Quotes Uncovered: Survivors and Votes

Quotes Uncovered

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

A while back, 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. Hundreds of people have responded via comments or e-mails. I am responding as best I can, a few per week.

Brian asked:

“What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger,” has been attributed to a lot of people, most notably, Friedrich Nietzsche. Any chance of scrounging that one up for me?

The Yale Book of Quotations has the following:

“What does not destroy me, makes me stronger.” Friedrich Nietzsche, The Twilight of the Idols, 1888 (translation by Walter Kaufmann).

This is an example of a very well-known and popular quotation that is omitted by both Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations and the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.

Nylund asked:

In honor of the protests over the election in Iran, I was wondering about the expression, “It”s not the vote that counts, it’s who counts the votes.” I’ve often heard it attributed to Stalin, but I’m not sure if I believe that.

The YBQ has this:

Boss Tweed: “As long as I count the Votes, what are you going to do about it?” Thomas Nast, caption of cartoon, Harper’s Weekly, October 7, 1871. This cartoon puts these words in the mouth of New York politician William Marcy “Boss” Tweed, and they are usually attributed to Tweed, but Nast almost certainly originated them.

JK asked:

“History is written by the victors” seems to be attributed to Winston Churchill. Any ideas about its origin?

This is a proverb with no clear origin likely to be discoverable. The Yale Book of Quotations has the following as its earliest version:

“History is written by the survivors.” Social Forces, October 1931.

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


"Pain is temporary, glory is forever" - a quick google search doesn't reveal much, can you help me out?


I don't know who said this: "The difference between communism in capitalism? In capitalism, man exploits man. In communism, it's the other way around."

Stan Hansen

What about "Sell the Sizzle, not the Steak?" I have heard it many times but never have found where it came from.

Garrett Pendergast

Happiness is positive cashflow. Any ideas?


"Music needs musicology like birds need ornithology"
Or something like that

Brenda Whitaker Sherrod

A problem is a chance for you to do your best.
Duke Ellington

This is an example of turning the negative into a positive............


'Happiness is positive cashflow' might derive from Dickens:

'Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result misery.'

from 'David Copperfield'.

Dan Moerman

I have seen this gem attributed to Gabriel Garcia Marquez: "Love is many things. But more than anything, it is a disturbance of the digestive system." However, I've never been able to find it in any of his works. Is it legitimately Garcia Marquez? and if so, where is it?


"It's not what you're country can do for you; it's what you can do for your country." - JFK said this, but I read somewhere that a statement to this effect traces all the way back to Pericles. Any thoughts?


Ian #1: I don't have a source for your quote, but I'm told that "Pain is temporary, failure is forever" is an oft-used mantra at the US Army Ranger school by trainees in the midst of a particularly grueling exercise.


Who said "the future is here, it's just not evenly distributed"?


"Happiness is a positive cash flow" is a quote from venture capitalist Fred Adler. I learned this quote in business school in 1982, where it was discussed in the context of how to evaluate the appropriateness of investing capital in a new venture. As I recall, Adler liked to see a new venture in positive cash flow earlier than some other venture capitalists. Certainly he wanted to see positive cash flow much earlier than current investors in Facebook, Twitter, etc. do.


Where does the phrase "the whole nine yards" originate? I heard it was something to do with machine gun ammunition, that it came in lengths of nine yards and to use was all of it was to really give it to somebody. But Wikipedia disagrees, saying the origins are unknown.

Jeffrey Levant

"Ask not what YOUR country can do for you, but what you can do for your country" I believe is an Oliver Wendell Holmes quote.


Very loose paraphrasing:
"Give me all the money in the world, and I don't care who holds office [or power?]."

I'm sure it was originally worded much more elegantly, I think by Rockefeller.

More info would be appreciated. Many thanks.


"It's not the voting that's democracy, it's the counting."

- Tom Stoppard, Jumpers, 1972

Garson O'Toole

In a comment above Elizabeth asks about a fine quote that I have always heard attributed to the science fiction author William Gibson. I just checked one accurate citation. Gibson does say "As I've said many times, the future is already here. It's just not very evenly distributed" in the audio stream for November 30th 1999 in the NPR program Talk of the Nation.

An earlier Gibson citation is from an interview with Terry Gross on NPR's Fresh Air dated August 31st 1993. I have not been able to check this citation because the audio is hard to find online.


I have heard it said that "The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic." Its been attributed to Stalin, but as telling as that might be, I don't think that I trust it.