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 brought me up sharp over the famous 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….” She said: “That’s not Papa. He was always gallant to the ladies.” But then 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 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 Sergent (Long Sunset, 58). Piers Brendon suggests Aneurin Bevan (Churchill’s Bestiary, 295).
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, WSC’s close friend F. E. Smith, Lord Birkenhead, originated the remark, “Mr. Churchill is easily satisfied with the best” (without “man of simple tastes” or “of everything.”) Churchill with his great memory could quite easily have repeated and embroidered on Birkenhead’s remark when he visited the Plaza Hotel in New York, shortly after Birkenhead’s death in 1931, as is sometimes said. Credit: F. E. Smith.
Something vs. Nothing – Strategy
Something vs. Nothing: It is better to do something than to do nothing while waiting to do everything. • No attribution.
Speeches, Long vs. Short: I am going to make a long speech today; I haven’t had time to prepare a short one.
- If this is among his quotes (there is no evidence), WSC borrowed the idea from Blaise Pascal who, in 1656, wrote to a friend: “I have only made this letter rather long because I have not had time to make it shorter.” (“Je n’ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parceque je n’ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte.”)
Stalin and Russia: In the course of three decades, however, the face of the Soviet Union has become transformed. 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. No such achievement would have been possible without a vast cultural revolution, in the course of which a whole nation was sent to school to undergo a most intensive education.
- Circa 1953, quotes by Isaak Doitcher, Ironies in History: Essays in Contemporary Communism. Supposedly a tribute by WSC after Stalin’s death or later, this 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 to Churchill for any of these. The last was popularized by Mark Twain, who himself credited it to Benjamin Disraeli.
Strategy – Troubles
Strategy: However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results. • No attribution.
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.
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.
Temptation: Don’t worry about avoiding temptation. As you grow older, it 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: 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.
Um bongo – Winston is Back
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: 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 can be found in Churchill’s canon.
While England Slept
- The American edition of Arms and the Covenant was not Churchill’s. WSC’s cable, suggesting The Locust Years to publisher Putnam, was garbled to read The Lotus Years. Baffled, Putnam’s staff looked up “lotus”, which was described as 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).
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.
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.”
- Although quoted by Churchill (The Gathering Storm, 320, 1948) and repeated by Lord Mountbatten at Edmonton in 1966, Sir Martin Gilbert and others have never found any record of such a signal being sent when Churchill returned to the Admiralty in 1939.
Women and Children First – Women’s Suffrage
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 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. This is a manufactured quotation to suit preconceived notions. Churchill’s letter was on political tactics, not suffrage, and it is tendentious to suggest he would oppose liberal causes since he was a Liberal, and quite a radical one. WSC wrote something similar to this in 1897, when he was twenty-three: a private note pasted into his copy of the 1874 Annual Register, where he was reviewing political issues to decide which side he would take (OB, CV1/2, 765). By 1911 he had come a long way; he never seriously opposed suffrage in the 20th century, and in 1918 voted for the women’s suffrage bill.
Words – Ypres
Words: We are the masters of the unsaid words, but slaves of those we let slip out. • No attribution.
It has been said [that] words are the only things which last forever.
- First appearance of this phrase, 10 June 1909 at a Foreign Office press conference (Complete Speeches II, 1262). His “It has been said…” indicates that the phrase did not originate with him, but he did use it effectively in 1934 and 1938. See Chapter 4, 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).