Quotes Uncovered: Youth and the Young

Photo: iStockphoto

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.

TJ asked:

I’d love to know if “Youth is wasted on the young” preceded It’s a Wonderful Life.

The answer is yes.  The forthcoming Yale Book of Modern Proverbs has in its files “The appetite of youth!  What a pity it’s wasted on young men” (Michael Arlen, Man’s Mortality [1933]) and “I often think of Bernard Shaw‘s remark, that youth is a wonderful thing, but that it is wasted on the young” (Frank H. Lee, Tokyo Calendar [1934]).  This proverb is often attributed to George Bernard Shaw, but no one has ever found a real source in Shaw’s writings or utterances.

CosmicLint asked:

“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does tend to rhyme.”  I’ve heard this attributed to Mark Twain, but couldn’t track any definitive answer down online.

The one thing we know, of course, is that this was not by Mark Twain.  The earliest example in the forthcoming Yale Book of Modern Proverbs is the following:

W. D. M. is seeking to locate the source of the following line, attributed to Mark Twain: “History never repeats itself, but it rhymes.”
New York Times, Jan. 25, 1970

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


The line in "It's a Wonderful Life" is actually "Youth is wasted on all the wrong people."

It's sorta more awesome.


"Good things may come to those who wait, but only the things left behind by those who hustle" - attributed to Abe Lincoln

Eric M. Jones

It looks like Shaw might have said it, but perhaps he never wrote it. Around 1935 this story seems to have arisen:

The Literary digest: Volume 120

Edward Jewitt Wheeler, Isaac Kaufman Funk, William Seaver Woods - 1935 - Snippet view
Misplaced — Mr. Bernard Shaw is a past- master at the ready retort. A young woman sitting next to him at dinner remarked: "What a wonderful thing is youth!" "Yes — And what a crime to waste it on children." GBS replied sagely. ...

There are many stories of Shaw's witty dinner repartees.

ps, Fred: Cholesterol Cures 1958 edition. I have bought two of these claiming to be the 1958 edition only to find the 1996 edition in my mailbox. My noble librarianess is on the hunt now.


Years ago I read a quote, typed it on a 3x5 card (that's how long ago it was). The quote is:

"If fools and folly continue to rule the world, the end of mankind in our time will be a rude shock, but can no longer be a complete surprise"


Bill' I believe this quote is attributed to I.W.Thomas. A geographical historian. He assserts that all great civilizations, spring up near the sourse of great rivers. The nile, the amazon etc. This is possibbly the reason for the end of mankind in our times.

Fred Shapiro

Re Eric M. Jones comment: Aren't you beginning to think that there is no 1958 edition of that book?


Anything about the term "gravy train"


I would like to know where the saying 'deep seated' comes from. Deep seeded seems to make more sense, so where'd the actual saying come from?


Rob Lewis

"People think that children have the same thoughts as adults, but different emotions. The opposite is true."


I can not find the source for the following quote: "Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your actions, for they become your habits..."

I've seen it attributed to anybody and everybody.

James Curran

In "honor" of HItler's birthday, I'm wondering about the origin of the term "Third Reich". Not so much the typical "Who" & "When", but more the "What" & "Why", particularly, why is one word in English & one word in German? "Dritten Reich" may have confused people, but "Third Realm" gets the point across.

Eric M. Jones


There comes a time to give up the search, but that time is not yet. I think there is good evidence of a 1958 version of the book. If I can't find one by the time the world ends in 2012, we'll call it quits.


We survived! :)