Quotations Winston Churchill Never Said: A Few Additions

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.

quotesThe 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

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. “…it’s like the Dutch boy stick­ing his hand in the dyke.”
    Some typos mer­it a place in my file of quotable quotes.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.”

  6. 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

  7. 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.

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