Quotes Uncovered: Who Said No Crisis Should Go to Waste?

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

Ben asked:

Thanks for tracking these down! I’ve heard this quote attributed to everyone from Thomas Jefferson to Ben Hogan: “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

The Yale Book of Quotations quotes F. L. Emerson in 1947: “I’m a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the more of it I seem to have.” Subsequent research by me, however, has found this saying used in a 1934 book, certainly not by Thomas Jefferson.

Westy asked:

How about the very recent “Don’t waste a crisis”? Did that phrase/quote have usage prior to Rahm Emanuel?”

Charles Doyle of the University of Georgia, my coauthor on the forthcoming Yale Book of Modern Proverbs, has found that this expression is now commonly applied to economic or diplomatic crises that can be exploited to advance political agendas, but he traced it back at least as far as 1976, when M. F. Weiner wrote an article in the journal Medical Economics entitled “Don’t Waste a Crisis — Your Patient’s or Your Own.” Weiner meant by this that a medical crisis can be used to improve aspects of personality, mental health, or lifestyle.

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


Did I invent the phrase "The only difference between a rut and a routine is 4 letters", or do I just not remember hearing anyone say it before?


"Life is a game of supply and demand."

It sounds like something you would say but I am having trouble finding the source..


People get the government they deserve.


This might be out of the realm of this column...but...

"You know, it's beautiful over there."

I had heard this was attributed to Thomas Edison, who apparently was pronounced dead, only to come back, say this sentence, and then promptly die again. Too much of a reach?


What about: "Democracy is three wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner."

Walt French

Who first dissed, "trying the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results?"


Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Albert Einstein.


"A good slogan can stop (critical?) analysis for 50 years."

Most recently seen here: http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/kpsgill/governance/07feb17Pio.htm

Attributed to people from Karl Marx to political scientist Paul Dawson.


Also, last January Timothy Rosa asked about the quote "If I had more time I would write more." You noted Pascal's line, "I have made this [letter] longer than usual, only because I have not had the time to make it shorter." But perhaps Rosa was searching for the Issac Asimov quote. When this wildly prolific author was asked what he would do if he only had six months left to live, he allegedly remarked, "Type faster."


I have heard this quote attributed to Vince Lombardi, Anonymous and Donald Kendall. Would love to know the real source.

"The dictionary is the only place that success comes before work"


Not exactly a famous quote, more of a saying but I've heard/read many version of where the term "86'd" originated. Any idea which one is accurate.


Where do we get the expression "zealous as a convert," or something like that?


What's your take on who first said, "There's no limit to what can be accomplished if no one wants the credit."


"Don't waste a crisis"? I've heard that this went back to Stalin. But I have not been able to find this or something like it in my search. Are you confident that it only goes back as far as 1976?

Andy Aitken

The quote for the FIFA scandal is Crisis? What Crisis? I found it from 1979 in the UK in the Labour election loss. Before that is was a Supertramp album. Is is older than that?

Susan Lambeau

I thought it was Saul Alinsky in 'Rules for Radicals".

Dr.Paul Anderson

It was Winston Churchill that first said: "Never let a good crisis go to waste". The alliance between Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, which lead to the formation of the United Nations, offered numerous opportunities in the midst of a crisis.

Dr. Paul Anderson

Speaking of Winston Churchill, 3 of my favorite Churchill quotes from the: National Churchill Museum.

"You don't make the poor richer by making the rich poorer."

"If you have ten thousand regulations, you destroy all respect for the law."

"We contend that for a nation to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle."


"You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it's an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before."

Rahm Emanuel
Wall Street Journal, November 19, 2008.