C. P. Scott? Kenneth Adam? Bernard Levin? Harvey W. Wiley? Ivor Brown? H. L. Mencken? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: While reading a book about woefully inaccurate predictions I came across a humorously incongruous statement about a wildly successful gadget:
Television? The word is half Greek, half Latin. No good can come of it.
British journalist C. P. Scott has received credit for this remark. Would you please explore this topic?
Quote Investigator: C. P. Scott (Charles Prestwich Scott) was the editor of “The Manchester Guardian” beginning in 1872. He relinquished the editorship in 1929 while continuing to work at the paper. He died a few years later in 1932.
The earliest germane citation known to QI occurred in “The Listener” magazine in 1955. Kenneth Adam wrote about his experiences as a neophyte journalist at “The Manchester Guardian” starting in 1930. Adam presented the words of C. P. Scott who described a groundbreaking invention worthy of a newspaper article. The term “cuttings” in the following excerpt referred to folders full of categorized articles clipped from periodicals which could be used to research a topic. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1
‘Now here’s something promising. A new development in wireless broadcasting. They propose to add sight to sound. That raises interesting possibilities, don’t you think? There won’t be many cuttings, I’m afraid. But do your best. By the way, they seem to be calling it “television”. Not a nice word. Greek and Latin mixed. Clumsy. You might like to have a dig at that, eh? ’
Adam was unsure whether his article about television was published because many short pieces assigned by the inquisitive Scott were never printed. Interestingly, Adam did not mention the retrospectively humorous line “No good can come of it”. In 1956 another journalist, Bernard Levin, did attribute this line to Scott within the pages of “The Manchester Guardian”: 2
… C. P. Scott turning in his grave. (“Television?” he said. “No good will come of this device. The word is half Greek and half Latin.”)
Unfortunately, both of these citations appeared many years after the death of C. P. Scott. Numerous people have criticized the hybrid etymology of “television”, and QI finds the report from Adam credible. Yet, the support for the comical line about the fate of television is weaker.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 1955 July 7, The Listener, Volume 54, Number 1375, Memories of ‘The Manchester Guardian’ by Kenneth Adam, Start Page 19, Quote Page 19, Column 1, Published by British Broadcasting Corporation, London. (Gale Cengage “The Listener” Historical Archive) ↩
- 1956 June 9, The Manchester Guardian, The Traveling Eye by Bernard Levin, Quote Page 5, Column 6, Manchester, England. (Newspapers_com) ↩