Our Daily Bleg: Let Me Trace Your Quotes
Two weeks ago, I invited readers to submit quotations for which they wanted me to try to trace the origins, using The Yale Book of Quotations and more recent research by me. Dozens responded via comments or e-mails. I am responding as best I can, a couple per week.
Timothy Rosa asked:
I’ve seen the quote “If I had more time I would write more” attributed to Blaise Pascal, Mark Twain, and Charles Dickens (this would be a real stretch). I can’t find the definitive source. Can you help?
The Yale Book of Quotations has versions of this by Pascal, Henry David Thoreau, and Woodrow Wilson. The most “original” of these is the following by Blaise Pascal, “Lettres Provinciales,” No. 16 (1657):
I have made this [letter] longer than usual, only because I have not had the time to make it shorter.
I’ve heard the line about a billion here, a billion there, etc. attributed both to Senator Dirksen and Senator Humphrey and stated various ways.
I addressed this one while guest-writing The New York Times “On Language” column in July. I wrote that it is usually thought that:
Everett Dirksen coined “A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon it begins to add up to real money.” Yet the Dirksen Congressional Center, scouring the Illinois senator’s audiotapes and transcripts, news clippings and speech notes, has found no concrete evidence of his uttering these words, only uncorroborated attributions after his death in 1969. On the other hand, a historical database search of The New York Times yields a Jan. 10, 1938, “Topics of the Times” column with the lines: “Well, now, about this new budget. It’s a billion here and a billion there, and by and by it begins to mount up into money.” No mention of Dirksen.
Do any readers have any other quotations whose origins they would like me to attempt to trace?