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 Sergent (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.”
- No attribution. A variation on “Liberal and Conservative.”
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 committee 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.
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 own words indicate 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).