Our Daily Bleg: More Quote Authors Uncovered

Four 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.

Bill asks:

I think that this is from Ambrose Bierce, but I haven’t been able to track it down. “Definition — cigarette: a small roll of paper, filled with tobacco and drugs, having a small flame at one end, and a large fool at the other.”

I’m not sure about the Bierce quote, but The Yale Book of Quotations has the following under Jonathan Swift:

[Of angling:] A stick and a string, with a fly at one end and a fool at the other.

It was quoted in The Indicator, Oct. 27, 1819. A similar remark has also been attributed to Samuel Johnson.

Authors Uncovered

75 ThumbnailHere are more quote authors Shapiro’s tracked down recently.

H.F.Hunter asks whether the following quote is by Daniel Boone:

“I can’t say I was ever lost, but I was bewildered once for three days.” … I’ve always felt a special kinship to Daniel. I’ll be real disappointed if I learn that someone else said that.

No need to be disappointed! The Yale Book of Quotations has this under Boone:

[Remark, June 1819:] I can’t say as ever I was lost, but I was bewildered once for three days.

It was quoted in Chester Harding, My Egotistigraphy (1866).

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

New Negotiator

chateau: big house, no heat.


This may be too vague, but this quote essentially conveys: events that occur, not "issues" or a platform define the term of a prime minister (or other leader)

I think it's Benjamin Disraeli, but if it rings a bell, I would love to know the real quote.


A quote I've heard a couple of times but never been able to track down. At the start of a 10-page letter, "I would have written a postcard, but I didn't have the time."

I don't know the author, and the quote itself is probably not exactly right. Makes it very difficult to search for :-)



I think the quote you're thinking of actually goes "I would've written less, but I didn't have the time." I just read, like 3 days ago, who this was attributed to on mentalfloss.com or something. Maybe even here somewhere. Now that's driving me crazy.


Found it Gregot

If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter - T.S Eliot


It's something about larger ladies or fat women or similar but I'm sure there is a quote along the lines:

"Sometimes what is nice to touch is not as nice to look at"

I may be way off but the meaning is that sometimes the sensuality of a larger woman in the bedroom is lovely, and shouldn't be overlooked cause they may not look like supermodels in the street.

It's driving me nuts that I can't remember the quote or who said it..

Chris Dillon

"Is it a greater crime to rob a bank, or to open one?"


A while ago, the late Molly Ivins said about a Pat Buchanan speech something like "it would have sounded better in the original German"; the quote can be found on the web attributed to her. However, I heard this line verbally in the early 80s as an undergraduate in Ireland - I'm quite sure that it was a quote from some postwar British comic writer, perhaps discussing the rantings of Enoch Powell or Oswald Mosley. But I can't find the original source. Any clues?


Luck is the residue of desire.

Branch Rickey is often quoted as saying "Luck is the residue of design", but the version above is the one I have always remembered. Which one is correct, or was Rickey paraphrasing someone else?

rishabh sonthalia

'' a plant where everyone is working all the time is inefficient ''


"the difference between the possible and the impossible is a measure of a man's will."

Somewhat the truth- but who said it?


Summer, I think you're referring to the scene in Pulp Fiction where Bruce Willis' wife is wishing she had a belly.


If there's any chance you could find the origin of the phrase "The more things change the more they stay the same" I'd be very pleased. Thanks.


After saying "water finds its own mark" to someone the other day, the person told me that Anton LaVey, the renowned Satanist, had coined the phrase in the 1960's.

But my aunts and uncles seem sure that my grandfather used the term well before the 1960's.

So where did it originate?

tim fox

how about the source of the quote "dragged kicking and screaming into the 20th century" ?

Michael Kaye

This is not a "who said it" but rather a "what did whoever said it say." Some years ago I read something somewhere that referred to people who publicly preach prudish morality and then get exposed for sexual transgressions as blank blanks. I remember that the coinage was very similar to "chicken hawks," used for pro-war politicians who kept themselves out of war when they were of military age. I did not jot it down because I was sure that I would remember it. But now all I can remember is that I for got it and it has been driving me nuts. Please help preach high morality and then get exposed for sexual

Alexander Didenko

Let me offer you the following quote:
"To nature and yourself appeal / Not learn of others / What to feel"


OMG Michael

You did it!!! It was Fabienne in Pulp Fiction and she ends her conversation about bellies with this line:

"It's unfortunate what we find pleasing to the touch and pleasing to the eye is seldom the same. "

I just typed into Google - Pulp Fiction Belly and it was the first hit.

Thanks so much!!



In the Honeymooners, Ralph Kramden made a similar comment to which Ed Norton replied that working in the sewer he was well aware of it. The episode was in the fifties and I'm sure the quote goes back much further,

pat toche

Pascal (Blaise, that is) wrote the -- I would have made my letter shorter but I did not have the time -- in correspondence with, most likely, another famous character. You should be able to google your way to it.