No Bastard Ever Won a War by Dying for His Country

George Patton? T. W. H. Crosland? Edmund Kozalla? Apocryphal?

patton08Dear Quote Investigator: General George S. Patton made the most incisive remark about war that I have ever heard. He was rallying Allied troops who were attempting to defeat the Axis Powers during World War II. His assertion about the two-edge sword of patriotism was cloaked in grim humor:

No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making some other poor dumb bastard die for his country.

I am not certain of the exact wording. Interestingly, some claim that this comment was not spoken by the general and actually originated with the 1970 movie “Patton”. Would you please explore its provenance?

Quote Investigator: The earliest published evidence known to QI appeared in the 1958 book “War and Peace in the Space Age” by Lt. General James M. Gavin. The author stated that he and other military personnel heard an address by Patton shortly before leaving Africa in 1943. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

George Patton’s last words to us before we left Africa came home with meaning: “No dumb bastard ever won a war by going out and dying for his country. He won it by making some other dumb bastard die for his country.”

The speech was not publicized contemporaneously because of war time restrictions on information and because it contained language that was considered coarse for the era. Patton delivered many speeches during the war and some of the soldiers who heard his words recounted them in the following years. Unsurprisingly, the precise phrasing of the quotation under examination varied in these accounts.

An interesting precursor to the statement was in circulation during World War I, and similar remarks were printed in newspapers by 1942. Detailed information is further below.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. 1958, War and Peace in the Space Age by Lt. General James M. Gavin (James Maurice Gavin), Quote Page 64, Published by Harper & Brothers, New York. (Verified on paper)

The Most Rewarding Things You Do in Life Are Often the Ones that Look Like They Cannot Be Done

Arnold Palmer? John Sutton? Anonymous?

golf08Dear Quote Investigator: The following statement about overcoming obstacles is attributed to the famous golfer Arnold Palmer:

The most rewarding things you do in life are often the ones that look like they cannot be done.

I am graduating soon and would like to use this as my yearbook quotation. The words are attributed to Palmer on several websites, but no citation is provided. Unfortunately, misinformation about quotations is rampant online as this website reveals. Would you please explore the provenance of this expression?

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence located by QI appeared in an August 1966 speech delivered by Leslie B. Worthington who was the President of U.S. Steel Corporation. The full text of the address was printed in “The Baytown Sun” newspaper of Baytown, Texas. Worthington credited Arnold Palmer with the saying. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

As a friend of mine up in Pennsylvania — a pretty fair golfer by the name of Arnie Palmer — remarked some time ago: “The most rewarding things you do in life are often the ones that look like they cannot be done.”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. 1966 August 11, The Baytown Sun, U.S. Steel Boss Lauds Baytown Council, CC For Spur Action, (Article contains full text of speech delivered in Houston, Texas by Leslie B. Worthington who was the President of U.S. Steel Corporation), Quote Page 8, Column 4, Baytown, Texas. (NewspaperArchive)

Chance, Coincidence, Miracles, Pseudonyms, and God

Albert Einstein? Théophile Gautier? Alexis de Valon? Samuel Taylor Coleridge? Helena Blavatsky? Dr. Paul F.? Heidi Quade? Bonnie Farmer? Charlotte C. Taylor? Doris Lessing? Nicolas Chamfort? Horace Walpole?

chance10Dear Quote Investigator: The following statement is attributed to the brilliant physicist Albert Einstein:

Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.

I have been unable to find any solid information to support this ascription. What do you think?

Quote Investigator: There is no substantive evidence that Einstein ever made a remark of this type. It is not listed in the comprehensive collection “The Ultimate Quotable Einstein” from Princeton University Press. 1

This topic is large, complex, and tangled. QI believes that the remark evolved from a family of interrelated sayings that can be traced back many years. These sayings did not have the same meaning, but QI believes that the earlier statements influenced the emergence of the later statements.

Below is a summary list with dates of the pertinent quotations. The shared theme was an examination of the connections between chance, coincidence, Providence, and God. The term “Providence” refers to the guardianship and care provided by God, a deity, or nature viewed as a spiritual force. Statements in French are accompanied with a translation.

1777: What is called chance is the instrument of Providence. (Horace Walpole)

1795: Quelqu’un disait que la Providence était le nom de baptême du Hasard, quelque dévot dira que le Hasard est un sobriquet de la Providence. (Nicolas Chamfort) [Someone said that Providence was the baptismal name of Chance; some pious person will say that Chance is a nickname of Providence.]

1845: Le hasard, c’est peut-être le pseudonyme de Dieu, quand il ne veut pas signer. (Théophile Gautier) [Chance is perhaps the pseudonym of God when he does not want to sign.]

1897: Il faut, dans la vie, faire la part du hasard. Le hasard, en définitive, c’est Dieu. (Anatole France) [In life we must make all due allowance for chance. Chance, in the last resort, is God.]

1949: Chance is the pseudonym of God when He did not want to sign. (misattribution: Anatole France)

1976: He defined coincidence as a miracle in which God chose to remain anonymous. (Dr. Paul F. of Indianapolis, Indiana)

1979: A coincidence is a small miracle where God chose to remain anonymous. (Anonymous in “Shop with Sue”)

1984: A coincidence is a small miracle when God chooses to remain anonymous. (attribution: Heidi Quade)

1985: Coincidence is when God works a miracle and chooses to remain anonymous. (attribution: Bonnie Farmer)

1986: Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous. (Charlotte Clemensen Taylor)

1997: Coincidences are God’s way of remaining anonymous. (attribution: Doris Lessing)

2000: Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous. (misattribution: Albert Einstein)

Details for these statements together with additional selected citations in chronological order are given below.

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Notes:

  1. 2010, The Ultimate Quotable Einstein, Edited by Alice Calaprice, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey. (Examined on paper)

“She Is Always Kind to Her Inferiors” “But Where Does She Find Them?”

Dorothy Parker? Mark Twain? Samuel Johnson? Sidney Skolsky? Margaret Case Harriman? Anonymous?

parker08Dear Quote Investigator: The scintillating wit Dorothy Parker once listened to an enumeration of the many positive attributes of a person she disliked. Below is the final statement of praise together with Parker’s acerbic response:

“She is always kind to her inferiors.”
“And where does she find them?”

The humor hinges on the possible non-existence of the inferiors. Is this tale accurate? Who was the person being discussed?

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence of this anecdote located by QI was printed in the Hollywood gossip column of Sidney Skolsky in 1937. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

At lunch the other day, a group were discussing a prominent actress and a person said: “She’s only kind to her inferiors.” Whereupon Dorothy Parker remarked: “Where does she find them?”

In January 1941 “The New Yorker” magazine printed an article by Margaret Case Harriman that profiled the fashionable author and playwright Clare Boothe Luce, and it included an oft-repeated version of the tale in which Clare Boothe Luce was the target of the barb from Parker.

Interestingly, the playwright was not known for her evanescent pursuit of acting. Her initial fame was primarily based on the Broadway hit she wrote titled “The Women” which debuted in December 1936, and QI believes that the columnist Sidney Skolsky would not have referred to Clare Boothe Luce as a “prominent actress” in June 1937.

There was another woman named Claire Luce who was a well-known actress in the time period. Conceivably, the names were confused. It was also possible that the entire story was simply concocted by someone to provide entertainment. Precursor tales and jibes have been circulating since the 1700s. Mark Twain employed a fun variant.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. 1937 June 23, Milwaukee Sentinel, Section: Peach, Page 3, Column 6, Hollywood by Sidney Skolsky, Quote Page 14, Column 6, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Google News Archive)

Chance Is the Nickname of Providence

Nicolas Chamfort? Horace Walpole? Anonymous?

chnace08Dear Quote Investigator: The relationships between chance, luck, fate, and providence are often disputed. One viewpoint holds that no event occurs at random; instead, there is an underlying purpose or design though it may be hidden or opaque. Here is an adage encapsulating that thought:

Chance is the nickname of Providence.

Would you please explore this statement?

Quote Investigator: A precursor to the adage appeared in a 1777 letter written by Horace Walpole who was pioneer of gothic literature and a notable historian of art. The letter was addressed to the Countess of Ossory, and it was published by 1848. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

. . . what is called chance is the instrument of Providence and the secret agent that counteracts what men call wisdom, and preserves order and regularity, and continuation in the whole . . .

The earliest evidence of a strong match known to QI was from the pen of the famous French epigrammatist Nicolas Chamfort who died in 1794. A collection of his works was published in 1795 that included a set of “Maximes et Pensées” (Maxims and Thoughts) containing the following two-part statement: 2

Quelqu’un disait que la Providence était le nom de baptême du Hasard, quelque dévot dira que le Hasard est un sobriquet de la Providence.

Here was one possible translation into English:

Someone said that Providence was the baptismal name of Chance; some pious person will say that Chance is a nickname of Providence.

Chamfort’s complex remark intertwined and counterposed teleology, theology, probability, and contingency.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. 1848, Letters Addressed to the Countess of Ossory from the Year 1769 to 1797 by Horace Walpole (Lord Orford), Edited with Notes by R. Vernon Smith, Volume 1, Letter number 101, Letter from Horace Walpole, Letter to Countess of Ossory, Date: January 19, 1777, Start Page 262, Quote Page 262, Published by Richard Bentley, London. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. Date: L’an 3 de la République (Third year of the Republic overlapped 1794 and 1795), Title: Oeuvres de Chamfort (Works of Nicolas Chamfort), Publisher: Recueillies et publiées par un de ses Amis (Collected and published by one of his friends), Volume: Tome IV (Volume 4), Section: Maximes et Pensées: Maximes générales, Quote Page 34, Publishing location: A PARIS Chez le Directeur de l’Imprimerie des Sciences et Arts, rue Thérèse (Published in Paris). (Google Books Full View) link

I Think that I Shall Never See a Billboard Lovely as a Tree

Joyce Kilmer? Ogden Nash? Confucious? Anonymous?

freeway10Dear Quote Investigator: April is National Poetry Month in the U. S., and Arbor Day also occurs in this month. A famous poem by Joyce Kilmer begins with the following couplet: 1

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A comical riff on this work begins with the following lines:

I think that I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree.

I have seen multiple versions of this humorous poem that criticizes the massive signs next to highways. Would you please determine the proper text and the creator’s identity?

Quote Investigator: The October 15, 1932 issue of “The New Yorker” published a poem titled “Song of the Open Road” by Ogden Nash who was a popular wordsmith of light verse. This was the earliest publication known to QI: 2

I think that I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree.
Perhaps, unless the billboards fall,
I’ll never see a tree at all.
—OGDEN NASH

Over the decades, variants of the text have evolved. By 1940 Ogden Nash had produced a modified version of his own verse. He published a collection of works titled “The Face is Familiar” containing an instance of the poem that replaced the word “perhaps” with the word “indeed”. This made the point of the poem more emphatic.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. Date: 1913 October, Periodical: Boys’ Life, Poem title: Trees, Poem author: Joyce Kilmer, Quote Page 2, Publisher: Boy Scouts of America, Inc. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. Date: 1932 October 15, Periodical: The New Yorker, Poem title: Song of the Open Road, Poem author: Ogden Nash, Quote Page 18, Column 2, Publisher: F.R. Publishing Corporation, New York. (Online Archive of page scans of The New Yorker; accessed archives.newyorker.com April 11, 2015)

Definition of Freedom: It’s Being Easy in Your Harness

Robert Frost? James B. Simpson? Apocryphal?

frost09Dear Quote Investigator: An enigmatic metaphorical statement about freedom has been attributed to the famous American poet Robert Frost:

You have freedom when you’re easy in your harness.

Are these really the words of Frost? What was the context? Would you please examine this topic?

Quote Investigator: Robert Frost held a news conference on the eve of his eightieth birthday in 1954. An article from the Associated Press (AP) news service described some of the questions and answers which included remarks about freedom. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

“I find my greatest freedom on the farm,” the four-times Pulitzer Prize winner said. “I can be a bad farmer or a lazy farmer and it’s my own business.” He lives on a farm in Ripton, Vt.

What’s your definition of freedom, he was asked.

“It’s being easy in your harness,” he replied, slipping into rural vernacular.

Note that the words spoken by Frost in this contemporaneous account did not quite match the quotation under examination. QI believes that the modern quotation evolved from the words spoken by Frost in 1954.

Frost suggested that some form of constraint was inherent in his notion of freedom. The reader must provide his or her own interpretation.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. 1954 March 26, The Hartford Courant, Frost, Poet, Is Honored On Birthday: New Englander, 80, Views World as Too Crowded and Hurried, Quote Page 14, Column 1, Hartford, Connecticut. (ProQuest)

Sports Do Not Build Character; They Reveal It

John Wooden? Heywood Hale Broun? James Michener? Anonymous?

sports09
Dear Quote Investigator: Participation in sports is enjoyable and salubrious for a great many people. One often hears that sports can also build character, but a shrewd remark spins this traditional assertion:

Sports don’t build character; they reveal it.

These words have been attributed to renowned basketball coach John Wooden and influential sportswriter Heywood Hale Broun. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest strong match located by QI was published in January 1974 in the “Ames Daily Tribune” of Ames, Iowa. Heywood Hale Broun who was described as an “off-beat sports commentator for CBS television” had recently visited the city and delivered a speech. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

Some persons say that athletics, and coaches, build character. Broun has a different outlook.

“Anybody who teaches a skill, which coaches do, is admirable. But sport doesn’t build character. Character is built pretty much by the time you’re six or seven. Sports reveals character. Sports heightens your perceptions. Let that be enough.”

Broun expressed this idea more than once, and he employed different phrasings. The popular modern version was a concise and elegant instance.

The evidence linking the adage to John Wooden was weak. It was attributed to him by 2006, but that was many years after it began to circulate. Wooden died in 2010.

Top-notch researcher Barry Popik also explored this topic and located some valuable citations. His webpage is here.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. 1974 January 16, Ames Daily Tribune, Broun: ‘I like to see things done with zest’ by Larry Lockhart (Sports Editor), Quote Page 11, Column 4, Ames, Iowa. (Newspapers_com)

To Repeat What Others Have Said, Requires Education; To Challenge It, Requires Brains

Mary Pettibone Poole? Anonymous?

keyhole10Dear Quote Investigator: Students must be able to memorize some factual material, but an important emphasis in learning should be placed on the development of critical and analytical thinking. The following statement is astute:

To repeat what others have said, requires education; to challenge it, requires brains.

Would you please explore its provenance?

Quote Investigator: In 1938 a woman named Mary Pettibone Poole released a compilation of adages and quotations under the humorous title “A Glass Eye at a Keyhole”. The publisher was Dorrance and Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania which means that the resourceful and energetic Poole funded its publication. The remark appeared in a section called “Excess Prophets”, and no attribution was listed: 1

To repeat what others have said, requires education; to challenge it, requires brains.

This was the earliest occurrence of the quotation known to QI. Whether Poole crafted the statement was not certain. Several other unattributed sayings in the book were already in circulation before the collection was published. Nevertheless, the book was an important locus for the popularization of the saying. In addition, based on current evidence QI would ascribe the words to Poole.

Another intriguing expression from the book has been analyzed on this website. “He who laughs, lasts!” was printed in a section called “Beggars Can’t Be Losers” in Poole’s work, and QI located published instances starting in 1917. Here is a link to the relevant entry.

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Notes:

  1. 1938, A Glass Eye at a Keyhole by Mary Pettibone Poole, Section: Excess Prophets, Quote Page 51, Published by Dorrance and Company, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Verified with scans; thanks to Dennis Lien and the University of Minnesota library system)

When Two Men in Business Always Agree, One of Them Is Unnecessary

William Wrigley Jr.? Ezra Pound? Henry Ford? Apocryphal?

wrigley09

Dear Quote Investigator: Constructive debate about future plans is essential in a responsive and vibrant company. Here are three versions of a popular business adage:

When two men in a business always agree, one of them is unnecessary.
When two men in business always agree, one of them is unnecessary.
When two men always agree, one of them is unnecessary.

This expression has been ascribed to the poet Ezra Pound, the industrialist Henry Ford, and the businessman William Wrigley Jr. Would you please explore its provenance?

Quote Investigator: There is no substantive support for crediting the saying to Ezra Pound or Henry Ford. Attributions to Pound and Ford appeared only in the 21st century.

William Wrigley Jr. built a company and a fortune by selling chewing gum in the United States and around the world. In 1931 Wrigley was interviewed in “The American Magazine” and stated that he preferred an employee with backbone who was willing to challenge him and sometimes tell him “I think you’re wrong”.

The article titled “Spunk Never Cost a Man a Job Worth Having” reported that Wrigley disliked the yes-man who reflexively concurred with all his statements. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

Likewise, one of the biggest pests in business is the carbon copy—the fellow who always says: “Yes, Mr. Wrigley, you’re absolutely right.”

Perhaps meaning: “Have it your own way, you old buzzard, what do I care!”

Business is built by men who care—care enough to disagree, fight it out to a finish, get facts. When two men always agree, one of them is unnecessary.

The passage above was the earliest strong match known to QI. The topic was business, but the statement did not include the word “business”.

Thanks to top-notch researcher Barry Popik who obtained the database evidence that pointed to the citation above.

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Notes:

  1. March 1931, The American Magazine, Volume 111, Number 3, Spunk Never Cost a Man a Job Worth Having by Neil M. Clark, Start Page 63, Quote Page 63, Published by The Crowell Publishing Company, Springfield, Ohio. (Verified with scans thanks to Charles Doyle and the University of Georgia library system)