It’s Better To Be Quotable Than Honest

Tom Stoppard? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The world of social media highlights upvotes, shares, and retweets. Many marketers, influencers, and politicians adhere to the following axiom:

It’s better to be quotable than honest.

Would you please explore the provenance of this expression?

Quote Investigator: British playwright Tom Stoppard has earned an Academy Award and four Tony Awards. In 1973 journalist Janet Watts interviewed Stoppard for the London newspaper “The Guardian”. She prompted him with a comment he had previously made during a television interview, and he responded with the quotation under examination. 1

Stoppard (a true ex-journalist) has a gift for quotable remarks. “I write fiction because it’s a way of making statements I can disown, and I write plays because dialogue is the most respectable way of contradicting myself,” he once said on television. He looks wry when reminded of it: “It seems pointless to be quoted if one isn’t going to be quotable . . . it’s better to be quotable than honest,” he says (doing it again).

Stoppard’s shrewd remark illustrates the principle it extols. Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading It’s Better To Be Quotable Than Honest

Notes:

  1. 1973 March 21, The Guardian, Tom Stoppard: Janet Watts interviews the playwright who has a work at the National Theatre, and a translation of Lorca opening tomorrow, Quote Page 12, Column 4, London, England. (Newspapers_com)