Quotes Uncovered: Fools and Theory

Quotes Uncovered

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

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 researches by me. Hundreds of people have responded via comments or e-mails. I am responding as best I can, a few per week.

psychohistorian asked:

“You can fool all the people half the time, and half the people all the time.” I seem to recall this being attributed to Lincoln. I also recall a professor who had gone through most or all of Lincoln’s works and never found it.

The Yale Book of Quotations, which attempts to trace all famous quotations to their earliest findable appearances, has the following:

“You can fool all of the people some of time; you can fool some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time.”

Attributed to Abraham Lincoln in The New York Times, August 27, 1887. According to The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, ed. Roy P. Basler, “Tradition has come to attribute to the Clinton [Illinois] speeches [September 2, 1858] this “most famous” of Lincoln’s utterances. Basler indicates, however, that there is no evidence of this saying in Lincoln documents. P.T. Barnum has also been a putative source for the quotation.


Frederick Michael
asked:

“In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.” “Predictions are difficult, especially when they involve the future.” They are falsely attributed to Yogi Berra and Niels Bohr, respectively.

The first quote is presumably an apocryphal Yogiism. For the second one, The YBQ says:

“It is difficult to predict, especially the future.” Attributed to Niels Bohr in Marc Kac, “Statistics” (1975). Kac states that this saying may have been “an old Danish proverb.” K.K. Steincke, Goodbye and Thanks (1948), quotes it as a pun used in the Danish Parliament in the late 1930′s.

Michael in Iowa City asked:

I’m very curious if the expression “hard-knock life” existed before the musical Annie.

A search of the vast ProQuest database of historical newspapers and magazines does not reveal any pre-Annie usages, so I would conjecture that it was probably not in use before the musical.

Do any readers have any other quotations whose origins they would like me to attempt to trace?

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  1. john says:

    I remember seeing a phrase a long time ago that went something along the lines of “If it were not for women, all the money in the world would be worthless” Just curious if I am remembering it correctly and who said it

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  2. John says:

    I always assumed the Annie song was a derivation of “the school of hard knocks” which certainly predates the musical.

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  3. Marc says:

    Was wondering where ‘Pass the buck’ comes from and if there is any connection to another phrase “The buck stops here”

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  4. Jack Millman says:

    Which of the many explanations do you prefer:
    “the whole nine yards”?

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  5. Science Frustrated says:

    The thing to do is not to let IT get to ya.

    So who said, “once you don’t first succeed, try try again?

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  6. Science Minded says:

    Dear Jack;

    I don’t know if we are on the same wave length–but in any case…….

    There are “10 relatively separate ingredients of the one paradigm of science” And you may quote me, Robyn Ann Goldstein on this one forever more. It has been some time now since I discovered/recovered them all . And the last one is my original contribution to the series

    Sorry, But I have lost my patience.

    Robyn A. Goldstein, 4 PM Thursday, July 30, 2009

    Robyn Goldstein copyright, 2008

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  7. Karen Nunan says:

    “in harm’s way” — perhaps it is too short to be considered a ‘quote’ but I’ve tried for years to find its origins

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  8. Science Minded says:

    harm or charm? I find it hard to imagine it harmful. Every time I take a long-distance trip, the question comes to mind what if? This time, the death of a classmate raised the bar a bit. Somewhat violated a norm perhaps. But in the name of science and not the norm of sharing.

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