During My Life I Have Often Had To Eat My Own Words, and I Have Found Them a Wholesome Diet

Winston Churchill? Isabel Vernon? Walter Monckton? John W. Wheeler-Bennett? Katherine Ramsay? Earl of Swinton? Lord Normanbrook? Apocryphal?

Question for Quote Investigator: According to legend a prominent political figure was planning to reverse a long-held policy, and a colleague disapproved while warning, “You would be required to eat your own words.” The figure replied, “I have often been required to eat my own words, and I find it a very wholesome diet!”

This wordplay has been attributed to Winston Churchill. I am unsure of the precise phrasing, and I haven’t been able to locate a solid citation. Would you please explore this topic?

Reply from Quote Investigator: The earliest ascription to Churchill found by QI appeared in the “Bristol Evening Post” of England in 1956. Sir Walter Monckton delivered a speech to the students at Colston School (now called Collegiate School). Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1] 1956 June 25, Bristol Evening Post, ‘Form own views,’ Sir Walter urges boys, Quote Page 13, Column 4, Bristol, England. (British Newspaper Archive)

Sir Walter urged the boys not just to take other people’s opinions for granted, but to form their own and think straight for themselves—even if they occasionally had to admit they were wrong.

This was not a shameful thing, he said, and cited the instance on which, after Sir Winston Churchill had been taken to task for saying something quite inconsistent with something he had said years before, he commented: “For 40 years, I have found myself eating my own words, and on the whole I find it a very wholesome diet!”

QI has not yet found a direct citation to a speech by Winston Churchill or to a text written by him. Nevertheless, the citation above and other attributions shown below are substantive; hence, QI believes Churchill deserves credit for using this type of quip although he was not the first.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading During My Life I Have Often Had To Eat My Own Words, and I Have Found Them a Wholesome Diet

References

References
1 1956 June 25, Bristol Evening Post, ‘Form own views,’ Sir Walter urges boys, Quote Page 13, Column 4, Bristol, England. (British Newspaper Archive)