview: quonsor, you owe me a new keyboard!
posted by Slithy_Tove at 2:07 PM on October 16, 2002


If he'd have visited that page, he'd have said "For fuck's sake, those animated ad crawls are annoying!"
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:13 PM on October 16, 2002


Here's the Snopes page on Twain quotes. The boondocksnet link claims he did not say: "If you don't like the weather, wait a minute", but the Snopes link claims he did say: "If you don't like the weather in New England, wait a minute."

p.s. the Bill Nye referred to by the boondocks link is the pen name of humorist Edgar Wilson Nye.
posted by pitchblende at 2:13 PM on October 16, 2002


waldo (and any other attribution geeks): You need the book Nice Guys Finish Seventh, which is all about who didn't say what. You may also enjoy On the Shoulders of Giants by Robert K. Merton, an obsessive quest for the origin of a single quote.
posted by languagehat at 2:16 PM on October 16, 2002


"Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it"? Come on. That's pure Mark Twain! Who are you gonna believe - me or your lying eyes?
posted by soyjoy at 2:16 PM on October 16, 2002


I just ran Ad Aware and this link had installed six little spy bastards. I suggest others do the same.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 2:16 PM on October 16, 2002


Danelope- I have lost a great deal of admiration for Bill Nye in the last 10 minutes. I went to his site to fondly look about, and in reading his CV (which is online for... kids...?), I noticed that he has been bestowed with an honorary Doctorate from the Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute, or RPI. He lists RPI as being in Rochester, NY. It is in Troy, NY, about 250 miles away. Sheesh. They were nice enough to give him the honorary PhD, at least he could get their address right.....
posted by oflinkey at 2:21 PM on October 16, 2002


There's another fun book called They Never Said It that also debunks errant quotes. Some of the most interesting are those that were intentionally made up and attributed to e.g. Lenin, Darwin etc. by their ideological enemies.

However, I don't remember seeing this "weather" quote in that book, so I remain convinced that Twain must have said it at some point, somewhere.
posted by soyjoy at 2:21 PM on October 16, 2002


This was my favorite part of the article:

Abby Van Buren once made this observation in her advice column. A reader said she should have credited the thought to Mark Twain. Abby apologized, explaining that she genuinely thought the idea was her own. Perhaps it was

I just laugh thinking about the perplexed look on the columnist's face as she tried hard to remember where the original thought came from.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 2:23 PM on October 16, 2002


If you're concerned about pop-ups and all that stuff, install something like adshield. Everybody talks about popups, but nobody does anything about it! - Mark (aka Shania) Twain.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:24 PM on October 16, 2002


[kinda off topic]
Who said "Writing about music is like dancing to architecture"? (Or something.)
[/kinda off topic]
posted by soundofsuburbia at 2:25 PM on October 16, 2002


You can stop all unrequested popups with Mozilla.
posted by lackutrol at 2:32 PM on October 16, 2002


Had I more time...I would have compiled a longer list of attributions of this favorite phrase found scattered about the Interweb (regrettably I did not save the urls): 1. Thomas Jefferson once wrote to a friend, "Had I but more time, I would have written less." 2. Finally, consider the words of Mark Twain: "If I had more time I would have written less." 3. As Lord Chesterfield expressed to his son -- "If I had more time, I would have written less." 4. As Samuel Johnson, I believe, once said in a letter to a friend, "If I had had more time, I would have written less." I'd trim this down, but...
posted by cairnish at 2:41 PM on October 16, 2002


soundsofsuburbia: look here. (I had always thought Zappa said it, but apparently lots of people have)
posted by GeekAnimator at 2:52 PM on October 16, 2002


soundsofsuburbia - I'm pretty sure that was Brian Eno, but I could be wrong.

On preview: beaten to the punch
posted by sauril at 2:53 PM on October 16, 2002


And wrong to boot.
posted by sauril at 2:54 PM on October 16, 2002


GeekAnimator: Thanks a bunch! You've just made my year!
posted by soundofsuburbia at 2:56 PM on October 16, 2002


[With apologies for the running off-topicness] Wow, thanks blue_beetle! I just installed Adshield, clicked back and...wunderbar! How often does one's quality of life improve so painlessly and dramatically? Huh? I ask you!

lackutrol: Next thing you know, I might just install Mozilla. It's a slippery slope and these Ad Aware and Adshield thingys may be the - insert mixed metaphor - gateway drug to non-stupidity!

posted by MiguelCardoso at 2:56 PM on October 16, 2002


"When I feel the urge to exercise, I go lie down until it passes away." -- Robert M. Hutchins

Mr. Hutchins was the (first?) president of the University of Chicago. He was, duh, not so big into sports -- which is ironic when you consider the U of C in their "Big Ten" heyday. But now with all the misatribution going on, I'm not so sure if he didn't steal the quote from someone else. Apparently not Mark Twain.
posted by zpousman at 3:42 PM on October 16, 2002


"There is nothing so overrated as sex, and nothing so underrated as a good bowel movement." Always wondered about that one.
posted by drinkcoffee at 5:28 PM on October 16, 2002


I just ran Ad Aware and this link had installed six little spy bastards. I suggest others do the same.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 2:16 PM PST on October 16


Websites can't install things unless you let them. And at least in IE, you will always be asked whether you want to install something that a website wants you to install, unless you decided to unconditionally allow the installation of signed ActiveX controls. Which, frankly, is verging on suicidally stupid.
posted by zztzed at 10:29 PM on October 16, 2002


"i'm fairly certain mark twain never said 'profligate station humps descended toward the egregrious clamp duster with amorous intent.'" ---quonsar

I'm fairly certain you're my hero just at the moment, quonsar, because I needed that spit-take. Uh, but now I've gotta clean my keyboard and a buncha other stuff up with Q-tips---and it's ALL YOUR FAULT!
posted by realjanetkagan at 12:03 AM on October 17, 2002


waldo: You did check Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, didn't you? (In this case, even Bartlett doesn't provide a definitive answer, but along with the footnote definitely provides direction for further research.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:09 AM on October 17, 2002


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