“Red Herrings”: Fake Churchill Quotes (or things he said quoting someone else), continued from Part 1.… Compiled for the next expanded edition of Churchill by Himself. Chapter references are to current editions of that book.
“If you’re going through hell, keep going” is the most common counterfeit. Heard by everyone from presidents to comics, it is sheer fantasy—Churchill wasn’t given to such redundancy. What’s your favorite among these Red Herrings? Mine is the one about golf, which I experienced personally before I wisely gave the game up.
Fanatic – France
Fanatic: A fanatic is someone who won’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.
• Often attributed to Churchill or President Truman. “Among quotes 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.” – Ralph Keyes, editor, The Quote Verifier.
Fascists: The fascists of the future will be the anti-fascists.
• No attribution, but something similar may have been uttered by Huey Long. It is always tempting to put words in WSC’s mouth, given the contrast between the politics of his day and ours.
Fear and Courage: Fear is a reaction. Courage is a decision. • No attribution.
Feet-first: Not feet-first, please!
• Supposedly said in 1962 to the stretcher-bearer after breaking his leg at Monte Carlo, but no quotes resembling this can be tracked.
Fire Fighters: Heroes with grimy faces. • No attribution.
First Thoughts: Distrust first thoughts—they are usually honest.
• Churchill uttered these words in Parliament, 15 July 1948, but he put quote marks around them, and preceded them by saying, “As the cynic has said…”
Fools: The greatest lesson in life is to know that even fools are right sometimes • No attribution.
France: The destiny of a great nation has never yet been settled by the temporary condition of its technical apparatus.
- Not one of Churchill’s quotes but said by him in the Commons, 2 August 1944. Churchill attributed it to Leon Trotsky.
France: God created France for its beauty and Frenchmen to balance it. • No attribution.
Free Lunch – Genius
Free Lunch: There ain’t no free lunch.
- WSC is alleged to have said only these five words at a commencement ceremony, and then resumed his seat. The Quote Verifier tracks them to various people from Milton Friedman to Merrill Rukeyser. It can also be found in Rudyard Kipling’s American Notes (1891). Kipling reported that San Francisco bars offered food to customers who ordered at least one drink.
Friendship: We [or “He and I”] have been out together in all weathers.
- Allegedly 1906. Said by Louis Botha about Churchill to WSC’s mother. At an imperial conference, having become prime minister of the Transvaal, Botha “so recently our enemy, passed up the hall to his place, he paused to say to my mother, who stood by my side, ‘He and I have been out in all weathers.’ It was surely true.” See Churchill’s My Early Life.
Gandhi ought to be laid, bound hand and foot, at the gates of Delhi and then trampled on by an enormous elephant with the new Viceroy seated on its back.
- Allegedly 4 November 1920, an example of how hearsay becomes a quotation. The usually reliable Duff Cooper reported it (Old Men Forget, 133), and it could be Churchill in one of his “Gandhi moods.” But without corroboration, it appears with quotemarks in an unreadable attack biography; and by an accomplished historian, Sarvepalli Gopal, in “Churchill and India” (Blake & Louis, Major New Assessment, 459). For genuine Gandhi quotes see Chapter 20, People, Gandhi.
Generals are always preparing to fight the last war. • No attribution, although this old expression may well have been his sentiment during the Second World War.
Genius: True genius resides in the capacity for evaluation of uncertain, hazardous, and conflicting information. • No attribution.
Attacks on Germany (Preventive War):
Germany should be bombed every 50 years as a preventive measure, without giving any reason. • No attribution.
If Germany begins trading in the next fifty years we would have fought the [First World] War for nothing. (Variation: Should Germany attempt to merchandise again in the next fifty years we have led this war in vain.)
• Posted on YouTube referencing a letter or statement to The Times, 1919; no such words can be tracked.
We will force this war on Hitler if he wants it or not.
• Posted on YouTube alleging a “1936 broadcast.” No attribution.
Germany becomes too powerful. We have to crush it.
• Posted on YouTube claiming to be said to U.S. General Robert E. Wood, a financial backer of the America First Committee, in November 1936. While Wood may have alleged such a statement, there is no record of it in the Churchill Papers.
This war is an English war and its goal is the destruction of Germany.
• Posted on YouTube referencing an “Autumn 1939 broadcast.” No such statement can be tracked to his broadcasts or any other source.
I do not wish to be chained to a dead German.
• Referred to as a 1944 remark by Conrad Black in The Spectator, London, 25 May 2019. No attribution.
Germany’s unforgivable crime before the Second World War was her attempt to extricate her economic power from the world’s trading system and to create her own exchange mechanism which would deny world finance its opportunity to profit. We butchered the wrong pig.
• Allegedly among quotes by Robert Boothby, but not in his memoirs, or anywhere else. Churchill never had any doubt, from the rise of Hitler to 1945, that the Nazis not the Bolsheviks were the chief enemy. He realized later that they conquered one mortal foe, only to be faced by another. But these are not his words.
The war wasn’t only about abolishing fascism, but to conquer sales markets. We could have, if we had intended to, prevented this war from breaking out without doing one shot, but we didn’t want to.
• Allegedly to Truman at Fulton, March 1946. “Doing one shot” is ungrammatical and not Churchillian. No attribution.
People: The Germans are a people who killed off their own gods. • No attribution.
You must understand that this war is not against Hitler or National Socialism but against the strength of the German people, which is to be smashed once and for all, whether it is in the hands of Hitler or a Jesuit priest! (Allegedly 1955, in Emrys Hughes, British Bulldog, 145.) • Not in Hughes, nor anywhere else.
Resistance movement: In Germany there lived an opposition which was weakened by their losses and an enervating international policy, but which belongs to the noblest and greatest that the political history of any nation has ever produced. These men fought without help from within or from abroad—driven forward only by the restlessness of their conscience. As long as they lived they were invisible and unrecognisable to us, because they had to camouflage themselves. But their death made the resistance visible.
- Supposedly 1946. Richard Lamb, Churchill as War Leader, 292, 363, contains the only appearances in English of this passage, repeated in German by Rudolf Pechel (Deutscher Widerstand, 1947). In a footnote, Lamb says there is doubt that Churchill said the words, but did hold the sentiments, quoting WSC to Walter Hammer of Hamburg, 19 November 1946: “I have had a search made through my speeches…but so far no record can be found of any such pronouncement by me. But I might quite well have used the words you quote as they represent my feelings on this aspect of German affairs.”
Giving up – Harlot’s perogative
Giving up: Never give up on something that you can’t go a day without thinking about. • No attribution.
Golf: A curious sport whose object is to put a very small ball in a very small hole with implements ill-designed for the purpose.
• Allegedly 1915. Manchester, Last Lion I, 213, carries this remark, but the footnote is not dispositive. It does not, contrary to the footnote, appear in the Official Biography’s Companion Volumes. Verdict: Almost every golfer probably said something like this at one time or another.
Government secrets: There is a difference between what endangers the nation and what merely embarrasses the government.
- Not tracked to Churchill. See “What was then in egg is now afoot” in Chapter 12, “War.”
Grandfatherly advice: What you say is very grandfatherly. You’re always giving me grandfatherly advice. You’re not my grandfather, you know. • No attribution.
Greeks fight like heroes: Hence we will not say that Greeks fight like heroes, but that heroes fight like Greeks.
- Allegedly over Greece’s resistance to German invasion in April 1941. No attribution.
Harlot’s prerogative: Power without responsibility…the prerogative of the harlot through the ages.
- Not Churchill but Rudyard Kipling. Subsequently used by Baldwin in 1931 without reference to Kipling (his cousin).
Health – Heritage
Health: Half the world’s work is done by people who don’t feel well. • No attribution.
Hebrew Bloodsuckers: The central fact which dominates the relations of Jew and non-Jew is that the Jew is “different.” He looks different….thinks differently. He has a different tradition and background…. Every Jewish moneylender recalls Shylock and the idea of the Jews as usurers. And you cannot reasonably expect a struggling clerk or shopkeeper, paying 40 or 50 percent interest on borrowed money to a “Hebrew Bloodsucker,” to reflect that almost every other way of life was closed to the Jewish people.
- A 1937 draft for a proposed Churchill article by Marshall Diston, who wrote draft proposals for some Churchill articles. Martin Gilbert reproduced the draft years ago (OB, CV5 Part 5, 670). He showed that Churchill scarcely glanced at it and twice disapproved its publication. The original bore none of his usual copious edits. This did not prevent scandalous claims that these were Churchill’s words.
Hell: If you’re going through hell, keep going. •No attribution.
Heritage, pride in: Any people with contempt for their heritage have lost faith in themselves and no nation can long survive without pride in it’s [sic] traditions.
• Ungrammatically inscribed on a Confederate monument (recently removed) in Lawrenceville, Georgia. In 1974, Dean Boggs of the Sons of Confederate veterans, wrote the words, saying they were Churchill’s sentiments. Later they were incorrectly placed within quote marks.
Heroes – Horrible Cow
Heroes: A nation that fails to honor its heroes soon will have no heroes to honor.
• Not Churchill. Possibly derived from Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind: In modern society “they have no heroes to emulate.”
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
• Famous among quotes by George Santayana (1863-1952) in The Age of Reason (1905). Churchill shared the sentiments, but never repeated the exact words.
History, writers of
History is written by the victors.
• Not Churchill. Ralph Keyes in The Quote Verifier traces variants of this quote at least back to 1879. The words above were repeated more recently by Alex Haley and Jawaharlal Nehru. A similar line credited to Oliver Wendell Homes is, “History is what the winners say it is.”
History you don’t know
The only thing that’s new in the world is the history you don’t know. • No attribution.
When the Austro-Hungarian Empire was crushed, defeated…a young painter resolved to put things right.
• No attribution: an inaccurate version of the opening lines of The Gathering Storm: “…a gaping void was opened in the national life of the German people…and into that void after a pause there strode a maniac of ferocious genius…” (See Chapter 18, World War II…Causes of the War.)
Horrible Cow: How shall I deal with this horrible cow? I will sit on the stile, And continue to smile, Which may soften the heart of the cow.
- (Liverpool, 7 May 1924). Not Churchill, since he preceded this by saying, “You all know the famous rhyme about the old man….” (He was blaming the Liberals for keeping the minority Labour government in power.)
Horses – Idiots
Horses: The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man.
- Repeatedly attributed to everyone from Woodrow Wilson’s physician to Ronald Reagan, Henry Ward Beecher and Oliver Wendell Holmes. “Verdict: Long-time male equestrian wisdom.” –The Quote Verifier, 91. What Churchill did say about horses is an amusing substitute. (See Chapter 32, Tastes and Favourites, Horses.)
Huns: The Hun is always at your throat or at your feet.
- Not original. WSC did say this (to Congress, 19 May 1943) but preceded it by saying, “The proud German Army has once again proved the truth of the saying…”
Husband, second: If I could not be who I am, I would most like to be Mrs. Churchill’s second husband. • No attribution.
Idiots: I’d rather argue against a hundred idiots than have one agree with me. • No attribution.
Immigration – Indians
Immigration: Keep England White.
• Alleged exclamation at a cabinet meeting on 20 January 1955. It stems from a diary note by Harold Macmillan: “P.M. thinks ‘Keep England White’ a good slogan! The exclamation point suggests that it was a wry aside during discussion of West Indian immigration. Unrecorded in cabinet minutes or a public statement, it remains hearsay.
Indian Rascals, Rogues and Freebooters: Power will go to the hands of rascals, rogues, freebooters; all Indian leaders will be of low calibre and men of straw. They will have sweet tongues and silly hearts. They will fight amongst themselves for power and India will be lost in political squabbles.
- Among fake quotes this garners the most comment on my website.I found no references in his 20 million word canon to “rascals, rogues or freeboaters” or to “low calibre.” However, he did refer to the Congress leaders as “men of straw” on 6 March 1947, in condemning their rush toward independence before borders of a subdivided subcontinent were resolved.
Ingratitude towards their great men is the mark of strong peoples.
- Published 1949 in Their Finest Hour, but Churchill himself credited Plutarch with this remark. He was commentating on the discarding of the French war leader Georges Clemenceau after the victory of World War I. See Chapter 20, People, Clemenceau.
Interrupting – Italians
Interrupting: Do stop interrupting me while I am interrupting you.
• A bowdlerized version of a comment to his son: “Randolph, do not interrupt me while I’m interrupting” (see Chapter 31, Personal Matters, Faults — interrupting).
Irish: We have always found the Irish a bit odd. They refuse to be English. • No attribution.
Islam: When Muslims are in the minority they are very concerned with minority rights, when they are in the majority there are no minority rights. • No attribution.
Italians: They lose wars as if they were football matches and football matches as if they were wars. No attribution.
[German Ambassador von Ribbentrop:] “Don’t forget, Mr. Churchill, if there is a war, we will have the Italians on our side this time.”] My dear Ambassador, it’s only fair. We had them last time.
- Alleged aside during WSC’s famous 1937 meeting with the “Londonderry Herr” (see Chapter 20, People, Ribbentrop). A very droll line. Sadly, no attribution exists, although it amused an Italian friend of mine immensely.
Jaw, Jaw – Lies
Jaw, Jaw and War, War: Jaw, jaw is better than war, war.
- Washington, 1954. Misquoted from “Meeting jaw to jaw is better than war.” Harold Macmillan in 1958 said the words usually—and wrongly—attributed to Churchill: “Jaw, jaw is better than war, war.”
Keep your Mouth Shut: Life is fraught with opportunities to keep your mouth shut. • No attribution.
Kiss a Girl, Climb a Wall: The most difficult things for a man to do are to climb a wall leaning towards you, and to kiss a girl leaning away from you. [Sometimes quoted with an addition: “…and to make an after-dinner speech.”]
- Commonly ascribed, but nowhere in the canon. Recently claimed by religion columnist Marion de Velder, it probably dates long before Churchill.
Kites: Kites rise highest against the wind—not with it. • No attribution.
Liberal and Conservative: If a man is not liberal in youth he has no heart. If he is not conservative when older he has no brain. [Or: When I was a young liberal I thought with my heart; when I grew wiser and conservative I thought with my brain.]
- Among popular quotes on the Internet, but not by Churchill.
Liberty: They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
- Circa 1940. Often attributed to Churchill, this remark originated at least as early as 1776 with Benjamin Franklin, though it may date back two decades earlier, to 1755. If Churchill used it, he was quoting Franklin.