“Quotes” Winston Churchill Never Said: A Few Additions

by Richard Langworth on 19 June 2009

A website named “IL Conservative” posted in June 2009 eight Churchill “quotes,” six of which he never said. These quotes 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 hand 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.”)

Share this post...Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Richard Langworth February 6, 2017 at 16:12

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:

Alex February 6, 2017 at 15:33

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.

Richard Langworth September 27, 2015 at 11:12

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.

Kate Bowles September 26, 2015 at 17:43

Do you have any leads on the source of the strategy quote? When did it start to attach itself to Churchill?

Richard Langworth July 11, 2015 at 08:54

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

Mack Salamasond July 10, 2015 at 14:22

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.”

Richard M. Langworth October 26, 2014 at 07:27

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

Jack b October 21, 2014 at 14:57

He did say “If you’re going through hell, keep going”

www.ask.com September 6, 2014 at 20:44

It’s very easy to find out any matter on web as compared to textbooks, as
I found this paragraph at this website.

Richard M. Langworth September 28, 2012 at 07:39

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

Julie September 27, 2012 at 13:51

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.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: