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1st Day




Animal Behavior

Apathy, Ambivalence, and Indecision

Apocalypse Now and Then


The Awful English Language


1st Day
(I like to start the semester out with these.)


Don't Panic.
     Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979)


Don't memorize, understand.
     Tony Rothman, Instant Physics (1995)


Things are only impossible until they're not.
     Jean-Luc Picard, "When the Bough Breaks"
     STAR TREK: The Next Generation


... there is poetry in science, but also a lot of bookkeeping.
     Peter Medawar, "Two Conceptions of Science" (1965)


Always obey your parents. When they are present. This is the best policy in the long run, because if you don't, they will make you. Most parents think they know better than you do, and you can generally make more by humoring that superstition than you can by acting on your own better judgment.
     Mark Twain, "Advice To Youth" (1882)


Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.
     Mark Twain (1901)


The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple.
     Oscar Wilde





So changing names is a sound idea, an idea based on the scientific principle that underlies the field of marketing, which is:  People are stupid.  Marketing experts know that if you call something by a different name, people will believe it’s a different thing.  That’s how “undertakers” became “funeral directors.”  That’s how “trailers” became “manufactured housing.”  That’s how “We’re putting you on hold for the next decade” became “Your call is important to us.”
     Dave Barry, Boogers Are My Beat (2003)
     “North Dakota Wants Its Place in the Sun”


When the gods wish to punish us, they make us believe our own advertising.
     Daniel J. Boorstin


Advertising, n. The driving force behind supply-and-demand economics: the stimulation of demand for useless products through the supply of misleading claims.
     Chaz Bufe, The American Heretic’s Dictionary (1992)


If a man smiles all the time he's probably selling something that doesn't work.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


You can tell the ideals of a nation by its advertisements.
     Norman Douglas, South Wind (1917)


As to the idea that advertising motivates people, remember the Edsel.
     Peter F. Drucker


Advertisements contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper.
     Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Nathaniel Macon (1819)
          [A little optimistic, don’t you think?]


The trouble with us in America isn’t that the poetry of life has turned to prose, but that it has turned to advertising copy.
     Louis Kronenberger


Advertising may be described as the science of arresting human intelligence long enough to get money from it.
     Stephen Leacock, The Garden of Folly (1924)


You can fool all the people all the time if the advertising is right and the budget is big enough.
     Joseph E. Levine


Advertising is a valuable economic factor because it is the cheapest way of selling goods, particular if the goods are worthless.
     Sinclair Lewis


People will buy anything that is one to a customer.
     Sinclair Lewis


Advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket.
     George Orwell, Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936)


Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising.
     Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889)


Some ads for Mark Twain’s lectures:

A Splendid Orchestra

is in town, but has not been engaged

Magnificent Fireworks

were in contemplation for this occasion,

but the idea has been abandoned.

The Irish Giant! Who Stands

9 feet 6 inches

will not be present and need not be expected.

A Grand Torchlight Procession

may be expected; in fact, the public are

privileged to expect whatever they please

     Alex Ayres (ed.), The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain (1987)


Advertising is legalized lying.
     Herbert George [H. G.] Wells


Despite decades of market research, markets proliferate and there’s no cure in sight.
     Steven Wright


I saw a subliminal advertising executive, but only for a second.
     Steven Wright





If it’s free, it’s advice; if you pay for it, it’s counseling; if you can use either one, it’s a miracle.
     Jack Adams


Beware the advice of successful people; they do not seek company.
     Dogbert in Scott Adams, Casual Day Has Gone Too Far (“Dilbert,” 1997)


Never trust the advice of a man in difficulties.


It is unbecoming for young men to utter maxims.


Advice, n. The smallest current coin.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


Aphorism, n. Predigested wisdom.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


Consult, v.t. To seek another's approval of a course already decided on.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


Platitude, n. The fundamental element and special glory of popular literature. A thought that snores in words that smoke. The wisdom of a million fools in the diction of a dullard. A fossil sentiment in artificial rock. A moral without the fable. All that is mortal of a departed truth. … A desiccated epigram.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


Rash, adj. Insensible to the value of our advice.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


Saw, n. A trite popular saying, or proverb. (Figurative and colloquial.) So called because it makes its way into a wooden head.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


When a man comes to me for advice, I find out the kind of advice he wants, and I give it to him.
     Josh Billings


For every proverb that confidently asserts its little bit of wisdom, there is usually an equal and opposite proverb that contradicts it.
     Richard Boston


The great writers of aphorisms read as if they had all known each other well.
     Elias Canetti


I do not say a proverb is amiss when aptly and reasonably applied, but to be forever discharging them, right or wrong, hit or miss, renders conversation insipid and vulgar.
     Miguel Cervantes


I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite.
     G. K. Chesterton


Advice is seldom welcome; and those who need it the most always like it the least.
     Lord Chesterfield (Philip Dormer Stanhope)


Nobody can give you wiser advice than yourself.
     Marcus Tullius Cicero



The best advice I can give is to ignore advice. Life is too short to be distracted by the opinions of others.
     Russel Edson


The trouble with giving advice is that others want to return the favor.
     Sam Ewing


Ill customs and bad advice are seldom forgotten.
     Benjamin Franklin


Wise men don't need advice. Fools don't take it.
     Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanac


The advice of their elders to young men is very apt to be as unreal as a list of the hundred best books.
     Oliver Wendell Holmes


A good scare is worth more to a man than good advice.
     Ed Howe


A never-failing way to get rid of a fellow is to tell him something for his own good.
     Kin Hubbard


The worst waste of breath, next to playing a saxophone, is advising a son.
     Kin Hubbard


We're all mighty unselfish when it comes to handing out advice we could use ourselves.
     Kin Hubbard


It is a little embarrassing that, after forty-five years of research and study, the best advice I can give to people is to be a little kinder to each other.
     Aldous Huxley, This Timeless Moment (1968)


Advice is seldom welcome. Those who need it most, like it least.
     Samuel Johnson


Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn't.
     Erica Jong


Advice is probably the only free thing which people won’t take.
     Lothar Kaul


When we ask advice, we are usually looking for an accomplice.
     Marquis de LaGrange


Proverbs contradict each other. That is the wisdom of a nation.
     Stanislaw Lec, Unkempt Thoughts (1962)


Maxims are the condensed good sense of nations.
     Sir James Mackintosh


"Be yourself" is the worst advice you can give some people.
     Tom Masson


Platitude — An idea (a) that is admitted to be true by everyone, and (b) that is not true.
     H. L. Mencken, "Sententiæ"


I am not fond of aphorisms ... they are one-size-fits-all; each has its opposite, and whatever line of conduct you follow, there is always one to back you up.
     Alfred de Musset, Emmeline


A good aphorism is too hard for the tooth of time, and is not worn away by all the centuries, although it serves as food for every epoch.
     Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, Miscellaneous Maxims and Opinions (1879)


Giving advice isn't as risky as people say. Few ever take it anyway.
     William Peather


... when you seek advice from someone it’s certainly not because you want them to give it.  You just want them to be there while you talk to yourself.
     Terry Pratchett, Jingo (1997)


A proverb is a short sentence based on long experience.


Never give advice in a crowd.
     Arabian Proverb


Advice is least heeded when most needed.
     English Proverb


Never give advice unless asked.
     German Proverb


Old men love to give good advice to console themselves for being unable to set bad examples.
     François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, Reflections;
     or, Sentences and Moral Maxims


We offer nothing so liberally as advice.
     François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, Reflections;
     or, Sentences and Moral Maxims


It is easier to be wise for others than for ourselves.
     François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, Reflections;
     or, Sentences and Moral Maxims


Beware of advice, even this.
     Carl Sandburg


My advice is . . . ask somebody else for advice — at least someone who's got more experience at giving advice.
     Geordi LaForge, “In Theory”


No one wants advice — only corroboration.
     John Steinbeck


How is it possible to expect that mankind will take advice, when they will not so much as take warning?
     Jonathan Swift


... this is one of those sayings which men love to repeat whether they are true or not. Such sayings themselves grow harder and adhere more firmly with age, and it would take many blows with a trowel to clean an old wiseacre of them.
     Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or, Life in the Woods (1854)


The best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it.
     Harry S Truman


But I have said enough. I hope you will treasure up the instructions which I have given you and make them a guide to your feet and a light to your understanding. Build your character thoughtfully and painstakingly upon these precepts, and by and by, when you have got it built, you will be surprised and gratified to see how nicely and sharply it resembles everybody else's.
     Mark Twain, "Advice To Youth" (speech, 1882)


It is more trouble to make a maxim than it is to do right.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)
     "Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"


What are the proper proportions of a maxim? A minimum of sound to a maximum of sense.
     Mark Twain, More Tramps Abroad (1897)
     [British edition of Following the Equator]
     "Pudd'nhead Wilson’s New Calendar"


Often a quite assified remark becomes sanctified by use and petrified by custom; it is then a permanency, its term of activity a geologic period.
     Mark Twain, "Does the Race of Man Love a Lord?" (1902)


It is a curious thing, the currency that an idiotic saying can get. The man that first says it thinks he has made a discovery. The man he says it to, thinks the same. It departs on its travels, is received everywhere with admiring acceptance, and not only as a piece of rare and acute observation, but as being exhaustively true and profoundly wise; and so it presently takes it place in the world's list of recognized and established wisdoms, and after that no one thinks of examining it to see whether it is really entitled to its high honors or not.
     Mark Twain, "Does the Race of Man Love a Lord?" (1902)


Have a place for everything and keep the thing somewhere else. This is not advice, it is custom.
     Mark Twain, More Maxims of Mark (Merle Johnson, ed., 1927)


Do not give advice that you cannot follow.
     Lemuel K. Washburn


I like maxims that don’t encourage behavior modification.
     Calvin in Bill Watterson, Attack of the Deranged Mutant
     Killer Monster Snow Goons
(“Calvin and Hobbes,” 1992)


It is always a silly thing to give advice, but to give good advice is absolutely fatal.
     Oscar Wilde


The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. It is never of any use to oneself.
     Oscar Wilde, An Ideal Husband (1895)


I always advise people never to give advice.
     P. G. Wodehouse





I wonder if Columbus had this trouble? Who? Sorry, just an esoteric Earth reference. He discovered a continent which went on to cause a bit of trouble.
     Trillian in Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide
     to the Galaxy
(radio program, 1977-1980)
          [Written in the script, but not recorded]


What a pity, when Christopher Columbus discovered America, that he ever mentioned it.
     Margot Asquith


The sinister nature of the American soil is apparent in places like Gettysburg. Fertilize it with the blood of heroes, and it brings forth a frozen-custard stand.
     Russell Baker, Poor Russell's Almanac (1972)


Immigrant, n. An unenlightened person who thinks one country better than another.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


I am from the South and live in the North. So Southerners are always asking me to explain why in hell I want to live up North. "Because when I'm in the North I'm always wondering where I can find some friend okra, and when I'm in the South I'm always wondering where I can find a copy of The New York Times," I say, "and I would rather think about okra than The New York Times."
     Roy Blount, Jr., Camels Are Easy, Comedy's Hard (1991)
     "Should the South Re-Secede?"


It took forty-five years, but the cold war is over, and now we can take all that energy and money and talent we've been wasting against the Soviets and turn it against each other.
     A. Whitney Brown, The Big Picture: 
     An American Commentary


Where ideas are concerned, America can be counted on to do one of two things: take a good idea and run it completely into the ground, or take a bad idea and run it completely into the ground.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


The thing I like the most about this country is that, in a pinch, when things really get tough, you can always go into a store and buy some mints.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


I worry about my judgment when anything I believe in or do regularly begins to be accepted by the American public.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


I don't believe there's any problem in this country, no matter how tough it is, that Americans, when they roll up their sleeves, can't completely ignore.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


When you think about it, attention deficit disorder makes a lot of sense. In this country there isn't a lot worth paying attention to.
     George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)


The IQ and the life expectancy of the average American recently passed each other going in opposite directions.
     George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)


America is the only nation in history which miraculously has gone directly from barbarism to degeneration without the usual interval of civilization.
     Georges Clemenceau


I think there are only three things America will be known for 2,000 years from now when they study this civilization: the Constitution, jazz music, and baseball.
     Gerald Early, writer, baseball documentary (1994)


Here is America we are descended in spirit from revolutionists and rebels — men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrine.
     Dwight David Eisenhower, Address, Columbia University (May 31, 1954)


I believe to my shoe-tops that being an American means struggling on a day-to-day basis against the demon legions, the ones who would send us back to the Scopes Monkey Trial and the Palmer Raids and HUAC and ignorance. They are ever with us; they reach up out of their graves with moldering claws to infect each new generation.
     Harlan Ellison, An Edge in My Voice (1985)


A nation, like a tree, does not thrive well till it is engrafted with a foreign stock.
     Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals (1823)


America is rather like life. You can usually find in it what you look for.
     E. M. Forster, Two Cheers for Democracy (1951)
     "The United States" (1947)


We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.
     Benjamin Franklin, at the signing of the 
     Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1776)


I submit to you that only half the reason the Constitution is a great and living document is because our foundin' daddies were about the smartest sumbitches ever walked and also because they wrote right in there how to keep changing the old charter as need arises. The other half of the credit for the beauty of the Constitution goes to 200 years worth of American misfits, troublemakers, hell-raisers, eccentrics, mavericks, anti-Establishmentarians, and outsiders who are ever ready and happy to do battle.
     In my opinion, there's not a thing wrong with the ideals and mechanisms outlined and the liberties set forth in the Constitution of the United States. The only problem was, the founders left a lot of people out of the Constitution. They left out poor people and black people and female people. It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America. And it still goes on today.
     Molly Ivins, Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She? (1991)
     "We the People"


The trouble with this country is that there are too many people going about saying, "The trouble with this country is —".
     Sinclair Lewis


I had thought the Declaration contemplated the progressive improvement in the condition of all men everywhere.  They [the fathers] did not mean to assert the obvious untruth, that all men were then actually enjoying that equality, nor yet that they were about to confer it, immediately, upon them. In fact, they had no power to confer such a boon. They meant simply to declare the right, so that the enforcement might follow as fast as circumstances should permit.
     Abraham Lincoln, quoted in Garry Wills, Lincoln at 
     Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America


No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.
     H. L. Mencken


Q: If you find so much that is unworthy of reverence in the United States, then why do you live here?
A: Why do men go to zoos?
     H. L. Mencken, "Catechism" (American Mercury, Sept. 1924)


The real charm of the United States is that it is the only comic country ever heard of.
     H. L. Mencken, A Mencken Chrestomathy (1949)
     "Sententiæ — The Citizen and the State"


[On the failure of the short-lived XFL football league:] And as long as you don't own stock in the WWF, it's somewhat reassuring to discover that you can go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.
     Dennis Miller, The Rant Zone (2001)


The genius of you Americans is that you never make clear-cut stupid moves, only complicated stupid moves which make us wonder at the possibility that there may be something to them [which] we are missing.
     Gamal Abdel Nasser, in Miles Copeland, 
     The Game of Nations


All the problems we face in the United States today can be traced to an unenlightened immigration policy on the part of the American Indian.
     Pat Paulsen


Americans will put up with anything provided it doesn't block traffic.
     Dan Rather


America is the only nation to go to the poorhouse in an automobile.
     Will Rogers


My forefathers didn't come over on the Mayflower, but they met the boat. [Rogers was of Indian descent.]
     Will Rogers


In America everybody is of opinion that he has no social superiors, since all men are equal, but he does not admit that he has no social inferiors, for, from the time of Jefferson onward, the doctrine that all men are equal applies only upwards, not downwards.
     Bertrand Russell, Unpopular Essays (1950)
     "Ideas That Have Harmed Mankind" (1946)


England and America are two countries separated by the same language.
     George Bernard Shaw, attributed


American cities are like badger holes, ringed with trash — all of them — surrounded by piles of wrecked and rusting automobiles, and almost smothered with rubbish. Everything we use comes in boxes, cartons, bins, the so-called packaging we love so much. The mountains of things we throw away are much greater than the things we use. In this, if in no other way, we can see the wild and reckless exuberance of our production, and waste seems to be the index. Driving along I thought how in France or Italy every item of these throw-out things would have been saved and used for something. This is not said in criticism of one system or the other but I do wonder whether there will come a time when we can no longer afford our wastefulness — chemical wastes in the rivers, metal wastes everywhere, and atomic wastes buried deep in the earth or sunk in the sea. When an Indian village became too deep in its own filth, the inhabitants moved. And we have no place to which to move.
     John Steinbeck, Travels With Charley: In Search of America (1962)


Your ancestors — yes, they were a hard lot; but, nevertheless, they gave us religious liberty to worship as they required us to worship, and political liberty to vote as the church required; and so I, the bereft one, I, the forlorn one, am here to do my best to help you celebrate them right.
     Mark Twain, "Plymouth Rock and the Pilgrims" (speech, 1881)


In America, through pressure of conformity, there is freedom of choice, but nothing to choose from.
     Peter Ustinov


Now then: Boston and Philadelphia both claim to be the cradle of liberty. Which city is correct? Neither one. Liberty is only now being born in the United States. It wasn't born in 1776. Slavery was legal. Even white women were powerless, essentially the property of their father or husband or closest male relative, or maybe a judge or lawyer. Liberty was only conceived in Boston or Philadelphia. Boston or Philadelphia was the motel of liberty, so to speak.
     Kurt Vonnegut, Fates Worse Than Death: 
     An Autobiographical Collage
     "Graduation speech to the Class of 1990, University 
     of Rhode Island, Kingston (May, 1990)


America has been discovered before, but it has always been hushed up.
     Oscar Wilde


Perhaps, after all, America never has been discovered. I myself would say that it had merely been detected.
     Oscar Wilde


The crude commercialism of America, ... its indifference to the poetical side of things, and its lack of imagination ... are entirely due to that country having adopted for its national hero a man who, according to his own confession, was incapable of telling a lie.
     Oscar Wilde, "The Decay of Lying" (1889)


The youth of America is their oldest tradition. It has been going on now for three hundred years.
     Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance (1893)


The Gettysburg Address has become an authoritative expression of the American spirit — as authoritative as the Declaration itself, and perhaps even more influential, since it determines how we read the Declaration. For most people now, the Declaration means what Lincoln told us it means, as a way of correcting the Constitution itself without overthrowing it. ... By accepting the Gettysburg Address, its concept of a single people dedicated to a proposition, we have been changed. Because of it, we live in a different America.
     Garry Wills, Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words 
     That Remade America


The United States is a nation of laws: badly written and randomly enforced.
     Frank Zappa



Animal Behavior


The calf and the lion shall lie down together but the calf won't get any sleep.
     Woody Allen


Human beings can easily destroy every elephant on earth, but we are helpless against the mosquito.
     Isaac Asimov


It's humbling to think that all animals, including human beings, are parasites of the plant world.
     Isaac Asimov


Man: 'Hello, my boy. And what is your dog's name?'
Boy: 'I don't know. We call him Rover.'
     Stafford Beer, New Scientist (3 October 1974)


Men should stop fighting among themselves and start fighting insects.
     Luther Burbank


Here's a great idea: A roach spray that doesn't kill the roach, but, instead, fills him with self-doubt as to whether or not he's in the right house.
     George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)


     '… I wish you wouldn't keep appearing and vanishing so suddenly: you make one quite giddy.'
     'All right,' said the Cat; and this time it vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone.
     'Well! I've often seen a cat without a grin,' thought Alice; 'but a grin without a cat! It's the most curious thing I ever saw in my life!'
     Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865)


Men have a strange guilty habit of conferring their own impossible ideals upon animals and then goading themselves with shame at the thought of their inferiority to the brutes.
     Bergen Evans, The Natural History of Nonsense (1945, 1958)


He [God] seems to have an inordinate fondness for beetles.
     J. B. S. [John Burdon Sanderson] Haldane


Both the cockroach and the bird could get along very well without us, although the cockroach would miss us most.
     Joseph Wood Krutch


I do not like animals. Animals are no friends of mine. They are not welcome in my house. They occupy no space in my heart. Animals are off my list. I will say, however, in the spirit of qualification, that I mean them no particular harm. I won't bother animals if animals won't bother me. Well, perhaps I had better amend that last sentence. I won't personally bother animals. I do feel, though, that a plate bereft of a good cut of something rare is an affront to the serious diner ...
     Fran Lebowitz, Social Studies (1981)
     "Pointers for Pets"


There is not so contemptible a plant or animal that does not confound the most enlarged understanding.
     John Locke


Why does Sea World have a seafood restaurant? I'm halfway through my fish burger and I realize, 'Oh my goodness, I could be eating a slow learner.'
     Lynda Montgomery


Animals never spend time dividing experience into little bits and speculating about all the bits they’ve missed. The whole panoply of the universe has been neatly expressed to them as things to (a) mate with, (b) eat, (c) run away from, and (d) rocks. This frees the mind from unnecessary thoughts and gives it a cutting edge where it matters. Your normal animal, in fact, never tries to walk and chew gum at the same time.
     Terry Pratchett, Equal Rites (1987)


It seemed that animals always behave in a manner showing the rightness of the philosophy entertained by the man who observes them. . . . Throughout the reign of Queen Victoria all apes were virtuous monogamists, but during the dissolute twenties their morals underwent a disastrous deterioration.
     Bertrand Russell


Those who deny or decry our "animal" natures underestimate what those natures are.
     Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan, Shadows of Forgotten 
     Ancestors: A Search for Who We Are


Ants are so much like human beings as to be an embarrassment. They farm fungi, raise aphids as livestock, launch armies into war, use chemical sprays to alarm and confuse enemies, capture slaves. . . . They exchange information ceaselessly. They do everything but watch television.
     Lewis Thomas


[Mark Twain bought a "genuine Mexican plug" at an auction on the advice of a man he later found out was the auctioneer's brother. The horse turned out to be wild, and bucked him into the air.] ... I made up my mind that if the auctioneer's brother's funeral took place while I was in the territory I would postpone all other recreations and attend it.
     Mark Twain, Roughing It (1872)


[While in Hawaii, Mark Twain was told he should have a horse for transportation.] I said ... I preferred a safe horse to a fast one — I would like to have an excessively gentle horse — a horse with no spirit whatever — a lame one, if he had such a thing. Inside of five minutes I was mounted, and perfectly satisfied with my outfit. I had no time to label him "This is a horse," and so if the public took him for a sheep I cannot help it. ... [He] went along peaceably enough, but absorbed in meditation. I noticed this latter circumstance, and it soon began to fill me with apprehension. I said to myself, this creature is planning some new outrage, some fresh deviltry or other — no horse ever thought over a subject so profoundly as this one is doing just for nothing. The more this thing preyed upon my mind, the more uneasy I became, until the suspense became almost unbearable, and I dismounted to see if there was anything wild in his eye — for I had heard that the eye of this noblest of our domestic animals is very expressive. I cannot describe what a load of anxiety was lifted from my mind when I found that he was only asleep.
     Mark Twain, Roughing It (1872)


"And another thing: I've noticed a good deal, and there's no bird, or cow, or anything that uses as good grammar as a blue-jay. You may say a cat uses good grammar. Well, a cat does — but if you let a cat get excited, once; you let a cat get to pulling fur with another cat on a shed, nights, and you'll hear grammar that will give you the lockjaw. Ignorant people think it's the noise which fighting cats make that is so aggravating, but it ain't so; it's the sickening grammar they use."
     Jim Baker in "Baker's Blue Jay Yarn" in 
     Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad (1880)


Of all God's creatures there is only one that cannot be made the slave of the lash. That one is the cat. If man could be crossed with the cat it would improve man, but it would deteriorate the cat.
     Mark Twain, Notebook, 1894


A home without a cat — and a well-fed, well-petted, and properly revered cat — may be a perfect home, perhaps, but how can it prove title?
     Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894)


We know all about the habits of the ant, we know all about the habits of the bee, but we know nothing at all about the habits of the oyster. It seems almost certain that we have been choosing the wrong time for studying the oyster.
     Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894)
     "Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar"


... a cat is more intelligent than people believe, and can be taught any crime.
     Mark Twain, Notebook, 1895


A marsupial is a plantigrade vertebrate who specialty is its pocket. In some countries it is extinct, in the other it is rare. The first American marsupials were Stephen Girard, Mr. Astor, and the opossum; the principal marsupials of the Southern Hemisphere are Mr. Rhodes, and the kangaroo. I, myself, am the latest marsupial. Also, I might boast that I have the largest pocket of them all. But there is nothing in that.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)


The chameleon in the hotel court. ... When I am behind him and C[lara] in front of him, he whirls one eye rearwards and the other forwards — which gives him a most Congressional expression (one eye on the constituency and one on the swag) ...
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)


Nature makes the locust with an appetite for crops; man would have made him with an appetite for sand.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)
     "Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"


I have known the horse in war and in peace, and there is no place where a horse is comfortable. The horse has too many caprices, and he is too much given to initiative. He invents too many new ideas. No, I don't want anything to do with a horse.
     Mark Twain, "Welcome Home" (speech, November 10, 1900)


It is just like man's vanity and impertinence to call an animal dumb because it is dumb to his dull perceptions.
     Mark Twain, "What Is Man?" (1906)


The mosquitos [in Italy] are not a trouble. There are very few of them, they are not noisy, and not much interested in their calling. A single unkind word will send them away; if said in English, which impresses them because they do not understand it, they come no more that night. We often see them weep when they are spoken to harshly. I have got some of the eggs to take home. If this breed can be raised in our climate they will be a great advantage.
     Mark Twain, Albert Bigelow Paine (ed.), 
     Mark Twain's Autobiography (1924)


Nothing is made in vain, but the fly came near it.
     Mark Twain, More Maxims of Mark (Merle Johnson, ed., 1927)


I think the horse is more intelligent than man. Have you ever heard of a horse going broke betting on a man?
     Mark Twain, attributed; in Alex Ayres (ed.), 
     The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain (1987)


I think animal testing is a terrible idea; they get all nervous and give the wrong answers.
     Unknown, A Bit of Fry and Laurie


Cats are smarter than dogs. You can't get eight cats to pull a sled through snow.
     Jeff Valdez


We hope than when the insects take over the world they will remember with gratitude how we took them along on all our picnics.
     Bill Vaughan


An unhatched egg is to me the greatest challenge in life.
     E. B. White, letter to Reginald Allen (March 5, 1973)


The best thing about animals is that they don't talk much.
     Thornton Wilder, The Skin of our Teeth


If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.
     Edward O. Wilson


He prayeth best who loveth best
All creatures great and small.
The Streptococcus is the test
I love him least of all.
     Wallace Wilson


Every day, the hummingbird eats its own weight in food. You may wonder how it weighs the food. It doesn't. It just eats another hummingbird.
     Steven Wright


I can levitate birds but nobody cares.
     Steven Wright


I planted some bird seed. A bird came up. Now I don't know what to feed it.
     Steven Wright


I used to own an ant farm but had to give it up. I couldn't find tractors small enough to fit.
     Steven Wright


Imagine if birds were tickled by feathers. You’d see a flock of birds fly by, laughing hysterically.
     Stephen Wright


Sponges grow in the ocean. That just kills me. I wonder how much deeper the ocean would be if that didn't happen.
     Steven Wright


The other day when I was walking through the woods, I saw a rabbit standing in front of a candle making shadows of people on a tree.
     Steven Wright


Tinsel is really snakes' mirrors.
     Steven Wright



Apathy, Ambivalence, and Indecision
Should I even have a category like this?  I don't know, and I don't care.


Do you believe in apathy at first sight?
     Ashleigh Brilliant


Indecision may or may not be my problem.
     Jimmy Buffett, “Don’t Chu-Know” (Barometer Soup, CD, 1995)


Scientists announced today that they have discovered a cure for apathy. However, they claim no one has shown the slightest bit of interest in it.
     George Carlin


You know those shows where people call in and vote on different issues? Did you ever notice there's always, like, 18 percent "I don't know"? It costs 90 cents to call up and vote, and they're voting "I don't know." "Honey, I feel very strongly about this. Give me the phone. (Into phone) 'I DON'T KNOW!' (hangs up, looking proud). Sometimes you have to stand up for what you believe you're not sure about."
     George Carlin


I can give you a definite perhaps.
     Samuel Goldwyn


Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all — the apathy of human beings.
     Helen Keller, My Religion


If I don't drive around the park,
I'm pretty sure to make my mark.
If I'm in bed each night by ten,
I may get back my looks again.
If I abstain from fun and such,
I'll probably amount to much;
But I shall stay the way I am,
Because I do not give a damn.
     Dorothy Parker, "Observation" (Enough Rope)


Your public servants serve you right; indeed often they serve you better than your apathy and indifference deserve.
     Adlai Ewing Stevenson, Speech, Los Angeles (September 11, 1952)


Ambivalent? Well, yes and no.


I couldn't care less about apathy.


What is the difference between ignorance, apathy and ambivalence? I don't know, and I don't care one way or the other.



Apocalypse Now and Then


The entire universe will eventually disintegrate but by then I hope to be in a safer place.
     Ashleigh Brilliant


I anticipated witnessing in my lifetime the disappearance of our species. But the gods have been against me.
     E. M. Cioran


This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
     T. S. Eliot, "The Hollow Men"


The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilization.
     Ralph Waldo Emerson


Some say the world will end in fire
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
     Robert Frost, "Fire and Ice"


Last year, when 2000 arrived, everyone was convinced it was the dawn of a new era. But when the world didn't end, and the flying saucers didn't land, and the Y2K bug didn't turn on a single light bulb, you'd think everybody would've realized it was a number on a calendar …
     Shannon O'Donnell (ancestor of Captain Janeway) in "11:59" (aired in 1999)
     STAR TREK: Voyager


If the world should blow itself up, the last audible voice would be that of an expert saying it can't be done.
     Peter Ustinov


Two dangers threaten the world — order and disorder.
     Paul Valéry


If flying-saucer creatures or angels or whatever were to come here in a hundred years, say, and find us gone like the dinosaurs, what might be a good message for humanity to leave for them, maybe carved in great big letters on a Grand Canyon wall? Here is this old poop's suggestion: WE PROBABLY COULD HAVE SAVED OURSELVES, BUT WERE TOO DAMNED LAZY TO TRY VERY HARD. We might well add this: AND TOO DAMN CHEAP.
     Kurt Vonnegut, Fates Worse Than Death: An Autobiographical Collage (1991)


Armageddon means never having to say you're sorry.


How many survivors of a nuclear war does it take to change a light bulb? None. People who glow in the dark don't need light bulbs.


Karmageddon, n. It's like, when everybody is sending off all of these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, serious bummer.


It is not necessary to imagine the world ending in fire or ice. There are two other possibilities: one is paper work, and the other is nostalgia.
     Frank Zappa



Drawing the Line


Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.
     Scott Adams, The Dilbert Principle: A Cubicle's-Eye 
     View of Bosses, Meetings, Management Fads & 
     Other Workplace Afflictions


Painting, n. The art of protecting flat surfaces from the weather and exposing them to the critic.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


Picture, n. A representation in two dimensions of something wearisome in three.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


Experimental, adj. In relation to the arts, obscure, incomprehensible. A term applied to the works of those who invent new and startling ways to demonstrate their incompetence.
     Chaz Bufe, The American Heretic's Dictionary (1992)


Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere.
     G. K. Chesterton


Modern art is what happens when painters stop looking at girls and persuade themselves that they have a better idea.
     John Ciardi


Never fear [the public] or despise it. Coax it, charm it, interest it, stimulate it, shock it now and then if you must, make it laugh, make it cry, but above all . . . never, never, never bore the hell out of it.
     Noel Coward


If all meanings could be adequately expressed by words, the arts of painting and music would not exist.
     John Dewey


If what is seen and experienced is portrayed in the language of logic, we are engaged in science. If it is communicated through forms whose connections are not accessible to the conscious mind but are recognized intuitively as meaningful, then we are engaged in art.
     Albert Einstein


The lesson here is the same lesson you find in all Art, whether book or story or movie or oil painting or classical symphony or great sculpture. ... What it is that all Art says is this: PAY ATTENTION. That's it. Nothing more profound or hard to understand. Pay attention. And if you do, just like the guy in this story, you will discover that there are many ways to solve a problem that most other, timid ribbon clerks will never pull down. The lesson of this story — and this book entire — is that you can never know enough, you can never be too smart, and you need to figure out the way the world works without believing that every rule you've been told is immutable — it can't be done, no one's ever done it, etcetera — just because some limited potatobrain believes it. The world is yours, go get it.
     Harlan Ellison, Troublemakers (2001)
     Introduction to "Life Hutch"


Every genuine work of art has as much reason for being as the earth and the sun.
     Ralph Waldo Emerson, Society and Solitude (1870)


Artists can color the sky red because they know it's blue. Those of us who aren't artists must color things the way they really are or people might think we're stupid.
     Jules Feiffer


I have found by experience that the arts act as an antidote against our present troubles and also as a support to our common humanity, and I am glad to emphasise this at a time when they are being belittled and starved.
     E. M. Forster, Two Cheers for Democracy (1951)
     "Prefatory Note"


Perhaps the least cheering statement ever made on the subject of art is that life imitates it. This would doubtless be more heartening news were its veracity not quite so capricious. For upon inspection it is immediately apparent that life is at its most artistic when such a condition is least desired. It is, in fact, safe to assume that, more often than not, life imitates craft, for who among us can say that our experience does not more closely resemble a macramé plant holder than it does a painting by Seurat. When it comes to art, life is the biggest copycat in the matter of the frame.
     Fran Lebowitz, Metropolitan Life (1978)


Artists can seldom account for their own work, and when they show actual genius hardly ever. The moment they try to explain it they become absurd, and what they have to say is commonly borrowed from the jargon of critics, which is to say, non-artists. The process of creation is only partly intellectual. The rest of it seems to be based on instinct rather than on idea.
     H. L. Mencken, Minority Report: 
     H. L. Mencken's Notebooks


Art is not an end in itself, but a means of addressing humanity.
     Modest Mussorgsky


Most of us, when all is said and done, like what we like and make up reasons for it afterwards.
     Soren F. Petersen


I paint object as I think them, not as I see them.
     Pablo Picasso


The world today doesn't make sense, so why should I paint pictures that do?
     Pablo Picasso


We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand. The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies.
     Pablo Picasso, "Picasso Speaks" (The Arts, May 1923)


I don't know anything about art, but I know what I like.
     American Proverb
     First recorded by Gellett Burgess, Are You a Bromide? (1907)


Conformity may make one rich, but it can never make one great. A true artist ignores the public.
     Charles T. Sprading, Freedom and its Fundamentals


Skill without imagination is craftmanship and gives us many useful objects such as wickerwork picnic baskets. Imagination without skill gives us modern art.
     Tom Stoppard


Citizen's arrest for mime!
     Calvin Trillin


Immature artists imitate. Mature artists steal.
     Lionel Trilling


The guide showed us a coffee-colored piece of sculpture which he said was considered to have come from the hand of Phidias, since it was not possible that any other artist, of any epoch, could have copied nature with such faultless accuracy. The figure was that of a man without a skin; with every vein, artery, muscle, every fibre and tendon and tissue of the human frame, represented in minute detail. It looked natural, because somehow it looked as if it were in pain. A skinned man would be likely to look that way, unless his attention were occupied with some other matter.
     Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad (1869)


If I did not so delight in the grand pictures that are spread before me every day of my life by that monarch of all the old masters, Nature, I should come to believe, sometimes, that I had in me no appreciation of the beautiful, whatsoever.
     Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad (1869)


We learned, then, that Renaissance was not a man; that renaissance was a term used to signify what was at best an imperfect rejuvenation of art. The guide said that after Titian's time and the time of the other great names we had grown so familiar with, high art declined; then it partially rose again — an inferior sort of painters sprang up, and these shabby pictures were the work of their hands. Then I said, in my heat, that I "wished to goodness high art had declined five hundred years sooner." The Renaissance pictures suit me very well, though sooth to say its school were too much given to painting real men and did not indulge enough in martyrs.
     Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad (1869)


I used to worship the mighty genius of Michael Angelo—that man who was great in poetry, painting, sculpture, architecture—great in everything he undertook. But I do not want Michael Angelo for breakfast — for luncheon — for dinner — for tea — for supper — for between meals. I like a change, occasionally. ... Dan said the other day to the guide, "Enough, enough, enough! Say no more! Lump the whole thing! say that the Creator made Italy from designs by Michelangelo!"
     Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad (1869)


I never felt so fervently thankful, so soothed, so tranquil, so filled with a blessed peace as I did yesterday when I learned that Michel Angelo was dead.
     Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad (1869)


Even popularity can be overdone. In Rome, along at first, you are full of regrets that Michelangelo died; but by and by you only regret that you didn't see him do it.
     Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894)
     "Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar"


And then there is painting. What a red rag is to a bull Turner's "Slave Ship" is to me. ... The most of the picture is a manifest impossibility, that is to say, a lie; and only rigid cultivation can enable a man to find truth in a lie. A Boston critic said the "Slave Ship" reminded him of a cat having a fit in a platter of tomatoes.
     Mark Twain, Albert Bigelow Paine, 
     Mark Twain: A Biography (1912)


The demand of readers for brand new material which is just like what they've already read is a publishing reality, and it can be found behind virtually every best seller. (The same principle applies — even more strongly — to the less literate media: television, movies, popular music.)
     Ted White


Art is the only serious thing in the world. And the artist is the only person who is never serious.
     Oscar Wilde, "A Few Maxims for the Instruction of the Over-Educated"


What is abnormal in Life stands in normal relations to Art. It is the only thing in Life that stands in normal relations to Art.
     Oscar Wilde, "A Few Maxims for the Instruction of the Over-Educated"


All art is quite useless.
     Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891)


A true artist takes no notice whatever of the public.
     Oscar Wilde, "The Soul of Man under Socialism" (1891)


The true artist is a man who believes absolutely in himself, because he is absolutely himself.
     Oscar Wilde, "The Soul of Man under Socialism" (1891)


A really well-made buttonhole is the only link between Art and Nature.
     Oscar Wilde, "Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young" (1894)


One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art.
     Oscar Wilde, "Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young" (1894)


I like to go to art museums and name the untitled paintings: Boy With Pail . . . Kitten On Fire.
     Steven Wright


I went to the museum where they had all the heads and arms from the statues that are in all the other museums.
     Steven Wright


I've been doing a lot of abstract painting lately, extremely abstract. No brush, no paint, no canvas, I just think about it.
     Steven Wright


One time I went to a museum where all the work in the museum had been done by children. They had all the paintings up on refrigerators.
     Steven Wright



The Awful English Language:
Some Observations on the Wonderful 
Weirdness of English
(with some other languages thrown in for good measure)


Logically, it is impossible to "act" naturally.
     Dilbert in Scott Adams, Always Postpone Meetings
     With Time-Wasting Morons
("Dilbert," 1992)


Can't anything be done about calling these guys "student athletes"? That's like referring to Attila the Hun's cavalry as "weekend warriors."
     Russell Baker


English (1). English is a language in which grown people see nothing peculiar about telling a child, "Sit down and sit up."
     Russell Baker, Poor Russell's Almanac (1972)


English (3): In the English language it is easy to "sit still," but impossible to "sit loud." It is no problem at all for an English speaker to "sit tight," but ask him to "sit loose" and he will go to pieces.
     Russell Baker, Poor Russell's Almanac (1972)


English (4): The English language makes it easy to go to places like "pieces" without making a move. Through the miracle of English, a man can "go to pieces," "go to seed," "go to pot" and "go to the dogs" simply by sitting in a deep chair with a bottle.
     Russell Baker, Poor Russell's Almanac (1972)


English (5): The English language makes it easy for people to denounce galleries for showing "abstract" art. This is because galleries in the English-speaking world are forbidden to show "stract" art.
     Russell Baker, Poor Russell's Almanac (1972)


English (7): Although permitted to "overcome," those who speak English may never "undercome." They may "undergo," but never "overgo."
     Russell Baker, Poor Russell's Almanac (1972)


Careful and correct use of language is a powerful aid to straight thinking, for putting into words precisely what we mean necessitates getting our own minds quite clear on what we mean.
     William I. B. Beveridge, The Art of Scientific Investigation (1950)


Confusion of thought leads to obscurity of expression. Without words there is no thought, only feeling, emotion. Words are the mechanism of thought. The master knows his machine, and precision is nine parts of style.
     Ambrose Bierce, "The Eastern Literary Conspiracy" (Wasp, 1883)


Badly for Bad. "I feel badly." "He looks badly." The former sentence implies defective nerves of sensation, the latter, imperfect vision, Use the adjective.
     Ambrose Bierce, Write It Right: A Little Blacklist of Literary Faults (1909)


Both alike. "They are both alike." Say, they are alike. One of them could not be alike.
     Ambrose Bierce, Write It Right: A Little Blacklist of Literary Faults (1909)


Every for Ever. "Every now and then." This is nonsense: there can be no such thing as a now and then, nor, of course, a number of now and thens. Now and then is itself bad enough, reversing as it does the sequence of things, but it is idiomatic and there is no quarreling with it. But "every" is here a corruption of ever, meaning repeatedly, continually.
     Ambrose Bierce, Write It Right: A Little Blacklist of Literary Faults (1909)


Excessively for Exceedingly. "The disease is excessively painful." "The weather is excessively cold." Anything that is painful at all is excessively so. Even a slight degree or small amount of what is disagreeable or injurious is excessive-that is to say, redundant, superfluous, not required.
     Ambrose Bierce, Write It Right: A Little Blacklist of Literary Faults (1909)


Fail. "He failed to note the hour." That implies that he tried to note it, but did not succeed. Failure carries always the sense of endeavor; when there has been no endeavor there is no failure. A falling stone cannot fail to strike you, for it does not try; but a marksman firing at you may fail to hit you; and I hope he always will.
     Ambrose Bierce, Write It Right: A Little Blacklist of Literary Faults (1909)


Forecasted. For this abominable word we are indebted to the weather bureau — at least it was not sent upon us until that affliction was with us. Let us hope that it may some day be losted from the language.
     Ambrose Bierce, Write It Right: A Little Blacklist of Literary Faults (1909)


Got Married for Married. If this is correct we should say, also, "got dead" for died; one expression is as good as the other.
     Ambrose Bierce, Write It Right: A Little Blacklist of Literary Faults (1909)


Lengthy. Usually said in disparagement of some wearisome discourse. It is no better than breadthy, or thicknessy.
     Ambrose Bierce, Write It Right: A Little Blacklist of Literary Faults (1909)


Limited for Small, Inadequate, etc. "The army's operations were confined to a limited area." "We had a limited supply of food." A large area and an adequate supply would also be limited. Everything that we know about is limited.
     Ambrose Bierce, Write It Right: A Little Blacklist of Literary Faults (1909)


Literally for Figuratively. "The stream was literally alive with fish." "His eloquence literally swept the audience from its feet." It is bad enough to exaggerate, but to affirm the truth of the exaggeration is intolerable.
     Ambrose Bierce, Write It Right: A Little Blacklist of Literary Faults (1909)


Moneyed for Wealthy. "The moneyed men of New York." One might as sensibly say, "The cattled men of Texas," or, "The lobstered men of the fish market."
     Ambrose Bierce, Write It Right: A Little Blacklist of Literary Faults (1909)


Over for On. "The policeman struck him over the head." If the blow was over the head it did not hit him.
     Ambrose Bierce, Write It Right: A Little Blacklist of Literary Faults (1909)


The prime objectionableness of slang is its hideous lack of originality. Until mouthworn it is not slang.
     Ambrose Bierce, Write It Right: A Little Blacklist of Literary Faults (1909)


To. As part of an infinitive it should not be separated from the other part by an adverb, as, "to hastily think," for hastily to think, or, to think hastily. Condemnation of the split infinitive is now pretty general, but it is only recently that any one seems to have thought of it. Our forefathers and we elder writers of this generation used it freely and without shame — perhaps because it had not a name, and our crime could not be pointed out without too much explanation.
     Ambrose Bierce, Write It Right: A Little Blacklist of Literary Faults (1909)


Me, pro. The objectionable case of I. The personal pronoun in English has three cases, the dominative, the objectionable and the oppressive. Each is all three.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


Slang, n. The grunt of the human hog (Pignoramus intolerabilis) with an audible memory. The speech of one who utters with his tongue what he thinks with his ear, and feels the pride of a creator in accomplishing the feat of a parrot. A means (under Providence) of setting up as a wit without a capital of sense.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


Caution! Be very careful of false, meaningless, self-contradictory, and not even very funny warnings, like this one.
     Ashleigh Brilliant


If anyone corrects your pronunciation of a word in a public place, you have every right to punch him in the nose.
     Heywood Broun


I often wonder what is meant by "artificial color."
     George Carlin


Can you have just one antic? How about a lone shenanigan? A monkeyshine?
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


Why do we turn lights "out" when we turn most other things "off"?
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)

The phrase surgical strike might be more acceptable if it were common practice to perform surgery with high explosives.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


I don't have to tell you it goes without saying there are some things better left unsaid. I think that speaks for itself. The less said about it the better.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


When someone is impatient and says, "I haven't got all day," I always wonder, How can that be? How can you not have all day?
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


Did you hear about the man who left in a huff and returned in a jiffy? Another day, he arrived in a tizzy and left in a snit. His wife swept in in a fury and left in a daze, then left in a dither and returned in a whirl.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


It's odd that the word breath becomes breathe by adding a letter at the end, and yet the pronunciation changes in the middle. And woman becomes women by changing the vowel at the end, while the pronunciation changes near the beginning. Was somebody drunk when these decisions were made?
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


"No comment" is a comment.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


This is just some printing.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


How can crash course and collision course have two different meanings?
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


No one can ever know for sure what a deserted area looks like.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


Why does Filipino start with an F and Philippines start with Ph?
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


E-I-E-I-O is actually a gross misspelling of the word farm.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


Every time you use the phrase all my life it has a different meaning.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


We have mileage, yardage, and footage, why don't we have inchage?
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


Alter and change are supposed to be synonyms, but altering your trousers and changing your trousers are quite different things.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


The news story said someone had overcome a fatal disease. Wow!
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


I put a dollar in one of those change machines. Nothing changed.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


I don't like to lose my bearings, so I keep them in the cabinet near my bed.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


"It's neither here nor there." Well, folks, it's gotta be somewhere. I certainly don't have it.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


If a picture is worth ten thousand words, [The actual proverb is “One picture is worth ten thousand words” — Confucius], then one twenty-five-hundredth of a picture should be worth four words.
     And if Helen of Troy had the face that launched a thousand ships, and a picture is worth ten thousand words, doesn’t that mean one picture of Helen’s face should be worth ten million ships?
     And, if the night has a thousand eyes, and getting there is half the fun, that means to have fun getting there at night would require five hundred eyes.
     And, if getting there is half the fun, and half a loaf is better than none, would getting halfway there with a whole loaf be more or less fun?
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


YOU CAN TALK UNTIL YOU'RE BLUE IN THE FACE, ETC. ETC. Well, you can't talk until you're blue in the face. In order to talk, you need oxygen. Blueness of the face is caused by a lack of oxygen. So, if you're blue in the face, you probably stopped talking a long time ago. You might be making some gestures. In fact, if you're running out of oxygen, I would imagine you're making quite a number of gestures. And rather flamboyant ones at that.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)
     "Expressions I Question"


ONE THING LEADS TO ANOTHER. Not always. Sometimes one thing leads to the same thing. Ask an addict.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)
     "Expressions I Question"


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON. What exactly is an "unidentified person"? Doesn't everyone have an identity? Maybe they mean he's a person they can't identify. But that would make him an "unidentifiable person." I guess if nothing else, he could always be referred to as "that guy we can't identify."
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)
     "Expressions I Question"


WILD AND WOOLLY. Whenever I hear something described as wild and woolly, I always wonder where the woolly part comes in. Wild I understand. But woolly? I have some sweaters that are woolly, but they're kind of conservative. Not wild at all.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)
     "Expressions I Question"


YOU NEVER KNOW. Not true. Sometimes you know.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)
     "Expressions I Question"

When they say someone is NOT GOING TO WIN ANY POPULARITY CONTESTS, what popularity contests are they talking about? I've never heard of these contests. Where do they have them? And who wins? Whoever is winning these popularity contests can't be that popular. You never hear about them.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)
     "Expressions I Question"

IF YOU'VE SEEN ONE, YOU'VE SEEN 'EM ALL. Do we even have to talk about this one? This should be obvious. If you've seen one, you've seen one. If you've seen them all, then you've seen them all. I don't understand how this one even got started.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)
     "Popular Beliefs"


IF IT'S NOT ONE THING, IT'S ANOTHER. Not always. Sometimes if it's not one thing, not only is it not another, but it turns out to be something else altogether.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)
     "Popular Beliefs"


YOU CAN'T WIN THEM ALL. Not true. Believe it or not, there is a man in Illinois who, so far, has won them all. But don't get too excited; it has also been discovered that under certain circumstances it is possible to lose them all. By the way, there is no record of anyone having tied them all.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)
     "Popular Beliefs"


Then they mention that it's a nonstop flight. Well, I must say I don't care for that sort of thing. Call me old-fashioned, but I insist that my flight stop. Preferably at an airport. Somehow those sudden cornfield stops interfere with the flow of my day.
     George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)


Griddle cakes, pancakes, hotcakes, flapjacks: why are there four names for grilled batter and only one word for love?
     George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)


People often say, "That's a fine how-do-you-do," when deep in their hearts they know it's really only a fairly good how-do-you-do.
     George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)


Whom does a male ladybug dance with?
     George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)


When people say "clean as a whistle," they forget that a whistle is full of spit.
     George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)


You know where you can stick it. Why do we assume everyone knows where they can stick it? Suppose you don't know? Suppose you're a new guy, and you have absolutely no idea where you can stick it? I think there ought to be a government booklet entitled Where to Stick It. Now that I think of it, I believe there is a government booklet like that. They send it to you on April 15.
     George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)
     "Expressions I Question"


Undisputed heavyweight champion. Well, if it's undisputed, what's all the fighting about? To me, "undisputed" means we all agree. Here you have two men beating the shit out of one another over something they apparently agree on. Makes no sense.
     George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)
     "Expressions I Question"


Takes the cake. "Boy, he really takes the cake." Where? Where do you take a cake? To the movies? You know where I would take a cake? Down to the bakery, to see the other cakes. And how come he takes the cake? How come he doesn't take the pie? A pie is easier to carry than a cake. "Easy as pie." A cake is not too hard to carry, either. "Piece of cake."
     George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)
     "Expressions I Question"


The greatest thing since sliced bread. So this is it? A couple of hundred thousand years . . . sliced bread? What about the Pyramids? The Panama Canal? The Great Wall of China? Even a lava lamp, to me, is greater than sliced bread.
     George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)
     "Expressions I Question"


More than happy. I'll bet you say that sometimes. I'll bet you say, "Oh, I'd be more than happy to do that." How can you be more than happy? To me, this sounds like a dangerous mental condition. "We lad to put Laszlo under physical restraint; he was . . . well, he was more than happy."
     George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)
     "Expressions I Question"


One more of these expressions: In your own words. You hear it in classrooms. And courtrooms. They'll say, "Tell us . . . in your own words . . ." Do you have your own words? Personally, I'm using the ones everybody else has been using. Next time they tell you to say something in your own words, say, "Nigflot blorny quando floon."
     George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)
     "Expressions I Question"


'Curiouser and curiouser!' cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English) ...
     Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865)


'There's glory for you!'
     'I don't know what you mean by "glory,"' Alice said.
     Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. 'Of course you don't — till I tell you. I meant "there's a nice knock-down argument for you!"'
     'But "glory" doesn't mean "a nice knock-down argument,"' Alice objected.
     'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'
     Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass (1872)


'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'
     'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master — that's all.'
     Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. 'They've a temper, some of them — particularly verbs, they're the proudest — adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs — however, I can manage the whole lot of them! Impenetrability! That's what I say!'
     'Would you tell me, please,' said Alice 'what that means?'
     'Now you talk like a reasonable child,' said Humpty Dumpty, looking very much pleased. 'I meant by "impenetrability" that we've had enough of that subject, and it would be just as well if you'd mention what you mean to do next, as I suppose you don't mean to stop here all the rest of your life.'
     'That's a great deal to make one word mean,' Alice said in a thoughtful tone.
     'When I make a word do a lot of work like that,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'I always pay it extra.'
     'Oh!' said Alice. She was too much puzzled to make any other remark.
     'Ah, you should see 'em come round me of a Saturday night,' Humpty Dumpty went on, wagging his head gravely from side to side: 'for to get their wages, you know.'
     (Alice didn't venture to ask what he paid them with; and so you see I can't tell you.)
     Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass (1872)


This is the sort of nonsense up with which I refuse to put.
     Sir Winston Churchill, after having been criticized
     for ending a sentence with a preposition


Even if you do learn to speak correct English, whom are you going to speak it to?
     Clarence Darrow


"With my hair cut and a few other superficial changes I shall no doubt reappear at Claridge's to-morrow as I was before this American stunt — I beg your pardon, Watson, my well of English seems to be permanently defiled — before this American job came my way."
     Sherlock Holmes in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, His Last Bow (1917)
     "His Last Bow: An Epilogue Of Sherlock Holmes"

Liberty, [George Orwell] argues, is connected with prose, and bureaucrats who want to destroy liberty tend to write and speak badly, and to use pompous or woolly or portmanteau phrases in which their true meaning or any meaning disappears.
     E. M. Forster, Two Cheers for Democracy (1951)


One of the clearest testimonials to the frequency with which people grant, and take, literary license is the fact that the world "literally" has lost its meaning in everyday use.
     Thomas Gilovich, How We Know What Isn't So (1991)

He who is ignorant of foreign languages knows not his own.
     Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


"He didn't fall? Inconceivable!"
"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."
      Vizzini (Wallace Shawn) and Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin)
     William Goldman, The Princess Bride (movie, 1987)


"Sure," replied the philosopher of Fortune [Billy Keogh]. "All languages come easy to the man who must know 'em. I've even failed to misunderstand an order to evacuate in classical Chinese when it was backed up by the muzzle of a breech-loader."
     O. Henry, Cabbages and Kings (1904)


It's a damn poor mind that can think of only one way to spell a word.
     Andrew Jackson


For some young folks, English is their second language and they don't have a first one.
     Garrison Keillor, "Ask Mr. Blue" (, May 30, 2001)


There is no such word as actualize. There is no such word as internalize. There is, in fact, but one instance where the letters ize are appropriate here and that is in the word fertilize.
     Fran Lebowitz, Metropolitan Life (1978)


The fact that people and trees and elephants and cars all have trunks just proves that there are more things than there are words.
     Scott Morris, quoted in Richard Lederer, Get Thee To a Punnery (1988)


A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.
     George Orwell


"Hey, it's cool in here," he said. This was not meant as a comment on the temperature. "Cool," for reasons possibly known in some department of Heaven, was a term then in use among many of those of his age to express approbation.
     Dorothy Parker, "I Live on Your Visits"


No Parking signs often indicate "Violators will be towed," yet I've never yet seen a tow truck dragging anyone down the street. Trash cans which warn "Keep litter in its place" are also amusing if taken literally (litterly?). If something is litter, its place, by definition it would seem, is the ground.
     John Allen Paulos, I Think, Therefore I Laugh:
     An Alternative Approach to Philosophy


A man who shouts "Your house is on fire" may not be able to define exactly what he means by your and house and is and on and fire, but he might still be saying something quite important.
     J. B. Priestly


"You just don't get it." They haven't yet invented a conversation stopper more offensive, more hostile, or more completely dismissive. ... The implication is "I don't care enough to explain this any other way. And furthermore, it's my contention that you are literally impaired intellectually to the point that you do not get things that, to almost everyone else, are quite evident."
     Paul Reiser, Babyhood (1997)


Slang is a language that rolls up its sleeves, spits on its hands and goes to work.
     Carl Sandburg


... we are tied down to a language which makes up in obscurity what it lacks in style.
     Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (play, 1967)


I personally think we developed language because of our deep need to complain.
     Lily Tomlin


After this, we relapsed into a desultory conversation in French, in which I rather had the best of him; he appeared to have an idea that he could cypher out what I was driving at, whereas I had never expected to understand him in the first place.
     Mark Twain, "The Lick House Ball" (1863)


Occasionally, merely for the pleasure of being cruel, we put unoffending Frenchmen on the rack with questions framed in the incomprehensible jargon of their native language, and while they writhed, we impaled them, we peppered them, we scarified them, with their own vile verbs and participles.
     Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad (1869)


They spell it Vinci and pronounce it Vinchy; foreigners always spell better than they pronounce.
     Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad (1869)


In Paris they just simply opened their eyes and stared when we spoke to them in French! We never did succeed in making those idiots understand their own language.
     Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad (1869)


Dreamed all bad foreigners went to German heaven, couldn't speak the language, and wished they'd gone to the other place.
     Mark Twain, Notebook, 1878


In early times some sufferer had to sit up with a toothache, and he put in the time inventing the German language.
     Mark Twain, Notebook, 1878


Some of the German words are so long that they have a perspective. When one casts his glance along down one of these it gradually tapers to a point, like the receding lines of a railway track.
     Mark Twain, Notebook, 1878


A dog is "der Hund"; a woman is "die Frau"; a horse is "das Pferd"; now you put that dog in the genitive case, and is he the same dog he was before? No, sir; he is "des Hundes"; put him in the dative case and what is he? Why, he is "dem Hund." Now, you snatch him into the accusative case and how is it with him? Why, he is "den Hunden." But suppose he happened to be twins and you have to pluralize him — what then? Why, they'll swat that twin dog around through the 4 cases until he'll think he's an entire international dog-show all in his own person. I don't like dogs, but I wouldn't treat a dog like that — I wouldn't even treat a borrowed dog that way. Well, it's just the same with a cat. They start her in at the nominative singular in good health and fair to look upon, and they sweat her through all the 4 cases and the 16 the's and when she limps out through the accusative plural you wouldn't recognize her for the same being. Yes, sir, once the German language gets hold of a cat it's good-bye cat. That's about the amount of it.
     Mark Twain, Notebook, 1878


I can understand German as well as the maniac that invented it, but I talk it best through an interpreter.
     Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad (1880)


I have a prejudice against people who print things in a foreign language and add no translation. When I am the reader, and the author considers me able to do the translating myself, he pays me quite a nice compliment — but if he would do the translating for me I would try to get along without the compliment.
     Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad (1880)

A person who has not studied German can form no idea what a perplexing language it is. Surely there is not another language that is so slipshod and systemless, and so slippery and elusive to the grasp. One is washed about in it, hither and hither, in the most helpless way; and when at last he thinks he has captured a rule which offers firm ground to take a rest on amid the general rage and turmoil of the ten parts of speech, he turns over the page and reads, "Let the pupil make careful note of the following exceptions." He runs his eye down and finds that there are more exceptions to the rule than instances of it.
     Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad (1880)
     Appendix D: "The Awful German Language"


There are ten parts of speech, and they are all troublesome.
     Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad (1880)
     Appendix D: "The Awful German Language"


We have the Parenthesis disease in our literature, too; and one may see cases of it every day in our books and newspapers; but with us it is the mark and sign of an unpractised writer or a cloudy intellect, whereas with the Germans it is doubtless the mark and sign of a practised pen and of the presence of that sort of luminous intellectual fog which stands for clearness among these people. ... It reminds a person of those dentists who secure your instant and breathless interest in a tooth by taking a grip on it with the forceps, and then stand there and drawl through a tedious anecdote before they give the dreaded jerk. Parentheses in literature and dentistry are in bad taste.
     Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad (1880)
     Appendix D: "The Awful German Language"


Personal pronouns and adjectives are a fruitful nuisance in this language, and should have been left out. For instance, the same sound, sie, means you, and it means she, and it means her, and it means it, and it means they, and it means them. Think of the ragged poverty of a language which has to make one word do the work of six —  and a poor little weak thing of only three letters at that. But mainly, think of the exasperation of never knowing which of these meanings the speaker is trying to convey. This explains why, whenever a person says sie to me, I generally try to kill him, if a stranger.
     Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad (1880)
     Appendix D: "The Awful German Language"


When a German gets his hands on an adjective, he declines it, and keeps on declining it until the common sense is all declined out of it. ... I heard a Californian student in Heidelberg say, in one of his calmest moods, that he would rather decline two drinks than one German adjective.
     Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad (1880)
     Appendix D: "The Awful German Language"


Every noun has a gender, and there is no sense or system in the distribution; so the gender of each must be learned separately and by heart. There is no other way. To do this one has to have a memory like a memorandum book. In German a young lady has no sex, while a turnip has. Think what overwrought reverence that shows for the turnip, and what callous disrespect for the girl.
     Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad (1880)
     Appendix D: "The Awful German Language"


To continue with the German genders: a tree is male, its buds are female, its leaves are neuter; horses are sexless, dogs are male, cats are female — Tom-cats included, of course; a person's mouth, neck, bosom, elbows, fingers, nails, feet, and body are of the male sex, and his head is male or neuter according to the word selected to signify it, and not according to the sex of the individual who wears it — for in Germany all the women wear either male heads or sexless ones; a person's nose, lips, shoulders, breast, hands, hips, and toes are of the female sex; and his hair, ears, eye, chin, legs, knees, heart, and conscience haven't any sex at all. The inventor of the language probably got what he knew about a conscience from hearsay.
     Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad (1880)
     Appendix D: "The Awful German Language"

I have heard of an American student who was asked how he was getting along with his German, and who answered promptly: "I am not getting along at all. I have worked at it hard for three level months, and all I have got to show for it is one solitary German phrase — 'Zwei glas'" (two glasses of beer). He paused a moment, reflectively, then added with feeling, "But I have got that solid!"
     Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad (1880)
     Appendix D: "The Awful German Language"


I heard lately of a worn and sorely tried American student who used to fly to a certain German word for relief when he could bear up under his aggravations no longer — the only word in the whole language whose sound was sweet and precious to his ear and feeling to his lacerated spirit. This was the word Damit. It was only the sound that helped him, not the meaning [It merely means, in its general sense, 'herewith']; and so, at last, when he learned that the emphasis was not on the first syllable, his only stay and support was gone, and he faded away and died.
     Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad (1880)
     Appendix D: "The Awful German Language"


And observe the strongest of the several German equivalents for explosion — Ausbruch. Our word Toothbrush is more powerful than that. It seems to me that the Germans could do worse than import it into their language to describe particularly tremendous explosions with. The German word for hell — Hölle — sounds more like helly than anything else; therefore, how necessarily chipper, frivolous, and unimpressive it is. If a man were told in German to go there, could he really rise to the dignity of feeling insulted?
     Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad (1880)
     Appendix D: "The Awful German Language"


"Verdammt," and its variations and enlargements, are words which have plenty of meaning, but the sounds are so mild and ineffecutal that German ladies can use them without sin. German ladies who could not be induced to commit a sin by any persuasion or compulsion, promptly rip out one of these harmless little words when they tear their dresses or don't like the soup. It sounds about as wicked as our "My gracious!" German ladies are constantly saying, "Ach! Gott!" "Mein Gott!" "Gott in Himmel!" "Herr Gott!" "Der Herr Jesus!" etc. They think our ladies have the same custom perhaps, for I once heard a gentle and lovely old German lady say to a sweet young American girl, "The two languages are so alike — how pleasant that is; we say, 'Ach! Gott!' you say, 'Goddam.'"
     Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad (1880)
     Appendix D: "The Awful German Language"


My philological studies have satisfied me that a gifted person ought to learn English (barring spelling and pronouncing) in 30 hours, French in 30 days, and German in 30 years. It seems manifest, then, that the latter tongue ought to be trimmed down and repaired. If it is to remain as it is, it ought to be gently and reverently set aside among the dead languages, for only the dead have time to learn it.
     Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad (1880)
     Appendix D: "The Awful German Language"


I have been a correct speller, always; but it is a low accomplishment, and not a thing to be vain of. Why should one take pride in spelling a word rightly when he knows he is spelling it wrongly? Though is the right way to spell "though," but it is not the right way to spell it. Do I make myself understood?
     Mark Twain, "Reply to a Boston Girl" (1880)


I speak French with timidity, and not flowingly — except when excited. When using that language I have often noticed that I have hardly ever been mistaken for a Frenchman, except perhaps by horses; never, I believe, by people.
     Mark Twain, "Dinner Speech in Montreal" (speech, 1881)


Whenever the literary German dives into a sentence, that is the last you are going to see of him till he emerges on the other side of the Atlantic with his verb in his mouth.
     Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889)


I thought I would practice my French on him, but he wouldn't have that, either. It seemed to make him particularly bitter to hear his own tongue.
     Mark Twain, "Playing Courier" (1891)


I thought I would like the translation best, because Greek makes me tired.
     Mark Twain, "Private History of the 'Jumping Frog' Story" (1894)


Allahabad means "City of God." I get this from the books. From a printed curiosity — a letter written by one of those brave and confident Hindoo strugglers with the English tongue, called a "babu" — I got a more compressed translation: "Godville." It is perfectly correct, but that is the most that can be said for it.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)


The Germans have an inhuman way of cutting up their verbs. Now a verb has a hard time enough of it in this world when it's all together. It's downright inhuman to split it up. But that's just what those Germans do. They take part of a verb and put it down here, like a stake, and they take the other part of it and put it away over yonder like another stake, and between these two limits they just shovel in German.
     Mark Twain, "Disappearance of Literature" (speech, November 20, 1900)


When I read German aloud they [the cats] weep; you can see the tears run down. It shows what pathos there is in the German tongue. I had not noticed before that all German is pathetic, no matter what the subject is nor how it is treated. ... French is not a familiar tongue to me, and the pronunciation is difficult, and comes out of me encumbered with a Missouri accent; but the cats like it, and when I make impassioned speeches in that language they sit in a row and put up their paws, palm to palm, and frantically give thanks. Hardly any cats are affected by music, but these are; when I sing they go reverently away, showing how deeply they feel it.
     Mark Twain, Chapters from My Autobiography
(North American Review, 1906-1907)


That sentence is Germanic, and shows that I am acquiring that sort of mastery of the art and spirit of the language which enables a man to travel all day in one sentence without changing cars.
     Mark Twain, Christian Science (1907)


[From a speech on a simplified spelling project of Carnegie's] "... I say to you this: your simplified spelling is well enough, but like chastity — (artful pause of a moment or two, here, to let the word sink in and give the audience a chance to guess out where the resemblance lies) — it can be carried too far!"
     Mark Twain, Bernard DeVoto (ed.), Mark Twain in Eruption (1940)


... I went to Germany with an evil instinct that I could learn the German language. I know better now. I went to work at it, fought a good, honest fight with it, but the German language has been in the business longer than I have, and it came out ahead.
     Mark Twain, Hal Holbrook (ed.), Mark Twain
     Tonight! An Actor's Portrait


Along with a manuscript he was submitting to a publisher, Mark Twain attached a note:]
     "Gentlemen: .,,?!()"---*'.. Please scatter these throughout according to your taste."
     Mark Twain, Alex Ayres (ed.), The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain (1987)


I don't give a damn for a man that can spell a word only one way.
     Mark Twain, quoted in Leonard Roy Frank (ed.), Random House 
     Webster's Wit and Humor Quotationary (2000)


So the second provision of my constitutional amendment would be that since immigrants have to learn English, a second language for most of them, we would spread the fun around and have everyone learn a second language: "All native-born American citizens will be required to read, write, and speak a second language well, in addition to English." I'm not asking too much — no more than the English-as-official-language folks are asking of immigrants, and they insist they aren't asking too much, after all.
     Roger L. Welsch, "One Language Under God"
     ("Science Lite", Natural History, June 1996)


I was never allowed to read the popular American children's books of my day because, as my mother said, the children spoke bad English without the author's knowing it.
     Edith Wharton, A Backward Glance (1934)


We have really everything in common with America nowadays, except, of course, language.
     Oscar Wilde, The Canterville Ghost


"We all know the tremendous impactization technology has had on our modern society," he [Dr. King] said. "Impactization?" Chuck said . . . "I thought 'impact' was a verb." "It is," Sarah said. "And once, back in the Late Cretaceous, it was a noun."
     Connie Willis, "In the Late Cretaceous" (1991)


A metaphor is like a simile.
     Steven Wright


Ever notice how irons have a setting for "permanent" press? I don't get it.
     Steven Wright


If a word in the dictionary were misspelled, how would we know?
     Steven Wright


Is "tired old cliché" one?
     Steven Wright


"I have a question."
"What is it?"
"It's an interrogative statement designed to obtain knowledge, but that's not important right now."
     Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, & Jerry Zucker, Airplane! (movie, 1980)