Mark Twain? Richard Branson? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: The following comical remark reassures neophyte speakers that their anxious feelings are universal:
There are only two types of speakers: (1) the nervous (2) the liars.
This quip is usually attributed to the famous humorist Mark Twain, but I cannot find a solid citation, and I have become skeptical. Would you please explore this topic?
Quote Investigator: QI has been unable to find this statement in the writings, dictations, or speeches of Mark Twain. It does not appear on the Twain Quotes website edited by Barbara Schmidt, 1 nor does it appear in the large compilation “Mark Twain at Your Fingertips” edited by Caroline Thomas Harnsberger. 2 The ascription to Mark Twain is currently unsupported.
Twain died in 1910, and the earliest close match located by QI appeared many years later in a posting to the Usenet newsgroup alt.business.seminars in 1998, Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 3
Some of the world’s most famous presenters have freely admitted to nervousness and stage fright. Mark Twain said it best, “There are two types of speakers: those that are nervous and those that are liars”.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- Website: TwainQuotes.com, Editor: Barbara Schmidt, Description: Mark Twain quotations, articles, and related resources. (Searched March 5, 2020) link ↩
- 1948, Mark Twain at Your Fingertips by Caroline Thomas Harnsberger, Cloud, Inc., Beechhurst Press, Inc., New York. (Verified with search) ↩
- 1998 January 13, Usenet discussion message, Newsgroup: alt.business.seminars, From: Pres…@LJLSeminars.com, Subject: Overcoming Speaking Anxiety. (Google Groups Search; Accessed March 4, 2020) link ↩