Search the Site

Quotes Uncovered: The First Casualty of War

Photo: JOE M500

Each week, I’ve been 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. Here is the latest round.
Benj asked:

Where does “drinking the Kool-Aid” come from?

This refers to the Jonestown massacre. Wikipedia summarizes:

Around 900 followers of Jim Jones committed suicide or were murdered by drinking or allegedly being forced to drink cyanide-laced grape Flavor Aid in 1978. Erroneous references to the mass suicide, in combination with existing references to The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test of the Merry Pranksters, gave rise to the expression “Drinking the Kool Aid,” a reference to blindly following an authority even if it leads to serious harm or death. A camera from inside the compound shows a large chest being opened showing boxes of both drinks. There is also testimony from criminal investigators at the Jonestown inquest stating that there were ‘cool aid’ (sic) packets there. It is unknown whether these are a reference to the Kool-aid brand packets from the trunk, or simply a generic use of the more popular brand for the product.

Lee S. Downie asked:

What’s the current thinking on the author of: “Truth is the first casualty of war.”?

The best source for “the current thinking” on qutotations is The Yale Book of Quotations. The YBQ documents “The first casualty of war is truth” as appearing in Sherwood Eddy and Kirby Page, The Abolition of War (1924), then goes on to note:

“The first casualty when war comes is truth” is often attributed to remarks in the U.S. Senate by Hiram Johnson in 1918, but, according to the Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs, “it does not occur in the record of the relevant speech.”

The YBQ also cross-references to Samuel Johnson in The Idler, Nov. 11, 1758: “Among the calamities of war may be justly numbered the diminutiion of the love of truth, by the falsehoods which interest dicvtates and credulity encourages.”
mike seabrook asked:

“better inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent…..” do any readers know the origin – i dont

The Yale Book of Quotations quotes Lyndon Johnson, saying about J. Edgar Hoover: “Better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside pissing in” (quoted in New York Times, Oct. 31, 1971). Johnson may well have been employing an already-existing expression.
Do any readers have any other quotations whose origins they would like me to attempt to trace?