Quotations Winston Churchill Never Said: A Few Additions
A website named “IL Conservative” posted in June 2009 eight Churchill “quotations,” six of which he never said. These quotations are all over the Internet, none of them attributed to WSC. They just seem to multiply and get passed on, like the common cold. They are all examples of “Churchillian Drift” (or “Yogi Berra Drift,” if you are a baseball fan): neat little sayings attached to somebody famous to make them sound more interesting.
The purpose of my “Red Herrings” appendix of eighty incorrect quotations in Churchill by Himself is to counteract the raft of misinformation conveyed, largely through the web, but it’s like the Dutch boy sticking his finger in the dyke. Since publication of the book some years ago I’ve found at least another eighty, none of which I can find any record of in Churchill’s 15 million published words.
Anyway, and for the record, all of these are NOT CHURCHILL (and I will not dignify them with quotemarks):
1. A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
2. A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.
3. However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.
4. If you’re going through hell, keep going.
5. Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.
6. A prisoner of war is a man who tries to kill you and fails, and then asks you not to kill him. (This one is close, but no cigar. What Churchill did say—House of Commons, 1 July 1952—was: “What is a prisoner of war? He is a man who has tried to kill you and, having failed to kill you, asks you not to kill him.”)
17 thoughts on “Quotations Winston Churchill Never Said: A Few Additions”
Correcting Churchill misquotes often risks charges of pedantry, usually by fellow pedants (full marks to you). He has however been so egregiously misquoted that I’ll risk it.
1) “Dyke: A wall built to prevent the sea or a river from covering an area, or a channel dug to take water away from an area.” -Cambridge English Dictionary.
2) True, and I usually identify inexact wording, as opposed to misattributions, in that case: “Close, but no cigar.”
3) I am not obliged to supply the originators of phrases, only to assert that they don’t (to date) track to Churchill.* When the originator is known for certain, I usually supply it, through references to researchers like the eminent Ralph Keyes.
*It is an ongoing process. For example, only recently, documents in the Churchill Archives surfaced to show both Churchill and Shaw denied the famous exchange on Shaw’s play premiere (“Bring a friend, if you have one” … “I’ll come the second night, if there is one”). Dropped from the latest edition of my quotations book.
1) There is a profound difference between dike and dyke and an even more profound difference between sticking something in one vs. the other.
2) By the way, not getting a quote exactly correct (as with the POW quote) is quite a different animal from a misattribution. Failing to differentiate between the two is sloppy.
3) And one more by the way. Failing to verify that someone said something is not proof that they didn’t say it. Conclusive proof would be verifying who DID originate the quotation.
“…it’s like the Dutch boy sticking his hand in the dyke.”
Some typos merit a place in my file of quotable quotes.
Vladimir: Happens all the time!
Optimists and Pessimists: Someone forgot to do their research before their big meeting: https://youtu.be/DkYTmN7_fi8
Thanks for your resolve! Unfortunately, I don’t know who said it, nor does Ralph Keyes of The Quote Verifier. But there are some alternate things Churchill reliably said on the subject. See my post:
I am also wondering who did say A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. I’m using this quote in a speech and I NEED the correct citation. I NEVER perpetuate false claims.
I’m sorry but I don’t. It’s been around many years and Googling it produces numerous sites crediting it to Churchill, but with no citations.
Do you have any leads on the source of the strategy quote? When did it start to attach itself to Churchill?
More or less, but it’s a garbled and truncated version of two separate comments. I’ve made this the subject of a separate post: https://richardlangworth.com/socialism
This is now going around the web attributed to Churchill. Is it accurate? “Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.”
He did NOT say, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” No attribution whatsoever. It’s “Churchilllian (or Yogi Berra) drift: https://richardlangworth.com/drift
He did say “If you’re going through hell, keep going”
It’s very easy to find out any matter on web as compared to textbooks, as
I found this paragraph at this website.
Sorry, I don’t, nor does my colleague Ralph Keyes (“The Quote Verifier”). Like many “red herrings,” it is all over the web ascribed to Churchill–and not one of those appearances offers a source (speech, book or whatever). If he said it, I have yet to see attribution.
He did say some amusing things about optimists and pessimists, which I will post today: http://richardlangworth.com/optimists
Do you know who did say “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty”? I can’t find it anywhere as everyone attributes it to Churchill.