Navigation Bar
MAIN Cheap Thoughts Cheap Thoughts Index Cheap Thoughts on Science Really Cheap Thoughts Index


Cheap Thoughts





Getting Along

Good and Evil

Good Old Days

Gossip and Prying

Greetings and Felicitations



Genius is the capacity for productive reaction against one's training.
     Bernard Berenson


Why does it so often take a genius to see the obvious?
     Ashleigh Brilliant


Genius is a supreme capacity for saving other people from having to take pains.
     Samuel Butler


Philosophy becomes poetry, and science imagination, in the enthusiasm of genius.
     Isaac D'Israeli, Literary Character of Men of Genius (1818)


Innovators and men of genius have almost always been regarded as fools at the beginning (and very often at the end) of their careers.
     Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky, The Idiot (1868)


"They say that genius is an infinite capacity for taking pains," he remarked with a smile. "It's a very bad definition, but it does apply to detective work."
     Sherlock Holmes in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle,
     A Study in Scarlet (1887)


Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself; but talent instantly recognizes genius, and [Inspector] MacDonald had talent enough for his profession to enable him to perceive that there was no humiliation in seeking the assistance of one who already stood alone in Europe, both in his gifts and in his experience.
     Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Valley of Fear (1915)


Genius is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration.
     Thomas Alva Edison, newspaper interview (1931)


The power of genius may lie ... in the ability of one person to accomplish what otherwise might have taken dozens.
     James Gleick, Genius: The Life and
     Science of Richard Feynman


Scientists still ask the what if questions. What if Edison had not invented the electric light — how much longer would it have taken? What if Heisenberg had not invented the S matrix? What if Fleming had not discovered penicillin? Or (the king of such questions) what if Einstein had not invented general relativity? "I always find questions like that ... odd," Feynman wrote to a correspondent who posed one. Science tends to be created as it is needed. "We are not that much smarter than each other," he said.
     James Gleick, Genius: The Life and
     Science of Richard Feynman


Genius is an infinite capacity for giving pains.
     Don Herold


Genius is an infinite capacity for taking pains.
     Jane Ellice Hopkins, Work Amongst Working Men (1870)


Genius: the ability to act wisely without precedent — the power to do the right thing for the first time. A capacity for evading hard work.
     Elbert Hubbard


One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man.
     Elbert Hubbard


Who in the same given time can produce more than others has vigour; who can produce more and better, has talents; who can produce what none else can, has genius.
     Johann Caspar Lavatar, Aphorisms on man (1788)


There is a thin line between genius and insanity. I have erased this line.
     Oscar Levant


Genius is an infinite capacity for taking life by the scruff of the neck.
     Christopher Quill


When a true genius appears in this world you may know him by the sign that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.
     Jonathan Swift, Thoughts on Various Subjects (1711)


Hunger is the handmaid of genius.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)
     "Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"


Everybody is born with genius, but most people only keep it a few minutes.
     Edgard Varèse, interview, 1985


"People think it must be fun to be a super genius, but they don't realize how hard it is to put up with all the idiots in the world."
     "Isn't your pants' zipper supposed to be in the front?"
     Calvin and Hobbes in Bill Watterson, "Calvin and Hobbes"


The public is wonderfully tolerant. It forgives everything except genius.
     Oscar Wilde, "The Critic as Artist" (1890)



Getting Along


There are more pleasant things to do than beat up people.
     Muhammad Ali


It is not necessary to understand things in order to argue about them.
     Caron de Beaumarchais


Politeness, n. The most acceptable hypocrisy.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


Accept me for what I am — completely unacceptable.
     Ashleigh Brilliant


How can you call it unreasonable when all I want is my own way?
     Ashleigh Brilliant


The time for action is past! Now is the time for senseless bickering!
     Ashleigh Brilliant


Good Manners: putting up with other people’s bad manners.
     H. Jackson Brown, Jr.


I say live and let live. Anyone who can't accept that should be executed.
     George Carlin


Years ago, my mother used to say to me, she'd say, "In this world, Elwood, you must be" - she always called me "Elwood" — "in this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant." Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. And you may quote me.
     Elwood P. Dowd (James Stewart) in Mary Chase
     and Oscar Brodney, Harvey (movie, 1950)


Never keep up with the Joneses. Drag them down to your level; it's cheaper.
     Quentin Crisp


Why doesn’t everybody just leave everybody else the hell alone?
     Jimmy Durante


Be uncomfortable; be sand, not oil, in the machinery of the world.
     Günter Eich


Life is short but there is always time enough for courtesy.
     Ralph Waldo Emerson


She need trouble him with no gift of her own. She would only point out the salvation that was latent in his own soul, and in the soul of every man. Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer. Only connect, and the beast and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to either, will die.
     E. M. Forster, Howard's End (1910)


Be civil to all; sociable to many; familiar with few.
     Benjamin Franklin


One of the best reasons for guarding ourselves against doing harm to anyone is to preserve our capacity for compassion. For we cannot pity those we have wronged.
     Eric Hoffer, The Passionate State of Mind (1954)


I may be rancid butter, but I'm on your side of the bread.
     E. K. Hornbeck in Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee 
     Inherit the Wind (play, 1955)


Nobody ever forgets where he buried the hatchet.
     Kin Hubbard


Argument cannot be answered with insult.
     Robert Ingersoll


Man is the only animal that learns by being hypocritical. He pretends to be polite and then, eventually, he becomes polite.
     Jean Kerr, Finishing Touches


Don't introduce me to him," said Lamb urgently when a friend offered to present a man whom Lamb had for a long time disliked by hearsay. "I want to go on hating him, and I can't do that to a man I know."
     Charles Lamb


The man who says he is willing to meet you halfway is usually a poor judge of distance.
     Laurence J. Peter


He who strikes the first blow admits he's lost the argument.
     Chinese Proverb


If you are patient in a moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow.
     Chinese Proverb


In reviling, it is not necessary to prepare a preliminary draft.
     Chinese Proverb


A little pot boils easily.
     Dutch Proverb


When two quarrel, both are to blame.
     Dutch Proverb


Never fall out with your bread and butter.
     English Proverb


Spread the table and contention will cease.
     English Proverb


Use soft words and hard arguments.
     English Proverb


Do not lengthen the quarrel while there is an opportunity of escaping.
     Latin Proverb


If I die, I forgive you; if I live, we'll see.
     Spanish Proverb


On both sides more respect.
     William Shakespeare, Coriolanus, Act III, Scene i, line 180


"Let me help" — a hundred years or so from now, I believe, a famous novelist will write a classic using that theme. He'll recommend these three words even over "I love you."
     James T. Kirk, "The City on the Edge of Forever"
     STAR TREK:  The Original Series


I hate nobody: I am in charity with all the world.
     Jonathan Swift, Polite Conversation (1738)


"I do not like worrying about the future. I am not altogether on anybody's side, because nobody is altogether on my side, if you understand me: nobody cares for the woods as I care for them, not even Elves nowadays."
     Treebeard in J. R. R. Tolkien, The Two Towers (1955)


"I don't know about sides. I go my own way; but your way may go along with mine for a while."
     Treebeard in J. R. R. Tolkien, The Two Towers (1955)


I haven't told you all their argument, of course; it was long and complicated, as it often is when both sides are right.
     J. R. R. Tolkien, Roverandom (1998)


Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can read.
     Mark Twain


Good breeding consists in concealing how much we think of ourselves and how little we think of the other person.
     Mark Twain, Notebook, 1898


If you wish to lower yourself in a person's favor, one good way is to tell his story over again, the way you heard it.
     Mark Twain, Notebook, 1898


     "I hear you signed up to play softball at recess."
     "Yeah, but I didn't even want to. I just did it to stop getting teased."
     "Well, sports are good for you. They teach teamwork and cooperation. You learn how to win graciously and accept defeat. It builds character."
     "Every time I've built character, I've regretted it! I don't want to learn teamwork! I don't want to learn about winning and losing! Heck, I don't even want to compete! What's wrong with just having fun by yourself, huh?!"
     "When you grow up, it's not allowed."
     "All the more reason I should do it now!"
          Calvin's Dad and Calvin in Bill Watterson, The Indispensable 
          Calvin and Hobbes
("Calvin and Hobbes," 1992)


It's hard to be religious when certain people are never incinerated by bolts of lightning.
     Calvin, after having been beaten up by Moe the bully in 
     Bill Watterson, Attack of the Deranged Mutant Killer 
     Monster Snow Goons
("Calvin and Hobbes," 1992)


CALVIN'S MOM: There would be more civility in this world if people didn't take it as an invitation to walk on you.
CALVIN: I'm only civil because I don't know any swear words.
     Bill Watterson, It's A Magical World
("Calvin and Hobbes," 1996)


It is only the intellectually lost who ever argue.
     Oscar Wilde



Good and Evil


When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.
     Edmund Burke, Thoughts on the Cause
     of the Present Discontents


An apology for the Devil: It must be remembered that we have only heard one side of the case. God has written all the books.
     Samuel Butler, Note-Books (1912)


As soon as men decide that all means are permitted to fight an evil, then their good becomes indistinguishable from the evil that they set out to destroy.
     Christopher Dawson, The Judgment of the Nations (1942)


If the devil does not exist, and man has created him, he has created him in his own image and likeness.
     Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov


Goodness without wisdom always accomplishes evil.
     Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land (1961)


There is probably as much effort involved in being exquisitely wicked as in being exquisitely good.
     Eric Hoffer, The Passionate State of Mind (1954)


When you choose the lesser of two evils, always remember that it is still an evil.
     Max Lerner, Actions and Passions (1949)


Between two evils, I always pick the one I never tried before.
     spoken by Mae West in Frank Mitchell Dazey &
     George B. Dowell, Klondike Annie (movie, 1936)


Goodness shouts. Evil whispers.
     Balinese Proverb


Avoid the evil, and it will avoid thee.
     Gaelic Proverb


One does evil enough when one does nothing good.
     German Proverb


Goodness speaks in a whisper, evil shouts.
     Tibetan Proverb


"Go to the devil."
"We have no devil, Kirk, but we understand the habits of yours."
     Kirk and Kang (a Klingon), "The Day of the Dove"
     STAR TREK:  The Original Series


... villains who twirl their mustaches are easy to spot. Those who clothe themselves in good deeds are well camouflaged.
     Jean-Luc Picard, "The Drumhead"
     STAR TREK:  The Next Generation


"You know, old man, sometimes life seems so complicated. Nothing is truly good or truly evil. Everything seems to be a shade of gray. And then you spend some time with a man like Dukat, and you realize that there is such a thing as truly evil."
     "To realize that is one thing, to do something about it is another. So what are you going to do?"
     "I'll tell you what I'm not going to do. I'm not going to let him destroy Bajor. I fear no evil. From now on, it's him or me."
     Sisko and Dax, "Waltz"
     STAR TREK:  Deep Space Nine


"Always after a defeat and a respite, the Shadow takes another shape and grows again." [said Gandalf]
     "I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.
     "So do I,' said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."
     Gandalf in J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring (1954)


"For nothing is evil in the beginning. Even Sauron was not so."
     Elrond in J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring (1954)


"Other evils there are that may come; for Sauron is himself but a servant or emissary. Yet it is not our part to muster all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule."
     Gandalf in J. R. R. Tolkien, The Return of the King (1956)


I have no special regard for Satan; but I can at least claim that I have no prejudice against him. It may even be that I lean a little his way, on account of his not having a fair show. All religions issue Bibles against him, and say the most injurious things about him, but we never hear his side. We have none but the evidence for the prosecution, and yet we have rendered the verdict. To my mind, this is irregular. It is un-English; it is un-American; it is French. ... We may not pay him reverence, for that would be indiscreet, but we can at least respect his talents. A person who has for untold centuries maintained the imposing position of spiritual head of four-fifths of the human race, and political head of the whole of it, must be granted the possession of executive abilities of the loftiest order. In his large presence the other popes and politicians shrink to midges for the microscope.
     Mark Twain, "Concerning the Jews" (1899)



Good Old Days


Nothing is more responsible for the good old days than a bad memory.
     Franklin Pierce Adams, quoted in Robert E. Drennan (ed.),
     The Algonquin Wits (1985)


In every age "the good old days" were a myth. No one ever thought they were good at the time. For every age has consisted of crises that seemed intolerable to the people who lived through them.
     Brooks Atkinson, Once Around the Sun (1951)


The people who are always hankering loudest for some golden yesteryear usually drive new cars.
     Russell Baker, Poor Russell's Almanac (1972)


The "good old times" — all times when old are good.
     George Gordon, Lord Byron


Can anybody remember when the times were not hard and money not scarce?
     Ralph Waldo Emerson, Society and Solitude (1870)
     "Works and Days"


Our ignorance of history makes us libel our own times. People have always been like this.
     Gustave Flaubert


We are under obligation to the ancients for having exhausted all the false theories that could be formed.
     Bernard Le Bovier Sieur de Fontenelle
          [I think that's probably a little optimistic.]


We tend to scoff at the beliefs of the ancients. But we can't scoff at them personally, to their faces, and this is what annoys me.
     Jack Handey


To the old, the new is usually bad news.
     Eric Hoffer, The Passionate State of Mind (1954)


Those who compare the age in which their lot has fallen with a golden age which exists only in imagination, may talk of degeneracy and decay; but no man who is correctly informed as to the past will be disposed to take a morose or desponding view of the present.
     Thomas Babington Macaulay, History of England (1849-1861)


Nostalgia is a longing for something you couldn't stand anymore.
     Fibber McGee


When you get older you have to be careful about always saying, "Things aren't as good as they used to be." But it's hard not to.
     Andy Rooney


I used to be with 'it', but then they changed what 'it' was. Now what I'm with isn't 'it' anymore and what's 'it' seems weird and scary.
     Grandpa Simpson in The Simpsons


"Will, just imagine what it was like. No engines, no computers, just the wind, the sea and the stars to guide you."
"Bad food, brutal discipline. (Pause) No women."
     Picard and Riker, aboard a holodeck 
     replica of an old wooden sailing ship, 
     STAR TREK Generations


"Chief, do you remember the time we rescued Captain Picard from the Borg?"
"How could I forget? It was touch-and-go there for a while. There were a couple of moments when I thought we were all going to wind up being 'assimilated.'"
"I never doubted the outcome. We were like warriors from the ancient sagas — there was nothing we could not do."
"Except keep the holodecks working right."
     Worf and O'Brien, "The Way of the Warrior"
     STAR TREK:  Deep Space Nine



Gossip and Prying
(Mind Your Own Business and You Won't Be Minding Mine)


I have noted that persons with bad judgment are most insistent that we do what they think best.
     Lionel Abel, Important Nonsense (1986)


It takes little talent to see what is under one's nose, a good deal of it to know in what direction to point that organ.
     W. H. Auden, The Dyer's Hand (1962)


Nose, n. The extreme outpost of the face. ... It has been observed that one's nose is never so happy as when thrust into the affairs of another, from which some physiologists have drawn the inference that the nose is devoid of the sense of smell.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


Why am I so often at the mercy of those who don't deserve to control my life?
     Ashleigh Brilliant


You will always find those who think they know what your duty is better than you know it.
     Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series (1841)


Those who have given themselves the most concern about the happiness of peoples have made their neighbors very miserable.
     Anatole France, The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard (1881)


Clean your Finger, before you point at my Spots.
     Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Quotations (1975)


A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding. When it is not he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people's business.
     Eric Hoffer, The True Believer: Thoughts on
     the Nature of Mass Movements


It seems like one of the hardest lessons to be learned in this life is where your business ends and somebody else's begins.
     Kin Hubbard


For prying into other people's affairs, none are equal to those of whom it is no concern.
     Victor Hugo, Les Misérables (1862)


You will always find a few eskimos ready to tell the Congolese how to cope with the heat.
     Stanislaw Lec, Unkempt Thoughts (1962)


Don't talk about yourself, it will be done when you leave.
     Addison Mizner


The Puritan's idea of Hell is a place where everybody has to mind his own business.
     Wendell Phillips


A man never discloses his character so clearly as when he describes another's.


Don't make use of another's mouth unless it has been leant to you.
     Belgian Proverb


Don't salt other people's food.
     Bulgarian Proverb


If you scatter thorns, don't go barefoot.
     Italian Proverb


What you don't see with your eyes, don't invent with your mouth.
     Jewish Proverb


Do not put your spoon into the pot which does not boil for you.
     Romanian Proverb


Better be ill spoken of by one before all than by all before one.
     Scottish Proverb


Whoever gossips to you will gossip about you.
     Spanish Proverb


Next to enjoying ourselves, the next greatest pleasure consists in preventing others from enjoying themselves.
     Bertrand Russell


The things most people want to know about are usually none of their business.
     George Bernard Shaw, attributed


No tendency is quite so strong in human nature as the desire to lay down rules of conduct for other people.
     William Howard Taft


It is easier to stay out than to get out.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)
     "Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"


A man who can't mind his own business so not to be trusted with the king's.


Make somebody happy. Mind your own business.


No man was ever yet canonized for minding his own business.
     Lemuel K. Washburn


My own business bores me to death; I prefer other people's.
     Oscar Wilde


There is only thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.
     Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891)


Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live. And unselfishness is letting other people's lives alone, not interfering with them. Selfishness always aims at creating around it an absolute uniformity of type. Unselfishness recognises infinite variety of type as a delightful thing, accepts it, acquiesces in it, enjoys it. It is not selfish to think for oneself. A man who does not think for himself does not think at all.
     Oscar Wilde, "The Soul of Man under Socialism" (1891)


One can survive everything nowadays, except death, and live down anything except a good reputation.
     Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance (1893)


Mind your own business, and you won't be minding mine.
     Hank Williams, "Mind Your Own Business" (song)


Gossip: when you hear something you like about someone you don’t.
     Earl Wilson



Greetings and Felicitations


That’s the trouble with “have a nice day,” it puts all the pressure on you. Now you’ve gotta go out and somehow manage to have a good time — all because of some loose-lipped cashier.
     George Carlin, "A Place For My Stuff" (HBO, 1981)


May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house!
     George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)


Suggested response to "Have a nice day": Thank you, but I have other plans.
     Paul Fussell