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One More Time: Most Notable Quote of 2011

Since my last posting elicited many helpful comments, let me repeat it this week in hope of getting even more input:

I’m starting to think about my annual list, run by the Associated Press, of the top 10 most notable quotations of the year. By “notable” I mean “important” or “famous” or “particularly revealing of the spirit of our times” rather than necessarily being eloquent or admirable. Last year’s winners were a tie between Tony Hayward‘s “I’d like my life back” and Christine O’Donnell‘s “I’m not a witch.”

I would welcome suggestions of notable quotations from 2011, particularly ones from politics or popular culture or entertainment or sports or business or technology.



Bleg: Most Notable Quote of 2011

I’m starting to think about my annual list, run by the Associated Press, of the top 10 most notable quotations of the year. By “notable” I mean “important” or “famous” or “particularly revealing of the spirit of our times” rather than necessarily being eloquent or admirable. Last year’s winners were a tie between Tony Hayward‘s “I’d like my life back” and Christine O’Donnell‘s “I’m not a witch.”

I would welcome suggestions of notable quotations from 2011, particularly ones from politics or popular culture or entertainment or sports or business or technology.



Ole Mr. Micawber: “Result, Misery”

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.

Groatman asked:

“What is the saying that says something like ‘balance your accounts and if you’re groat over, happiness, and if you’re a groat under, misery’ and who said it and when and where? I believe Ben Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac had a later similar version of this aphorism, but, if I remember correctly, he substituted a ‘penny’ and didn’t use the word ‘groat.’ What was it he said exactly?”

I’m not aware of Franklin saying something like this. The well-known version is by Charles Dickens, given by the Yale Book of Quotations as follows:

“‘My other piece of advice, Copperfield,’ said Mr. Micawber, ‘you know. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds nought and six, result misery.”
David Copperfield (1850)

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



Dogs and Cigars

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.

Sarah C. asked:

“When and where did the term ‘doggie bag’ (as in bringing home leftovers from a restaurant) originate?”

It is fascinating that you ask this, since I have long used “doggie bag” as my example of how historical dictionaries like the Oxford English Dictionary can shed light on the history of things as well as the history of words. The OED cites the following as its first two illustrations of “doggie bag” and related terminology:
“It’s a pleasure to hand this beautiful Doggie Pak to your patrons To Take Home Bones For Their dog… Printed in three colors… It’s class.”
-American Restaurant, Sept. 1952

“More and more restaurant meals are going to the dogs, if stepped-up demand for the ‘Doggy Bag’ is any indication.”
Huronite & Daily Plainsman (Huron, South Dakota), July 7, 1957 Read More »



Political Football

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.

John machlachlan asked:

When did surgery start being called a ‘procedure’?

The Oxford English Dictionary quotes usage of the term “surgical procedure” from the medical journal Lancet in 1853, and “Osteoclasis is a simple procedure” from E. H. Bradford and R. W. Lovett, Treatise on Orthopedic Surgery (1890).

John also asked:

Was the secretary of defense ever called anything else such as the secretary of offense?

The answer is: Secretary of War. Read More »



Rules of The Game

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.

Michael asked:

“The best swordsman does not fear the second best, he fears the worst since there’s no telling what that idiot is going to do.”

Read More »



The Absence of Proof

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.

James A Smith asked:

“‘Absence of proof is not proof of absence.’ Attributed to William Cowper, as a retort to one who claimed God does not exist because we can’t prove his existence.”

Read More »



Follow the Money

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.

Jay K asked:

A friend recently quoted the Washington Post as saying ‘Follow the money’ during the Watergate days. I thought it was just a line from the movie ‘All the President’s Men’. But is the phrase older than that?

This is usually said to have originated in William Goldman‘s screenplay for the 1976 film All the President’s Men, uttered by the source called “Deep Throat.” (It does not appear in the earlier book by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward.) Read More »