Tag Archives: Winston Churchill

We Shall Escape the Absurdity of Growing a Whole Chicken in Order To Eat the Breast or Wing

Winston Churchill? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Scientists have successfully produced meat in culture without the need to grow an entire animal. Apparently, long ago Winston Churchill envisioned this possibility, and he predicted that chicken wings would be created without growing a full chicken. Would you please locate Churchill’s remarks on this topic?

Quote Investigator: The December 1931 issue of “The Strand Magazine” published an article by Churchill titled “Fifty Years Hence” that presented many speculations about the future including a remark about growing chicken parts. 1 “Popular Mechanics Magazine” reprinted the essay in March 1932. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 2

With a greater knowledge of what are called hormones, i.e., the chemical messengers in our blood, it will be possible to control growth. We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium.

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  1. 2013 December 12 (Kindle Edition Date), Churchill By Himself (Winston Churchill’s In His Own Words Collection), Compiled and edited by Richard M. Langworth, Biotechnology: We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken. (This reference cites “The Strand Magazine”, Dec. 1931)(Kindle Location 17039)
  2. 1932 March, Popular Mechanics Magazine, Volume 57, Number 3, Fifty Years Hence by Winston Churchill (Former British Chancellor of the Exchequer), Start Page 390, Quote Page 397, Popular Mechanics Company, Chicago, Illinois. (Google Books Full View) link

If Anyone Says Anything Back, That Is an Outrage

Winston Churchill? Apocryphal?

winston08Dear Quote Investigator: Genuine free speech entails disagreement and debate; it is never a one-sided notion. According to a Facebook meme Winston Churchill supposedly said:

Some people’s idea of free speech is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone says anything back, that is an outrage.

I cannot tell whether this was really said by the famous British Prime Minister. Would you please trace it?

Quote Investigator: A closely matching statement was spoken by Winston Churchill in the U.K. Parliament on October 13, 1943. Emphasis in excerpts added by QI: 1

So we must beware of a tyranny of opinion which tries to make only one side of a question the one which may be heard. Everyone is in favour of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people’s idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone says anything back, that is an outrage.

The original remark recorded in the Hansard used the pronoun “it”. The slightly inaccurate modern version replaces “it” with the referent “free speech” to create a more compact and self-contained expression.

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  1. 1943 October 13, Hansard, United Kingdom Parliament, Commons, Coalmining Situation, Speaking: The Prime Minister (Winston Churchill), HC Deb, volume 392, cc920-1012. (Accessed hansard.millbanksystems.com on October 12, 2016) link

Dancing Is a Perpendicular Expression of a Horizontal Desire

George Bernard Shaw? George Melly? I. S. Johar? Ann Landers? Patrick Harte? Robert Frost? Winston Churchill? Oscar Wilde? Anonymous?

dancing07Dear Quote Investigator: Here are two versions of an adage highlighting the sensual aspects of popular gyrations:

  1. Dancing is a perpendicular expression of a horizontal desire.
  2. Dancing is a vertical expression of a horizontal idea.

George Bernard Shaw, Ann Landers, Oscar Wilde, and Robert Frost have received credit for this saying. What do you think?

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence known to QI appeared in the London periodical “New Statesman” in 1962. The musician and critic George Melly attributed the saying to the notable playwright George Bernard Shaw. Emphasis added by QI: 1

I have spent a certain amount of time lately watching people in London dance in the various new ways. I report what went on in three very different places where my fellow countrymen and women had come together to give what Shaw called ‘a perpendicular expression of a horizontal desire’.

Shaw’s death in 1950 preceded Melly’s article by more than a decade, and the text provided no citation; hence, the evidence supporting the ascription was rather weak. Nevertheless, the citations for competing ascriptions are even less persuasive.

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  1. 1962 March 23, New Statesman, Late Perpendicular by George Melly, Start Page 426, Quote Page 426, Column 3, New Statesman Ltd., London. (ProQuest)

The Trouble with Socialism Is Socialism; the Trouble with Capitalism is Capitalists

William F. Buckley Jr.? William Schlamm? Winston Churchill? Herbert Hoover?


Dear Quote Investigator: I have heard a humorous saying that compares two major economic systems:

The problem with socialism is socialism. The problem with capitalism is capitalists.

These words have been attributed to conservative commentator William F Buckley Jr. and British statesman Winston Churchill. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest strong match located by QI appeared in a profile of William F Buckley Jr. published in “Esquire” magazine in 1961. Buckley believed that socialism was a flawed economic system, but he also found fault with individual capitalists. He felt that the magazine he founded called “National Review” deserved greater financial support from business people, and he blamed “just plain stinginess”. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

Mr. Buckley paused a moment, then quoted an adage someone had told him that he felt summed up the problem: “The trouble with socialism is socialism; the trouble with capitalism is capitalists.”

This instance used the word “trouble” instead of “problem”. The context indicated that Buckley was not claiming credit for the expression. During the following decades he employed it multiple times, and in 1978 he ascribed the words to William Schlamm (Willi Schlamm), a European journalist who had worked with Buckley in the early years of the “National Review”.

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  1. 1961 January 1, Esquire: The Magazine for Men, Volume 55, Number 1, William F. Buckley, Jr.: Portrait of a Complainer by Dan Wakefield, Start Page 49, Quote Page 50, Column 1, Esquire Inc., New York. (Verified on microfilm)

We Shape Our Tools, and Thereafter Our Tools Shape Us

Marshall McLuhan? Winston Churchill? Robert Flaherty? Emerson Brown? John Culkin? William J. Mitchell? Anonymous?

tools12Dear Quote Investigator: The famous media theorist Marshall McLuhan has been credited with a brilliant adage about the co-evolution of humans and tools. Here are two versions:

  1. We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.
  2. We make our tools, and then our tools make us.

I have not been able to find a good citation. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: QI believes that these sayings evolved from a remark made by the U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill during a speech in the House of Commons in October 1943. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

On the night of 10th May, 1941, with one of the last bombs of the last serious raid, our House of Commons was destroyed by the violence of the enemy, and we have now to consider whether we should build it up again, and how, and when. We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us. Having dwelt and served for more than 40 years in the late Chamber, and having derived fiery great pleasure and advantage therefrom, I, naturally, would like to see it restored in all essentials to its old form, convenience and dignity.

Churchill referred to “buildings” instead of “tools”, but buildings may be viewed as specialized tools for providing shelter. Interestingly, by 1965 a variant using “tools” was being attributed to Churchill. Details are provided further below in this set of chronological citations.

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  1. 1943 October 28, Hansard, United Kingdom Parliament, Commons, House of Commons Rebuilding, Speaking: The Prime Minister (Mr. Churchill), HC Deb 28, volume 393, cc403-73. (Accessed hansard.millbanksystems.com on June 25, 2016) link

Do Not Let Spacious Plans for a New World Divert Your Energies from Saving What Is Left of the Old

Winston Churchill? Jack Fishman? Apocryphal?

bomb08Dear Quote Investigator: Here is a mystifying question for you. Winston Churchill has been credited with crafting two nearly identical quotations beginning as follows:

1) Do not let specious plans …
2) Do not let spacious plans …

The two expressions differed by a single word: specious/spacious. Did Churchill utter or write either of these quotations?

Quote Investigator: There is evidence that Churchill wrote both of these quotations. In 1950 he released a book titled “The Grand Alliance” which was part of his multi-volume history of World War II. He included an appendix reprinting “Prime Minister’s Personal Minutes and Telegrams”. After he had examined the damage to buildings caused by bombing he sent a message in June 1941 to the Minister for Works and Buildings, Churchill emphasized the goal of repairing structures that could be made habitable. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

I continue to see great numbers of houses where the walls and roofs are all right, but the windows have not been repaired, and which are consequently uninhabitable. At present I regard this as your Number 1 war task. Do not let spacious plans for a new world divert your energies from saving what is left of the old.

In 1974 a posthumous collection of writings ascribed to Winston Churchill was published under the title “If I Lived My Life Again”. The compiler and editor was Jack Fishman who stated that his sources included magazines, newspapers, speeches, unpublished texts, and personal discussions. Unfortunately, Fishman did not provide precise notes for the provenance of chapters in the book, and some pieces were mosaics from different sources. Chapter 15 was titled “Wise Heads and Young Shoulders” and contained the following: 2

To youth I say – It must be world anarchy or world order. Do not let specious plans for a new world divert your energies from saving what is left of the old.

The oldest habit in the world for resisting change is to complain that unless the remedy to the disease can be universally applied it should not be applied at all. But you must begin somewhere.

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  1. 1950, The Second World War: The Grand Alliance by Winston S. Churchill, Appendix C, Book One: Prime Minister’s Personal Minutes and Telegrams: January to June 1941, Message from Prime Minister to Minister for Works and Buildings (also Minister of Health), Date: January 6, 1941, Quote Page 722 and 723, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts. (Verified on paper)
  2. 1974, If I Lived My Life Again Winston S. Churchill, Compiled and edited by Jack Fishman, Chapter 15: Wise Heads and Young Shoulders, Start Page 179, Quote Page 183, Publisher by W. H. Allen, London. (Verified on paper)

An Appeaser Is One Who Feeds a Crocodile, Hoping It Will Eat Him Last

Winston Churchill? Readers Digest? Apocryphal?

crocodile09Dear Quote Investigator: British leader Winston Churchill has been credited with a crafting a vivid definition for “appeaser” that cleverly employed figurative language:

An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile — hoping it will eat him last.

It supposedly was spoken during World War II, but I have not been able to find a contemporaneous citation. Would you please examine the quotation?

Quote Investigator: Winston Churchill did use the crocodile metaphor during a speech delivered on January 20, 1940, but the phrasing was different. At the time, Churchill was the First Lord of the British Admiralty, and his address was broadcast on BBC radio from London; “The New York Times” printed the speech the next day. In the following passage Churchill was discussing countries which had remained neutral during the ongoing war. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

Each one hopes that if he feeds the crocodile enough, the crocodile will eat him last. All of them hope that the storm will pass before their turn comes to be devoured. But I fear greatly that the storm will not pass. It will rage and it will roar ever more loudly, ever more widely.

The passage did not use the word “appeaser”. Also, it was somewhat clumsy because it employed two figurative frameworks: one based on a ravenous crocodile and another based on a powerful storm. The popular modern version mentioned by the questioner was circulating by 1954. This version simplified the text by adding the word “appeaser” and using only one metaphor.

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  1. 1940 January 21, New York Times, Text of Churchill’s Speech on War Prospects, Quote Page 30, Column 4, New York. (ProQuest)

War Does Not Determine Who Is Right — Only Who Is Left

Bertrand Russell? Frank P. Hobgood? Jessie Woodrow Wilson Sayre? Reader’s Digest? Montreal Star? Andrew Carnegie? Winston Churchill? Anonymous?

war08Dear Quote Investigator: A piquant slogan has been used by pacifists and peace activists for decades. Here are two variants:

War does not determine who is right — only who is left.
The atom bomb will never determine who is right — only who is left.

The first saying is often attributed to the philosopher and social thinker Bertrand Russell, but I have never seen a precise reference to support this connection. Would you please examine this expression?

Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive evidence that Bertrand Russell wrote or spoke this adage.

The earliest citation located by QI was printed in “The Reader’s Digest” issue of February 1932. However, magazines such as “The Reader’s Digest” were released one or two weeks before their cover date. Hence, the February issue was actually released in January 1932. The saying was accompanied with an acknowledgement to a Canadian newspaper: 1

War does not determine who is right — only who is left. — Montreal Star.

QI has been unable to access the archives of “The Montreal Star” which shut down in 1979. It is possible that the old newspaper pages have not yet been digitized. Some future researcher may find the phrase in the paper and determine who employed it.

On February 24, 1932 a military man named Col. Frank P. Hobgood delivered a speech at a meeting of a popular service organization, and he employed an instance of the saying. This occurred about a month after the appearance in “The Reader’s Digest”. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 2

“The next war will not decide who is right but who is left,” Col. Frank P. Hobgood declared in a stirring appeal for disarmament before approximately 250 Rotarians and Rotary Anns assembled in a combined Rotary inter-city meeting and birthday party at the ballroom of the King Cotton hotel last night.

Currently, Hobgood is the first named individual who has been linked to the adage. But the expression was already in circulation before he delivered his talk. Thanks to top researcher Barry Popik who identified the citation immediately above and other valuable citations.

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  1. 1932 February, Reader’s Digest, Volume 20, Patter, Start Page 107, Quote Page 108, Column 2, The Reader’s Digest Association, Pleasantville, New York. (Verified on paper)
  2. 1932 February 24, Greensboro Daily News, Horrors of Next War Pictured By Hobgood In Talks to Rotarians, Quote Page 16, Column 1, Greensboro, North Carolina. (GenealogyBank)

Any Time You See Anything Big and Working Well, You Want To Take It Over

Winston Churchill? Clement Attlee? Emmanuel Shinwell? Apocryphal?
fount08Dear Quote Investigator: There was an extraordinary and ribald conversation between Winston Churchill and his political opponent Clement Attlee that supposedly took place in the men’s room of the House of Commons. Was this event authentic or apocryphal?

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence located by QI appeared in a letter dated December 22, 1958 that was written by the statesman Dean Acheson who recorded an anecdote about Winston Churchill and Labour Party Leader Clement Attlee. But Acheson did not hear the story directly from either of the participants; instead, the colorful vignette was presented by the journalists Scotty Reston and Stewart Alsop who were relaying a tale told by the politician Hubert Humphrey. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

. . . the situation reminded him of a story of Attlee’s that in the War Cabinet days he and Winston had had to be excused, and found themselves at opposite ends of the stalls. “Isn’t this unusual modesty for you, Winston,” said Clem. “Not at all,” said Winston, “I’m just suspicious of you Socialists.”

Clem asked why. “Because,” said Winston, “whenever you see a means of production in good working order you want to nationalize it.”

In subsequent years the anecdote evolved. For example, in 1965 a politician named Emmanuel Shinwell was identified as the conversational partner instead of Attlee. In modern times Attlee is usually specified.

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  1. 1980, Among Friends: Personal Letters of Dean Acheson, Edited by David S. McLellan and David C. Acheson, Letter dated December 22, 1958 from Dean Acheson to Felix Frankfurter, Quote Page 153, Dodd, Mead, New York. (Verified on paper)

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

Voltaire? Spider-Man? Winston Churchill? Theodore Roosevelt? Franklin D. Roosevelt? Lord Melbourne? John Cumming? Hercules G. R. Robinson? Henry W. Haynes? Anonymous?

scales08Dear Quote Investigator: There is a popular saying about the relationship between ascendancy and obligation:

With great power comes great responsibility.

This expression has been attributed to two very different sources: Voltaire and the Spider-Man comic book. Would you please examine its provenance?

Quote Investigator: QI and other researchers have been unable to locate this statement in the oeuvre of Voltaire who died in 1778, and currently that linkage is unsupported.

QI has found a strong match during the period of the French Revolution. The following passage appeared with a date of May 8, 1793 in a collection of the decrees made by the French National Convention. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

Les Représentans du peuple se rendront à leur destination, investis de la plus haute confiance et de pouvoirs illimités. Ils vont déployer un grand caractère. Ils doivent envisager qu’une grande responsabilité est la suite inséparable d’un grand pouvoir. Ce sera à leur énergie, à leur courage, et sur-tout à leur prudence, qu’ils devront leur succès et leur gloire.

Here’s one possible translation into English:

The people’s representatives will reach their destination, invested with the highest confidence and unlimited power. They will show great character. They must consider that great responsibility follows inseparably from great power. To their energy, to their courage, and above all to their prudence, they shall owe their success and their glory.

Prominent leaders such as Lord Melbourne, Winston Churchill, Teddy Roosevelt, and Franklin D. Roosevelt made similar statements in later years. Also, the appearance of an instance in a Spider-Man story in 1962 was influential in U.S. popular culture.

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  1. 1793 May, Title: Collection Générale des Décrets Rendus par la Convention Nationale, Date: May 8, 1793 (Du 8 Mai 1793), Quote Page 72, Publisher: Chez Baudouin, Imprimeur de la Convention Nationale. A, Paris. (Google Books Full View) link