Quotes Uncovered: More Than One Way to Spell a Word

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.

Quotes Uncovered

75 ThumbnailHere are more quote authors and origins Shapiro’s tracked down recently.

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!” “RedSanders, 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.”

BH asked:

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?

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  1. Natasha says:

    I have always wondered where the phrase “safe as houses” came from.

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  2. Tom says:

    Attributed to various British politicians over the years:

    “Any man below the age of thirty who is not a liberal has no heart; any man above the age of thirty who is not a conservative has no brain.”

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  3. Kyle says:

    In an October/November 1968 interview with Sing Out!, Bob Dylan attempts to quote Benjamin Franklin saying:

    “‘For a man to be–(something or other)–at ease, he must not tell all he knows, nor say all he sees.’”

    What is the actual quote and is it really Benjamin Franklin?

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  4. Maura says:

    I feel like I saw Mel Brooks saying this on TV, but can’t find a proper source:

    “It’s easier to make a satire of a parody then a parody of a satire”

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  5. Michael says:

    I had heard the political joke (#2) as being Russian. If a man is not a communist by the time he is 20 he has no heart, if a man is still a communist by the time he is 40 he has no brain.

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  6. Adam says:

    This page:
    http://thinkexist.com/quotes/with/keyword/one_percent/
    has very similar quotes from Einstein (first on the page) and Edison (fourth). What is the original quote, and who said it?

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  7. Franz says:

    I have a book somewhere about Lombarde that attributes this quote to him: “Winning isn’t everything, but making the effort to win is.” This is certainly different than “….winning is the only thing.”

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  8. Laura Cannon says:

    one of my favorites: “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian, any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.”

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