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Im/Patience, Hurry, and Procrastination








Im/Patience, Hurry, and Procrastination


Everything takes longer than you expect — even when you expect it to take longer than you expect.
     Ashleigh Brilliant


I can only do one thing at a time, but I can avoid doing many things simultaneously.
     Ashleigh Brilliant


Sooner or later, I'll be punctual.
     Ashleigh Brilliant


The best thing about being too late is that there's no more need to hurry.
     Ashleigh Brilliant


Keep cool: it will be all one a hundred years hence.
     Ralph Waldo Emerson, Representative Men (1850)
     "Montaigne; or, The Skeptic"


He who hesitates may know something the rest of you don't.
     Mark Evans


Make haste slowly.
     Benjamin Franklin


Never put off till tomorrow that which you can do today.
     Benjamin Franklin


Haste makes Waste.
     Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Quotations (1975)


When a man knows he is to be hanged, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.
     Samuel Johnson, Boswell's Life of Johnson (1791)


The trouble with being punctual is that nobody's there to appreciate it.
     Franklin P. Jones


So little time, so little to do.
     Oscar Levant


procrastination is the
art of keeping
up with yesterday
     Don Marquis, archy and mehitabel (1927)


I've been on a calendar, but never on time.
     Marilyn Monroe, Look (1962)


He who hurries can not walk with dignity.
     Chinese Proverb


Patience is the virtue of asses.
     French Proverb


What may be done at any time will be done at no time.
     Scottish Proverb


There is no pleasure in having nothing to do; the fun is having lots to do and not doing it.
     John W. Raper


It feels so good to give up, to surrender, to take the road most traveled. But it feels equally good to persevere, to be strong, to work things out. In a way, we're in a win-win situation in life. You know what it's like to put your taxes off to the last minute. You've got a Saturday to do your taxes, and instead of doing your taxes, you watch some crappy TV show and take a nap. Well it feels great, right? You know what feels better? Doing your taxes. Getting them behind you.
     Rick Reynolds, Only The Truth Is Funny: 
     My Family And How I Survived It


If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well
It were done quickly.
     William Shakespeare, Macbeth


He who hesitates is sometimes saved.
     James Thurber, Fables For Our Time & 
     Famous Poems Illustrated
     "The Glass in the Field"


Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.
     Mark Twain


I always wanted to be a procrastinator; I never got around to it.


I love deadlines. I especially like the whooshing sound they make as they go flying by.


In just two days, tomorrow will be yesterday.


Procrastination means never having to say you're sorry.


She's always late. Her ancestors arrived on the Juneflower.


The trouble with being punctual is that people think you have nothing more important to do.


Punctuality is the virtue of the bored.
     Evelyn Waugh


He who hesitates is a damned fool.
     Mae West


     "You're late."
     "A wizard is never late, Frodo Baggins. Nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to."
          Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) and Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen)
          Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Peter Jackson,
          The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (movie, 2001)


He was always late on principle, his principle being that punctuality is the thief of time.
     Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891)


To be premature is to be perfect.
     Oscar Wilde, "Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young" (1894)


My friend Winnie is a procrastinator. He didn't get his birthmark until he was eight years old.
     Steven Wright





There is no point in using the word 'impossible ' to describe something that has clearly happened.
     Dirk Gently in Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently's 
     Holistic Detective Agency


"Sherlock Holmes observed that once you have eliminated the impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the answer. I, however, do not like to eliminate the impossible."
     Dirk Gently in Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently's 
     Holistic Detective Agency


The great pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.
     Walter Bagehot


I have learned to use the word "impossible" with the greatest caution.
     Wernher von Braun


All things are possible until they are proved impossible — and even the impossible may only be so, as of now.
     Pearl S. Buck, A Bridge for Passing (1937)


If someone says "can't," that shows you what to do. (Advice from his father)
     John Cage


It is impossible to know accurately how you look in your sunglasses.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


Clarke's Second Law: But the only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
     Arthur C. Clarke, Profiles of the Future (1962; rev. 1973)


To the egocentric mind, nothing is impossible. ... Belief in impossibilities is the starting point for logic, deductive mathematics, and natural science. It can originate only in a mind that has freed itself from belief in its own omnipotence.
     Alan Cromer, Uncommon Sense: 
     The Heretical Nature of Science


It's kind of fun to do the impossible.
     Walt Disney


"Admirable!" he said. "A most illuminating remark. It is impossible as I state it, and therefore I must in some respect have stated it wrong."
     Sherlock Holmes in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle,
     The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1905)
     "The Adventure of the Priory School"


Nothing is so embarrassing as watching someone do something that you said couldn't be done.
     Sam Ewing, Mature Living


Aristotle wrote that it was probable the improbable would sometimes take place; or as Charlie Chan once expressed it, "Strange events permit themselves the luxury of occurring."
     Martin Gardner, Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science (1957)
     "ESP and PK"


In two words: im possible.
     Sam Goldwyn


Modern science hold the key to knowing what is possible and what isn't.
     Lawrence M. Krauss, Beyond Star Trek: Physics from 
     Alien Invasions to the End of Time


Some of the world's greatest feats were accomplished by people not smart enough to know they were impossible.
     Doug Larson


It was Ponder’s particular genius that he had found a way around this by considering the phrase, “How do you know it’s not possible until you’re tried?”  And experiments with Hex, the University’s thinking engine, had found that, indeed, many things are not impossible until they have been tried.
     Like a busy government which only passes expensive laws prohibiting some new and interesting thing when people have actually found a way of doing it, the universe relied a great deal on things not being tried at all.
     When something is tried, Ponder found, it often does turn out to be impossible very quickly, but it takes a little while for this to really be the case [In the case of cold fusion, this was longer than usual.] — in effect, for the overworked laws of causality to hurry to the scene and pretend it has been impossible all along.
     Terry Pratchett, The Last Continent (1998)


By asking for the impossible, obtain the best possible.
     Italian Proverb


The view that some things are impossible is indeed not a popular one, yet it is perhaps the most important message of the natural laws.
     Tony Rothman, Instant Physics: From 
     Aristotle to Einstein, and Beyond


"But that's not possible. Nothing can do that!"
"Mr. Scott, since we are here, your statement is not only illogical, but also unworthy of refutation."
     Scotty and Spock, "That Which Survives"
     STAR TREK:  The Original Series


This crew has been to many places in the galaxy. They've been witness to many strange events. They are trained to know that what seems to be impossible often is possible given a scientific analysis of the phenomenon.
     Spock, "Turnabout Intruder"
     STAR TREK:  The Original Series


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


"Impossible" is a word that humans use far too often.
     Seven of Nine, "Hope and Fear"
     STAR TREK:  Voyager


In order to attain the impossible one must attempt the absurd.
     Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo


Nothing is impossible for the man who doesn't have to do it himself.
     A. H. Weiler


One should always be a little improbable.
     Oscar Wilde, "Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young" (s1894)





Aborigines, n. Persons of little worth found cumbering the soil of a newly discovered country. They soon cease to cumber; they fertilize.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


U.S. Government: We have killed 200 Indians. What did it cost? $2,000,000 You could have given them a college education for that.
     Mark Twain, Notebook, 1882


He [Kamehameha] was a mere kinglet and of little or no consequence at the time of Captain Cook's arrival in 1788; but about four years afterward he conceived the idea of enlarging his sphere of influence. That is a courteous modern phrase which means robbing your neighbor — for your neighbor's benefit; and the great theater of its benevolences is Africa.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)


There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)


All the territorial possessions of all the political establishments in the earth - including America, of course — consist of pilferings from other people's wash. No tribe, howsoever insignificant, and no nation, howsoever mighty, occupies a foot of land that was not stolen. .... A crime persevered in a thousand centuries ceases to be a crime, and becomes a virtue. This is the law of custom, and custom supersedes all other forms of law.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)


I admire him [Cecil Rhodes], I frankly confess it; and when his time comes I shall buy a piece of the rope for a keepsake.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)


History is better than prophecy. In fact history is prophecy. And history says that wherever a weak and ignorant people possess a thing which a strong and enlightened people want, it must be yielded up peaceably.
     Mark Twain, More Tramps Abroad (1897) 
     [British edition of Following the Equator]
     "Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"





Indifferent, adj. Imperfectly sensible to distinctions among things.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


Indifference is a militant thing. It batters down the walls of cities and murders the women and children amid the flames and the purloining of altar vessels.
     Stephen Crane, "Death of the Child" (1899)


The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that's the essence of inhumanity.
     George Bernard Shaw, The Devil's Disciple (1901)


After the first blush of sin, comes its indifference; and from immoral it becomes, as it were, unmoral, and not quite unnecessary to that life which we have made.
     Henry David Thoreau, "Civil Disobedience" (1866)


To be indifferent — for whatever reason — is to deny not only the validity of existence, but also its beauty. Betray, and you are a man; torture your neighbor, you're still a man. Evil is human, weakness is human; indifference is not.
     Elie Wiesel, The Town Beyond the Wall (1964)


The opposite of love is not hate but indifference.
     Elie Wiesel, From the Kingdom of Memory: Reminiscences (1990)


Fear not your enemies, for they can only kill you; fear not your friends, for they can only betray you. Fear only the indifferent, who permit the killers and betrayers to walk safely on the earth.
     Edward Yashinsky





At a Players Club gathering one of the members held the floor in denunciation of a generally unpopular fellow member, ending his comments with the relatively soft statement, "He's his own worst enemy." "Not while I'm around," said F.P.A.
     Franklin Pierce Adams, quoted in Robert E. 
     Drennan (ed.), The Algonquin Wits (1985)


At a Thanatopsis poker session [Alexander] Woollcott remarked in passing, "One thing I'll say for myself, I never struck a woman but once." F.P.A. responded, "And then unfavorably, I'll be bound."
     Franklin Pierce Adams, quoted in Robert E. 
     Drennan (ed.), The Algonquin Wits (1985)


"I can remember when these were only fifteen cents. But I'm really dating myself now . . ."
"Well, it's not as if anybody else would date you."
     Dilbert and Dogbert, Scott Adams, Always Postpone 
     Meetings With Time-Wasting Morons
("Dilbert," 1992)


"Just because other people have personalities doesn't mean you should try to develop one."
"I have a personality!"
"Let's not get into that 'Is zero a number' debate again."
     Dilbert and Dogbert, Scott Adams, Don't 
     Step in the Leadership
("Dilbert," 1999)


"I'm starting to get an inferiority complex."
"If it makes you feel better, that isn't a complex. Now if you'll excuse me, I gotta take a wicked wag."
     Dilbert and Dogbert, Scott Adams, When Did 
     Ignorance Become a Point of View
("Dilbert," 2001)


I respectfully decline the invitation to join your hallucination.
     Dilbert to the Pointy-Haired Boss in Scott Adams, 
     When Did Ignorance Become a Point of View ("Dilbert," 2001)


"My company lost a frooglepoopillion dollars.  I’m embarrassed to tell people where I work."
"Never be afraid to tell the truth about yourself."
"Because honesty is the best policy?"
"Because no one pays any attention to what you say."
     Dilbert and Dogbert in Scott Adams, Don’t Stand Where the
          Comet is Assumed To Strike Oil
(“Dilbert,” 2004)


I like long walks, especially when they are taken by people who annoy me.
     Fred Allen


The town was so dull that when the tide went out it refused to come back.
     Fred Allen


What's on your mind, if you will allow the overstatement?
     Fred Allen


I'd call him a sadistic, hippophilic necrophile, but that would be beating a dead horse.
     Woody Allen


You have all the characteristics of a popular politician: a horrible voice, bad breeding, and a vulgar manner.


Why are we honoring this man? Have we run out of human beings?
     Milton Berle


A Married Woman, whose lover was about to reform by running away, procured a pistol and shot him dead. "Why did you do that, Madam?" inquired a Policeman, sauntering by. "Because," replied the Married Woman, "he was a wicked man, and had purchased a ticket to Chicago." "My sister," said an adjacent Man of God, solemnly, "you cannot stop the wicked from going to Chicago by killing them."
     Ambrose Bierce, Fantastic Fables (1898)
     "The Foolish Woman"


I feel so miserable without you, it's almost like having you here.
     Stephen Bishop


Until I met you, I thought the world had some rational basis.
     Ashleigh Brilliant


We've been through so much together and most of it was your fault.
     Ashleigh Brilliant


The cardinal is at his wit's end — it is true that he had not far to go.
     George Gordon, Lord Byron


I've just learned about his illness. Let's hope it's nothing trivial.
     Irvin S. Cobb


When you go to a mind reader, do you get half price?
     Ben Creed


I was an ugly kid. My old man took me to the zoo. They thanked him for returning me.
     Rodney Dangerfield


I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure.
     Clarence Darrow


He was distinguished for ignorance; for he had only one idea and that was wrong.
     Benjamin Disraeli


Once at a social gathering, Gladstone said to Disraeli, "I predict, sir, that you will die either by hanging or of some vile disease." Disraeli replied, "That all depends, sir, upon whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."
     Benjamin Disraeli


Sir, I do not question your honesty, I question your intelligence.
     Theodosius Gregorievich Dobzhansky, 
(11 March 1976)


He's a punishment that's waiting for a suitable crime.
     Ed Gardner


He has sat on the fence so long that the iron has entered his soul.
     David Lloyd George


Ordinarily he is insane, but he has lucid moments when he is only stupid.
     Heinrich Heine


"I never exactly heard sour milk dropping out of a balloon on the bottom of a tin pan, but I have an idea it would be music of the spears compared to this attenuated stream of asphyxiated thought that emanates out of your organs of conversation. The kind of half-masticated noises that you emit every day puts me in mind of a cow's cud, only she's lady enough to keep hers to herself, and you ain't."
     O. Henry, "The Handbook of Hymen"
     Heart of the West (1907)


Leroy is a self-made man, which shows what happens when you don't follow directions.
     Bill Hoest


He is not only dull himself, he is the cause of dullness in others.
     Samuel Johnson


That fellow seems to me to possess but one idea, and that a wrong one.
     Samuel Johnson, Boswell's Life of Johnson (1791)


"I wonder if there really is life on other planets?"
"What do you care? You don't have a life on this planet."
     Statler and Waldorf,
     Jerry Juhl, Joey Mazzarino and Ken Kaufman,
     Muppets from Space (movie, 1999)


At a dinner party he was seated next to a woman who monopolized the conversation all through the meal. By the time the coffee was served, Kaufman could no longer restrain himself. "Madam," he asked, "don't you have any unexpressed thoughts?"
     George S. Kaufman, “George S. Kaufman Anecdotes” in 
     Jon Winokur (ed.), The Portable Curmudgeon (1987, 1992)


At the age of four, his mother told him that an aunt was coming to visit and asked, "It wouldn't hurt to be nice to her, would it?" to which he replied, "That depends on your threshold of pain."
     George S. Kaufman, “George S. Kaufman Anecdotes” in 
     Jon Winokur (ed.), The Portable Curmudgeon (1987, 1992)


Kaufman was a bridge fanatic who did not suffer incompetent players gladly. When one particularly inept partner asked to be excused to go to the men's room, Kaufman replied, "Gladly — for the first time today I'll know what you have in your hand."
     George S. Kaufman, “George S. Kaufman Anecdotes” in 
     Jon Winokur (ed.), The Portable Curmudgeon (1987, 1992)


He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up.
     Paul Keating


[Elaine describing Ally McBeal] She's two-thirds of a Rice Krispie. She's snapped, and crackled, and now she's just waiting for the final pop.
     David Kelley, Ally McBeal


There's nothing wrong with you that reincarnation won't cure.
     Jack E. Leonard


How are you holding up during the lithium shortage?
     David Letterman


Every time I look at you I get a fierce desire to be lonesome.
     Oscar Levant


When you use your brain it's a violation of the child-labor law.
     Joe E. Lewis


He can compress the most words into the smallest ideas of any man I ever met.
     Abraham Lincoln


They say you shouldn't say nothin' about the dead unless it's good. He's dead. Good.
     Moms Mabley


You've got the brain of a four-year-old boy, and I bet he was glad to get rid of it.
     Groucho Marx


A drunken fan careened up to him, slapped him on the back, and said, "Why, you old son of a gun, you probably don't remember me," to which Groucho replied, "I never forget a face, but in your case I'll make an exception."
     Groucho Julius Marx, “Groucho Marx Anecdotes” in Jon 
     Winokur (ed.), The Portable Curmudgeon (1987, 1992)


     "Look, I'm going to take you down and show you our cemetery. I've got a waiting list of fifty people at that cemetery just dying to get in. But I like you —"
     "Ah — you're-a my friend."
     "I like you and I'm going to shove you in ahead of all of them. I'm going to see that you get a good steady position."
     "That's good."
     "And if I can arrange it, it will be horizontal."
          Groucho and Chico Marx, The Cocoanuts (movie, 1929)


Why you’re one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen, and that’s not saying much for you.
     Captain Jeffrey T. Spaulding (Groucho Marx),
    The Marx Brothers, Animal Crackers (movie, 1930)


Signor Ravelli’s first selection will be “Somewhere My Love Lies Sleeping” with a male chorus.
    Captain Jeffrey T. Spaulding (Groucho Marx),
    The Marx Brothers, Animal Crackers (movie, 1930)


Say, if you get near a song, play it.
    Captain Jeffrey T. Spaulding (Groucho Marx),
    The Marx Brothers, Animal Crackers (movie, 1930)


"Captain, this leaves me speechless."
"Well, see that you remain that way."
    Mrs. Rittenhouse (Margaret Dumont) and Captain Jeffrey T. Spaulding (Groucho Marx),
    The Marx Brothers, Animal Crackers (movie, 1930)


Well, all the jokes can’t be good. You’ve got to expect that once in a while. [said directly to the camera]
    Captain Jeffrey T. Spaulding (Groucho Marx),
    The Marx Brothers, Animal Crackers (movie, 1930)


You know, I’d buy you a parachute if I thought it wouldn’t open.
    Captain Jeffrey T. Spaulding (Groucho Marx) to Emanuel Ravelli (Chico Marx),
    The Marx Brothers, Animal Crackers (movie, 1930)


Why don’t you just lie down until rigor mortis sets in.
    Captain Jeffrey T. Spaulding (Groucho Marx) to Emanuel Ravelli (Chico Marx),
    The Marx Brothers, Animal Crackers (movie, 1930)


"Columbus was sailing along on his vessel —"
"On his what?"
"Not on his what, on his vessel. Don’t you know what vessel is?"
"Sure, I can vessel." [starts whistling]
"Do you suppose I could buy back my introduction to you?"
    Groucho (Groucho Marx) and Chico (Chico Marx),
    The Marx Brothers, Monkey Business (movie, 1931)


"But from the time he got the marriage license, I’ve led a dog’s life."
"Are you sure he didn’t get a dog’s license?"
    Lucille Briggs (Thelma Todd) and Groucho (Groucho Marx),
    The Marx Brothers, Monkey Business (movie, 1931)


With a little study, you’ll go a long ways, and I wish you’d start right now.
    Groucho (Groucho Marx), The Marx Brothers, Monkey Business (movie, 1931)


Is it true you’re getting a divorce as soon as your husband recovers his eyesight?
    Groucho (Groucho Marx), The Marx Brothers, Monkey Business (movie, 1931)


     "I don’t like this innuendo."
     "That’s what I always say: Love goes out the door when money comes innuendo.  Well, good-bye.  It’s nice to have seen you, but I’ve got nobody to blame but myself."
         Madame Swempski (Cecil Cunningham) and Groucho (Groucho Marx),
        The Marx Brothers, Monkey Business (movie, 1931)


Why don’t you go home to your wife?  I’ll tell you what, I’ll go home to your wife, and outside of the improvements, she’ll never know the difference.
    Professor Wagstaff (Groucho Marx),
    The Marx Brothers, Horse Feathers (movie, 1932)


     "Dad, let me congratulate you. I’m proud to be your son."
     "My boy, you took the words right out of my mouth. I’m ashamed to be your father. You’re a disgrace to our family name of Wagstaff, if such a thing is possible."
         Frank Wagstaff (Zeppo Marx) and Professor Wagstaff (Groucho Marx),
         The Marx Brothers, Horse Feathers (movie, 1932)


My boy, I think you’ve got something there, but I’ll wait outside until you clean it up.
    Professor Wagstaff (Groucho Marx), The Marx Brothers, Horse Feathers (movie, 1932)


I married your mother because I wanted children. Imagine my disappointment when you arrived.
    Professor Wagstaff (Groucho Marx), The Marx Brothers, Horse Feathers (movie, 1932)


Baravelli, you’ve got the brain of a four-year old boy, and I bet he was glad to get rid of it.
    Professor Wagstaff (Groucho Marx), The Marx Brothers, Horse Feathers (movie, 1932)


Is this stuff on the level or are you just making it up as you go along?
    Professor Wagstaff (Groucho Marx) to a lecturing anatomy professor,
        The Marx Brothers, Horse Feathers (movie, 1932)


Why don’t you bore a hole in yourself and let the sap run out?
    Professor Wagstaff (Groucho Marx), The Marx Brothers, Horse Feathers (movie, 1932)


[aside to the audience] I’ve got to stay here, but there’s no reason why you folks shouldn’t go out into the lobby till this thing blows over.
    Professor Wagstaff (Groucho Marx), The Marx Brothers, Horse Feathers (movie, 1932)


How much would you want to stand at the wrong end of a shooting gallery?
    Professor Wagstaff (Groucho Marx), The Marx Brothers, Horse Feathers (movie, 1932)


I'd buy you a parachute if I thought it wouldn't open.
     The Marx Brothers, Flywheel, Shyster, and Flywheel (radio, 1933)


You can leave in a taxi. If you can't get a taxi, you can leave in a huff. If that's too soon, you can leave in a minute and a huff.
     Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx) in The Marx
     Brothers, Duck Soup (movie, 1933)


     "Not that I care, but where is your husband?"
     "Why, he's dead."
     "I bet he's just using that as an excuse."
     "I was with him to the very end."
     "No wonder he passed away."
          Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx) and Mrs. Teasdale (Margaret Dumont)
          in The Marx Brothers, Duck Soup (movie, 1933)


     "Your excellency, haven't we seen each other somewhere before?"
     "I don't think so. I'm not sure I'm seeing you now. It must be something I ate."
          Ambassador Trentino (Louis Calhern) and Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx)
          in The Marx Brothers, Duck Soup (movie, 1933)


Don't look now, but there's one man too many in this room and I think it's you.
     Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx) in The Marx
     Brothers, Duck Soup (movie, 1933)


I could dance with you until the cows come home. On second thought, I'd rather dance with the cows until you come home.
     Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx) in The Marx
     Brothers, Duck Soup (movie, 1933)


My partner, he's got a nose just like a bloodhound . . . and the rest of his face don't look so good either.
     Chicolini (Chico Marx) in The Marx
     Brothers, Duck Soup (movie, 1933)


     "Here is the Treasury Department’s report, sir. I hope you’ll find it clear."
     "Clear? Huh. Why a four-year-old child could understand this report. Run out and find me a four-year-old child, I can’t make head or tail out of it."
         Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx), The Marx Brothers, Duck Soup (movie, 1933)


I've got a good mind to join a club and beat you over the head with it.
     Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx) in The Marx
     Brothers, Duck Soup (movie, 1933)


     "Maybe you can suggest something. As a matter of fact, you do suggest something. To me you suggest a baboon."
     "I'm sorry I said that. It isn't fair to the rest of the baboons."
          Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx) and Ambassador Trentino (Louis Calhern)
          in The Marx Brothers, Duck Soup (movie, 1933)


Well, that covers a lot of ground. Say, you cover a lot of ground yourself. You better beat it — I hear they’re going to tear you down and put up an office building where you’re standing. You can leave in a taxi.  If you can’t get a taxi, you can leave in a huff.  If that’s too soon, you can leave in a minute and a huff. You know, you haven’t stopped talking since I came here? You must have been vaccinated with a phonograph needle.
    Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx), The Marx Brothers, Duck Soup (movie, 1933)


Go, and never darken my towels again.
     Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx) in The Marx
     Brothers, Duck Soup (movie, 1933)


Gentlemen, Chicolini here may talk like an idiot and look like an idiot, but don't let that fool you: he really is an idiot.
     Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx) in The Marx
     Brothers, Duck Soup (movie, 1933)


Ladies and gentlemen — I think this takes in most of you.
    Otis B. Driftwood (Groucho Marx), The Marx Brothers, A Night at the Opera (movie, 1935)


“Do you actually give those to your patients? Isn’t it awfully large for a pill?”
“Well, it was too small for a basketball, and I didn’t know what to do with it. Say, you’re awfully large for a pill yourself.”
    Whitmore (Leonard Ceeley) and Dr. Hugo Z. Hackenbush (Groucho Marx),
    The Marx Brothers, A Day at the Races (movie, 1937)


I bet your father spent the first year of your life throwing rocks at the stork.
    J. Cheever Loophole (Groucho Marx), The Marx Brothers, At the Circus (movie, 1939)


I’d have thrashed him to within an inch of his life, but I didn’t have a tape measure.
    S. Quentin Quale (Groucho Marx), The Marx Brothers, Go West (movie, 1940)


“I’ll take your picture. Hey! Look at me and laugh.”
“I’ve been doing that for twenty years.”
    Ravelli (Chico Marx) and Wolf J. Flywheel (Groucho Marx),
    The Marx Brothers, The Big Store (movie, 1941)


“What you need is a good bodyguard.”
“What I need is a good body. The one I’ve got isn’t worth guarding.”
    Corbaccio (Chico Marx) and Ronald Kornblow (Groucho Marx),
    The Marx Brothers, A Night in Casablanca (movie, 1946)


Frank, you are ten of the most boring people I know.
     Hawkeye (Alan Alda) to Frank in "Dear Dad"
(TV series, CBS, 1972-1983)


"I'm here to relieve you."
"You do resemble an enema."
     Frank Burns (Larry Linville) and Hawkeye
          (Alan Alda), "Dear Dad"
     M*A*S*H (TV series, CBS, 1972-1983)

"Look, don't make me get unpleasant!"
"I can't improve on nature, Frank."
     Frank Burns (Larry Linville) and Hawkeye
          (Alan Alda) in "Germ Warfare"
(TV series, CBS, 1972-1983)


"I didn't come here to be liked."
"You certainly came to the right place."
     Frank Burns (Larry Linville) and Hawkeye (Alan Alda)
          in "Henry Please Come Home"
     M*A*S*H (TV series, CBS, 1972-1983)


In the great mouth of life, Henry Blake is but a temporary filling.
     Captain Futterman (a dentist) in "For Want of a Boot"
     M*A*S*H (TV series, CBS, 1972-1983)


I don't have to take this kind of abuse!"
"Oh yes you do, Frank. You invite abuse, it would be impolite not to accept it."
     Frank Burns (Larry Linville) and Hawkeye
          (Alan Alda) in "George"
 (TV series, CBS, 1972-1983)


"I won't let you down, Sir."
"There's no way that you could."
     Frank Burns (Larry Linville) and Col. Potter
          (Harry Morgan), "Some 38th Parallels"
     M*A*S*H (TV series, CBS, 1972-1983)


"What I don't understand is why do people take an instant dislike to me?"
"It saves time, Frank."
     Frank Burns (Larry Linville) and
          Trapper John (Wayne Rogers), "O.R."
     M*A*S*H (TV series, CBS, 1972-1983)


Don't be humble — you're not that great.
     Golda Meir


He was the nearest thing I'd seen to a human being without actually being one.
     Spike Milligan


Whence and what art thou, execrable shape?
     John Milton, Paradise Lost (1667)
     bk. 2, l. 681


You're so full of yourself — and it — you'd need booster rockets to have an out-of-body experience.
     Hester Mundis, 101 Ways To Avoid Reincarnation, 
     or, Getting It Right the First Time


He is one of those people who would be enormously improved by death.
     H. H. Munro


A graceful taunt is worth a thousand insults.
     Louis Nizer


A friend who had attended a party with Mrs. Parker described their hostess, a loquacious, domineering woman, as "outspoken." "Outspoken by whom?" Mrs. Parker asked.
     Dorothy Parker, quoted in Robert E. Drennan (ed.), 
     The Algonquin Wits (1985)


Dorothy Parker gave the following advice to a friend whose ailing cat had to be put away: "Try curiosity."
     Dorothy Parker, quoted in Robert E. Drennan (ed.), 
     The Algonquin Wits (1985)


Expressing her opinion of a writer whom she considered overpraised, Mrs. Parker said, "He's a writer for the ages - for the ages of four to eight."
     Dorothy Parker, quoted in Robert E. Drennan (ed.), 
     The Algonquin Wits (1985)


I don't mind your thinking slowly: I mind your publishing faster than you think.
     Wolfgang Pauli, attributed


His absence is good company.
     Scottish Proverb


He has the attention span of a lightning bolt.
     Robert Redford


They never open their mouths without subtracting from the sum of human knowledge.
     Thomas Brackett Reed


With twice as much brain, he'd still be a half-wit.
     Leo Rosten


You're a good example of why some animals eat their young.
     Jim Samuels


We're not laughing at you — we're laughing near you.
     John Keating (Robin Williams)
     Tom Schulman, Dead Poets Society (movie, 1989)


You, Charlie Brown, are a foul ball in the line drive of life!
     Lucy Van Pelt in Charles M. Schulz,
     You've Had It, Charlie Brown ("Peanuts," 1969)


I dote on his very absence.
     William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice


The trouble with her is that she lacks the power of conversation but not the power of speech.
     George Bernard Shaw


I made quite a name for myself back home. I left when I found out what it was.
     Herb Shriner


A great many people now reading and writing would be better employed keeping rabbits.
     Edith Sitwell


"Mr. Spock, you're the most cold-blooded man I've ever known."
"Why, thank you, Doctor."
     McCoy and Spock, "Court-Martial"
     STAR TREK:  The Original Series


The Horta has a very logical mind, and after close association with humans, I find that curiously refreshing.
     Spock, "The Devil in the Dark"
     STAR TREK:  The Original Series


"Really, Captain, my modesty —"
"— does not bear close examination. Mr. Spock, I suspect you're becoming more and more human all the time."
"Captain, I see no reason to stand here and be insulted."
    Spock and Kirk, "The Devil in the Dark"
     STAR TREK The Original Series


"You were actually enjoying my predicament back there. At times you seem quite human."
"Captain, I hardly believe that insults are within your prerogative as my commanding officer."
     Kirk and Spock, "The City on the Edge of Forever"
     STAR TREK The Original Series


Insults are effective only where emotion is present.
     Spock in "Who Mourns For Adonis?"
     STAR TREK The Original Series


I find your arguments strewn with gaping defects in logic.
     Spock to McCoy, "I, Mudd"
     STAR TREK The Original Series


"Besides, he has avoided two appointments that I've made for his physical exam without reason."
"That's not at all surprising, Doctor. He's probably terrified of your beads and rattles."
     McCoy and Spock, "I, Mudd"
     STAR TREK The Original Series


"Well, you must be very unhappy, Mr. Spock."
"That is a human emotion, Doctor, with which I am totally unfamiliar. How could I be unhappy?"
"Well, we found a whole world of minds that worked just like yours — logical, unemotional, completely pragmatic — and we poor, irrational humans whipped them in a fair fight. Now you'll find yourself back among us illogical humans again."
"Which I find eminently satisfactory, Doctor. For nowhere am I so desperately needed as among a shipload of irrational humans."
     McCoy and Spock, "I, Mudd"
     STAR TREK The Original Series


I have never questioned the orders or the intelligence of any representative of the Federation. Until now.
     Captain Kirk to Nilz Baris, "The Trouble With Tribbles"
     STAR TREK The Original Series


There is one Earth man who doesn't remind me of a Regulan Bloodworm. That's Kirk. A Regulan Bloodworm is soft and shapeless. But Kirk isn't soft. Kirk may be a swaggering, overbearing, tin-plated dictator with delusions of godhood — but he's not soft.
     Korax (a Klingon), attempting to goad the Enterprise crew, 
     "The Trouble With Tribbles"
     STAR TREK The Original Series


Of course, I'd say that Captain Kirk deserves his ship. We like the Enterprise. We really do. That sagging old rust bucket is designed like a garbage scow. Half the quadrant knows it — that's why they're learning to speak Klingonese!
     Korax, making a terrible mistake, 
     "The Trouble With Tribbles" 
     STAR TREK The Original Series


Laddie . . . don't you think you should rephrase that?
     Scotty, about to teach Korax some manners, 
     "The Trouble With Tribbles"
     STAR TREK The Original Series


"In my opinion you have taken this entire very important project far too lightly."
"On the contrary, sir, I . . . think of this project as very important. It is you I take lightly."
     Baris and Kirk, "The Trouble With Tribbles"
     STAR TREK The Original Series


"The most unfortunate lack in current computer programming is that there is nothing available to immediately replace the starship surgeon."
"Very funny."
     Spock and McCoy, "The Ultimate Computer"
     STAR TREK The Original Series


Don't call me "Tiny."
     Sulu, to a now-unconscious guard
     STAR TREK III The Search for Spock


"Level, please."
"Transporter Room."
"Thank you."
"Up your shaft."
     Scotty to the Excelsior's elevator in
     STAR TREK III The Search for Spock


I don't know if you've got the whole picture or not, but he's not exactly working on all thrusters.
     Dr. McCoy to Kirk, on the newly-revived Spock,
     STAR TREK IV The Voyage Home


"Spock, you want to know something? Everybody's human."
"I find that remark . . . insulting."
     Kirk and Spock, STAR TREK VI The Undiscovered Country


Growl for me — let me know you still care.
     Q to Worf, "Q Who?"
     STAR TREK:  The Next Generation


Q: I have no powers! Q, the ordinary!
PICARD: Q, the liar; Q, the misanthrope.
Q: Q, the miserable; Q, the desperate. What must I do to convince you people?
WORF: Die.
Q: Oh, very clever, Worf. Eat any good books lately?
     "Deja Q"
     STAR TREK:  The Next Generation


Sticks and stones won't break my bones, so you can imagine how I feel about names.
     The Doctor, "Basics, Part II"
     STAR TREK:  Voyager


What are you doing with that dog? I'm not talking about the puppy.
     'Miss Q' to Q and Janeway, who is holding a puppy,
     "The Q and the Grey"
     STAR TREK:  Voyager


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


Fine words! I wonder where you stole them.
     Jonathan Swift


Hey, Lou, what do you think of the human race? I'd like an outsider's opinion.
     Latka Gravas (Andy Kaufman) to Louie DePalma
     (Danny DeVito), Taxi, "Mr. Personalities"


You know how when you turn over one of those rocks and you see those slimy, crawly things underneath — the kind that make you go "Yech!"? Louie makes those things go "Yech!"
     Alex (Judd Hirsch) on Louie DePalma (Danny DeVito), Taxi
     "The Reluctant Fighter"


"I'm a self-made man." "That's admirable. Most guys would try to shift the blame a little."
     Bob Thaves, "Frank and Ernest" (comic strip)


"Young Author." — Yes, Agassiz does recommend authors to eat fish, because the phosphorus in it makes brain. So far you are correct. But I cannot help you to a decision about the amount you need to eat — at least, not with certainty. If the specimen composition you send is about your fair usual average, I should judge that perhaps a couple of whales would be all you would want for the present. Not the largest kind, but simply good, middlding-sized whales.
     Mark Twain, "Answers to Correspondents" (1865)


Strangers to me keep insisting that this map does not "explain itself." One person came to me with bloodshot eyes and a harassed look about him, and shook the map in my face and said he believed I was some new kind of idiot. I have been abused a good deal by other quick-tempered people like him, who came with similar complaints.
     Mark Twain, "Map of Paris" (1870)


Sometimes when I read one of those additional chapters constructed by John Camden Hotten [who pirated some of Twain's books and published them in England] I feel as if I wanted to take a broom-straw and go and knock that man's brains out. Not in anger, for I feel none. Oh! not in anger; but only to see, that is all. Mere idle curiosity.
     Mark Twain, "John Camden Hotten" (1872)


Once, while editor of the Union, he [Mr. F.] had disposed of a labored, incoherent two-column attack made upon him by a contemporary, with a single line, which, at first glance, seemed to contain a solemn and tremendous compliment — viz.: "The logic of our adversary resembles the peace of God," — and left it to the reader's memory and after-thought to invest the remark with another and "more different" meaning by supplying for himself and at his own leisure the rest of the Scripture — "in that it passeth understanding."
     Mark Twain, Roughing It (1872)


For years my pet aversion had been the cuckoo clock; now here I was, at last, right in the creature's home; so wherever I went, that distressing "hoo'hoo!hoo'hoo!" was always in my ears. ... I bought one, and am carrying it home to a certain person; for I have always said that if the opportunity ever happened, I would do that man an ill turn. What I meant, was, that I would break one of his legs, or something of that sort; but in Lucerne I instantly saw that I could impair his mind. That would be more lasting, and more satisfactory every way. So I bought the cuckoo clock; and if I ever get home with it, he is "my meat," as they say in the mines. I thought of another candidate — a book reviewer, whom I could name if I wanted to — but after thinking it over, I didn't buy him a clock. I couldn't injure his mind.
     Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad (1880)


I had a mighty impulse to destroy him, but it seemed to me that killing, in an ordinary way, would be too good for him.
     Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (1883)


... as for the contents of his skull, they could have changed place with the contents of a pie and nobody would have been the worse off for it but the pie.
     Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (1883)


But the Mayor said he saw nothing suspicious about me and that I seemed a harmless person and nothing the matter with me but a wandering mind; and not much of that.
     Mark Twain, "Playing Courier" (1891)


In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then he made proofreaders. [Note by Paine: Proofreaders could stir Mark Twain to very high flights of wrath. Once to his business partner, Webster (his nephew by marriage) he wrote:] Charley, your proofreader is an idiot; not only an idiot, but blind, and not only blind, but partly dead.
     Mark Twain, Notebook, 1893


... I came near bursting out and saying he had no more appreciation of wit than a jackass — in fact, I had it right on my tongue, but did not say it, knowing there was no hurry and I could say it just as well some other time over the telephone.
     Mark Twain, "Traveling with a Reformer" (1893)


He is useless on top of the ground; he ought to be under it, inspiring the cabbages.
     Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894)
     "Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar"


It is human to like to be praised; one can even notice it in the French.
     Mark Twain, "What Paul Bourget Thinks Of Us" (1895)


The man that invented the cuckoo clock is no more. It is old news, but there is nothing else the matter with it.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)
     [A crossed-out notebook entry from Mark 
     Twain's notebook, reprinted as facsimile]


... It reminds me of the man who was reproached by a friend, who said, "I think it a shame that you have not spoken to your wife for fifteen years. How do you explain it? How do you justify it?"
     That poor man said, "I didn't want to interrupt her."
     Mark Twain, Chapters from My Autobiography 
(North American Review, 1906-1907)


I've been in all the principal capitals of Christendom in my life, and have always been an object of interest to policemen. Sometimes there was suspicion in their eyes, but not always.
     Mark Twain, "Dinner to Whitelaw Reid" (speech, February 19, 1908)


I wish I could understand what in the nation that man is driving at. He has a superstition that he means something, but it misses me altogether.
     Mark Twain, Notebook, 1908


It is discouraging to try to penetrate a mind like yours. You ought to get it out and dance on it. That would take some of the rigidity out of it. And you ought to use it sometimes; that would help. If you had done this every now and then along through life it would not have petrified. [From an unmailed letter Twain wrote to someone who had "corrected" an article of his on Joan of Arc.]
     Mark Twain, Albert Bigelow Paine (ed.), 
     Mark Twain's Autobiography (1924)


I was a foundation member of the Players' Club, but ceased to be a member three years ago, through an absurdity committed by the management of that club, a management which has always been idiotic; a management which from the beginning has been selected from, not the nearest asylum in the city, but the most competent one (and some time I wish to talk about that).
     Mark Twain, Albert Bigelow Paine (ed.), 
     Mark Twain's Autobiography (1924)


Well, Bliss [one of Twain's publishers] was dead and I couldn't settle with him for his ten years of swindlings. He has been dead a quarter of a century now. My bitterness against him has faded away and disappeared. I feel only compassion for him and if I could send him a fan I would.
     Mark Twain, Bernard DeVoto (ed.), 
     Mark Twain in Eruption


I do not believe I could ever learn to like her except on a raft at sea with no other provisions in sight.
     Mark Twain, Bernard DeVoto (ed.), 
     Mark Twain in Eruption


Other letters included here remind us, in case we had forgotten, that Clemens could use humor with deadly intent and effect, that his power of invective was awesome, perhaps especially in his unmailed replies to certain correspondence, as when he wrote, "Dear Sir, What is the trouble with you? If it is your viscera, you cannot have them taken out and reorganized a moment too soon. I mean, if they are inside. But if you are composed of them, that is another matter. Is it your brain? But it could not be your brain. Possibly it is your skull: you want to look out for that. Some people, when they get an idea, it pries the structure apart. Your system of [musical] notation has got in there and couldn't find room. Without a doubt that is what the trouble is. Your skull was not made to put ideas in, it was made to throw potatoes at."
     Perhaps the epitome of this kind of writing was his priceless lulu of September 8, 1887, which reached the pitch of: "Why the pale doubt that flitteth dim and nebulous athwart the forecastle of your third sentence?"
     Mark Twain, Charles Neider (ed.), introduction to
     The Selected Letters of Mark Twain

I did not attend his funeral, but I wrote a nice letter saying I approved it. [Statement made on the death of a corrupt Tammany Hall politician]
     Mark Twain, Alex Ayres (ed.), 
     The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain (1987)


He has done a thing for me which I wouldn't even have done for myself. If he will only stay dead now I will call the account square and drop the grudge I bear him.
     Mark Twain, attributed, Alex Ayres (ed.), 
     The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain (1987)


He is dead and buried now, though; let him rest, let him rot. Let his vices be forgotten, but his virtues be remembered; it will not infringe much upon any man's time.
     Mark Twain, attributed, Alex Ayres (ed.), 
     The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain (1987)


There is a lot to say in her favor, but the other is more interesting.
     Mark Twain, attributed, Alex Ayres (ed.), 
     The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain (1987)


His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork.
     Mae West


A gentleman never insults anyone unintentionally.
     Oscar Wilde


He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends.
     Oscar Wilde


You have Van Gogh's ear for music. [Remark to Clifford Osmond.]
     Billy Wilder


Apologizing to a friend with whom he had quarreled: "I've tried by tender and conscientious nursing to keep my grudge against you alive, but I find it has died on me."
     Alexander Woollcott, quoted in Jon Winokur (ed.), 
     The Portable Curmudgeon (1987, 1992)


After one of his frequent misunderstandings with New Yorker editor Harold Ross, Aleck sent a letter, which included this message: "I think your slogan 'Liberty or Death' is splendid and whichever one you decide on will be all right with me."
     Alexander Woollcott, quoted in Robert E. 
     Drennan (ed.), The Algonquin Wits (1985)


He's a self-made man ... the living proof of the horrors of unskilled labor!
     Ed Wynn


He's a real pain in the neck; of course, some people have a lower opinion of him.
     Henny Youngman


I don't know what makes you so stupid, but it really works.
     Henny Youngman





"The insurance business is completely screwy now. You know they've reintroduced the death penalty for insurance company directors?"
"Really?" said Arthur. "No, I didn't. For what offense?"
Trillian frowned. "What do you mean, offense?"
     Douglas Adams, Mostly Harmless (1992)


Insurance: a guarantee that no matter how many necessities a person has to forgo all through life, death is something to which he can still look forward.
     Fred Allen


Insurance, n. An ingenious modern game of chance in which the player is permitted to enjoy the comfortable conviction that he is beating the man who keeps the table.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


Life Insurance, n. A form of gambling in which the bettor wins if he dies before the insurer wagers he will. This is to be contrasted with health insurance, in which the bettor never wins, full protection being extended to the bettor up to the very moment when he needs it.
     Chaz Bufe, The American Heretic's Dictionary (1992)


I should've gone into insurance. Better hours, more money, less scruples.
     Quark, "The House of Quark"
     STAR TREK:  Deep Space Nine


Gentlemen, — I am glad, indeed, to assist in welcoming the distinguished guest of this occasion [Cornelius Watford] to a city whose fame as an insurance center has extended to all lands, and given us the name of being a quadruple band of brothers working sweetly hand in hand — the Colt's arms company making the destruction of our race easy and convenient, our life-insurance citizens paying for the victims when they pass away, Mr. Batterson perpetuating their memory with his stately monuments, and our fire-insurance comrades taking care of their hereafter.
     Mark Twain, "Accident Insurance — Etc. " (speech, October 16, 1874)


Certainly there is no nobler field for human effort than the insurance line of business — especially accident insurance. Ever since I have been a director in an accident-insurance company I have felt that I am a better man. Life has seemed more precious. Accidents have assumed a kindlier aspect. Distressing special providences have lost half their horror. I look upon a cripple now with affectionate interest — as an advertisement. I do not seem to care for poetry any more. I do not care for politics — even agriculture does not excite me. But to me now there is a charm about a railway collision that is unspeakable.
     There is nothing more beneficent than accident insurance. I have seen an entire family lifted out of poverty and into affluence by the simple boon of a broken leg. I have had people come to me on crutches, with tears in their eyes, to bless this beneficent institution. In all my experience of life, I have seen nothing seraphic as the look that comes into a freshly mutilated man's face when he feels in his vest pocket with his remaining hand and finds his accident ticket all right. And I have seen nothing so sad as the look that came into another splintered customer's face when he found he couldn't collect on a wooden leg.
     Mark Twain, "Accident Insurance — Etc. " (speech, October 16, 1874)


... the fire-boys mounted to the hall and flooded it with water enough to annihilate forty times as much fire as there was there; for a village fire-company does not often get a chance to show off, and so when it does get a chance it makes the most of it. Such citizens of that village as were of a thoughtful and judicious temperament did not insure against fire; they insured against the fire-company.
     Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894)





Irreverence is the champion of liberty and its only sure defense.
     Mark Twain, Notebook, 1888


... a discriminating irreverence is the creator and protector of human liberty — even as the other thing is the creator, nurse, and steadfast protector of all forms of human slavery, bodily and mental.
     Mark Twain, The American Claimant (1892)


"What right has Goethe, what right has Arnold, what right has any dictionary, to define the word Irreverence for me? What their ideals are is nothing to me. So long as I reverence my own ideals my whole duty is done, and I commit no profanation if I laugh at theirs. I may scoff at other people's ideals as much as I want to. It is my right and my privilege. No man has any right to deny it."
     Mark Twain, The American Claimant (1892)


The ordinary reverence, the reverence defined and explained by the dictionary, costs nothing. Reverence for one's own sacred things — parents, religion, flag, laws, and respect for one's own beliefs — these are feelings which we cannot even help. They come natural to us; they are involuntary, like breathing. There is no personal merit in breathing. But the reverence which is difficult, and which has personal merit in it, is the respect which you pay, without compulsion, to the political or religious attitude of a man whose beliefs are not yours. You can't revere his gods or his politics, and no one expects you to do that, but you could respect his belief in them if you tried hard enough; and you could respect him, too, if you tried hard enough. But it is very, very difficult; it is next to impossible, and so we hardly ever try. If the man doesn't believe as we do, we say he is a crank, and that settles it. I mean it does nowadays, because we can't burn him.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)


We are always canting about people's "irreverence," always charging this offense upon somebody or other, and thereby intimating that we are better than that person and do not commit that offense ourselves. Whenever we do this we are in a lying attitude, and our speech is cant; for none of us are reverent — in a meritorious way; deep down in our hearts we are all irreverent. There is probably not a single exception to this rule in the earth. There is probably not one person whose reverence rises higher than respect for his own sacred things; and therefore, it is not a thing to boast about and be proud of, since the most degraded savage has that — and, like the best of us, has nothing higher. To speak plainly, we despise all reverences and all objects of reverence which are outside the pale of our own list of sacred things. And yet, with strange inconsistency, we are shocked when other people despise and defile the things which are holy to us.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)


True irreverence is disrespect for another man's god.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)
     "Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"

"Irreverence is another person's disrespect to your god; there isn't any word that tells what your disrespect to his god is."
     Mark Twain, "No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger" (1902-1908)


One of the most trying defects which I find in these — these — what shall I call them? for I will not apply injurious epithets to them, the way they do to us, such violations of courtesy being repugnant to my nature and my dignity. The farthest I can go in that direction is to call them by names of limited reverence — names merely descriptive, never unkind, never offensive, never tainted by harsh feeling. If they would do like this, they would feel better in their hearts. Very well, then — to proceed. One of the most trying defects which I find in these Stratfordolaters, these Shakesperiods, these thugs, these bangalores, these troglodytes, these herumfrodites, these blatherskites, these buccaneers, the bandoleers, is their spirit of irreverence. It is detectable in every utterance of theirs when they are talking about us. I am thankful that in me there is nothing of that spirit.
     Mark Twain, "Is Shakespeare Dead?" (1909)


When a thing is sacred to me it is impossible for me to be irreverent toward it. I cannot call to mind a single instance where I have ever been irreverent, except toward the things which were sacred to other people.
     Mark Twain, "Is Shakespeare Dead?" (1909)


If you go on widening and spreading and inflating the privilege, it will presently come to be conceded that each man's sacred things are the only ones, and the rest of the human race will have to be humbly reverent toward them or suffer for it. That can surely happen, and when it happens, the word Irreverence will be regarded as the most meaningless, and foolish, and self-conceited, and insolent, and impudent, and dictatorial word in the language. And people will say, "Whose business is it what gods I worship and what things hold sacred? Who has the right to dictate to my conscience, and where did he get that right?"
     Mark Twain, "Is Shakespeare Dead?" (1909)


I was never consciously and purposely irreverent in my life, yet one person or another is always charging me with a lack of reverence. Reverence for what — for whom? Who is to decide what ought to command my reverence — my neighbor or I? I think I ought to do the electing myself.
     Mark Twain, Albert Bigelow Paine,
     Mark Twain: A Biography (1912)