Nobody Wants Constructive Criticism; It’s All We Can Do To Put Up with Constructive Praise

Mignon McLaughlin? Alan Sheldon? Stephen R. Covey? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Receiving criticism is painful even when it is described as constructive. The witty journalist Mignon McLaughlin made a germane comment on this theme. Would you please help me to find a citation.

Quote Investigator: In 1960 the unnamed columnist of “Thoughts and Things” in “The Herald Journal” of Logan, Utah printed the following three remarks without attribution. Boldface added to excerpts: 1

Nobody wants constructive criticism; it’s all we can do to put up with constructive praise.

Women are good listeners, but it’s a waste of time telling your troubles to a man unless there is something specific you want him to do.

Most of us could scrape by on twice our present income.

Interestingly, in 1963 Mignon McLaughlin published “The Neurotic’s Notebook”, and the three remarks above were included in the book. The comment about constructive criticism appeared on page 41 within a chapter about health, happiness, and self-esteem. 2 The remark about listening appeared on page 38 within a chapter about men and women. 3 The statement about income appeared on page 84 within a section about getting and spending. 4

QI believes McLaughlin should receive credit for these three remarks. The 1960 columnist probably saw the statements in a preliminary version of the book or an earlier piece by McLaughlin.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Nobody Wants Constructive Criticism; It’s All We Can Do To Put Up with Constructive Praise

Notes:

  1. 1960 July 14, The Herald-Journal, Thoughts and Things: Put Them in Prisons? He Proposes a Better Way, Quote Page 2, Column 1, Logan, Utah. (Newspapers_com)
  2. 1963, The Neurotic’s Notebook by Mignon McLaughlin, Chapter 4: Health, Happiness, Self-Esteem, Quote Page 41, The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Indianapolis, Indiana. (Verified with scans)
  3. 1963, The Neurotic’s Notebook by Mignon McLaughlin, Chapter 3: Men and Women, Quote Page 38, The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Indianapolis, Indiana. (Verified with scans)
  4. 1963, The Neurotic’s Notebook by Mignon McLaughlin, Chapter 9: Getting and Spending, Quote Page 84, The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Indianapolis, Indiana. (Verified with scans)

The Only Beautiful Eyes Are Those That Look At Us Tenderly

Coco Chanel? Gabrielle Chanel? Pierre Reverdy? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The eyes of a lover gazing at you are beautiful. The fashion icon Coco Chanel (Gabrielle Chanel) said something germane:

The only beautiful eyes are those that look at us tenderly.

Would you please help me to find a citation for the original statement in French.

Quote Investigator: In September 1938 “Vogue” magazine of Paris published a two page spread of “Maximes et Sentences” (“Maxims and Sentences”) by Gabrielle Chanel. The following statement appeared among the 31 items. Boldface added to excerpts buy QI: 1

Les seuls beaux yeux sont ceux qui nous regardent tendrement.

Here is one possible translation into English:

The only beautiful eyes are those that look at us tenderly.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Only Beautiful Eyes Are Those That Look At Us Tenderly

Notes:

  1. 1938 Septembre (September), Vogue, Maximes et Sentences (Maxims and Sentences) by Gabrielle Chanel, Quote Page 56, Condé Nast, Paris, France. (BNF Gallica Bibliothèque nationale de France) link

The Great Tragedy of Science—The Slaying of a Beautiful Hypothesis by an Ugly Fact

Thomas Henry Huxley? Charles Darwin? Herbert Spencer? Benjamin Franklin? John Dougall? John Tyndall?

Dear Quote Investigator: An elaborate and magnificent scientific theory can completely collapse if a contradictory fact is uncovered. A prominent scientist called this methodological occurrence one of great tragedies of science. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: In 1870 biologist Thomas Henry Huxley delivered a speech to fellow scientists in Liverpool, England. The text appeared in the leading journal “Nature”. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

But the great tragedy of Science—the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact—which is so constantly being enacted under the eyes of philosophers, was played, almost immediately, for the benefit of Buffon and Needham.

Huxley used a different phrasing for the expression during a personal conversation with philosopher Herbert Spencer according to statistician Francis Galton. See the 1908 citation presented further below.

This thought has displayed a powerful cultural resonance, and Huxley’s phrase has been repeated, modified, and propagated up to the present day. Here is a sampling with dates:

1870: The slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact
1871: Here is a beautiful hypothesis slain by an ugly fact
1878: A beautiful theory killed by an incontrovertible fact
1886: The slaying of a beautiful theory by an ugly fact
1890: The slaying of a beautiful theory by an awkward fact
1891: The murder of a beautiful theory by an ugly fact
1908: A beautiful theory, killed by a nasty, ugly little fact
1911: A beautiful theory killed by a wicked fact
1912: A beautiful induction killed by a nasty little fact
1918: A beautiful theory killed by a devilish little fact
1920: The murder of a beautiful theory by a gang of brutal facts
1922: A murder of a lovely theory by a gang of brutal facts

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Great Tragedy of Science—The Slaying of a Beautiful Hypothesis by an Ugly Fact

Notes:

  1. 1870 September 15, Nature, Section: The British Association – Liverpool Meeting, 1870, Address of Thomas Henry Huxley, President, Start Page 400, Quote Page 402, Column 1, Macmillan and Company, London. (Google Books Full View) link

God Gave Us the Gift of Life; It Is Up To Us To Give Ourselves the Gift of Living Well

Voltaire? François-Marie Arouet? Jean Orieux? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A famous writer of the Enlightenment stated that God gave each of us the gift of life. It is our responsibility to take advantage of this gift by living fully and well. Voltaire has received credit for a remark of this type. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: Voltaire (François-Marie Arouet) died in 1778. The 1880 edition of “Œuvres complètes de Voltaire” (“Complete Works of Voltaire”) included the following statement in its appendix. Boldface added to excerpts: 1

Dieu nous a donné le vivre; c’est à nous de nous donner le bien vivre.

The 1979 book “Voltaire: A Biography of the Man & His Century” by Jean Orieux contained the following English translation: 2

God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well. (Remarks)

This statement occurred in a section of the 1880 work called “Extracts from a Manuscript in the Hand of M. de Voltaire”, but QI does not know any details about the provenance of the manuscript. Hence, the accuracy of the attribution to Voltaire depends on the expertise of the 1880 editor of “Œuvres complètes de Voltaire”.

Continue reading God Gave Us the Gift of Life; It Is Up To Us To Give Ourselves the Gift of Living Well

Notes:

  1. 1880, Œuvres complètes de Voltaire (Complete Works of Voltaire), Chapter 9: Extraits D’un Manuscrit de la Main de M. de Voltaire (Extracts From a Manuscript in the Hand of M. de Voltaire), Intitlé Sottisier (Title Foolishness), Appendice (Appendix), Supplément aux oeuvres en prose (Supplement to works in prose), Section: Montaigne, Quote Page 516, Garnier Frères, Libraires-Editeurs, Paris. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 1979, Voltaire: A Biography of the Man & His Century by Jean Orieux, Translated from French by Barbara Bray and Helen R. Lane, Chapter 5, Quote Page 101, Doubleday & Company, Garden City, New York. (Verified with scans)

It’s Easier To Fool People Than To Convince Them That They’ve Been Fooled

Mark Twain? Baltasar Gracian? John Maynard Keynes? Norman Angell? Joreth? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: An energetic liar can confuse, mislead, and deceive people. Yet, in many cases, that same liar is unable to reverse the deception. Hoodwinked people embrace their misperceptions. Here is a pertinent adage:

It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.

Mark Twain has received credit for this statement, but I have been unable to find a citation, and I have become skeptical. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive evidence that Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) authored this remark. The earliest close match known to QI appeared in a tweet from @Joreth on January 10, 2011. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

“It’s easier to fool ppl than to convince them that they’ve been fooled” ~Mark Twain #skeptic #atheist #skepticism

Thematically related statements have a long history, and Twain did express similar sentiments in 1906 as shown further below.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading It’s Easier To Fool People Than To Convince Them That They’ve Been Fooled

Notes:

  1. Tweet, From: Joreth @Joreth, Time: 7:47 AM, Date: January 10, 2011, Text: It’s easier to fool ppl than… (Accessed on twitter.com on December 23, 2020) link

Every Blockhead Is Thoroughly Persuaded That He Is In the Right

Baltasar Gracián y Morales? Mountstuart Grant Duff? Joseph Jacobs? Christopher Maurer? Martin Fischer? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Thoughtful people periodically revise their opinions as their knowledge grows. Obstinate and foolish people develop an opinion and then refuse to change it even when evidence accumulates that their original position is deeply flawed. Clinging to erroneous beliefs is wrong-headed.

The Spanish Jesuit writer and philosopher Baltasar Gracián (Baltasar Gracián y Morales) said something like this in the 17th century. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: Baltasar Gracián wrote “Oráculo Manual y Arte de Prudencia” (“The Art of Worldly Wisdom”) in 1647. The work primarily consisted of three hundred maxims together with commentary. The following passage in Spanish discussed the wisdom of cultivating intellectual flexibility. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

No aprender fuertemente. Todo necio es persuadido, y todo persuadido necio, y quanto mas erroneo su dictamen, es mayor su tenacidad: aun en caso de evidencia es ingenuidad el ceder, que no se ignora la razon que tuvo, y se conoce la galanteria que tiene.

In 1877 the British author Mountstuart Grant Duff published a piece in “The Fortnightly Review” of London which included material from Gracián’s book. The Spanish text above corresponded to maxim 183, and Duff presented the following partial translation: 2

Do not hold your opinions all too firmly.—Every blockhead is thoroughly persuaded that he is in the right, and every one who is all too firmly persuaded is a blockhead, and the more erroneous is his judgment the greater is the tenacity with which he holds it.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Every Blockhead Is Thoroughly Persuaded That He Is In the Right

Notes:

  1. 1659, Title: Oraculo manual, y arte de prudencia (The Art of Worldly Wisdom), Author: Baltasar Gracián y Morales, Editor: Vincencio Juan de Lastanosa, Quote Page 127, Publisher: En casa de Iuan Blaeu,, A Amsterdam. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 1877 March 1, The Fortnightly Review, Volume 21, Balthasar Gracian by M. E. Grant Duff (Mountstuart Elphinstone Grant Duff), Maxim 183, Start Page 328, Quote Page 338, Chapman and Hall, London. (Google Books Full View) link

It Is Easier to Bamboozle People Than It Is To Unbamboozle Them

John Maynard Keynes? Norman Angell? Carter Field? Lionel Robbins? Malcolm W. Bingay? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: With time and effort it is possible to bamboozle people, i.e., to fool or mislead them. Unfortunately, this process of deception can be so thorough that it is impossible to debamboozle them, i.e., to convince them of the truth. I think the prominent economist John Maynard Keynes said something like this. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: John Maynard Keynes did employ an expression of this type, but he was specifically referring to the thoughts and actions of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson who was a participant in the Paris Peace Conference at the end of World War I.

World leaders met in the Palace of Versailles after Germany signed an armistice agreement. French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, and Wilson were the most powerful figures. Keynes believed that the demands placed upon Germany by the triumphant leaders were too onerous. He feared that Germany’s economy would collapse and harm all the countries in the region.

Initially, Wilson also believed that provisions in the Treaty of Versailles were too harsh. Yet, during the months of negotiation other leaders convinced Wilson to support the treaty. Keynes published in 1919 “The Economic Consequences of the Peace” which criticized the accord and included the following passage. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

To his horror, Mr. Lloyd George, desiring at the last moment all the moderation he dared, discovered that he could not in five days persuade the President of error in what it had taken five months to prove to him to be just and right. After all, it was harder to de-bamboozle this old Presbyterian than it had been to bamboozle him; for the former involved his belief in and respect for himself.

The terms to “debamboozle” and to “unbamboozle” have been used as synonyms. Also, both terms have been hyphenated sometimes: “de-bamboozle” and “un-bamboozle”.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading It Is Easier to Bamboozle People Than It Is To Unbamboozle Them

Notes:

  1. 1919, The Economic Consequences of the Peace by John Maynard Keynes, (Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge), Chapter 3: The Conference, Quote Page 50, Macmillan and Company, London. (Google Books Full View) link

Don’t Be Yourself—Be Someone a Little Nicer

Mignon McLaughlin? Leata McQuiston? Barbara Bush? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: “Be yourself” is an ubiquitous platitude. Here is a funny variant: Don’t be yourself—be someone a little nicer. Would you please explore the provenance of this quip?

Quote Investigator: The earliest instance located by QI appeared in a newspaper column called “Chatter” by Leata McQuiston published in the “Hobbs Daily News-Sun” of New Mexico in May 1964. The statement was enclosed in quotation marks signaling that the columnist was disclaiming credit for the humorous remark: 1

“Don’t be yourself—be someone a little nicer.”

The second earliest instance located by QI appeared in “The Spokesman-Review” of Washington as a filler item within an advertisement section called “Shop With Sue” in October 1964. No attribution was specified. 2

Thus, the quip was circulating as an anonymous joke by 1964.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Don’t Be Yourself—Be Someone a Little Nicer

Notes:

  1. 1964 May 31, Hobbs Daily News-Sun, Chatter by Leata McQuiston, Quote Page 8, Column 4, Hobbs, New Mexico. (Newspapers_com)
  2. 1964 October 29, The Spokesman-Review, Shop With Sue (Filler item within advertisement), Quote Page 5, Column 8, Spokane, Washington. (Newspapers_com)

Our Homes Are Our Prisons; Let Us Find Freedom in Their Decoration

Coco Chanel? Gabrielle Chanel? Pierre Reverdy? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: People spend many hours in their homes. The fashion icon Coco Chanel (Gabrielle Chanel) recommended beautifying one’s abode. She said something like this:

Our homes are our prisons; one finds liberty in their decoration.

This saying resonates powerfully in 2020 because of the Covid-19 restrictions. Would you please help me to find the original version in French?

Quote Investigator: In September 1938 “Vogue” magazine of Paris published a two page spread of “Maximes et Sentences” (“Maxims and Sentences”) by Gabrielle Chanel. The following statement appeared among the 31 items. Boldface added to excerpts buy QI: 1

Nos maisons sont nos prisons; sachons y retrouver la liberté dans la façon de les parer.

Here is one possible translation into English:

Our homes are our prisons; let us find freedom in their decoration.

Below is one additional citation followed by the conclusion.

Continue reading Our Homes Are Our Prisons; Let Us Find Freedom in Their Decoration

Notes:

  1. 1938 Septembre (September), Vogue, Maximes et Sentences (Maxims and Sentences) by Gabrielle Chanel, Quote Page 57, Condé Nast, Paris, France. (BNF Gallica Bibliothèque nationale de France) link

We Must Walk Consciously Only Part Way Toward Our Goal, and Then Leap in the Dark To Our Success

Henry David Thoreau? William Ellery Channing? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: When you are pursuing a goal you should be guided by conscious and unconscious thoughts. These two complementary elements will each take you part of the way to the goal. As you approach the objective you must make a leap in the dark to attain success.

Philosopher and poet Henry David Thoreau said something like this. Would you please help me to find a citation.

Quote Investigator: On March 11, 1859 Thoreau wrote the following in his journal. Boldface added to excepts by QI: 1

We must walk consciously only part way toward our goal, and then leap in the dark to our success.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading We Must Walk Consciously Only Part Way Toward Our Goal, and Then Leap in the Dark To Our Success

Notes:

  1. 1906, The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, Edited by Bradford Torrey, Journal: March 2, 1859 to November 30, 1859, Volume 12, Date: March 11, 1859, Start Page 35, Quote Page 39, Houghton Mifflin and Company, Boston, Massachusetts. (Google Books Full View) link