All the “Quotes” Winston Churchill Never Said (3)

All the “Quotes” Winston Churchill Never Said (3)

Fake Quotes cont’d.

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” Churchill non-quo­ta­tions should 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 nam­ing the author of any quotes not cred­it­ed 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. Churchill by Him­self con­tains 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.

  • Reit­er­at­ed in many sources includ­ing tele­vi­sion ads. An old saw, ori­gin unknown, put in Churchill’s mouth to make it more inter­est­ing.

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

  • Used by Churchill, in HESP II, 95, but he was quot­ing John Dud­ley, First Duke of Northum­ber­land, before being exe­cut­ed by Mary Tudor (Mary I) upon her ascent to the throne in 1553.

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

Looks Back – Marx Brothers

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 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 attri­bu­tion.
quotes
Favorite actors? The Marx Broth­ers, Top to bot­tom: Chico, Har­po, Grou­cho and Zep­po. (Wiki­me­dia Com­mons)

Marx Broth­ers: You are my fifth favourite actor. The first four 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.

Montgomery – Naval Tradition

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 anoth­er son-in-law Vic Oliv­er, whom WSC dis­liked, ask­ing which war leader Churchill most admired. 

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 – Opportunity

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: 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.

Palestinian Dung Eaters – Pessimist and Optimist

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

  • Report­ed only by Michael Makovsky, in Churchill’s Promised Landpp. 168-69 as a remark to Mal­colm Mac­Don­ald in re the 1939 Pales­tin­ian White Paper. But Mac­Don­ald added, “these might have been his exact words.” Ver­dict: Hearsay, insuf­fi­cient­ly estab­lished. (The one time we know Churchill referred to “camel dung” is an amus­ing sto­ry. See Part 2 Com­ments.)

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.

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.

Poison in Your Coffee – Positive Thinker

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.

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

Prepositions – Sex

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

  • Per Ben­jamin Zim­mer, orig­i­nal­ly attrib­uted to WSC by The New York Times and Chica­go Tri­bune, 28 Feb­ru­ary 1944. Fred Shapiro (Yale Book of Quo­ta­tions): “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’.”

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.

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. Quoteworld.org cred­its Claude Thomas Bis­sell (1916–2000), Cana­di­an author and edu­ca­tor.

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…

One thought on “All the “Quotes” Winston Churchill Never Said (3)

  1. 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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