Churchill Misquotes: Never give up and Definition of Fanatic

Churchill Misquotes: Never give up and Definition of Fanatic

Q: Did he say “Never give up”?

Did Churchill ever make a three word speech, “Nev­er Give Up,” and then just sit down? —A.S., Riga, Latvia

That sto­ry is all over the web, con­stant­ly repeat­ed. But it is entire­ly wrong. I think it springs from the many inac­cu­rate “wit and wis­dom” quote books.

A: “In” not “up,” and more than three words

The three words (“in” not “up”) were part of Churchill’s 20-minute speech to the boys at Har­row, his old school, when he attend­ed their annu­al songfest (“Songs”) on 29 Octo­ber 1941. The full speech is in Robert Rhodes James, ed., Win­ston S. Churchill: His Com­plete Speech­es (New York: Bowk­er, 1974) and in Churchill’s speech vol­ume The Unre­lent­ing Strug­gle (Lon­don: Cas­sell, Boston: Lit­tle Brown, 1942).

The salient por­tion, from Churchill by Him­self, is as follows:

This is the les­son: nev­er give in, nev­er give in…in noth­ing, great or small, large or petty–never give in except to con­vic­tions of hon­our and good sense. Nev­er yield to force; nev­er yield to the appar­ent­ly over­whelm­ing might of the ene­my…. Do  not  let  us speak of dark­er days; let us rather speak of stern­er days. These  are  not  dark  days:  these  are  great days—the great­est days our coun­try  has  ever  lived; and  we  must  all  thank God that we have been allowed,  each of us accord­ing to our sta­tions, to play a part in mak­ing these days mem­o­rable in the his­to­ry of our race.

(And, for the umpteenth time, when he said “race” he meant “peo­ple.”)

Misreported at Columbia

In 2017 it was incor­rect­ly report­ed that a three-word speech “nev­er give in” was made at Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty, New York in 1946, a fort­night after his famous “Iron Cur­tain” address at Ful­ton, Mis­souri. His speech at Colum­bia was brief but poignant. It began with words we might well direct at Colum­bia today:

In my heart there is no abid­ing hatred for any great race on the sur­face of the globe. I earnest­ly hope that there will be no pari­ah nations after the guilty are ful­ly pun­ished. We have to look for­ward to a broad­er, fair­er world….

Thus walk­ing for­ward togeth­er, with no aim of sub­ju­ga­tion or mate­r­i­al prof­it or sor­did inter­est, march­ing for­ward togeth­er we may ren­der at this junc­ture a ser­vice to human­i­ty which no coun­tries before have ever had the hon­our to do.

Q: Did WSC define a “fanatic”?

Can you ver­i­fy whether or not Churchill said: “A fanat­ic is some­one who won’t change his mind and won’t change the sub­ject”?  —T.M., Ontario, Canada

A: Not Churchill

The max­im may well be true (and often applic­a­ble), but it is not Churchill’s. From Churchill by Him­self, the “Red Her­rings” appen­dix (unat­trib­uted quotes):

“Often attrib­uted to Churchill or Pres­i­dent Tru­man. Ralph Keyes, edi­tor, The Quote Ver­i­fi­er, writes: ‘It’s a quo­ta­tion I see often, but with­out a source. I doubt that it’s Tru­man, or, if he ever said it, that the quo­ta­tion orig­i­nat­ed with him.’”

More on false Churchill quotes

“All the Quotes Churchill Nev­er Said,” in four parts begin­ning here, 2018.

“Fake Churchill Calum­ny: Sub­sidiary Emis­sions from the Odd Crater,” 2020.

“Churchillian (Or Yogi Berra) Drift: How Quo­ta­tions are Invent­ed,” 2013.

“Fake Quotes: Lady Astor and Oth­er Women Neme­ses,” 2021.

“A-Z Quotes: A Cor­nu­copia of Things Churchill Nev­er Said,” 2018.

Car­los Marin, “‘Sure­ly Churchill Said That?’ The Expand­ing Lex­i­con of the False Quote,” 2021.


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