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.
How about “It’s better to ask forgiveness than permission”?
The Yale Book of Quotations, which attempts to trace all famous quotations to their earliest findable occurrence, has the following:
“It’s always easier to apologize for something you’ve already done than to get approval for it in advance.” Grace Murray Hopper, quoted in Computerworld, September 10, 1984. “It is easier to get forgiveness than permission” appears in Arthur Bloch, Murphy’s Law Book Two (1980).
Hopper was the pioneer computer scientist whose discovery of a moth inside an early computer allegedly led to the usage of the term “bug” for a computer defect. (The Yale Book of Quotations documents much earlier usage of “bug” by Thomas Alva Edison.)
What about “The proof is in the pudding”? Some say it was Cervantes‘s Don Quixote, but others disagree.
This is a variation of the proverb “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” It does not appear in Cervantes, although some loose translations of Cervantes use it. The YBQ cites William Camden, Remains Concerning Britain (1623) as its earliest source for “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”
David Chowes, New York City asked:
Could you check so as to determine whom these quotes or paraphrases are actually attributed to? Was it Will Rogers who said, “All I know is what I read in the newspapers”? And did former President George W. Bush say, “I don’t read the newspapers”? President Bill Clinton: “I did not have sex with that woman,” and, “It depends on which woman you’re asking about.” Are the quotes apocryphal? Just curious.
The YBQ has this:
“Well, all I know is what I read in the papers.” Will Rogers, New York Times, September 30, 1923. Rogers’s use of this line made it famous, but it appears anonymously in The New York Times, November 7, 1915.
I am not familiar with George W. Bush saying he didn’t read the newspapers. Surely he read at least the sports pages and the comics. Sarah Palin famously was unable to name newspapers that she read. Bill Clinton famously said, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky,” during remarks on an after-school child-care initiative, January 26, 1998.
Do any readers have any other quotations whose origins they would like me to attempt to trace?