Political Football

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 researches.

John machlachlan asked:

When did surgery start being called a ‘procedure’?

The Oxford English Dictionary quotes usage of the term “surgical procedure” from the medical journal Lancet in 1853, and “Osteoclasis is a simple procedure” from E. H. Bradford and R. W. Lovett, Treatise on Orthopedic Surgery (1890).

John also asked:

Was the secretary of defense ever called anything else such as the secretary of offense?

The answer is: Secretary of War.




Kimb asked:

Politics is like football. You have to be smart enough to play the game, but stupid enough to think it matters.

The Yale Book of Quotations has this one from Eugene McCarthy:

Being in politics is like being a football coach. You have to be smart enough to understand the game and dumb enough to think it’s important.
Quoted in The Washington Post, Nov. 12, 1967

An analogous saying is documented much earlier by the YBQ:

To be smart enough to get all that money you must be dull enough to want it.
G. K. Chesterton “A Miscellany of Men” (1912)

Can any readers of this blog supply any other pre-1967 versions? And do any readers have any other quotations whose origins they would like me to attempt to trace?


Use of the term "dibs."


the original quotation of "He that would save his life shall lose it."


@ Sam: that's from the bible. Jesus said that to His disciples.

Madiha Hussain

A thing said in jest, is half confessed.


Even many/most surgeons these days refer to an operation/procedure as "a surgery," or say that a patient had 4 surgeries on his back. My professor, a stickler for grammar, insisted that "surgery" is a field of medicine and that surgeons performed operations or procedures. In British-speak, a surgery is an operating room or area.

Mike B

Why doesn't someone make actual "Political Footballs"? They could be footballs emblazoned with the logo of a political party or done up in a theme that represents various issues like Social Security or Immigration reform.