Quotes Uncovered: Youth and the Young

Photo: iStockphoto

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.

TJ asked:

I’d love to know if “Youth is wasted on the young” preceded It’s a Wonderful Life.

The answer is yes.  The forthcoming Yale Book of Modern Proverbs has in its files “The appetite of youth!  What a pity it’s wasted on young men” (Michael Arlen, Man’s Mortality [1933]) and “I often think of Bernard Shaw‘s remark, that youth is a wonderful thing, but that it is wasted on the young” (Frank H. Lee, Tokyo Calendar [1934]).  This proverb is often attributed to George Bernard Shaw, but no one has ever found a real source in Shaw’s writings or utterances.

CosmicLint asked:

“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.

The one thing we know, of course, is that this was not by Mark Twain.  The earliest example in the forthcoming Yale Book of Modern Proverbs is the following:

W. D. M. is seeking to locate the source of the following line, attributed to Mark Twain: “History never repeats itself, but it rhymes.”
New York Times, Jan. 25, 1970

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

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  1. Joshua says:

    The line in “It’s a Wonderful Life” is actually “Youth is wasted on all the wrong people.”

    It’s sorta more awesome.

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  2. LK says:

    “Good things may come to those who wait, but only the things left behind by those who hustle” – attributed to Abe Lincoln

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  3. Eric M. Jones says:

    It looks like Shaw might have said it, but perhaps he never wrote it. Around 1935 this story seems to have arisen:

    The Literary digest: Volume 120

    Edward Jewitt Wheeler, Isaac Kaufman Funk, William Seaver Woods – 1935 – Snippet view
    Misplaced — Mr. Bernard Shaw is a past- master at the ready retort. A young woman sitting next to him at dinner remarked: “What a wonderful thing is youth!” “Yes — And what a crime to waste it on children.” GBS replied sagely. …

    There are many stories of Shaw’s witty dinner repartees.

    ps, Fred: Cholesterol Cures 1958 edition. I have bought two of these claiming to be the 1958 edition only to find the 1996 edition in my mailbox. My noble librarianess is on the hunt now.

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  4. BillC says:

    Years ago I read a quote, typed it on a 3×5 card (that’s how long ago it was). The quote is:

    “If fools and folly continue to rule the world, the end of mankind in our time will be a rude shock, but can no longer be a complete surprise”

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    • abee says:

      Bill’ I believe this quote is attributed to I.W.Thomas. A geographical historian. He assserts that all great civilizations, spring up near the sourse of great rivers. The nile, the amazon etc. This is possibbly the reason for the end of mankind in our times.

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  5. Fred Shapiro says:

    Re Eric M. Jones comment: Aren’t you beginning to think that there is no 1958 edition of that book?

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  6. Sam says:

    Anything about the term “gravy train”

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  7. Lauriane says:

    I would like to know where the saying ‘deep seated’ comes from. Deep seeded seems to make more sense, so where’d the actual saying come from?


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  8. Rob Lewis says:

    “People think that children have the same thoughts as adults, but different emotions. The opposite is true.”

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