Quotes Uncovered: How Lies Travel

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I’m back to 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.

Smashley asked:

I heard recently that the quote, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes,” usually attributed to Mark Twain, is not actually by him.  Which is delightfully ironic, if true.

I am shocked, shocked that a quote attributed to Mark Twain is not actually by him.  The Yale Book of Quotations has the following entry:

“A lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on.”
C. H. Spurgeon, Gems from Spurgeon (1859).  An earlier version appears in the Portland (Me.) Gazette, Sept. 5, 1820: “Falsehood will fly from Maine to Georgia, while truth is pulling her boots on.”  Still earlier, Jonathan Swift wrote in The Examiner, Nov. 9, 1710: “Falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after it.”

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

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  1. Leanne says:

    Leonardo da Vinci’s “Simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication”. I have read that sophistication didn’t mean then what it does now.

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  2. Jeff says:

    One I’ve seen often attributed to Franklin, or Jefferson as well is “Those who would give up Essential Liberty
    to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety” (or variations there of).

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    • Joseph says:

      The exact quote is; “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

      It is an exact quote from Benjamin Franklin’s Historical Review of Pennsylvania, which he wrote in 1759.

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  3. Patrick says:

    For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.

    I’ve seen this very commonly attributed to da Vinci, but I’ve also heard several times that it’s not actually by him. Do you have any insight?

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  4. CosmicLint says:

    “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does tend to rhyme”

    I’ve heard this attributed to Mark Twain, but couldn’t track any definitive answer down online.

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  5. Richard says:

    Mark Twain is probably the most quoted (and misqouted) person in history. I have heard two variations of a similar statement attributed to him: “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” OR “I have been through some terrible things in my life, some which actually happened.” I am curious if that is truly Twain.
    Another one misattributed to Twain often is “There are three kinds of lies – lies, damn lies, and statistics.” But I recall that when Twain used line he attributed it to Disraeli and I’m not sure he got it right.

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  6. steve says:

    “If you’re going to be someplace – Be there”. (Ghandi?)

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  7. Hugo says:

    “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

    -Abe Lincoln

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  8. Matt Woodley says:

    In my line of work (I help pastors develop sermons) I hear the following statement attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel at all times–and if necessary, use words.” Apparently he never said it.

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