All the “Quotes” Churchill Never Said (3: Lies to Sex)

All the “Quotes” Churchill Never Said (3: Lies to Sex)

Fake Quotes continued..

Red Her­rings: Quotes not by Churchill (or things he said quot­ing some­one else), con­tin­ued from Part 2.  Com­piled for the next expand­ed edi­tion of Churchill by Himself.

A read­er sug­gests that the list of “Red Her­ring” fake Churchill quotes be sub­di­vid­ed. We should sep­a­rate quotes he actu­al­ly said, but bor­rowed from some­one else, from quotes sim­ply invent­ed out of whole cloth. Not sure we have much to learn from that. First, while I try to name the orig­i­na­tor of a quo­ta­tion not by Sir Win­ston, I don’t always suc­ceed. Sec­ond, my brief extends only to dis­prov­ing that the words orig­i­nat­ed with Churchill. If you have reli­able attri­bu­tion iden­ti­fy­ing the true author of any quotes here, please let me know.

In 1686 the Oxford Eng­lish Dic­tio­nary described “red her­ring” as a metaphor to draw pur­suers off a track, as “the trail­ing or drag­ging of a dead Cat or Fox (and in case of neces­si­ty a Red-Her­ring) three or four miles…and then lay­ing the Dogs on the scent…to attempt to divert atten­tion from the real ques­tion.” That is what these mis­quotes all have in com­mon: they dis­tract or divert us from what Churchill real­ly did orig­i­nate. Chap­ter ref­er­ences are to Churchill by Him­self, with over 4000 gen­uine, attrib­uted quo­ta­tions in thir­ty-four chap­ters or cat­e­gories. The next edi­tion will con­tain over 5000. Any­way, that’s my pitch and I’m stick­ing with it.

Lies – Looking Ahead

Lies: There are a ter­ri­ble lot of lies going about the world, and the worst of it is that half of them are true.

  • Churchill used these words on 22 Feb­ru­ary 1906, but quick­ly explained that they were the remark of a “wit­ty Irishman.”

A lie will gal­lop halfway round the world before the truth has time to pull its breech­es on.

  • Among quotes com­mon­ly ascribed to Churchill (who would have said “trousers,” not “breech­es”), this was actu­al­ly writ­ten by Franklin Roosevelt’s Sec­re­tary of State, Cordell Hull (Mem­oirs I, 220).

Liv­ing and Life: You make a liv­ing by what you get; you make a life by what you give.

  • Some­times expressed using “we” instead of “you.” Often heard in tv ads. An old say­ing, ori­gin unknown. One of thosse quotes put in Churchill’s mouth to make it more interesting.

Liv­ing Dog, Dead Lion: A liv­ing dog is bet­ter than a dead lion.

  • Orig­i­nal­ly Eccle­si­astes 9:4: “But for him who is joined to all the liv­ing there is hope, for a liv­ing dog is bet­ter than a dead lion.” In HESP II, 95, WSC quotes it from John Dud­ley, First Duke of Northum­ber­land, before being exe­cut­ed by Mary Tudor in 1553.

Look­ing Ahead: It is always wise to look ahead—but dif­fi­cult to look fur­ther than you can see. • No attribution.

Looking Backward – MacDonald

Look­ing Back­ward: The fur­ther back­ward you look, the fur­ther for­ward you can see. [Or: The far­ther back­ward you can look, the far­ther for­ward you can see.]

  • Cir­ca 1944, com­mon­ly ascribed to WSC, even by HM The Queen (Christ­mas Mes­sage, 1999). What Churchill actu­al­ly said was “The longer you can look back, the far­ther you can look for­ward.” See Chap­ter 2, Maxims.

Mac­Don­ald, Ram­say: After the usu­al com­pli­ments, the Prime Min­is­ter [Mac­Don­ald] said [to Lloyd George]: “We have nev­er been col­leagues, we have nev­er been friends—at least, not what you would call hol­i­day friends—but we have both been Prime Min­is­ter, and dog doesn’t eat dog. Just look at this mon­strous Bill the trade unions and our wild fel­lows have foist­ed on me. Do me a ser­vice, and I will nev­er for­get it. Take it upstairs and cut its dirty throat.”

  • 28 Jan­u­ary 1931 in Halle, Irre­press­ible Churchill, 114. Accord­ing to Kay Halle, this was “an imag­i­nary con­ver­sa­tion dreamed by WSC between Ram­say Mac­Don­ald and David Lloyd George, direct­ed at Mac­Don­ald because of the debate on the Trades Dis­putes Act.” Halle’s ver­sion begins with “We have nev­er been col­leagues” and sub­sti­tutes “the mon­strous Bill” for “this mon­strous Bill.” No oth­er attribution.

Martinis – Metaphors

Mar­ti­nis: I like to observe the ver­mouth from across the room whilst I drink my Martini.

  • No attri­bu­tion. Pure inven­tion, since WSC did not like cock­tails. He par­tic­u­lar­ly eschewed Mar­ti­nis with lib­er­al infu­sions of ver­mouth, mixed by Pres­i­dent Roo­sevelt. He was once observed dump­ing one in a near­by flowerpot.
Favorite actors? Four of the five Marx Broth­ers, Top to bot­tom: Chico, Har­po, Grou­cho and Zep­po. Miss­ing: Gum­mo. (Wiki­me­dia Commons)

Marx Broth­ers: You are my sixth favourite actor. The first five are the Marx Brothers.

  • Report­ed in at least one Churchill quotes book, but no sign of this com­ment appears in the lit­er­a­ture. WSC enjoyed the Marx Broth­ers; for what he did say about them, see Chap­ter 32, Tastes and Favourites, Marx Brothers.

Metaphors: How infi­nite is the debt owed to metaphors by politi­cians who want to speak strong­ly but are not sure what they are going to say.

  • Stat­ed by the Sun­day Times, 22 Octo­ber 2022. No attribution. 

“Mettle” – Mussolini

“Met­tle”: [A junior MP: “What is the great­est qual­i­ty in a leader?”] WSC: “Met­tle.”

  • Sup­pos­ed­ly a one-word response to a peren­ni­al ques­tion. Although “met­tle” was a favorite word, this is unsub­stan­ti­at­ed. It was cred­it­ed with­out attri­bu­tion to Nigel Nicol­son, edi­tor of Harold Nicolson’s diaries, but it does not appear in those volumes.

 Achieve­ment is not last, dis­ap­point­ment is not dead­ly: It is the met­tle to pro­ceed with that matters.

  • Post­ed as a Churchill quo­ta­tion by As close as we come to the “met­tle” response above, but no attri­bu­tion can be found, either for the full phrase or any com­po­nents of it.

Mont­gomery, Field Mar­shal Bernard: In defeat, indomitable; in vic­to­ry, insuf­fer­able. [Or: Indomitable in retreat, invin­ci­ble in advance, insuf­fer­able in victory.]

  • Wide­ly bruit­ed about, but not in Churchill’s canon. Like­ly con­jured up late­ly from “Indomitable in vic­to­ry, insuf­fer­able in defeat,” by Amer­i­can foot­ball coach Woody Hayes. For a num­ber of gen­uine remarks see Chap­ter 20, Peo­ple, Montgomery.

The Field Mar­shal lived up to the finest tra­di­tion of Eng­lish­men. He sold his life dearly.

  • WSC alleged­ly said this in 1958 when advised that Monty’s mem­oirs were earn­ing more than his His­to­ry of the Eng­lish Speak­ing Peo­ples. It seems unlike Churchill. “Sold his life dear­ly” comes up only once in the canon, when Alan­brooke opined that Churchill would have done so if ever backed up against a wall by invad­ing Germans.

Mus­soli­ni’s Con­so­la­tion: [Son-in-law Dun­can Sandys: “Hitler and Mus­soli­ni have an even greater bur­den to bear, because every­thing is going wrong for them.”] Ah! But Mus­soli­ni has this con­so­la­tion, that he could shoot his son-in-law!

  • Refers to the exe­cu­tion by fir­ing squad of Count Galeaz­zo Ciano (1903-1944). This non-quote orig­i­nat­ed in news­pa­per pro­pri­etor Cecil King’s war mem­oir,With Mal­ice Toward None (1970). But King said it was “obvi­ous­ly con­coct­ed by some wag.” Anoth­er ver­sion involves WSC’s son-in-law Vic Oliv­er, whom he dis­liked, ask­ing which war leader Churchill most admired.

Naval Tradition – Nuisenza

Naval tra­di­tion: Don’t talk to me about naval tra­di­tion. It’s noth­ing but rum, bug­gery [some­times “sodomy”] and the lash.

  • In 1955 WSC denied this, but Harold Nicol­son quotes him on 17 August 1950: “Naval tra­di­tion? Mon­strous. Noth­ing but rum, sodomy, prayers and the lash.” How­ev­er, the Oxford Dic­tio­nary of Quo­ta­tions lists “Rum, bum, and bac­ca” and “Ashore it’s wine women and song, aboard it’s rum, bum and con­certi­na” as 19th cen­tu­ry naval catch­phras­es. Ver­dict: not orig­i­nal to Churchill.

Nev­er Give In [Three-word speech. Also some­times: “Nev­er give up.”]

  • Har­row School, 29 Octo­ber 1941. Often rep­re­sent­ed as a three-word speech which Churchill alleged­ly made, and then sat down. This is incor­rect. The com­plete quo­ta­tion is in Chap­ter 2, Max­ims, Perseverance.

Nev­er quit: Nev­er, nev­er, nev­er quit! [Also some­times quot­ed as “Nev­er, nev­er, nev­er give up!”

  • Mis­quo­ta­tions of “Nev­er give in – nev­er, nev­er, nev­er, nev­er, except to con­vic­tions of hon­our and good sense.”

Nuisen­za: It is a nuisen­za to have the fluenza.

  • Dat­ed 25 Octo­ber 1943 in WW2 V, 279. Rep­re­sent­ed in places as a Churchillism, this was actu­al­ly Roo­sevelt writ­ing to Churchill.

Oats and Sage – Organ grinder

Oats and Sage: The young sow wild oats, the old grow sage.

  • Con­stant­ly ascribed to Churchill, it is not among his pub­lished words. Hen­ry James Byron (1835–84) in “An Adage” wrote: “The gardener’s rule applies to youth and age; When young ‘sow wild oats,” but when old, grow sage.”

Oppor­tu­ni­ty: To each there comes in their life­time a spe­cial moment when they are fig­u­ra­tive­ly tapped on the shoul­der and offered the chance to do a very spe­cial thing, unique to them and fit­ted to their tal­ents. What a tragedy if that moment finds them unpre­pared or unqual­i­fied for that which could have been their finest hour.

  • Com­mon­ly attrib­uted, but nei­ther the quo­ta­tion nor parts of it can be found. That it is man­u­fac­tured is sug­gest­ed by its use of “finest hour” from WSC’s famous speech of 18 June 1940, which he would have been unlike­ly to repeat in so off­hand a con­text. Ver­dict: apoc­ryphal Churchill.

Organ grinder and mon­key: Nev­er hold dis­cus­sions with the mon­key when the organ grinder is in the room.

Bad­ly gar­bled from what Churchill said about Hitler and Mus­soli­ni: “The organ grinder still has hold of the monkey’s col­lar.” See Chap­ter 20, Peo­ple, Mussolini.

Palestinians – People

Pales­tini­ans: It is crazy to help the [Pales­tin­ian] Arabs, because they are a back­ward peo­ple who ate noth­ing but camel dung.

  • Report­ed only by Michael Makovsky, in Churchill’s Promised Land, pp. 168-69 as a remark to Mal­colm Mac­Don­ald in re the 1939 Pales­tine White Paper. Makovsky added, “these might not have been Churchill’s exact words.” Ver­dict: insuf­fi­cient­ly estab­lished. (Churchill’s one ver­i­fied ref­er­ence to “camel dung” is an amus­ing sto­ry. See Part 2 Com­ments.)

Past, remem­ber­ing the: 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.

Peo­ple Will Put You Out: [Lord Shaw­cross: “We are the mas­ters at the moment, and not only at the moment, but for a very long time to come.”] Oh no you’re not. The peo­ple put you there and the peo­ple will put you out again.

  • Sup­pos­ed­ly 1946 with the Labour Par­ty new­ly in pow­er. Shaw­cross is often mis­quot­ed as say­ing, “We are the mas­ters now.” He main­tained that he spoke as above, but Churchill’s retort is not estab­lished and like­ly apocryphal.

Perfection – Pessimist

Per­fec­tion is the ene­my of progress.  • No attribution.

Per­sis­tence: Con­tin­u­ous effort—not strength or intelligence—is the key to unlock­ing our potential.

No attri­bu­tion. Report­ed August 2008 in Investor’s Busi­ness Daily.

Pes­simist and Opti­mist: A pes­simist sees the dif­fi­cul­ty in every oppor­tu­ni­ty; an opti­mist sees the oppor­tu­ni­ty in every difficulty.

• No attri­bu­tion. For what he did say about them, see Chap­ter 5, Anec­dotes and Stories…Optimists and Pessimists.

Planning – Poison

Plan­ning: Plans are of lit­tle impor­tance, but plan­ning is essen­tial. • No attribution.

Plan to fail: Peo­ple who fail to plan, plan to fail.

• No attri­bu­tion. For what he did say, see “Plan­ning” in Chap­ter 21, Polit­i­cal The­o­ry and Prac­tice and Chap­ter 22, Pol­i­tics: The Home Front.

Poi­son in Your Cof­fee: [Nan­cy Astor: “If I were mar­ried to you, I’d put poi­son in your cof­fee.”] If I were mar­ried to you, I’d drink it.

  • Blenheim Palace, cir­ca 1912, Bal­san, 162; Sykes, 127. Mar­tin Gilbert (In Search of Churchill, 232) con­clud­ed that the author was F.E. Smith, Lord Birken­head, “a much heav­ier drinker than Churchill, and a noto­ri­ous acer­bic wit”. But Fred Shapiro (Yale Book of Quo­ta­tions) says the riposte dates back even far­ther, to a joke line in the Chica­go Tri­bune of 3 Jan­u­ary 1900: “‘If I had a hus­band like you,’ she said with con­cen­trat­ed scorn, ‘I’d give him poi­son!’ ‘Mad’m,’ he rejoined, look­ing her over with a fee­ble sort of smile, ‘If I had a wife like you I’d take it.’” Ver­dict: F. E. Smith, giv­ing new life to an old wisecrack.

Politics – Prepositions

Pol­i­tics: Pol­i­tics is the art of inclu­sion, not exclusion.

           •  No attri­bu­tion. He did say, “Pol­i­tics is the art of look­ing for­ward…” See Chap­ter 2, Maxims…Politics.

Pos­i­tive Thinker: The pos­i­tive thinker sees the invis­i­ble, feels the intan­gi­ble, and achieves the impos­si­ble.No attri­bu­tion.

Pow­er: Pow­er is a drug. Who tried it at least once is poi­soned for­ev­er. • Report­ed by, 2020. No attribution.

Prepo­si­tions, End­ing Sen­tences in: This is the kind of pedan­tic non­sense up with which I will not put. [Some­times ren­dered as “tedious non­sense” or “offen­sive impertinence.”]

  • Per Ben­jamin Zim­mer, orig­i­nal­ly attrib­uted to WSC by The New York Times and Chica­go Tri­bune, 28 Feb­ru­ary 1944. Fred Shapiro (Yale Book of Quo­ta­tions) writes: “The Times…made one change that seems to under­cut Churchill’s humor com­plete­ly: they ‘fixed’ the quote so that there are no front­ed prepo­si­tions. The Wall Street Jour­nal, 30 Sep­tem­ber 1942, quotes an undat­ed arti­cle in Strand Mag­a­zine: When a mem­o­ran­dum passed round a cer­tain Gov­ern­ment depart­ment, one young pedant scrib­bled a post­script draw­ing atten­tion to the fact that the sen­tence end­ed with a prepo­si­tion, which caused the orig­i­nal writer to reply that the anony­mous post­script was ‘offen­sive imper­ti­nence, up with which I will not put.’”

Principle – Public Schools

Prin­ci­ple: Nev­er stand so high upon a prin­ci­ple that you can­not low­er it to suit the cir­cum­stances. • An all-pur­pose bon mot put in WSC’s mouth to make it more inter­est­ing; no attribution.

Pris­on­er of War: A pris­on­er of war is a man who tries to kill you and fails, and then asks you not to kill him. • No attribution.

Prof­its and Loss­es: Social­ists think prof­its are a vice. I con­sid­er loss­es the real vice. • No attribution.

Pub­lic [Pri­vate] Schools: A pub­lic school edu­ca­tion equips a boy for life and damns him for eternity.

• No attri­bu­tion. (In Britain, a pub­lic school is a pri­vate prep school.)

Rich and Poor – Sex

Rep­u­ta­tion: The most impor­tant man in the world, when he dies, leaves as last­ing an impres­sion as a fist with­drawn from a buck­et of water. • No attri­bu­tion.

Rich and Poor: You don’t make the poor rich­er by mak­ing the rich poor­er.No attri­bu­tion.

Risk, Care and Dream: Risk more than oth­ers think is safe. Care more than oth­ers think is wise. Dream more than oth­ers think is prac­ti­cal. Expect more than oth­ers think is possible.

  • No attri­bu­tion. cred­its Claude Thomas Bis­sell (1916–2000), Cana­di­an author and educator.

Rough men stand ready: See “Defend­ers of the peace,” Part 2.

Sav­ing: Sav­ing is a very good thing, espe­cial­ly if your par­ents have done it for you. • No attri­bu­tion.

Say­ing and Doing: I no longer lis­ten to what peo­ple say, I just watch what they do. Behav­iour nev­er lies. • No attribution.

School­days: At Har­row they taught us not to piss on our hands. No attri­bu­tion.

Sex: It gives me great pleasure.

  • At The Oth­er Club, a mem­ber drawn at ran­dom would chalk a word on a black­board. A sec­ond mem­ber, cho­sen by lot, had to make an impromp­tu speech about it. This is sup­pos­ed­ly Churchill’s speech on the word “sex.” No attri­bu­tion is found.

Con­clud­ed in Part 4…

4 thoughts on “All the “Quotes” Churchill Never Said (3: Lies to Sex)

  1. The quote about a liv­ing dog is orig­i­nal­ly from the Bible, in 9:4 of Ecclesiastes.
    Thanks, updat­ed accord­ing­lyh RML

  2. My edi­tor said this quote is not in the pub­lic domain. Do I have a prob­lem using it as a sub­ti­tle in my soon to be pub­lished book? “To each there comes in their life­time a spe­cial moment when they are fig­u­ra­tive­ly tapped on the shoul­der and offered the chance to do a very spe­cial thing, unique to them and fit­ted to their tal­ents. What a tragedy if that moment finds them unpre­pared or unqual­i­fied for that which could have been their finest hour.”
    You do not, so long as you do not ascribe it to Win­ston Churchill, since he nev­er said it. It is one of scores of alleged Churchill quotes invent­ed from whole cloth. See above arti­cle under “Oppor­tu­ni­ty.” For a gen­er­al expla­na­tion of how quotes are man­u­fac­tured, see “Church­llian Drift.” —RML

  3. I do love posts like the one below. They always remind me of Churchill’s rejoin­der: “The Rt. Hon. Gen­tle­man must not gen­er­ate more indig­na­tion than he can contain.”

    “Pales­tin­ian dung eaters.” As not­ed above, the quote is hearsay, though I wouldn’t dis­pute the con­text. Michael Makovsky in Churchill’s Promised Land, is cor­rect to say it jibed with WSC’s low opin­ion of Pales­tini­ans he’d met in 1920. But to call peo­ple prim­i­tive or back­ward is not racist. Nor is Pales­tine a race. Fact.

    Killing natives: Where exact­ly did he laugh and joke about killing natives? If you want to throw accu­sa­tions around, have the integri­ty to back them up. What he said about the Amrit­sar Mas­sacre is, how­ev­er, appo­site: “Fright­ful­ness is the inflict­ing of great slaugh­ter or mas­sacre upon a par­tic­u­lar crowd of people….Frightfulness is not a rem­e­dy known to the British phar­ma­copoeia.” House of Com­mons, 8 July 1920. Fact.

    Eugen­ics. Yes, Churchill was “into” Eugen­ics for a flash of cos­mic time, when every­body else was, too. He didn’t mur­der any­one, let alone six mil­lion, for the acci­dent of their birth. Fact.

    Stick to real­i­ty, not fan­cy. Oth­er­wise, to para­phrase San­tayana, those who spew rub­bish are con­demned to respew it.

  4. Per­sis­tence: Con­tin­u­ous effort—not strength or intelligence—is the key to unlock­ing our potential.

    As a teacher I would say this is good advice; as a lit­er­ary crit­ic I would say it is too pedes­tri­an to be WSC.

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