No Snowflake in an Avalanche Ever Feels Responsible

Voltaire? George Burns? Paul Harvey? Stanisław Jerzy Lec? Percy Bysshe Shelley? Etaislaw Lee? Stanisław Leszczyński? Stanisław Lem? Jacek Galazka?

Dear Quote Investigator: A mob or a mass movement can cause enormous destruction. Also, the inaction of a large apathetic group in a perilous time can lead to ruination. Yet, individuals disavow liability. Here are three versions of a pertinent metaphorical adage:

(1) No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.
(2) Each snowflake in an avalanche pleads not guilty.
(3) In an avalanche, no one snowflake ever feels responsible.

This saying has been attributed to French wit Voltaire, Polish aphorist Stanisław Jerzy Lec, U.S. comedian George Burns, and others. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match known to QI appeared in the 1964 Polish book “Myśli Nieuczesane Nowe” (“More Unkempt Thoughts”) by Stanisław Jerzy Lec which contained many short humorous remarks.[1]Website: Wikiquote, Person: Stanisław Jerzy Lec, A Wikimedia Project of Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. (Accessed wikiquote.org on April 26, 2022; Polish version of the quotation was obtained from … Continue reading The work was translated into English by Jacek Galazka and published in 1968. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[2] 1968 Copyright, More Unkempt Thoughts by Stanisław J. Lec, Translated by Jacek Galazka, Quote Page 9, Funk & Wagnalls, New York. (Verified with scans)

Żaden płatek śniegu nie czuje się odpowiedzialny za lawinę.
No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading No Snowflake in an Avalanche Ever Feels Responsible

References

References
1 Website: Wikiquote, Person: Stanisław Jerzy Lec, A Wikimedia Project of Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. (Accessed wikiquote.org on April 26, 2022; Polish version of the quotation was obtained from Wikiquote; QI has not yet verified the Polish quotation directly in “Myśli Nieuczesane Nowe”) link
2 1968 Copyright, More Unkempt Thoughts by Stanisław J. Lec, Translated by Jacek Galazka, Quote Page 9, Funk & Wagnalls, New York. (Verified with scans)

If We Treat People as If They Were What They Ought To Be, We Help Them Become What They Are Capable of Becoming

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe? Thomas Carlyle? Mary Shelley? Percy Bysshe Shelley? Thomas S. Monson? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: There is a family of sayings ascribed to the prominent German literary figure Goethe. Here are two instances in the family:

If you treat people as they are, they will become worse. If you treat them as they could be, they will become better.

If we treat people as if they were what they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.

Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe published Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre (Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship) in 1795 and 1796. The following passage in German presents the ideal of helping others to achieve their potential:[1]1801, Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre: Ein Roman, (Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship: A Novel) by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Vierter Band (Volume 4), Book 8, Chapter 4, Quote Page 194, Frankfurt und … Continue reading

Wenn wir sagtest Du, die Menschen nur nehmen, wie sie sind, so machen wir sie schlechter; wenn wir sie behandeln als wären sie, was sie sein sollten, so bringen wir sie dahin, wohin sie zu bringen sind.

The influential Scottish essayist and translator Thomas Carlyle rendered Goethe’s novel into English in 1824. Here is Carlyle’s version of the passage. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI:[2]1824, Translations from the German by Thomas Carlyle, Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship and Travels, Translated from the German of Goethe, Volume 2 of 2,Book VIII, Chapter IV, Quote Page 93, … Continue reading

‘When we take people,’ thou wouldst say, ‘merely as they are, we make them worse; when we treat them as if they were what they should be, we improve them as far as they can be improved.’

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading If We Treat People as If They Were What They Ought To Be, We Help Them Become What They Are Capable of Becoming

References

References
1 1801, Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre: Ein Roman, (Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship: A Novel) by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Vierter Band (Volume 4), Book 8, Chapter 4, Quote Page 194, Frankfurt und Leipzig. (Google Books Full View) link
2 1824, Translations from the German by Thomas Carlyle, Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship and Travels, Translated from the German of Goethe, Volume 2 of 2,Book VIII, Chapter IV, Quote Page 93, Chapman and Hall, London. (Google Books Full View) link