There Are Three Kinds of Lies: Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

Mark Twain? Benjamin Disraeli? St. Swithin? Eliza Gutch? Charles Dilke? Charles Stewart Parnell? Robert Giffen? Arthur James Balfour? Francis Bacon? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Statistical analysis can provide deep insights into an issue. Yet, carelessness or duplicity can generate misleading results. A popular cynical adage communicates this mistrust:

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.

These words have been attributed to prominent humorist Mark Twain, British statesman Benjamin Disraeli, and others. Do you know who should receive credit? Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: Mark Twain did include this saying in an installment of his autobiography which he published in 1907; however, he did not claim to be the originator; instead, Twain credited Benjamin Disraeli. Yet, there is no substantive evidence that Disraeli crafted this remark. He died in 1881, and the remark was attributed to him posthumously by 1895.

Tracing this saying is a complex task because the expression evolved over time. Changes were incremental, and there was no single originator who deserved credit. Here is an overview showing key phrases, dates, and attributions.

1882 Apr 04: three classes—liars, great liars, and scientific witnesses (Attributed to “well-known Judge”)

1885 Jun 27: three sorts of liars, the common or garden liar … the damnable liar … and lastly the expert (Attributed to “counsel”)

1885 Nov 26: grouped witnesses into three classes: simple liars, damned liars, and experts (Attributed to “well-known lawyer”)

1886 Apr 10: three kinds of liars who testify in courts: “Lawyers, liars and experts” (Attributed to “distinguished judge”)

1889 Aug 12: There are liars, and d—-d liars and experts (Attributed to “eminent judge”)

1891 Jun 13: three kinds of falsehood: the first is a ‘fib,’ the second is a downright lie, and the third and most aggravated is statistics (Anonymous)

1891 Oct 10: There are three degrees of falsehood: the first is a fib, the second is a lie, and then come statistics (Anonymous)

1891 Oct 14: there were three degrees of untruth—a fib, a lie, and statistics (Charles Dilke)

1891 Oct 19: false statements might be arranged according to their degree under three heads, fibs, lies, and statistics. (Attributed to Charles Dilke)

1891 Oct 28: Mr. Parnell’s dictum respecting fibs, lies, and statistics (Attributed to Charles Stewart Parnell)

1891 Nov 07: classifies falsehood under three heads: 1, the fib; 2, the lie; 3, statistics (Attributed to Mark Twain)

1892: three degrees of unveracity—“Lies, d——d lies, and statistics.” (Attributed to “some wit”)

1892 Jan: There are lies, there are outrageous lies, and there are statistics (Anonymous)

1892 Feb: three degrees in liars: the liar simple, the d — d liar, and the expert witness (Anonymous)

1892 Jun 28: three kinds of unveracity—namely, lies, damned lies, and statistics (Arthur James Balfour)

1895 July 27: three degrees of veracity—viz., lies d—d lies, and statistics (Attributed to Lord Beaconsfield, i.e., Benjamin Disraeli)

1907 Jul 5: There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics (Attributed to Benjamin Disraeli by Mark Twain)

QI gives great thanks to previous researchers particularly Stephen Goranson and Peter M. Lee who located many of the citations mentioned above.

Below are selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading There Are Three Kinds of Lies: Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

Be Moderate In Everything Including Moderation

Mark Twain? Oscar Wilde? Socrates? Nancy Weber? Judy Tillinger? Horace Porter? J. F. Carter? Gaius Petronius Arbiter? James Ogilvy? Thomas Paine? Voltaire? Richard A. Posner? Benjamin Franklin? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The ancient Greek poet Hesiod stated:[1] 2008, Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs, Fifth Edition, Edited by Jennifer Speake, Entry: Moderation in all things, Quote Page 213, Oxford University Press, New York. (Verified with scans)

Observe due measure; moderation is best in all things.

An extended version of this statement has been attributed to many famous people including Socrates, Oscar Wilde, Benjamin Franklin, Voltaire, and Mark Twain. Here are two versions:

(1) All things in moderation, including moderation.
(2) Be moderate in everything, including moderation.

I am skeptical about all these ascriptions for the extended statement. Would you please explore this topic, and help me to find solid citations?

Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive support for attributing this extended statement to any of the five people listed above. It is difficult to trace.

A collection based on ancient Greek poetry titled “Pagan Pictures” contained a pertinent four line verse called “Moderation”. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[2]1927, Pagan Pictures: Freely Translated and Fully Expanded from the Greek Anthology & the Greek Lyrical Poets by Wallace Rice, Quote Page 153, Boni & Liveright, New York. (Verified with … Continue reading

Nothing too much, doth Chilo say?
Be moderate despite temptation?
Aye; moderate in every way
Be moderate in moderation.

The biographical notes for “Pagan Pictures” stated that the material was based on the Planudean anthology, the Palatine anthology, and epigrams transcribed from ancient monuments. “Pagan Pictures” was published in 1927, and the collection did not specify an author or provide a precise citation for the verse “Moderation”. Thus, its provenance and date remain uncertain.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Be Moderate In Everything Including Moderation

References

References
1 2008, Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs, Fifth Edition, Edited by Jennifer Speake, Entry: Moderation in all things, Quote Page 213, Oxford University Press, New York. (Verified with scans)
2 1927, Pagan Pictures: Freely Translated and Fully Expanded from the Greek Anthology & the Greek Lyrical Poets by Wallace Rice, Quote Page 153, Boni & Liveright, New York. (Verified with scans; thanks to the University of North Carolina library system)

If You Don’t Like Our Weather, Just Wait a Few Minutes

Mark Twain? Will Rogers? Ring Lardner? James A. Cruikshank? T. Morris Longstreth? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Two famous humorists, Mark Twain and Will Rogers, have each received credit for a statement about the variability of weather. Here are four instances:

(1) If you don’t like our weather, wait a minute.

(2) If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes.

(3) If you don’t like the Kansas weather today just wait a day and probably tomorrow will suit.

(4) If you don’t like the present brand of Nebraska weather just wait fifteen minutes and there will be a different kind of weather.

Did either Twain or Rogers really employ this expression? Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in “Field and Stream” magazine in January 1909 within an article by James A. Cruikshank who indicated that the saying was circulating in Chicago, Illinois with an anonymous attribution. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]1909 January, Field and Stream, Volume 13, Number 9, Where To Go Hunting, Fishing & Resorts of The United States & Canada by Jas. A. Cruikshank, Start Page 794, Quote Page 794, Column 2, … Continue reading

In Chicago—where they have a saying “If you do not like our weather, wait a minute”—it seems to a good many of us that, after waiting several weeks of winter, we like the latest weather less than the earlier.

Researchers have been unable to find this saying in the writings and speeches of Mark Twain. He died in 1910, and the earliest known attribution to him appeared a decade later in 1920. Will Rogers died in 1935, and the saying was ascribed to him in 1940. Based on current evidence, the originator of this remark remains anonymous.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading If You Don’t Like Our Weather, Just Wait a Few Minutes

References

References
1 1909 January, Field and Stream, Volume 13, Number 9, Where To Go Hunting, Fishing & Resorts of The United States & Canada by Jas. A. Cruikshank, Start Page 794, Quote Page 794, Column 2, Field and Stream Publishing Company, New York. (Google Books Full View) link

All You Need In This Life Is Ignorance and Confidence; Then Success Is Sure

Mark Twain? Benjamin De Casseres? Richard Grant White? Mary Hallock Foote? Cordelia Foote? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Mark Twain once joked that the key to success was a combination of ignorance and confidence. I do not know the precise phrasing. Would you please help me to find the exact quotation and a citation?

Quote Investigator: Mark Twain penned this amusing remark in a letter dated December 2, 1887 which he sent to “Mrs. Foote”. The letter was reprinted in the “Los Angeles Times” on March 16, 1930.[1] 1930 March 16, Los Angeles Times, Twain Letter Unearthed by Neeta Marquis, Section 3, Quote Page 22, Column 1 and 2, Los Angeles, California. (Newspapers_com) link Also, in 1934 a facsimile of the missive appeared in the book “When Huck Finn Went Highbrow” by Benjamin De Casseres, a limited edition with 125 copies.

There was a long delay between the letter’s composition and its publication, but Twain scholars believe that it is authentic. The famed humorist discussed leading a study group who were exploring the poetry of Robert Browning.[2]1978, Browning Institute Studies, Volume 6, Article: “A Splendor of Stars & Suns”: Twain as a Reader of Browning’s Poems by Alan Gribben, Start Page 87, End Page 107, Published by … Continue reading The quotation reflected Twain’s comical reaction to holding a position of leadership:[3]1934, When Huck Finn Went Highbrow by Benjamin De Casseres, Limited edition with 125 copies, (Book includes facsimile of letter sent from Mark Twain to Mrs. Foote dated December 2, 1887), Quote Page … Continue reading

Now when you come to think of it, wasn’t it a curious idea—I mean for a dozen ladies of (apparently) high intelligence to elect me their Browning reader? Of course you think I declined at first; but I didn’t. I’m not the declining sort. I would take charge of the constellations if I were asked to do it. All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence; then success is sure.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading All You Need In This Life Is Ignorance and Confidence; Then Success Is Sure

References

References
1 1930 March 16, Los Angeles Times, Twain Letter Unearthed by Neeta Marquis, Section 3, Quote Page 22, Column 1 and 2, Los Angeles, California. (Newspapers_com) link
2 1978, Browning Institute Studies, Volume 6, Article: “A Splendor of Stars & Suns”: Twain as a Reader of Browning’s Poems by Alan Gribben, Start Page 87, End Page 107, Published by Cambridge University Press. (JSTOR; Accessed September 5, 2021) link
3 1934, When Huck Finn Went Highbrow by Benjamin De Casseres, Limited edition with 125 copies, (Book includes facsimile of letter sent from Mark Twain to Mrs. Foote dated December 2, 1887), Quote Page 7, Thomas F. Madigan, New York. (Verified with page scans; thanks to Barbara Schmidt and Kevin Mac Donnell)

Tortoises All the Way Down

Hester Lynch Piozzi? William James? Bertrand Russell? Mark Twain? Henry David Thoreau? Carl Sagan? Terry Pratchett? Samuel Purchas? John Locke? George B. Cheever? Joseph F. Berg? George Chainey? John Phoenix? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: According to legend a prominent scientist once presented a lecture on cosmology which discussed the solar system and galaxies. Afterwards, a critical audience member approached and stated that the information given was completely wrong.

Instead, the world was supported by four great elephants, and the elephants stood on the back of an enormous turtle. The scientist inquired what the turtle stood upon. Another more massive turtle was the reply. The scientist asked about the support of the last turtle and elicited this response:

“Oh, it’s turtles all the way down.”

Some versions of this anecdote use tortoises instead of turtles. A variety of individuals have been linked to this tale including writer Hester Lynch Piozzi, psychologist William James, logician Bertrand Russell, humorist Mark Twain, transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau, astronomer Carl Sagan, and fantasy author Terry Pratchett. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: This anecdote evolved over time. It began with European interpretations of Hindu cosmography. Early instances featuring tortoises and elephants did not mention an infinite iteration; instead, the lowest creature was sitting upon something unknown or on nothing. In 1838 a humorous version employed the punchline “there’s rocks all the way down!” In 1854 a debater used the phrase “there are tortoises all the way down.” By 1886 another punchline was circulating: “it is turtle all the way down!” Here is an overview sampling showing pertinent statements with dates:

1626: the Elephants feete stood on Tortoises, and they were borne by they know not what.
1690: what gave support to the broad-back’d Tortoise, replied, something, he knew not what.
1804: And on what does the tortoise stand? I cannot tell.
1826: tortoise rests on mud, the mud on water, and the water on air!
1836: what does the tortoise rest on? Nothing!
1838: there’s rocks all the way down!
1842: extremely anxious to know what it is that the tortoise stands upon.
1844: after the tortoise is chaotic mud.
1852: had nothing to put under the tortoise.
1854: there are tortoises all the way down.
1867: elephants . . . their legs “reach all the way down.”
1882: the snake reaching all the way down.
1886: it is turtle all the way down!
1904: a big turtle whose legs reach all the way down!
1917: there are turtles all the way down
1927: he was tired of metaphysics and wanted to change the subject.
1967: It’s no use, Mr. James — it’s turtles all the way down.

Below are selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Tortoises All the Way Down

Nearly Any Invented Quotation, Played With Confidence, Stands a Good Chance To Deceive

Mark Twain? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Mark Twain once spun a tale in which he won an argument by concocting a fake quotation. His successful deception led him to pronounce a maxim similar to this: Any invented quotation, spoken with confidence, will be accepted by listeners. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: Mark Twain published his popular travel book “Following the Equator: A Journey Around the World” in 1897. He described a dinner with companions who disagreed about the pronunciation of the word “three” by common Scottish people. The two options were “three” and “thraw”. Twain created a verse he attributed to the prominent Scottish poet Robert Burns that rhymed the word with “knee”. Twain won the argument because of the prestige of the poet. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1]1897, Following the Equator: A Journey Around the World by Mark Twain (Samuel L. Clemens), Chapter 5, Quote Page 78, American Publishing Company, Hartford, Connecticut; Also Doubleday & McClure … Continue reading

“Does Robbie Burns say — what does he say?”

“This is what he says :
“There were nae bairns but only three —
Ane at the breast, twa at the knee.”

It ended the discussion. There was no man there profane enough, disloyal enough, to say any word against a thing which Robert Burns had settled. I shall always honor that great name for the salvation it brought me in this time of my sore need.

It is my belief that nearly any invented quotation, played with confidence, stands a good chance to deceive. There are people who think that honesty is always the best policy. This is a superstition; there are times when the appearance of it is worth six of it.

Below are selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Nearly Any Invented Quotation, Played With Confidence, Stands a Good Chance To Deceive

References

References
1 1897, Following the Equator: A Journey Around the World by Mark Twain (Samuel L. Clemens), Chapter 5, Quote Page 78, American Publishing Company, Hartford, Connecticut; Also Doubleday & McClure Company, New York. (Internet Archive) link

When Everybody Is Digging for Gold, It’s Good To Be in the Pick and Shovel Business

Mark Twain? Walter Powell? Collis Huntington? Mark Hopkins? Jim Winder? Gavin Dobson? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: During the 1800s the discovery of gold in a locale triggered a frenetic scramble of miners who dreamed of great fortunes. Unfortunately, mining led to disappointment for most miners. Here are two versions of a pertinent adage:

  • Don’t dig for gold, sell shovels.
  • The secret to getting rich in a gold rush is selling picks.

This observation has been attributed to the famous humorist Mark Twain, but I have been unable to find a solid citation. What do you think?

Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive evidence supporting the ascription to Mark Twain. He died in 1910, and he received credit many decades later in 1982.

The adage can be expressed in many ways which makes it difficult to trace. QI believes the saying evolved over time. Tales about individuals achieving great wealth by supplying goods and services to miners have a long history.

In 1876 the acumen of Australian businessman Walter Powell was highlighted in a piece published in “The General Baptist Magazine” of London. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1] 1876 May, The General Baptist Magazine, Studies in Present-Day Biography: Walter Powell, Start Page 169, Quote Page 172, Published by E. Marlborough & Co., London. (Google Books Full View) link

. . . he returned to Melbourne a little before the Australian gold fields were discovered. Everybody that could rushed off to the diggings. The city was deserted; and then people commenced to pour through Melbourne from all parts, delirious with the idea that they would soon all be wealthy. Walter Powell had the good sense to stop at his store and sell shovels and pickaxes at a premium, and so he suddenly grew rich.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading When Everybody Is Digging for Gold, It’s Good To Be in the Pick and Shovel Business

References

References
1 1876 May, The General Baptist Magazine, Studies in Present-Day Biography: Walter Powell, Start Page 169, Quote Page 172, Published by E. Marlborough & Co., London. (Google Books Full View) link

The Best Swordsman in the World Doesn’t Need To Fear the Second Best Swordsman

Mark Twain? David Weber? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Achieving expert knowledge and abilities in a domain may require many years of hard work. Yet, expertise does not guarantee success. Here is a counterintuitive adage:

The best swordsman does not fear the second best. He fears the worst since there’s no telling what that idiot is going to do.

This statement has been attributed to the famous humorist Mark Twain and the popular science fiction author David Weber. But I am having trouble locating a solid citation. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: In 1889 Mark Twain published “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court”. The book included an observation about the “best swordsman”, but the phrasing differed from the remark specified in the inquiry above. The following excerpt represents the thoughts of the book’s narrator. Bold face added by QI:[1]1889 Copyright, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain, Chapter 34: The Yankee and the King Sold as Slaves, Quote Page 330, Harper & Brothers Publishers, New York. … Continue reading

But don’t you know, there are some things that can beat smartness and foresight? Awkwardness and stupidity can. The best swordsman in the world doesn’t need to fear the second best swordsman in the world; no, the person for him to be afraid of is some ignorant antagonist who has never had a sword in his hand before; he doesn’t do the thing he ought to do, and so the expert isn’t prepared for him; he does the thing he ought not to do: and often it catches the expert out and ends him on the spot.

The viewpoint of the narrator of a novel may diverge from the author’s viewpoint; however, in this case, QI suspects that Twain would concur with the insight provided by the narrator.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Best Swordsman in the World Doesn’t Need To Fear the Second Best Swordsman

References

References
1 1889 Copyright, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain, Chapter 34: The Yankee and the King Sold as Slaves, Quote Page 330, Harper & Brothers Publishers, New York. (HathiTrust Full View) link

Comparison Is the Thief of Joy

Theodore Roosevelt? Mark Twain? C. S. Lewis? Dwight Edwards? John Powell? Ray Cummings? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Comparing your status to others often produces envy and unhappiness. Here are four instances from a family of pertinent adages:

  • Comparison is the thief of joy.
  • The thief of joy is comparison.
  • Comparison is the death of joy.
  • Comparison is the death of contentment.

Statesman Theodore Roosevelt, humorist Mark Twain, author C. S. Lewis, and religious figure Dwight Edwards have all been given credit for sayings in this family. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote investigator: QI has located no substantive evidence supporting ascriptions to Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and C. S. Lewis. Tracing this family is difficult, and this article presents a snapshot of current research. The statements above are not semantically identical, but QI believes that this grouping is natural.

The earliest match located by QI appeared in the 1989 book “Happiness Is an Inside Job” by John Powell. This instance referred to self-contentment and not joy. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1] 1989, Happiness Is an Inside Job by John Powell S.J., Chapter: My Assumption – Happiness is a natural condition, Quote Page 6, Tabor Publishing, Allen, Texas. (Verified with scans)

“Why can’t you be like that. ” “Why don’t you do as well as your brother?” “If you comb your hair down, people won’t notice your big forehead. You’ll look more presentable.”

And so most of us have been taught to compare ourselves with others. And all the professionals agree: Comparison is the death of true self-contentment.

The earliest match using “comparison” and “thief of joy” located by QI appeared in the 2003 religious book “Are You Following Jesus Or Just Fooling Around?!” by Dr. Ray Cummings. He discussed three thieves of joy. The first thief was bitterness; the second thief was complaining, and the third thief was comparison:[2] 2003, Are You Following Jesus Or Just Fooling Around?! by Dr. Ray Cummings, Quote Page 81, Xulon Press: Salem Media Group, Camarillo, California. (Google Books Preview)

A third thief of joy is comparison. When Satan can’t make you bitter enough to complain, he will seek to lower your self-esteem and allow you to compare.

The 2004 religious book “Connect2God: Instant Messages from God to Teens” by Curt Cloninger included an exact match for the popular modern version of the saying. Cloninger disclaimed credit:[3]2004, Connect2God: Instant Messages from God to Teens by Curt Cloninger, Chapter: True Original, Start Page 12, Quote Page 13, Honor Books, An Imprint of Cook Communications Ministries, Colorado … Continue reading

Somebody once said that comparison is the thief of joy. In other words, if you’re always comparing yourself to other people, then you’ll never be happy.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Comparison Is the Thief of Joy

References

References
1 1989, Happiness Is an Inside Job by John Powell S.J., Chapter: My Assumption – Happiness is a natural condition, Quote Page 6, Tabor Publishing, Allen, Texas. (Verified with scans)
2 2003, Are You Following Jesus Or Just Fooling Around?! by Dr. Ray Cummings, Quote Page 81, Xulon Press: Salem Media Group, Camarillo, California. (Google Books Preview)
3 2004, Connect2God: Instant Messages from God to Teens by Curt Cloninger, Chapter: True Original, Start Page 12, Quote Page 13, Honor Books, An Imprint of Cook Communications Ministries, Colorado Springs, Colorado. (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] 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

“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

References

References
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