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 …

Quote Origin: Be Careful About Reading Medical Books. You May Die of a Misprint

Mark Twain? Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.? Markus Herz? Ernst Freiherr von Feuchtersleben? Walter C. Alvarez? Anonymous? Question for Quote Investigator: All kinds of medical advice is available on the internet. However, the quality is variable, and some of the recommendations are deleterious. A pertinent quip has been circulating for decades. Here are two versions: (1) …

Quote Origin: It Is Better To Deserve Honors and Not Have Them Than To Have Them and Not Deserve Them

Mark Twain? Humphry Davy? Robert G. Ingersoll? Cato the Elder? Hugh M‘Neile? Cassius Marcellus Clay? Thomas Fuller? Question for Quote Investigator: A person of great merit may not receive any recognition while an unworthy person may receive numerous accolades. This perverse disconnection has inspired the following ethical stance: It is better to deserve honors and …

Quote Origin: There Are Two Kinds of Teachers: The Kind That Fill You With So Much Quail Shot That You Can’t Move, and . . .

Robert Frost? Mark Twain? Margaret Pepperdene? Apocryphal? Question for Quote Investigator: Prominent U.S. poet Robert Frost has received credit for a brilliantly vivid metaphor describing two types of teachers. One type fills students with so much quail shot they cannot move. The other type simply prods students a little, and they jump to the skies. …

Quote Origin: When a Man Loves Cats, I Am His Friend and Comrade

Mark Twain? Robert H. Hirst? Susy Clemens? Apocryphal? Question for Quote Investigator: Several books about cats contain a quotation credited to humorist Mark Twain stating that Twain was a friend and comrade to people who love cats. I am skeptical of this  attribution, and I haven’t seen a citation. Would you please explore this topic? …

Quote Origin: Never Argue With Stupid People. They Will Drag You Down To Their Level and Then Beat You With Experience

Mark Twain? George Carlin? Yul Brynner? Jean Cocteau? Bob Gray? Dilbert? Scott Adams? Anonymous? Question for Quote Investigator: Logic and careful reasoning are the ingredients of a constructive argument. Acrimony and irrationality are the elements of a fruitless argument. The celebrated humorist Mark Twain supposedly formulated the following cautionary remark. Here are two versions: (1) …

It Is Better To Take What Does Not Belong To You Than To Let It Lie Around Neglected

Mark Twain? Merle Johnson? Apocryphal? Question for Quote Investigator: Mark Twain has received credit for the following slyly comical remark justifying thievery: It is better to take what does not belong to you than to let it lie around neglected. I have not found this statement in any of the stories or essays authored by Twain. …

It’s Not the Size of the Dog in the Fight, It’s the Size of the Fight in the Dog

Mark Twain? Dwight D. Eisenhower? Arthur G. Lewis? Clarence Edmundson? Bear Bryant? Harry Howell? Samuel B. Pettengill? Woody Hayes? Apocryphal? Question for Quote Investigator: When there is a conflict between two entities an observer naturally expects the larger one to prevail, but sometimes the determination and grit of the smaller one produces an upset victory. …

To Get the Full Value of a Joy You Must Have Somebody To Divide It With

Mark Twain? Arthur T. Pierson? Apocryphal? Dear Quote Investigator: To experience a joyful event completely one should share it with others. I think Mark Twain made a point similar to this in his collection of sayings called “Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar”. Would you please help me to find a citation? Quote Investigator: In 1897 Mark …

Inspiration Is for Amateurs—The Rest of Us Just Show Up and Get To Work

Chuck Close? Stephen King? Philip Roth? Harvey Mackay? Mark Twain? Charles Schulz? Rosalyn Drexler? John Barkham? Nocona Burgess? Jill Elaine Hughes? Dear Quote Investigator: An artist must wait patiently for inspiration to occur according to a romanticized depiction of creativity. Yet, a successful professional artist offered the following contrary viewpoint: Inspiration is for amateurs. The …