All the “Quotes” Churchill Never Said (4: Sexism to Ypres)

All the “Quotes” Churchill Never Said (4: Sexism to Ypres)

Fake Quotes, concluded

Red Her­rings: Quotes not by Churchill (or things he said quot­ing some­one else), con­tin­ued from Part 3.  Com­piled for the next expand­ed edi­tion of Churchill by Him­self. Chap­ter ref­er­ences are to present edi­tions of that book.

Earthy or sex­ist gags were not real­ly Win­ston Churchill’s méti­er. His daugh­ter Mary doubt­ed an alleged crack to Bessie Brad­dock MP, who accused him of being drunk: “And you, my dear…are dis­gust­ing­ly ugly, but tomor­row I’ll be sober….” But I pro­duced the Scot­land Yard body­guard who was stand­ing next to him dur­ing the Brad­dock encounter. Lady Soames reluc­tant­ly agreed. “Well, maybe, under those cir­cum­stances….!” (It proved to be a wise­crack her father had remem­bered from a movie star­ring W.C. Fields.)

Sexism – Simple Tastes

Sex­ism: A good speech should be like a woman’s skirt: long enough to cov­er the sub­ject and short enough to cre­ate inter­est. 

Madam, would you sleep with me for five mil­lion pounds? [Socialite: “My good­ness, Mr. Churchill…Well, I sup­pose.”] Would you sleep with me for five pounds? [“What kind of a woman do you think I am?”] We’ve already estab­lished that. Now we are hag­gling about the price.

  • No attri­bu­tion and both quotes are out of char­ac­ter. WSC was not giv­en to misog­y­nis­tic wisecracks.

Sey­mour Cocks: Yes, Sey­mour Cocks and hear more balls.

  • Ripe for Churchillian Drift (WSC might have repeat­ed it), this was attrib­uted by Antho­ny Mon­tague Browne to the For­eign Office’s Orme Sar­gent (Long Sun­set, 58). Piers Bren­don sug­gests Aneurin Bevan (Churchill’s Bes­tiary, 295).

Shoot­ing his son-in-law: Ah! but Mus­soli­ni has this con­so­la­tion, that he could shoot his son-in-law!

  • Sup­pos­ed­ly said 20 July 1944 to Dun­can Sandys, Che­quers. Cecil King wrote (267): “Churchill’s favourite theme is of the great bur­den rest­ing on him and of the unfair­ness that any one man should have to bear so great a respon­si­bil­i­ty. He was groan­ing away on the usu­al lines, so Dun­can Sandys, to cheer him (accord­ing to the sto­ry), point­ed out that Hitler had an even greater bur­den to bear—so had Mussolini—because, after all, every­thing was going wrong for them.” Quotes usu­al­ly relate this as a crack to Vic Oliv­er, a less beloved son-in-law than Dun­can Sandys. How­ev­er, I can­not find reli­able attri­bu­tion to the Oliv­er remark. See Chap­ter 20, People…Mussolini.

Shy a Stone – Simple Tastes

Shy a Stone: You will nev­er get to the end of the jour­ney if you stop to shy a stone at every dog that barks.

  • Shepherd’s Bush Empire The­atre, Lon­don, 3 Decem­ber 1923. Among his quotes of some­one else. He pre­ced­ed this by stat­ing, “As some­one said…” A sim­i­lar state­ment urg­ing courage “when the dog growls” is in Chap­ter 29, Lead­er­ship, Courage.

Sim­ple Tastes: I am a man of sim­ple tastes—I am quite eas­i­ly sat­is­fied with the best of everything.

  • Accord­ing to Sir John Colville, F. E. Smith, Lord Birken­head said “Win­ston is eas­i­ly sat­is­fied with the best” (with­out “man of sim­ple tastes” or “of every­thing.”) Churchill with his great mem­o­ry could have repeat­ed this to the man­ag­er of the Plaza Hotel in New York, as is some­times said. 

Sleeping – Something vs. Norhing

Sleep­ing to Noon: A man who gets the rep­u­ta­tion of ris­ing at dawn can sleep to noon. • No attribution.

Social­ist and Cap­i­tal­ist: “If a man is 20 and not a Social­ist, he has no heart. If a man is 40 and not a Cap­i­tal­ist, he has no head.”

Social­ism: You don’t make the poor rich­er by mak­ing the rich poor­er. • No attribution.

Some­thing vs. Noth­ing: It is bet­ter to do some­thing than to do noth­ing while wait­ing to do every­thing.No attri­bu­tion.

Soviet politics – Strategy

Sovi­et pol­i­tics: It’s like dogs fight­ing under a carpet.

Although WSC com­pared British par­ty pol­i­tics to a dog-fight on occa­sion, there is no attri­bu­tion for this expres­sion to describe Krem­lin in-fight­ing. Nor is there any occur­rence of the phrase “under the carpet.” 

Speech­es: A good speech should be like a woman’s skirt: long enough to cov­er the sub­ject and short enough to cre­ate inter­est. • No attri­bu­tion.

What if, instead of “We shall fight on the beach­es,” I had said, “Hos­til­i­ties will be engaged with our adver­sary on the coastal perime­ter”? No attri­bu­tion.

I am going to make a long speech today; I haven’t had time to pre­pare a short one.

  • If he said it (there is no evi­dence), WSC bor­rowed the idea from Blaise Pas­cal who, in 1656, wrote: “I have only made this let­ter rather long because I have not had time to make it shorter.” 

Stal­in and Rus­sia: The core of Stalin’s his­toric achieve­ments con­sists in this, that he had found Rus­sia work­ing with wood­en ploughs and is leav­ing her equipped with atom­ic piles. He has raised Rus­sia to the lev­el of the sec­ond indus­tri­al Pow­er of the world. This was not a mat­ter of mere mate­r­i­al progress and organisation.

  • Cir­ca 1953, quotes by Isaak Doitch­er, Ironies in His­to­ry: Essays in Con­tem­po­rary Com­mu­nism. Sup­pos­ed­ly a trib­ute by WSC after Stalin’s death , it has no rela­tion to any known state­ment by Churchill. For his actu­al appraisal see Chap­ter 20, Peo­ple, Stalin.

Sta­tis­tics: Do not trust any sta­tis­tic you did not fake your­self. [Or: The only sta­tis­tics you can trust are those you fal­si­fied yourself.]

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies and statistics.

No attri­bu­tion. Mark Twain cred­it­ed the last to Ben­jamin Disraeli.

Strategy – Submarines

Strat­e­gy: How­ev­er beau­ti­ful the strat­e­gy, you should occa­sion­al­ly look at the results. • No attri­bu­tion.

Street-sweeper’s tale: You see, if you had mar­ried him, you would be the wife of a street-sweep­er today. [Clemen­tine Churchill: “No, if I had mar­ried him, he would be prime min­is­ter today.”

• Sup­pos­ed­ly Clemen­tine Churchill, after greet­ing a street-sweep­er, says to her hus­band: “He was in love with me a long time ago.” Man­u­fac­tured quotes with­out attribution.

Sub­marines vs. U-boats: Ene­my sub­marines are to be called “U-boats.” The term “sub­ma­rine” is to be reserved for Allied under­wa­ter ves­sels. U-boats are those das­tard­ly vil­lains who sink our ships, while sub­marines are those gal­lant and noble craft which sink theirs.

Wide­ly quot­ed by numer­ous books on the naval war, not one of which car­ries a foot­note to a valid attri­bu­tion. While Churchill expressed the same view in oth­er ways, we must regard this as apocryphal.

Success – Trees

Suc­cess is not final, fail­ure is not fatal: it is the courage to con­tin­ue that counts. • No attribution.

Suc­cess con­sists of going from fail­ure to fail­ure with­out los­ing your enthusiasm.

  • Broad­ly attrib­uted to Churchill, but nowhere in his canon. An almost equal num­ber of sources cred­it I to Abra­ham Lin­coln; but none pro­vide attribution. 

Sui­cide: It is nev­er nec­es­sary to com­mit sui­cide, espe­cial­ly if you live to regret it. • No attri­bu­tion. Such quotes sound more like Yogi Berra than WSC.

Swe­den: The Swedes ignored the greater moral issues of the war and played both sides for prof­it. • Quot­ed by Wikipedia, but with­out any valid citation.

Tak­ing office: Take office only when it suits you, but put the gov­ern­ment in a minor­i­ty when­ev­er you decent­ly can.

  • Pub­lished in Lord Ran­dolph Churchill, I, 188. WSC put this in quotes because he did not claim it; he ascribed it to his father.

Tar­di­ness: I am a sport­ing man. I always give them [trains and planes] a fair chance to get away.

  • Often ascribed to WSC, actu­al­ly said about him (in the third per­son) by his wife Clemen­tine. See “Faults, but remarked by his wife (mis­quot­ed here). See Chap­ter 31, “Per­son­al Matters….Faults.”

Temp­ta­tion: Don’t wor­ry about avoid­ing temp­ta­tion. As you grow old­er, she will avoid you. • No attribution.

Trees Grow­ing to the Sky: The trees do not grow up to the sky.

  • Described by WSC as an “old Ger­man say­ing,” on 25 Sep­tem­ber 1938 in “The Effect of Mod­ern Amuse­ments on Life and Char­ac­ter,” in News of the World, fol­low­ing his con­cerns about dra­mat­ic falls in future birth rates. Also deployed with slight­ly dif­fer­ent word­ing over bomb­ing Lon­don. See Chap­ter 22, Pol­i­tics; The Home Front, Insur­ance, Blitz. Fre­quent among his quotes: Churchill used this on thir­teen lat­er occasions

Troubles – Umbongo

Trou­bles: Most of the things I have wor­ried about nev­er end­ed up happening.

  • Quotes by WSC but not orig­i­nal. (See Chap­ter 31, Per­son­al Mat­ters, Trou­bles.) Fred Shapiro (Yale Book of Quo­ta­tions), believes the orig­i­na­tor was Mark Twain (“I am an old man and have known a great many trou­bles, but most of them nev­er hap­pened”) or Thomas Jeffer­son: (“How much pain have cost us the evils which have nev­er hap­pened!”) A sim­i­lar remark, attrib­uted to an anony­mous octo­ge­nar­i­an, appeared in The Wash­ing­ton Post, 11 Sep­tem­ber 1910.

Umbon­go: Umbon­go, umbon­go, they drink it in the Congo

• Report­ed by the Dai­ly Tele­graph dur­ing the Brex­it debate, 27 Feb­ru­ary 2019. No attri­bu­tion. Brex­it cyn­ics might pre­fer: “Gen­er­al Mon­ro was an offi­cer of swift deci­sion. He came, he saw, he capit­u­lat­ed.” (See Chap­ter 20, “Peo­ple.”)

Virtues and Vices – Whisky

Virtues and Vices: He has all the virtues I dis­like and none of the vices I admire. [Or: he was pos­sessed of all the virtues I despise and none of the sins I admire.]

  • Often and promi­nent­ly quot­ed, with respect to Stafford Cripps and Edwin Scrym­geour; no evi­dence of this or sim­i­lar quotes in Churchill’s canon.

Nev­er trust a man who has not a sin­gle redeem­ing vice. • No attribution.

While Eng­land Slept 

  • The Amer­i­can edi­tion of Arms and the Covenant was not enti­tled by Churchill. WSC’s cable, sug­gest­ing The Locust Years to pub­lish­er Put­nam, was gar­bled to read The Lotus Years. Baf­fled, Putnam’s staff looked up “lotus,” find­ing “a plant induc­ing dreami­ness.” Then one direc­tor said, “I’ve got it: While Eng­land Slept.” WSC was delight­ed. —Robert Bruce Lock­hart, Comes the Reck­on­ing, 1947, 201 (con­firmed by Clemen­tine Churchill).

Whisky: If you mean whisky, the devil’s brew, the poi­son scourge, the bloody mon­ster that defiles inno­cence, dethrones rea­son, destroys the home, cre­ates  mis­ery and poverty…I am opposed to it with every fibre of my being.” How­ev­er, if  you mean the oil of con­ver­sa­tion, the philo­soph­ic wine, the elixir of life…Then my friend, I am absolute­ly, unequiv­o­cal­ly in favour of it. • No attri­bu­tion, though he might have shared the sentiment.

White Meat – “Winston is Back”

White Meat: [After ask­ing for a chick­en breast at a Vir­ginia buf­fet, Churchill was informed by his gen­teel host­ess that South­ern ladies pre­ferred the term “white meat.” The next day he sent her a cor­sage, with a card:] I would be much oblig­ed if you would pin this on your white meat. • No attribution.

Wine: A mag­num of claret is the per­fect size for two gen­tle­men to share over lunch—especially if one isn’t drink­ing. • No attri­bu­tion; indeed claret was not a com­mon lunchtime tipple.

Win­ston is Back: I there­fore sent word to the Admi­ral­ty that I would take charge forth­with and arrive at 6 o’clock. On this the Board were kind enough to sig­nal the fleet, “Win­ston is back.”

  • Men­tioned by Churchill (The Gath­er­ing Storm, 320, 1948) and repeat­ed by Lord Mount­bat­ten at Edmon­ton in 1966. Sir Mar­tin Gilbert and oth­ers find no record of such a sig­nal when Churchill returned to the Admi­ral­ty in 1939.


Women and Chil­dren First: There are three things I like about being on Ital­ian cruise ships. First, their cui­sine is unsur­passed. Sec­ond, their ser­vice is superb. And then, in time of emer­gency, there is none of this non­sense about women and chil­dren first.

  • All over the Inter­net after the 2012 wreck of the Ital­ian lin­er Cos­ta Con­cor­dia, but Churchill’s entire make­up exclud­ed such sen­ti­ments. The Quote Inves­ti­ga­tor ascribed the remark to trav­el writer Hen­ry J. Allen in 1917. (For Churchill on loss of life at sea, see Chap­ter 15, Naval Per­son…Titan­ic Sinking.)

Women’s Suf­frage: The women’s suf­frage move­ment is only the small edge of the wedge, if we allow women to vote it will mean the loss of social struc­ture and the rise of every lib­er­al cause under the sun. Women are well rep­re­sent­ed by their fathers, broth­ers and husbands.

  • Alleged­ly to Asquith, 21 Decem­ber 1911. But his let­ter was on polit­i­cal tac­tics, not suf­frage, and it is ten­den­tious to sug­gest he would oppose lib­er­al caus­es since he was then a Lib­er­al. He wrote some­thing sim­i­lar to this in 1897, when he was 23: a pri­vate note past­ed into his copy of the 1874 Annu­al Reg­is­ter. By 1911 he had come a long way; he nev­er overt­ly opposed suf­frage in the 20th century.

Words – Ypres

Words: We are the mas­ters of the unsaid words, but slaves of those we let slip out. • No attribution.

            Someone—I for­get who—has said: “Words are the only things which last for ever.” That is, to my mind, always a won­der­ful thought.

In this first appear­ance of a repeat­ed phrase, to the Author’s Club, Lon­don on 17 Feb­ru­ary 1908, Churchill cred­it­ed the quote to some­one else.  (CS I, 905). In a 10 June 1909 press con­fer­ence, he remarked: “It has been said words are the only things that last for­ev­er.” (CS II, 1262).  But by the 1930s he had adopt­ed the line as his own. See Chap­ter IV Writer and Speaker…Language.

Yale and MIT: An after-din­ner speak­er was giv­ing the audi­ence at least 15 min­utes for each of the four let­ters that spell “Yale”… “Y is for Youth…A is for Achievement…L is for Loyalty…E is for enter­prise,” etc. Halfway through “enter­prise” a mem­ber of the audi­ence said: “Thank God he didn’t go to the Mass­a­chu­setts Insti­tute of Tech­nol­o­gy.” • No attri­bu­tion.

Ypres, Bel­gium: I should like us to acquire the ruins of Ypres.…a more sacred place for the British race does not exist in the world.

  • Alleged­ly 1918. Wide­ly attrib­uted with no reli­able source. These were cer­tain­ly Churchill’s sen­ti­ments, accord­ing to his pri­vate sec­re­tary Eddie Marsh’s diary of 29 Octo­ber 1918: “Win­ston wants to turn that group of build­ings into a ceme­tery, with lawns and flow­ers among the ruins, and the names of innu­mer­able dead.” (Has­sall, 455).

End of “All the quotes he never said” — for now!

4 thoughts on “All the “Quotes” Churchill Never Said (4: Sexism to Ypres)

  1. Is there any evi­dence that Churchill said “if Ger­many begins trad­ing in the next fifty years we would have fought the war (WW1) for nothing”?
    Noth­ing like that, or key phras­es of it. Added to the list. RML

  2. Well, you can still use it by say­ing your favorite line was “reput­ed­ly said, but mis­at­trib­uted.” On social­ism, what he actu­al­ly said was bet­ter than the bowd­ler­ized ver­sion: “Social­ism is the phi­los­o­phy of fail­ure, the creed of igno­rance, and the gospel of envy.” (1948)

  3. Fas­ci­nat­ing. It seems that I have also been guilty of quot­ing WC of some­thing he nev­er said. Yet some of these quotes sound­ed so log­i­cal and cred­i­ble that he could have said them. For exam­ple: Social­ism is the dog­ma of fail­ure. Mag­gie Thatch­er is cred­it­ed with: Social­ism is fine (won­der­ful) until you run out of oth­er people’s money.

    Mis­quot­ing WC and MT is just a symp­ton of the high regard I have for them as leaders.

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