The Word Play of “Notability or Notoriety”

The Word Play of “Notability or Notoriety”

One remark I love to quote but can­not locate is WSC’s self avowed quest for fame by “nota­bil­i­ty or noto­ri­ety.” Great word play. The best I can remem­ber is see­ing it in one of the ear­ly com­pan­ion vol­umes of the offi­cial biog­ra­phy, edit­ed by his son Ran­dolph. —M.W., New Jersey

I have sent this to sev­er­al col­leagues to help fath­om, because I can­not pro­vide you with the ref­er­ence. In search­ing my scanned data, the only instance of “nota­bil­i­ty and noto­ri­ety” (togeth­er) is in Finest Hour 99, p 19 (“Pat­terns in Churchill’s Charmed Life” by Man­fred Wei­d­horn). Pro­fes­sor Wei­d­horn wrote: “The law of aver­ages dic­tates that some of these dream­ers suc­ceed. Churchill was one of them. Hence he is the hero of our hypo­thet­i­cal non-real­is­tic nov­el. As a young man, Churchill put the world on notice with his mem­o­rably declared resolve to be an achiev­er by either ‘nota­bil­i­ty or notoriety.’”

There are 1000 occur­rences of “nota­bil­i­ty” (includ­ing for “notable,” etc.) in the Churchill canon, but only 121 for “noto­ri­ety,” which makes it fea­si­ble to look at each, and I did—but no ref­er­ence includes “nota­bil­i­ty” in the phrase except the one in Finest Hour. Odd, because Prof. Wei­d­horn is rarely wrong, and was evi­dent­ly quot­ing him from some­where. Yet the only quo­ta­tion I  could find that was even close was in Churchill’s auto­bi­og­ra­phy My Ear­ly Life, 1930 edi­tion, 231:

I was not to be done out of the cam­paign. I was not to lan­guish as a pris­on­er. I was to escape, and by escap­ing was to gain a pub­lic rep­u­ta­tion or noto­ri­ety which made me well-known hence­for­ward among my coun­try­men, and made me accept­able as a can­di­date in a great many constituencies.

When it came to paint­ing, inter­est­ing­ly, Churchill con­tra­dict­ed him­self, writ­ing in his arti­cle, “The Acad­e­my Reveals Britain’s Brave Gai­ety” (Dai­ly Mail, 7 May 1932), reprint­ed in the Col­lect­ed Essays of Sir Win­ston Churchill, vol.  IV, 105:

Excur­sions into bizarre impres­sion­ism may be accept­ed from those who
have proved their cre­den­tials. But slap-dash and short cuts to fame or
noto­ri­ety are evi­dent­ly, and right­ly, discouraged.

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