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."

The Often Misquoted

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.

Aaron asked:

I’ve heard that Ben Franklin was misquoted when he said 'Jack of all Trades, Master of None,' and that he actually said 'Jack of all Trades, Master of Some.' Is there any truth to this?

I believe neither of these sayings appears in Benjamin Franklin's writings.

Ink by the Barrel

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.

Alicia Calzada asked:

Let me know if you have any luck with this one: 'Never argue with a man who buys ink by the barrel' It has been credited in case law to both Mark Twain and publicist William I. Greener, Jr. Brown v. Kelly Broad. Co., 48 Cal. 3d 711, 744 (Cal. 1989) crediting Twain as the source of the famous adage; State ex rel. Plain Dealer Publ’g Co. v. Geauga Cty. Court of Common Pleas, Juv. Div., 90 Ohio St. 3d79,89 (Pfiefer, J., dissenting) ('The majority has elevated Greener’s law' (‘Never argue with a man who buys ink by the barrel")')

It has also been credited as undetermined, which I think is most accurate: Ralph Keyes, the quote verifier: who said what, where and when 64. The Mark Twain House in Connecticut has no record of Twain saying the phrase.

Quotes Uncovered: Twain or Not Twain

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.

Will Mark Twain Lose the Same House Twice?

My favorite kind of museum is the one where the deeds being celebrated were actually committed on that site — the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, for instance, or the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. I also love visiting the old homes of interesting people, like Washington Irving. There’s nothing like being able to literally walk […]

The Reports of Her Death Are Greatly Exaggerated

Yesterday, I posted a quiz asking what my wife Jeannette’s grandma has in common with Mark Twain. The answer is that she, like Twain, had her obituary published while she was still alive. Jeannette’s grandma is named Anne Hathaway. At age 92, she is still going strong. Just a few years ago, she traveled from […]

My Wife’s Grandma and Mark Twain: A Freakonomics Quiz

My last quiz on horse racing was hard: you needed to know some institutional details, and even if you did, it was still very tricky. This next quiz is quite easy. For a piece of Freakonomics schwag, just be the first one to correctly answer the following question: What do my wife Jeannette’s grandmother and […]

Mark Twain on the Leisure/Work Divide

We got an e-mail the other day from John Yinger, a professor of economics and public administration at Syracuse University. It went, in part, like this: By coincidence, I read a chapter of “Tom Sawyer” to my 10-year-old son the day your column on leisure time came out. It’s the famous chapter on whitewashing the […]

Writing for Money

Here’s a very interesting review of a very interesting-sounding new book on Mark Twain, by Peter Krass. The review, published in the Wall Street Journal, was written by one of my favorite business journalists, Roger Lowenstein, who has written good books on Warren Buffett and Long-Term Capital Management and good recent articles on immigration and […]