A while back I invited readers to submit quotations for which they wanted me to try to trace the origins, using The Yale Book of Quotations and more recent research by me. Hundreds of people have responded via comments or e-mails. I am responding as best I can, a few per week.
D Won asked:
I think it was Vince Lombardi who said, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” But I’ve read from somewhere that it was actually originated from another source. Anyone know who?
The Yale Book of Quotations, which attempts to trace all famous quotations to their earliest findable occurrences, has the following:
“Winning isn’t everything. … It’s the only thing!” “Red” Sanders, Quoted in Los Angeles Times, October 18, 1950. Often attributed to Vince Lombardi, but the Sanders citation predates any reference to Lombardi using it. David Maraniss, When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi (1999), quotes Sanders’s friend Fred Russell: “I remember hearing him saying it back in the mid-1930’s when he was coaching at the Columbia Military Academy.”
Who first said “An expert is someone who knows more and more about less and less, until eventually he knows everything about nothing”? I have only seen it as being attributed to the ever-present “anonymous.”
The YBQ has the following as the earliest known version of the main element of your quote:
“A specialist is a man who knows more and more about less and less.” William J. Mayo, Quoted in Reader’s Digest, November 1927.
Dan Hoskins asked:
I remember reading that President Andrew Johnson said something like “I can’t stand a man who has only one way to spell a word.” He was known to vary his spelling, often differently for the same word in the same document.
The Yale Book of Quotations lists this as a pseudo-Twainism:
“I have no respect for a man who can spell a word only one way.” Attributed to Mark Twain by Chicago Daily Tribune, May 22, 1932. Without attribution to Twain, this appears as early as 1880, in Marshall Brown, Wit and Humor: “A man must be a great fool who can’t spell a word more than one way.”
Do any readers have any other quotations whose origins they would like me to attempt to trace?