Winston Churchill? Copywriter for Budweiser Beer? George F. Tilton? Sam Rayburn? Joe Paterno? John Wooden? Mike Ditka? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: Here are two versions of stirring words that are often attributed to the well-known statesman Winston Churchill:
Success is never final and failure never fatal. It’s courage that counts.
Success is not final; failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.
I have never seen a source for this saying, and I suspect Churchill never said it. What do you think?
Quote Investigator: There is no substantive evidence that Churchill made this remark. The saying is listed in the comprehensive quotation collection “Churchill by Himself” in a special appendix called “Red Herrings: False Attributions”. 1
Richard Langworth, the editor of “Churchill by Himself”, has a website with a webpage indicating that the saying above has been misattributed. Commenting more generally about expressions that are being improperly ascribed to Churchill he stated: 2
These quotations are all over the Internet, none of them attributed, and just seem to multiply and get passed on, like the common cold.
QI hypothesizes that the saying above evolved from simpler partial statements during a multi-year process. A version closely matching the full expression appeared in the 1930s in an advertising campaign for Budweiser beer, a product of the Anheuser-Busch company. Based on current evidence, a copywriter for Budweiser probably synthesized the saying. Details are given further below.
Here are selected citations in chronological order.
- 2008, Churchill by Himself: The Definitive Collection of Quotations, Edited by Richard Langworth, Appendix I: Red Herrings: False Attributions, Quote Page 579, PublicAffairs, New York. (Google Books Preview) ↩
- Website: Richard M. Langworth, Article title: More “Quotations” Churchill Never Said, Article author: Richard M. Langworth, Date on website: June 19, 2009, Website description: “Richard M. Langworth: Churchill historian, automotive and travel writer”. (Accessed richardlangworth.com on September 3, 2013) link ↩