Quote Origin: There Is No Such Thing as a New Idea. We Simply Take a Lot of Old Ideas and Put Them Into a Sort of Mental Kaleidoscope

Mark Twain? Albert Bigelow Paine? Caroline Thomas Harnsberger? Apocryphal? Question for Quote Investigator: A famous author once suggested that humankind was not generating any genuinely new ideas. The author illustrated this viewpoint via a clever simile. Ideas were like pieces of colored glass in a kaleidoscope. The ideas which appeared to be new were only configurations …

Quote Origin: Definition of a Classic—Something That Everybody Wants To Have Read and Nobody Wants To Read

Mark Twain? Caleb Thomas Winchester? Frank Norris? Otto F. Ege? Apocryphal? Question for Quote Investigator: Classic works of literature are sometimes difficult or tedious to read. Apparently, a humorist once said something like the following: (1) Definition of a classic—something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read. (2) A classic is …

Quote Origin: Annihilation Has No Terrors For Me, Because I Have Already Tried It Before I Was Born

Mark Twain? Isaac Asimov? Vincent van Gogh? Harold S. Kushner? Harold S. Kushner? Apocryphal? Question for Quote Investigator: A famous author once commented on the anxiety induced by the contemplation of mortality. Here are two versions: (1) Annihilation has no terrors for me, because I have already tried it before I was born—a hundred million …

Quote Origin: No Generalization Is Wholly True—Not Even This One

Mark Twain? Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.? Alexandre Dumas fils? Lady Mary Wortley Montagu? Ellen Osborn? Manley H. Pike? Ben Johnson? Benjamin Disraeli? Alexander Chase? Roger O’Mara? Anonymous? Question for Quote Investigator: Making sweeping statements about the universe is difficult to resist, but exceptions seem to be unavoidable. The following comically paradoxical statement is popular. Here …

Quote Origin: Habit Is Habit, and Not To Be Flung Out of the Window By Any Man, But Coaxed Down Stairs a Step at a Time

Mark Twain? Mabel Thatcher Wellman? Ellen H. Richards? John Harvey Kellogg? Apocryphal? Question for Quote Investigator: Longstanding habits are difficult to break. This notion has been expressed metaphorically as follows: A habit cannot be tossed out the window; it must be coaxed down the stairs a step at a time. This statement has been attributed …

Quote Origin: Anger Is an Acid That Can Do More Harm To the Vessel In Which It’s Stored Than To Anything On Which It’s Poured

Mark Twain? Ann Landers? Turkish Proverb? Mohandas Gandhi? Seneca the Younger? Frederica Mathewes-Green? Anonymous? Question for Quote Investigator: Intense feelings of anger affect the body and mind negatively. This notion can be expressed metaphorically: Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on …

Quote Origin: Not a Day’s Work in All My Life. What I Have Done I Have Done, Because It Has Been Play

Mark Twain? Lawrence Pearsall Jacks? Apocryphal? Question for Quote Investigator: The famous author Mark Twain once surprisingly proclaimed that he had done “not a day’s work in all my life”. He stated that his efforts in life had “been play”. Would you please help me to find a citation for his fascinating comments? Reply from …

Quote Origin: I Never Was Ruined But Twice, Once When I Gained a Lawsuit, and Once When I Lost It

Voltaire? Mark Twain? Richard Brinsley Sheridan? John Bright? Apocryphal? Anonymous? Question for Quote Investigator: Legal conflicts are extraordinarily expensive and time-consuming for all the participants. Even the winner of a lawsuit can suffer financially. The ill-fated contender in two legal entanglements once said something like the following. Here are two versions. The word “gained” is …

Quote Origin: This Is Only a Work of Fiction. The Truth, As Always, Will Be Far Stranger

Arthur C. Clarke? Stanley Kubrick? Mark Twain? J. B. S. Haldane? Question for Quote Investigator: Rapid computer hardware and software developments combined with extreme speculations about a technological singularity have led some science fiction writers to complain that envisioning the future has become too difficult. I am reminded of the following disclaimer for a novel: …

Joke Origin: A Clear Conscience Is Usually a Sign of a Bad Memory

Mark Twain? Steven Wright? Senator Sorghum? Philander Chase Johnson? Neal O’Hara? Felix Nieto del Rio? Anonymous? Question for Quote Investigator: A morally upright individual strives to maintain a clear conscience. Yet, satisfying this goal is not always praiseworthy: Often a person with a clear conscience merely has a poor memory. This quip has been credited …

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