Verities and Balderdash

The English language, difficult to learn and inconsistent in its usage, is nevertheless one of the most varied and subtle languages in use today. Its evolution has brought together two of the great Indo-European language branches, the Teutonic and the Romance, and it incorporates many of the best features of both.
The quotations in this last section, are chosen not so much for what they have to say, but how it is said. Their authors use the English language for simple wit or they use it to conjure up some marvelous imagery. Other authors abuse English through the buzz-phrases or bureaucratic newspeak which, in this age of the interdepartmental memo, wage war against the beauty of the language.
English is a constantly evolving language, but it is important that additions be made only when they serve a useful purpose, be it aesthetic or practical. The appendage must make some phrase or meaning more precise or more vivid. The newspeak does not serve this purpose. Rather it serves to obfuscate, as is often its function.
Anybody who conducts an argument by appealing to authority is not using his intelligence; he is just using his memory.
Leonardo DaVinci

I never wanted to say anyone die, but there are a few obituary notices I have read with pleasure.
Clarence Darrow

The average sparrow is something of a bore and the trouble is that all sparrows are average.
Will Cuppy

I have just learned about his illness -- let's hope it is nothing trivial.
Irving Cobb

A hen is only an egg's way of making another egg.
Samuel Butler

Golf: A game in which a 1 1/2 inch in diameter ball is placed on a 7,918 mile in diameter ball. The object is to hit the 1 1/2 inch in diameter ball without hitting the 7,918 mile in diameter ball.
Judge J.J. Burns

How can I die? I'm booked.
George Burns

If animals could reason, they would act jest as ridickerlous as us menfolks do.
Josh Billings

To be positive: to be mistaken at the top of one's voice.
Ambrose Bierce

He has a face like a wedding cake left out in the rain.
W.H. Auden

Sure, I was once a 97-pound weakling. When I was four years old.
Paul Anderson

If at first you don't succeed, you are running about average.
M.H. Anderson

I don't want to achieve immortality through my work, I want to achieve it through not dying.
Woody Allen

Death is an acquired trait.
Woody Allen

Dying is a very dull, dreary affair and my advice to you is to have nothing to do with it.
Somerset Maugham

I'm not afraid to die. I just don't want to be there when it happens.
Woody Allen

He is one of those fellows who would be greatly improved by death.
Hector Munro

I hate funerals, and would not attend my own if it could be avoided.
Robert T. Morris

The idea is to die young as late as possible.
Ashley Montagu

Was she old? When they lit all the candles on her birthday cake, people were overcome with the heat.
Fred Allen

What's on your mind -- if you'll forgive the overstatement?
Fred Allen

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and costs more.
George Ade

We are always doing something for posterity, but I would fain see posterity do something for us.
Joseph Addison

A clever prophet makes sure of the event first.
Sam Levenson

It is not enough that a thing be possible for it to be believed.

For if whenever I doubt I know that I doubt, then I cannot doubt whether I doubt, since one cannot doubt what one knows.
Rene Descartes

A little learning is a dangerous thing, but a lot of ignorance is just as bad.
Bob Edwards

"I rather like bad wine," said Mr. Mountchesney; "one gets so bored with good wine."
Benjamin Disraeli

Reading National Review is like sex: when it's good it's terrific; when it's bad it's still pretty good.
M. Stanton Evans

I was hurrying to the florist for a bunch of golden-rod to send my mother-in-law (the poor dear was suffering with a stubborn case of hay fever).
W.C. Fields

Do you like children? I do if they're properly looked.
W.C. Fields

There's not a man in America, who at one time or another, has not had the secret desire to boot a child in the ass.
W.C. Fields

I always keep a supply of stimulant handy in case I see a snake-- which I also keep handy.
W.C. Fields

One's ability to perform a given task competently decreases in proportion to the number of people watching.
Mark Frank

Well-washed and well-combed pets grow dull; they miss the stimulus of fleas.
Francis Galton

Not a shred of evidence exists in favor of the idea that life is serious.
Brendan Gill

Cut off his tail behind his ears.
Horace Greely, on how to cure a dog of killing sheep

If one is to be called a liar, one may as well make an effort to deserve the name.
A.A. Milne

It's far easier to forgive an enemy after you've got even with him.
Olin Miller

Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand. Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!
Edna St. Vincent Millay

The prophesying business is like writing fugues; it is fatal to everyone save a man of absolute genius.
H.L. Mencken

It is a sin to believe evil in others, but it is seldom a mistake.
H.L. Mencken

The basic fact about human existence is not that it is a tragedy, but that it is a bore.
H.L. Mencken

My guess is that well over 80% of the human race goes through life without having a single original thought. Whenever a new one appears the average man displays signs of dismay and resentment.
H.L. Mencken

When I went duck hunting with Bear Bryant, he shot at one but it kept flying. "John," he said, "there flies a dead duck." Now that's confidence.
John McKay

People who become legends in their own time usually have very little time left.
John D. McDonald

Decide promptly, but never give any reasons. Your decisions may be right, but your reasons are sure to be wrong.
Lord Mansfield

The dodo was (perverse distinction) Immortalized by his extinction.
Edward Lucie-Smith

It is difficult to see why lace should be so expensive; it is mostly holes.
Mary Wilson Little

Insanity is hereditary -- you can get it from your children.
Sam Levenson

He's a nice guy, even though he's incompetent.

Cats seem to go on the principle that it never does any harm to ask for what you want.
Joseph Wood Krutch

I never made a mistake in my life, at least, never one I couldn't explain away afterwards.
Rudyard Kipling

My problem, first, last and always is that I'm a beautiful person.
Jean Kerr

In the fight between you and the world, back the world.
Franz Kafka

Experience enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again.
Franklin P. Jones

Adversity is the state in which a man most easily becomes acquainted with himself, being especially free from admirers then.
Samuel Johnson

Any solution to a problem changes the problem.
R.W. Johnson

I admire him, I frankly confess it; and when his time comes I shall buy a piece of the rope as a keepsake.
Mark Twain, of Cecil Rhodes

To err is human, but when the eraser wears out ahead of the pencil, you're overdoing it.
J.J. Jenkins

They aren't making mirrors the way they used to. The ones I buy now are full of wrinkles.
Phyllis Diller

Getting a second opinion is something like switching slot machines.
Bill Walton

Nothing will dispel enthusiasm like a small admissions fee.
Kin Hubbard

Knowin' all about baseball is about as profitable as bein' a good whittler.
Kin Hubbard

Your ignorance cramps my conversation.
Anthony Hope

I am hell-bent for the South Pole -- God willing and crevasses permitting.
Sir Edmund Hillary

He was a self-made man who owed his lack of success to nobody.
Joseph Heller

Don't bite the hand that has your allowance in it.
Paul Dickson

There are moments when everything goes well; don't be frightened, it won't last.
Jules Renard

Unhappiness is being trapped on a rainy highway with a slow-moving truck in front of you and a fast-moving truck coming up behind you.
Ogden Nash

Ordinarily he was insane, but he had lucid moments when he was merely stupid.
Heinrich Heine

Back of every achievement is a proud wife and a surprised mother-in-law.
Brooks Hays

Life is a misery if you don't get more than you deserve.
Harry Oppenheimer

I must be getting old because nowadays I find I'm more interested in the food I eat than in the girl who serves it.
John Steinbeck

What I wouldn't give to be 70 again!
Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., at 92, after seeing a pretty girl

Believe only half of what you see and nothing that you hear.
Dinah Murlock Craik

My idea of an agreeable person is a person who agrees with me.
Benjamin Disraeli

The more patience I have, the more people use it.

Good judgment comes from experience, and experience -- well, that comes from poor judgment.

I dislike arguments of any kind. They are always vulgar, and often convincing.
Oscar Wilde

All arguments about pi are circular.
Judy Bostock

The only difference between caprice and a lifelong passion is that caprice lasts a little longer.
Oscar Wilde

To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.
Oscar Wilde, The Importance of being Earnest

She is a peacock in everything but beauty.
Oscar Wilde

A mine is a hole in the ground owned by a liar.
Mark Twain

He has been a doctor for a year now and has had two patients -- no, three, I think -- yes, it was three; I attended their funerals.
Mark Twain

Noise proves nothing. Often a hen who has merely laid an egg cackles as if she had laid an asteroid.
Mark Twain

Do not go gentle into that good night Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Dylan Thomas

Old men and comets have been reverenced for the same reason; their long beards, and pretences to foretell events.
Jonathon Swift

When the water reaches the upper deck, follow the rats.
Claude Swanson

I regard you with an indifference closely bordering on aversion.
Robert Louis Stevenson

Anybody who is certain about anything complex is certainly wrong. I'm certain of that.
Cyril Smith

You can get anywhere in ten minutes if you go fast enough.
John L. Shelton

There is no satisfaction in hanging a man who does not object to it.
George Bernard Shaw

Nothing is all wrong -- even a clock that doesn't work is right twice a day.
Salada Tag Line

No man who hates dogs or babies can be all bad.
Leo Rosten, about W.C. Fields. Commonly attributed to Fields himself.

Normalcy is a refuge for the weak of mind.
C.H. Reynolds

You can't think rationally on an empty stomach, and a lot of people can't do it on a full one either.
Lord Reith

What is better than presence of mind in a railway accident?
Absence of body.

I'm afraid you've got a bad egg, Mr. Jones. Oh no, My Lord, I assure you. Parts of it are excellent.

How old would you be if you didn't know how old you was?
Satchel Paige

When you're up to your ass in alligators, it's hard to remember that your purpose is draining the swamp.
George Napper

Thought suffers when language suffers, and language suffers when "underprivileged" is used for "poor", when "native American" is used for "Indian", when "chairperson" is used for "chairman". Bell Laboratories has developed a computer program, designed to improve the English of those who use word processors, which would have removed all references to "man" and "mankind" from the Declaration of Independence and substituted "humanity", "men and women" or "we all."
The Economist

Before delivering any humorous remark, double-check it for sexism, racism, and personal antagonism or lack of feeling toward lower-echelon employees.
Donald Dunn, Business Week

After completing that memo or report, substitute each buzz word with an everyday word. All on distribution will feel self-congratulatory at having for once understood a piece of writing in total. You will make friends.
Sal Rosa

Are these receptions significant events for faculty and students to maximize through interface their interpersonal inputs and outputs?
Prof. Alan Gaylord

Pictured are foreign students from another country.
Dartmouth College publication

I smell a weak link in your chain of argument.
The Boston Globe

Nolan Ryan is pitching much better now that he has his curve ball straightened out.
Joe Garagiola

Smoking kills and if you die you've lost a very important part of your life.
Brooke Shields

Classified material is considered lost when it cannot be found.
U.S. Navy report

I don't have a very good memory for things in the past.
Alexander Fanelli, Executive asst. to former Dartmouth President John Kemeny

These retailers know that good beef is one of the best magnets for drawing customers into their stores, and they're not sparing the horses to get it.
Farmer's Digest

I tend to use strong metaphors.
Dartmouth professor

"Shut up!" he explained.
Ring Lardner

Waggish non-Yale men never seem to weary of calling "For God, for Country, and for Yale," the outstanding single anti-climax in the English language.

She blushed like a well-trained sunrise.
Margaret Halsey

It is nothing short of genius that uses one word when twenty will say the same thing.
David Grayson

Only Presidents, editors and people with tapeworms have the right to use the editorial "we."
Mark Twain

A synonym is a word you use when you can't spell the right one and therefore you can't find it in the dictionary.
Laurence J. Peter

Headline in the Pasco-Kennewick-Richland Tri-City Herald

MIT women fourth in Head.
Headline in The Tech

It is a mistake to use highfalutin language when you advertise to uneducated people. I once used the word OBSOLETE in a headline, only to discover that 43 percent of housewives had no idea what it meant. In other headline, I used the word INEFFABLE only to discover that I didn't know what it meant myself.
David Ogilvy

Develolment of hydro power in the desert of North Africa awaits only the introduction of water.
Nuclear News

He [Spiro Agnew] seemed to have taken the self-help course of 30 Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary and quit on the 26th day.
Martin Nolan

He [William F. Buckley Jr.] does not speak as much as exhale, and he exhales polysyllabically.
Edwin Newman

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