Quotes Uncovered: Man's Failures and Triumphs

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Each week, I’ve been inviting readers to submit quotations whose origins they want me to try to trace, using my book, The Yale Book of Quotations, and my more recent research. Here is the latest round.

Welch asked:

This is fairly obscure, but I’ve been trying without luck to find the exact phrasing and source of this quote: “Every morning I open the newspaper first to the sports page. The front page chronicles man’s failures, while the sports page chronicles his triumphs.” I think it’s Ogden Nash, but haven’t been able to find it.

This wonderful quote is not by Ogden Nash. The Yale Book of Quotations documents it as follows:

“I always turn to the sports section first. The sports section records man’s accomplishments; the front page has nothing but man’s failures.”
Earl Warren, Quoted in Sports Illustrated, July 22, 1968

Ben Russell asked:

Google books:

Hawaii educational review, Volumes 30-32″ – Page 243
Education – 1941
“We must think globally, but first act locally. If we can’t live decently in
Columbus. Ohio, we can hardly do better when we attempt to change the world. …”

And the following:

Official records of the General Assembly”
United Nations. General Assembly – Political Science – 1967
“She recalled that a favourite theme at the Beijing Conference had been ‘Think
globally, act locally,’ which was equally relevant in 2001, as attested to in…”

The second of these is obviously a bad misdating by Google Books. The first one, however, is probably accurately dated, and, if it is, it’s a major discovery, since Rene Dubos is universally considered to have coined “think globally and act locally” in the late 1970s. I will check on this in the original printed journal, but, assuming it is correct, thank you Ben!

Maria asked:

I have always wanted to know why surgeons think they made up “never complain, never explain”. I thought it came from Elise de Wolfe, the interior designer.

The Yale Book of Quotations has the following source:

“[Of attacks in Parliament:] Never complain and never explain.”
Benjamin Disraeli, Quoted in John Morley, Life of William Ewart Gladstone (1903)

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

Fritz Gheen

Who is the Stuart in Stuat's Law of Retroaction:

It is easier to ask forgiveness than permission.

Fritz Gheen

*Stuarts Law of Retroaction

chaya zipori

What is the origin of the term "red tape" and how did it come to mean bureaucracy?

Rudiger in Jersey

'...while the sports page chronicles his triumphs."

ALL competitive team sports(ie. Baseball, Basketball, Football, and Hockey) are ZERO SUM GAMES. At the end of the day there is a Winner and a Loser. And both constitute the chronicles of news.

If you want a win-win circumstance, play Kindergarten games like duck-duck-goose.

Lauren Switzer

Who originally said: "Everything you do or say is public relations." What was the context of that quote? Being a budding PR professional, I would love to know! Thank you.


I tried to look up the origin of "he who shall not be named." It took me on strange trip through HP Lovecraft to obscure Fin De Siecle horror/fantasy writers, but I didn't find a definitive source for the phrase. Can you help?


I've searched the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations and scanned my english translations of Marcus Aurelius, who is the popular source of this quote, but I could not find anything. A bit of googling did not turn up anything either. Any chance you could help in future installment?

'Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.'

Thank you in advance!

Tony Pearson

Who said "Learn it. Live it. Love it." ?

Trent Rock

What is the origin of the phrase "more is better"? I'm thinking it has to do with marginalism???


I've read that Ayn Rand said something derogatory about sports along the lines of "caring about the success of strangers on sports teams that happen to carry the name of my city or school is a waste of time" (http://volokh.com/posts/1189827262.shtml), but I haven't been able to pin down the exact wording or source.


I have been looking for: "gratitude is like a rose in a pig's stomach"
where does this come from?


"If you're going through hell ... keep going."

I've been told this is a Winston Churchill quote, but have never found a reference to it. Anyone know for sure?

Nina Gilbert

How and when did the word "awesome" become so trivial and ubiquitous?

I wonder if a TV character used it, and then it exploded -- first to teenagers, and then to other demographics.

OED cites start around 1980, but they're not first uses. The Official Preppy Handbook, for example, already defines "awesome" as "terrific, great" in 1980.

Robyn Ann Goldstein

re: spill- I have not heard of any new ideas being offered- I Have been thinking about it. There are references to this problem, but no solution. The thought that came to mind is a two step process. First, thumb like heavy pressure to prevent any leakage. (Analogy to the process of stopping bleading). Second, permanent closing of hole (with some sort of sealent. DK if mud will work by itself.

Robert Galliher

There's a quote I've been wondering about. I've never been able to figure out who it was that first said it. The quote is

"And one day we must begin our own great explorations. No longer will we find a hand to hold us, or a voice to call us back."

All I really know about it is that it comes from some time before 1983.