“I Never Said Most of the Things I Said”

Photo: Rubenstein

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 researches.

BT asked:

Yogi Berra has been quoted as having said, ‘I never said most of the things I said.’  Is this correct?  How many of the famous quotations associated with him been incorrectly attributed to him?”

The Yale Book of Quotations researched all of Berra’s famous sayings and found that some of them were undoubtedly apocryphal.  Berra is a “quotation magnet” like Mark Twain or George Bernard Shaw; foolish-sounding quotes tend to be attributed to him regardless of whether he really said them.  For example, “Nobody goes there anymore.  It’s too crowded.” is often erroneously attributed to Berra, but John McNulty used it in a story in the New Yorker, Feb. 10, 1943, when Berra was not yet even in the major leagues. An even earlier version, attributed to a “flutterbrained cutie named Suzanne Ridgeway,” appeared in the Helena Independent, Sept. 10, 1941 (“Now I know why nobody ever comes here; it’s too crowded”).

Maybe some of our newspaper database / Google Books jockeys can uncover still earlier usage.

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

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  1. Jordan says:

    Okay, but did he say the quotation in question?

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  2. CM Sullivan says:

    Robert E. Lee, ostensibly to Texas Gov. Stockdale: “If I had foreseen the use those people would make of their victory, I would have preferred to die at Appomattox with my brave men, my sword in this right hand.”

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  3. Garry says:

    Perhaps Yogi did not invent some of the quotes, but he certainly popularized them, and therefore he did say them.

    According to Wikipedia, he did say “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded” in response to a question on why he no longer went to Ruggeri’s, a St. Louis restaurant.

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  4. commonsenseless says:

    “either that or I have a bad case of alzeheimers(amnesia)” – Yogi Berra

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  5. Rachel says:

    “I do not agree with a word you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it.”

    I’ve heard this quote in many different wordings, and I’ve also heard it attributed to many different people—mainly Voltaire, but apparently it was first written in a book ABOUT Voltaire. What’s the real story?

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    • Abby says:

      Not a book about per se, but a book explaining his ideals. In essence, it was a summary and is therefore oftentimes taken as a translation.

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  6. Garson O'Toole says:

    There is good evidence that Yogi did say a version of the saying that BT and Jordan are asking about. It is listed in the superlative Yale Book of Quotations with a Sports Illustrated citation in March of 1986. (Always consult YBQ. It is the best reference for quotations in my opinion.) I have found a slightly earlier cite in Newsday with Yogi saying “I really didn’t say everything I said” that is dated February 24, 1986. Details are below.

    The variant phrasing “never said half the things” apparently was constructed later. It appeared by 1995 in a book by the particle physicist Victor J. Stenger where it was attributed to Yogi but not placed inside quotation marks. Here are the two cites:

    Cite: 1986 February 24, Newsday [Nassau and Suffolk Edition], “Color Yogi a Happy Guy; Now wearing Astros’ rainbow uniform, Berra’s relaxed, popular” by Steve Marcus, Section Sports, Start Page 92, Long Island, New York. (ProQuest)

    Berra was unveiled to the Southwest in the Astros’ winter caravan. “Here he was a Hall of Famer coming down to the backwoods of Texas,” publicist Rob Matwick said. “He was the most single sought-out person. He led the team in stares.”

    Fans hung on Berra’s every word, hoping for a Berra-ism, many of which have been said by others but attributed to Yogi. “I really didn’t say everything I said,” Berra said, creating another original.

    Cite: 1995, The Unconscious Quantum by Victor J. Stenger, Page 25, Prometheus Books, Amherst, New York. (Google Books snippet; Verified on paper)

    He can always claim, like another Yogi named Berra, that he never said half the things he said.

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  7. MW says:

    On the assumption that Yogi Berra really did say at least a lot of what he said, was he something of a dunce who made tautological or paradoxical statements without noticing, or was he quite smart and making these statements playfully and deliberately? (Maths nerds are quite fond of such statements, for example “This car fits 4 people, for small values of 4.”)

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    • MS says:

      I’ve wondered the same thing. I like to think it’s the latter, just because they’re a little too perfect to be just dim-wittedness.

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  8. Kevin Pritchard says:

    In England there is an expression ‘to take the mickey’ which means to tease or wind up someone about something. Allegedly derived from the word ‘micturation, meaning urination.

    Presumably this is a more PC version of ‘taking the piss’ which means the same thing

    Question where does ‘taking the piss’ come from

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    • Michael says:

      Supposedly, there is a medical condition whereby urine becomes trapped where it shouldn’t, causing the vein carrying blood out of the penis to become obstructed. This causes a quite painful swelling of the penis to a significantly larger size than is normal. When the urine is removed the obstruction goes away and the penis deflates to a normal size.

      I’m sure you can see where the analogy comes from.

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