Winston Churchill? Woodrow Wilson? George Curzon? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: Friends know I am an avid golfer and recently a book of quotations about the sport was given to me as a present. This quote from Winston Churchill captures the exasperation I feel when attempting to chip my ball near to the pin [GBGQ]:
Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an even smaller hole, with weapons singularly ill-designed for the purpose.
When I tried to determine when Churchill uttered this assessment I discovered that some people think former President Woodrow Wilson was really responsible for the saying. Maybe you can resolve this question?
Quote Investigator: Variants of this saying have been attributed to both Churchill and Wilson for decades, but the earliest example located by QI occurred in 1892 in the famed London humor magazine Punch. The article “Confessions of a Duffer” by an unnamed contributor included a version of the quotation that used somewhat different phrasing [PLDG]:
Almost everybody now knows that Golf is not Hockey. Nobody runs after the ball except young ladies at W-m-n! The object is to put a very small ball into a very tiny and remotely distant hole, with engines singularly ill adapted for the purpose.
The term with deleted letters: “W-m-n” may have referred to Wimbledon, London. In May 1891 a membership group of 145 women opened their own nine-hole golf course on Wimbledon Common land [RWGC]. The term “engines” referred to the golf clubs used to propel the ball around the course as shown in the following:
There are many engines. First there is the Driver, a long club, wherewith the ball is supposed to be propelled from the tee, a little patch of sand.
Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.
Continue reading Golf: Hit a Very Small Ball into an Even Smaller Hole, with Weapons Singularly Ill-Designed for the Purpose
Vladimir Lenin? Winston Churchill? George Riddell? H. L. Mencken? Fictional?
Dear Quote Investigator: I was thumbing through The Oxford Dictionary of Political Quotations to try and find a good saying about freedom of the press and I was stunned to see this hostile sentence [OPQ]:
As to freedom of the press, why should any man be allowed to buy a printing press and disseminate pernicious opinions calculated to embarrass the government?
These words were attributed to Winston Churchill based on a 1984 biography by Piers Brendon [WPB]. But these same words were attributed to Vladimir Lenin in another collection of quotations I read recently and that is why I was astounded. Unfortunately, I cannot remember the name of the book. Now I am starting to doubt my memory. Could you research this quote?
Quote Investigator: Thanks for a fascinating puzzle. Indeed, most of this sentence does appear as part of a longer passage that is attributed to Vladimir Lenin in a famous compilation published in 1942 called “A New Dictionary of Quotations on Historical Principles from Ancient and Modern Sources Selected and Edited by H. L. Mencken”. The name Nikolai Lenin is used instead of Vladimir Lenin in Mencken’s reference work [NQL]:
Why should freedom of speech and freedom of the press be allowed? Why should a government which is doing what it believes to be right allow itself to be criticized? It would not allow opposition by lethal weapons. Ideas are much more fatal things than guns. Why should any man be allowed to buy a printing press and disseminate pernicious opinions calculated to embarrass the government?
NIKOLAI LENIN: Speech in Moscow, 1920
QI has traced this expression back to a diary entry that was written in 1920 by George Riddell who was a powerful newspaperman and close friend of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David Lloyd George. Riddell later became the 1st Baron Riddell. The text in Mencken’s reference is very similar to the text in Riddell’s diary, but it is not identical.
Riddell mentioned both Churchill and Lenin in a crucial passage of his diary. But QI believes that Riddell was describing a speech by Lenin and not the words of Churchill. Hence, QI thinks that the ascription to Churchill is almost certainly incorrect.
Continue reading Why Should Any Man Be Allowed to Buy a Printing Press and Disseminate Pernicious Opinions?