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Heaven, Hell, and Other (Last) Resorts

Heresy and Orthodoxy



     History Repeats Itself?

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy


The Human Condition

Humor and Satire




Old habit of mind is one of the toughest things to get away from in the world. It transmits itself like physical form and feature; and for a man, in those days, to have had an idea that his ancestors hadn't had, would have brought him under suspicion of being illegitimate.
     Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889)


Habit is habit, and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time.
     Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894)
     "Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar"


Nothing so needs reforming as other people's habits.
     Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894)
     "Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar"


I can quit any of my nineteen injurious habits at any time, and without discomfort or inconvenience.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)


A man may have no bad habits and have worse.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)
     "Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"


Make it a point to do something every day that you don't want to do. This is the golden rule for acquiring the habit of doing your duty without pain.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)
     "Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"


We have no permanent habits until we are forty. Then they begin to harden. Presently they petrify. Then business begins.
     Mark Twain, "Seventieth Birthday Dinner Speech" (speech, 1905)


We can't reach old age by another man's road. My habits protect my life but they would assassinate you.
     Mark Twain, More Maxims of Mark (Merle Johnson, ed., 1927)


It looks easy to break off a bad habit that somebody else has got.
     Lemuel K. Washburn





It is, of course, perfectly natural to assume that everyone else is having a far more exciting time than you. Human beings for instance have a phrase which describes this phenomenon — 'The other man's grass is always greener.' The Shaltanac race of Broop Kidron Thirteen had a similar phrase, but since their planet is somewhat eccentric botanically speaking, the best they could manage was 'The other Shaltancs joopleberry shrub is always a more mauvy shade of pinky russet', and so the expression soon fell into disuse and the Shaltanacs had little option but to become terribly happy and contented with their lot, much to the surprise of everyone else in the Galaxy who had not realized that the best way not to be unhappy is not to have a word for it.
     Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy 
(radio program, 1977-1980)


People seem to enjoy things more when they know a lot of other people have been left out of the pleasure.
     Russell Baker


Happiness is good health and a bad memory.
     Ingrid Bergman


Happiness, n. An agreeable sensation arising from contemplating the misery of another.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


I've found the secret of happiness — total disregard of everybody.
     Ashleigh Brilliant


One of the keys to happiness is a bad memory.
     Rita Mae Brown


In every life, no matter how full or empty ones purse, there is tragedy. It is the one promise life always fulfills. Thus, happiness is a gift, and the trick is not to expect it, but to delight in it when it comes, and to add to other peoples store of it.
     Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby (1839)


The search for happiness is one of the chief sources of unhappiness.
     Eric Hoffer


No ending is so final as a happy ending.
     Eric Hoffer, The Passionate State of Mind (1954)


Happiness isn't something you experience. It's something you remember.
     Oscar Levant


Happiness is the interval between periods of unhappiness.
     Don Marquis


Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so.
     John Stuart Mill, Autobiography (1873)


If one only wished to be happy, this could be easily accomplished; but we wish to be happier than other people, and this is always difficult, for we believe others to be happier than they are.
     Baron de la Brède et de Montesquieu 
     (Charles-Louis de Secondat)


To fall in love with yourself is the first secret of happiness. I did so at the age of four-and-a-half. Then if you're not a good mixer you can always fall back on your own company.
     Robert Morley


Make happy those who are near, and those who are far will come.
     Chinese Proverb


Pity those who laugh too much, for they are always unhappy.
     Chinese Proverb


We are never so happy or so unhappy as we imagine we are.
     François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, 
     The Maxims (translated by Louis Kronenberger, 1936)


Men who are unhappy, like men who sleep badly, are always proud of the fact.
     Bertrand Russell, The Conquest of Happiness (1930)


A lifetime of happiness: no man alive could bear it; it would be hell on earth.
     George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman (1903)


The secret of being miserable is to have the leisure to bother about whether you are happy or not. The cure for it is occupation.
     George Bernard Shaw, Parents and Children (1914)


Happiness is an imaginary condition, formerly often attributed by the living to the dead, now usually attributed by adults to children, and by children to adults.
     Thomas Szasz, The Second Sin (1973)


The only people I know who are happy are people I don't know well.
     Helen Telushkin


The world is so full of a number of things, I am sure we should all be as happy as kings, and you know how happy kings are.
     James Thurber, Fables For Our Time & 
     Famous Poems Illustrated
     "The Green Isle in the Sea"


Don't try to be happy, it will only make you miserable.


Felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas. Happy is he who gets to know the reasons for things.
     Virgil, Georgics II, 490


Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.
     Oscar Wilde


Simple pleasures are the last refuge of the complex.
     Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance (1893)


Pleasure is the only thing one should live for. Nothing ages like happiness.
     Oscar Wilde, "Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young" (1894)



Health, and Other Afflictions


The best cure for hypochondria is to forget about your body and get interested in someone else's.
     Goodman Ace


The most beautiful words in the English language are not "I love you" but "It's benign."
     Woody Allen, Deconstructing Harry (movie, 1997)


To many of us, the first law of dietetics seems to be: if it tastes good, it's bad for you.
     Isaac Asimov


It is a good idea to "shop around" before you settle on a doctor. Ask about the condition of his Mercedes. Ask about the competence of his mechanic. Don't be shy! After all you're paying for it.
     Dave Barry


We Americans live in a nation where the medical-care system is second to none in the world, unless you count maybe 25 or 30 little scuzzball countries like Scotland that we could vaporize in seconds if we felt like it.
     Dave Barry


Before undergoing a surgical operation, arrange your temporal affairs. You may live.
     Ambrose Bierce


Dentist, n. A prestidigitator who, putting metal into your mouth, pulls coins out of your pocket.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


Homeopathist, n. The humorist of the medical profession.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died.
     Erma Bombeck


I got the bill for my surgery. Now I know what those doctors were wearing masks for.
     James H. Boren


The cardiologist's diet: If it tastes good, spit it out.
     Paulina Borsook


My struggle to remain healthy is gradually killing me.
     Ashleigh Brilliant


One thing about pain: It proves you're alive.
     Ashleigh Brilliant


Tobacco, n. A toxic, addictive substance, the chief drawback of which is that it doesn't kill its users more quickly.
     Chaz Bufe, The American Heretic's Dictionary (1992)


Sometimes on television they tell you a product is "good for headaches." I don’t want something that’s good for headaches. I want something that’s bad for headaches. And good for me.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


I’m in favor of personal growth as long as it doesn’t include malignant tumors.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


I was taken to the hospital for observation. I stayed several days, didn’t observe anything, and left.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


You show me something that doesn’t cause cancer, and I’ll show you something that isn’t on the market yet.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


Most of the time people feel okay. Probably it's because at that moment they're not actually dying.
     George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)


Do you realize that somewhere in the world there exists a person who qualifies as the worst doctor? If you took the time, by process of elimination you could actually determine the worst doctor in the world. And the funny part is knowing that someone has an appointment to see him tomorrow.
     George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)


Can placebos cause side effects? If so, are the side effects real?
     George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)


Medical researchers have discovered a new disease that has no symptoms. It is impossible to detect, and there is no known cure. Fortunately, no cases have been reported thus far.
     George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)


The surgeon general warned today that saliva causes stomach cancer. But apparently only when swallowed in small amounts over a long period of time.
     George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)


Happiness: your dentist telling you it won’t hurt and then catching his hand in the drill.
     Johnny Carson


Doctors are the same as lawyers; the only difference is that lawyers merely rob you, whereas doctors rob you and kill you, too.
     Anton Chekov


The trouble with always trying to preserve the health of the body is that it is so difficult to do without destroying the health of the mind.
     G. K. Chesterton, What's Wrong with the World? (1910)


You have to stay in shape. My grandmother, she started walking five miles a day when she was 60. She's 97 today and we don't know where the hell she is.
     Ellen DeGeneris


Don't worry about your heart. It will last you as long as you live.
     W. C. Fields


Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in hospitals dying of nothing.
     Redd Foxx


Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.
     Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanac


Dad always thought laughter was the best medicine, which I guess is why several of us died of tuberculosis.
     Jack Handey


Doctors think a lot of patients are cured who have simply quit in disgust.
     Don Herold


To do nothing is sometimes a good remedy.


If I had my way I'd make health catching instead of disease.
     Robert Ingersoll


Statistics show that of those who contract the habit of eating, very few survive.
     Wallace Irwin


If you have formed the habit of checking on every new diet that comes along, you will find that, mercifully, they all blur together, leaving you with only one definite piece of information: french-fried potatoes are out.
     Jean Kerr


Telling someone he looks healthy isn't a compliment — it's a second opinion.
     Fran Lebowitz, Social Studies (1981)


"Any medicine, indeed any medical intervention makes the unfit fit: would you object to all medication and all doctors? The human species has chosen this path for centuries, the path of artificial survival, and it does not seem to me that it's been weakened by it. Humanity has turned its back on nature for quite some time; it is made up of individuals and stakes everything on individual survival, on the prolongation of life and on the victory over death and pain."
     Primo Levi, The Sixth Day and Other Tales (1977)


I went on a diet, swore off drinking and heavy eating, and in fourteen days I lost two weeks.
     Joe E. Lewis


live so that you
can stick out your tongue
at the insurance
     Don Marquis, archy and mehitabel (1927)


Either this man is dead or my watch has stopped.
     Dr. Hugo Z. Hackenbush (Groucho Marx),
     The Marx Brothers, A Day at the Races (movie, 1937)


I wouldn't mind being a doctor if I didn't have to be around sick people.
     Frank Burns (Larry Linville), "Soldier of the Month"
     M*A*S*H (TV series, CBS, 1972-1983)


It's no longer a question of staying healthy. It's a question of finding a sickness you like.
     Jackie Mason


If a person a) is poorly, b) receives treatment intended to make him better, and c) gets better, then no power of reasoning known to medical science can convince him that it may not have been the treatment that restored his health.
     Peter Medawar, The Art of the Soluble (1967)


Books, if you are well enough to read them, are crucially important for entertainment and keeping the mind in working order [when you are in the hospital]. Some serious works should therefore be among them. Remember, however, that if you didn’t understand Chomsky when you were well, there is nothing about illness that can give you an insight into the working of his mind. Do not read a genuinely funny book within a week of having had an abdominal operation. So far from giving you stitches, it will probably deprive you of them. Books should never be so heavy as to impede the ebb and flow of the blood.
     Peter Medawar, “Son of Stroke” (World Medicine, 18 October 1972)


... there is no more deep-seated biological instinct than that which expresses itself as a firm grasp upon life, there is more dignity, as there is more humanity, in fighting for life than in a passive abdication from our most hardly won and most deeply prized possession.
     Peter Medawar, “Biology and Man’s Estimation 
     of Himself” (lecture, Freiburg, May 1983)


No thought of dignity entered my head — it is a state of mind not easily compatible with the hospital microcosm of bedpans and catheters. I needed all the help I could get to promote my ambition to remain alive. It was as allies, then, that I regarded by physicians and the apparatus of intensive care and not as so many plots to deprive me of my dignity.
     Peter Medawar, “The Life Instinct and Dignity in Dying” (1983)


Is the attempt to prolong human life a premeditated insult to nature — an attempt to substitute the inmates of a geriatric ward with the bounding, exuberant, yea-saying folk we were when the world was young? People weren’t, of course. Much nearer the truth was Thomas Hobbes’s belief that before the coming of Leviathan, that great organism of State, the life of man was solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short — and as a rule, ailing too. The ‘good old days’ argument cuts no ice in medical circles.
     “On Living a Bit Longer” (from Memoir of a Thinking Radish)


How many people think bottled water is a farce? You think it's weird that "Evian" is "naive" spelled backwards?
     Dennis Miller


I think the easiest job in the world has to be coroner. Surgery on dead people. What's the worst thing that could happen? If everything went wrong, maybe you'd get a pulse.
     Dennis Miller


I refuse to spend my life worrying about what I eat. There is no pleasure worth forgoing just for an extra three years in the geriatric ward.
     John Mortimer


Quit worrying about your health. It'll go away.
     Robert Orben


The desire to take medicine is one feature which distinguishes man, the animal, from his fellow creatures.
     William Osler


Attention to health is life greatest hindrance.


For years I have let dentists ride roughshod over my teeth; I have been sawed, hacked, chopped, whittled, bewitched, bewildered, tattooed, and signed on again; but this is cuspid's last stand.
     S. J. Perelman


When a patient is at death's door, it is the duty of the doctor to pull him through.
     Laurence Johnston Peter


The wizards from Unseen University had been jolly interested in the problem, like doctors being really fascinated by some new, virulent disease; the patient appreciates all the interest but would very much prefer it if they either came up with a cure or stopped prodding.
     Terry Pratchett, Going Postal (2004)


Diet: a plan, generally hopeless, for reducing your weight, which tests your will power but does little for your waistline.
     Herbert B. Prochnow


To believe in medicine would be the height of folly, if not to believe in it were not a greater folly still.
     Marcel Proust


Be true to your teeth or your teeth will be false to you.
     Dental Proverb


Never take the antidote before the poison.
     Latin Proverb


If you would live healthy, be old early.
     Spanish Proverb


There's nothing wrong with you that an expensive operation can't prolong.
     Monty Python’s Flying Circus (1969-1974)


I got kicked out of ballet class because I pulled a groin muscle. It wasn't mine.
     Rita Rudner


My husband thinks that health food is anything he eats before the expiration date.
     Rita Rudner


Health basically gives you the freedom to agonize about things that have absolutely no importance.
     Rita Rudner, Naked Beneath My Clothes: 
     Tales of a Revealing Nature


To a person with a toothache, even if the world is tottering, there is nothing more important than a visit to the dentist.
     George Bernard Shaw


Optimistic lies have such immense therapeutic value that a doctor who cannot tell them convincingly has mistaken his profession
     George Bernard Shaw, Misalliance


If penicillin is such a wonder drug, how come it can't cure bread mold?
     Ron Smith


Dr. McCoy's potion is acting like all his potions — turning my stomach. Other than that, I am quite well.
     Spock, "The Apple"
     STAR TREK:  The Original Series


The first tenet of good medicine is never make the patient any worse.
     Dr. Crusher, "Ethics"
     STAR TREK:  The Next Generation


Reports of my death have been exaggerated — but not by much.
     Kasidy, after a bout of morning sickness, "What You Leave Behind"
     STAR TREK:  Deep Space Nine


Early to rise and early to bed makes a male healthy and wealthy and dead.
     James Thurber, Fables For Our Time & 
     Famous Poems Illustrated


Health food makes me sick.
     Calvin Trillin


... another friend assured me that it was policy to “feed a cold and starve a fever.” I had both. I thought it best to fill myself up for the cold, and then keep dark and let the fever starve a while. ... I started down toward the office, and on the way encountered another bosom friend, who told me that a quart of salt water, taken warm, would come as near curing a cold as anything in the world. I hardly thought I had room for it, but I tried it anyhow. The result was surprising; I must have vomited three-quarters of an hour; I believe I threw up my immortal soul.
     Mark Twain, "How To Cure A Cold" (1863)


I finally concluded to visit San Francisco, and the first day I got here a lady at the Lick House told me to drink a quart of whisky every twenty-four hours, and a friend at the Occidental recommended precisely the same course.  Each advised me to take a quart — that makes half a gallon.  I calculate to do it or perish in the attempt.
     Mark Twain, "How To Cure A Cold" (1863)


I am now lying in a very critical condition. At least I am lying, anyway — critical or not critical.
     Mark Twain, "A Day at Niagara" (1869)


We all like to see people sea-sick when we are not, ourselves.
     Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad (1869)


That doctor had half an idea that there is something the matter with my brain. . . . Doctors do know so little and they do charge so much for it.
     Mark Twain, Mark Twain’s Letters, vol. 6 (1907-1910)


"He is prosperous, too, I hear; has been a doctor a year now, and has had two patients — no, three, I think; yes it was three. I attended their funerals."
     Mark Twain, The Gilded Age (with Charles Dudley Warner, 1873)


Poor Huck was too distressed to smile, but the old man laughed loud and joyously, shook up the details of his anatomy from head to foot, and ended by saying that such a laugh was money in a man's pocket, because it cut down on the doctor's bills like everything.
     Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer (1876)


A half-educated physician is not valuable. He thinks he can cure everything.
     Mark Twain, Notebook, 1891


He had had much experience of physicians, and said, "the only way to keep your health is to eat what you don't want, drink what you don't like, and do what you'd druther not."
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)
     "Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"


Do not undervalue the headache. While it is its sharpest it seems a bad investment; but when relief begins, the unexpired remainder is worth four dollars a minute.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)
     "Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"


The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.
     Mark Twain, cablegram, 1897, quoted in Alex Ayres (ed.), 
     The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain (1987)


It seems a pity that the world should throw away so many good things merely because they are unwholesome. I doubt if God has given us any refreshment which, taken in moderation, is unwholesome, except microbes. Yet there are people who strictly deprive themselves of each and every eatable, drinkable and smokable which has in any way acquired a shady reputation. They pay this price for health. And health is all they get for it. How strange it is! It is like paying out your whole fortune for a cow that has gone dry.
     Mark Twain, Chapters from My Autobiography (1906-1907)


I have been practising [medicine] now for seven months. When I settled on my farm in Connecticut in June I found the community very thinly settled. And since I have been engaged in practice it has become more thinly settled still. This gratifies me, as indicating that I am making an impression on my community.
     Mark Twain, "Dr. Clemens, Farmeopath" (speech, 1909)


After forty years of public effort I have become just a target for medicines.
     Mark Twain, in Albert Bigelow Paine, 
     Mark Twain: A Biography


Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.
     Mark Twain, attributed; in Alex Ayres (ed.), 
     The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain (1987)


Hypochondria is the only disease I haven't got.


The art of medicine consists of amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.


The American Heart Association doesn't recommend antioxidants. The American Cancer Society doesn't recommend antioxidants. The National Institutes of Health don't recommend antioxidants. To quote Richard Veech, Chief of the Laboratory of Membrane Biochemistry at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, who has reported on the interplay of free radicals and antioxidants for over thirty years: "People don't want to exercise. They don't want to eat healthy food. They don't want to stop drinking; they don't want to stop smoking; they don't want to stop having dangerous sex. They want to take a pill. Well, good luck."
     Christopher Wanjek, Bad Medicine: Misconceptions and Misuses 
     Revealed, from Distance Healing to Vitamin O (2003)


Much of the time, complementary and alternative medicine isn't complementary, alternative, or medicine. Other than that, the name's right on the money.
     Christopher Wanjek, Bad Medicine: Misconceptions and Misuses 
     Revealed, from Distance Healing to Vitamin O (2003)


The bottom line is that herbs, like everything else, are made of chemicals. Some chemicals are very safe for humans; some chemicals are very dangerous. It doesn't matter whether man or nature synthesizes the chemical. It's still a chemical. There is no logic in the idea that nature's chemicals are safer than a pharmaceutical company's chemicals. Thus, ingesting an untested herb is no different from ingesting an untested pharmaceutical. Furthermore, no medicine is inert. Medicine is effective only when it changes something in your body. Medicine that works is, be definition, a chemical that is potentially harmful to your body over time.
     Christopher Wanjek, Bad Medicine: Misconceptions and Misuses 
     Revealed, from Distance Healing to Vitamin O (2003)


The waist is a terrible thing to mind.
     Tom Wilson


The doctor can bury his mistakes but an architect can only advise his client to plant vines.
     Frank Lloyd Wright


A friend of mine is into Voodoo Acupuncture. You don't have to go.
     Steven Wright


I filled out an application that said, "In Case Of Emergency Notify". I wrote "Doctor" What's my mother going to do?
     Steven Wright

I had some eyeglasses. I was walking down the street when suddenly the prescription ran out.
     Steven Wright


I'm addicted to placebos. I'd give them up, but it wouldn't make any difference.
     Steven Wright


I told my doctor I broke my leg in two place. He told me to quit going to those places.
     Henny Youngman



Heaven, Hell, and Other (Last) Resorts


Lasciate ogni speranza voi ch'entrate! [Abandon all hope, you who enter!]
     Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy (1310-1321), "Inferno"


What was God doing before He made Heaven and Earth? He was creating Hell for people who ask questions like that.
     St. Augustine


Hell must be isothermal, for otherwise the resident engineers and physical chemists (of which there must be some), could set up a heat engine to run a refrigerator to cool off a portion of their surroundings to any desired temperature.
     Henry Albert Bent, The Second Law (1965)


Hell is a half-filled auditorium.
     Robert Frost


if you get gloomy just
take an hour off and sit
and think how
much better this world
is than hell
of course it won t cheer
you up much if
you expect to go there
     Don Marquis, archy and mehitabel (1927)


To every man is given the key to the gates of heaven; the same key opens the gates of hell.
     Buddhist Proverb


When I think of the number of disagreeable people that I know who have gone to a better world, I am sure hell won't be so bad at all.
     Mark Twain


The minister gave out his text and droned along monotonously through an argument that was so prosy that many a head by and by began to nod — and yet it was an argument that dealt in limitless fire and brimstone and thinned the predestined elect down to a company so small as to be hardly worth the saving.
     Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer (1876)


We went ashore and found a novelty of a pleasant nature: there were no hackmen, hacks, or omnibuses on the pier or about it anywhere, and nobody offered his services to us, or molested us in any way. I said it was like being in heaven. The Reverend rebukingly and rather pointedly advised me to make the most of it, then.
     Mark Twain, "Some Rambling Notes of an Idle Excursion" (1877)


Travel has no longer any charm for me. I have seen all the foreign countries I want to see except heaven and hell, and I have only a vague curiosity as concerns one of those.
     Mark Twain, Albert Bigelow Paine (ed.), 
     Mark Twain's Letters (1917)


It should make a dog shudder. (I take back the slur on the dog — the dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven, not man's.)
     Mark Twain, letter to William Dean Howells (April 2-13, 1899)


This nation is like all the others that have been spewed upon the earth — ready to shout for any cause that will tickle its vanity or fill its pocket. What a hell of a heaven it will be when they get all these hypocrites assembled there!
     Mark Twain, letter to Joseph Twichell (January 29, 1901)


Heaven for climate, hell for society.
     Mark Twain, "Tammany and Croker" (speech, 1901)


"Oh, there spoke the human! He is always pretending that the eternal bliss of heaven is such a priceless boon! Yes, and always keeping out of heaven just as long as he can! At bottom, you see, he is far from being certain about heaven."
     Mark Twain, "No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger" (1902-1908)


We may not doubt that society in heaven consists mainly of undesirable persons.
     Mark Twain, Notebook, 1903


It took several thousand years to convince our fine race — including every splendid intellect in it — that there is no such thing as a witch; it has taken several thousand years to convince that same fine race — including every splendid intellect in it — that there is no such person as Satan; it has taken several centuries to remove perdition from the Protestant Church's program of post-mortem entertainments; it has taken a weary long time to persuade American Presbyterians to give up infant damnation and try to bear it the best they can; and it looks as if their Scotch brethren will still be burning babies in the everlasting fires when Shakespeare comes down from his perch.
     Mark Twain, "Is Shakespeare Dead?" (1909)


I always remember the poor fellow who tried diligently all his life to acquire heaven and when he finally got there the first person he met was a fellow he had been hoping all that time was in hell. He was so disappointed and outraged he inquired the way to hell and picked up his satchel and left. So there you have it; Heaven for climate, and Hell for society.
     Mark Twain, Hal Holbrook (ed.), 
     Mark Twain Tonight! An Actor's Portrait (1959)


Either heaven or hell will have continuous background music. Which one you think it will be tells a lot about you.
     Bill Vaughan



Heresy and Orthodoxy


A heretic, my dear sir, is a fellow who disagrees with you regarding something neither of you knows anything about.
     W. C. Brann


It is in the uncompromisingness with which dogma is held and not in the dogma, or want of dogma, that the danger lies.
     Samuel Butler, The Way of All Flesh (1903)


The modern world is filled with men who hold dogmas so strongly that they do not even know they are dogmas.
     G. K. Chesterton, Heretics (1905)


There are two kinds of people in the world: the conscious and the unconscious dogmatists. I have always found myself that the unconscious dogmatists were by far the most dogmatic.
     G. K. Chesterton, Generally Speaking (1928)


Dogma, certainty without evidence, is the great menace, the great nemesis, of science, of art, of religion, of politics, of economics, of philosophy, of how to write articles for magazines, of just about everything that we do and think. Dogma is a great ossifier of mind and of imagination, of all creativity. It is an integral part of human nature, being our laziness's answer to the strain that goes with thinking. The only qualification in science's favor — not that it doesn't have dogmas, because it certainly does, loads of them — is that its dogmas tend to collapse in a heap a bit more readily than those you find in art, religion, politics, and the rest. If you have a scientific dogma and it's discovered that according to it 1 + 1 ¹ 2, this often means you're in trouble. (Not always, as quantum theory shows us.) Whereas in politics you can hold on to your dogma on that basis for decades, in religion for centuries. In psychoanalysis, 1 + 1 ¹ 2 is a genuine advantage.
     Ralph Estling, "The Scalp-Tinglin', Mind-Blowin', Eye-Poppin', 
     Heart-Wrenchin', Stomach-Churnin', Foot-Stumpin', Great Big 
     Doodley Science Show!!!" (Skeptical Inquirer, Summer 1994)


Heresy is the side that loses.
     J. V. Fleming


Orthodoxy: That peculiar condition where the patient can neither eliminate an old idea nor absorb a new one.
     Elbert Hubbard, The Note Book (1927)


The heresy of one age becomes the orthodoxy of the next.
     Helen Keller, Optimism (1903)


You can't teach an old dogma new tricks.
     Dorothy Parker, quoted in Robert E. Drennan (ed.), 
     The Algonquin Wits (1985)


Trade brings men into contact with tribal customs different from their own, and in so doing destroys the dogmatism of the untraveled.
     Bertrand Russell, Unpopular Essays (1950)
     "Philosophy and Politics"


Where the true believer speaks metaphorically but claims that he asserts literal truths. Heresy may consist of no more than insisting that a metaphorical truth may be a literal falsehood.
     Thomas Szasz, Heresies (1976)


Heresies are experiments in man's unsatisfied search for truth.
     Herbert George [H. G.] Wells, Crux Ansata





The real hero is always a hero by mistake; he dreams of being an honest coward like everybody else.
     Umberto Eco, Travels in Hyper Reality (1986)


Every hero becomes a bore at last.
     Ralph Waldo Emerson, Representative Men (1850)
     "The Uses of Great Men"


No, I distrust Great Men. They produce a desert of uniformity around them and often a pool of blood too, and I always feel a little man's pleasure when they come a cropper.
     E. M. Forster, Two Cheers for Democracy (1951)
     "What I Believe" (1939)


We can't all be heroes because somebody has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by.
     Will Rogers


This thing of being a hero, about the main thing to do is to know when to die. Prolonged life has ruined more men than it ever made.
     Will Rogers, Autobiography (1949)


Heroine: Girl who is perfectly charming to live with, in a book.
     Mark Twain, More Maxims of Mark (Merle Johnson, ed., 1927)


Heroine: Girl in a book who is saved from drowning by a hero and marries him next week, but if it was to be over again ten years later it is likely she would rather have a life-belt and he would rather have her have it. Hero: Person in a book who does things which he can't and girl marries him for it.
     Mark Twain, More Maxims of Mark (Merle Johnson, ed., 1927)


Unconsciously we all have a standard by which we measure other men, and if we examine closely we find that this standard is a very simple one and is this: we admire them, we envy them, for great qualities which we ourselves lack. hero worship consists in just that. Our heroes are the men who do things which we recognize with regret and sometimes with a secret shame that we cannot do. We find not much in ourselves to admire, we are always privately wanting to be like somebody else. If everybody was satisfied with himself there would be no heroes.
     Mark Twain, Charles Neider (ed.), 
     The Autobiography of Mark Twain (1959)


The greatest type of heroism an individual, or a people, can attain is being able to face ridicule.
     Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo, The Tragic Sense of Life (1913)


Formerly we used to canonize our heroes. The modern method is to vulgarize them. Cheap editions of great books may be delightful, but cheap editions of great men are absolutely detestable.
     Oscar Wilde, "The True Function and Value of Criticism" (1890)





I often think it odd that [history] should be so dull, for a great deal of it must be invention.
     Catherine Morland in Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (1818)


American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it.
     James Baldwin, "A Talk To Teachers" 
     (Saturday Review, Dec. 21, 1963)


The difficult thing about studying history is that ... everybody who knows anything about it firsthand is dead. This means that our only source of historical information is historians, who are useless because they keep changing everything around.
     Dave Barry, Dave Barry’s Greatest Hits (1988)
     “The Lesson of History”


History, n. An account mostly false, of events unimportant, which are brought about by rulers mostly knaves, and soldiers mostly fools.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


History may never have all the facts, but history always has the last word.
     Ashleigh Brilliant


The future seems to be in good hands — it's the past I'm worried about.
     Ashleigh Brilliant


All true histories contain instruction; though, in some, the treasure may be hard to find, and when found, so trivial in quantity that the dry, shrivelled kernel scarcely compensates for the trouble of cracking the nut.
     Ann Brontë, Agnes Grey (1847)


Though God cannot alter the past, historians can.
     Samuel Butler


If we human beings want to feel humility, there is no need to look at the starred infinity above. It suffices to turn your gaze upon the world cultures that existed thousands of years before us.
     C. W. Ceram


History will bear me out, particularly as I shall write that history myself.
     Sir Winston Churchill


One of the lessons of history is that nothing is often a good thing to do and always a clever thing to say.
     Will Durant


The worst folly is to believe, as Karl Marx believed, that history marches to a predictable tune.
     Freeman Dyson, From Eros to Gaia (1992)
     "The Importance of Being Unpredictable" (1990)


History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives.
     Abba Eban


If you believe the past can't be changed, you haven't read a celebrity's autobiography.
     Sam Ewing


What do we care what they did 500 or 1,000 years ago? ... History is more or less bunk. It's tradition. We don't want tradition. We want to live in the present and the only history that is worth a tinker's dam is the history we make today.
     Henry Ford, cf. Ralph Keyes, "Nice Guys Finish Last Seventh" (1992)


Order, I suggest, is something evolved from within, not something imposed from without; it is an internal stability, a vital harmony, and in the social and political category it has never existed except for the convenience of historians. Viewed realistically, the past is really a series of disorders, succeeding one another by discoverable laws, no doubt, and certainly marked by an increasing growth of human interference, but disorders all the same.
     E. M. Forster, Two Cheers for Democracy (1951)
     "Art for Art's Sake" (1949)


Understanding the past requires pretending that you don't know the present. It requires feeling its own pressure on your pulses without any ex post facto illumination.
     Paul Fussell, Thank God for the Atom Bomb and Other Essays (1988)
     "Thank God for the Atom Bomb" (1981)


History never looks like history when you are living through it. It always looks confusing and messy, and it always feels uncomfortable.
     John W. Gardner, No Easy Victories (1968)


History ... is indeed little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind.
     Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and 
     Fall of the Roman Empire


We are part of history ourselves, and we cannot avoid the consequences of being unable to think impartially.
     J. B. S. [John Burdon Sanderson] Haldane, Heredity and Politics (1938)


Very few things happen at the right time and the rest do not happen at all. The conscientious historian will correct these defects.


The game of history is usually played by the best and the worst over the heads of the majority in the middle.
     Eric Hoffer, The True Believer: Thoughts on 
     the Nature of Mass Movements


Events in the past may be roughly divided into those which probably never happened and those which do not matter.
     W. R. Inge


"History," wrote Dr. Larch, "is composed of the smallest, often undetected mistakes."
     John Irving, The Cider House Rules (1985)


Nothing changes more consistently than the past; ... the past that influences our lives [is] not what actually happened but what [we] believe happened.
     Gerald W. Johnson, Heroes and Hero-Worship (1943)


History, Stephen said, is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.
     James Joyce


Based on what you know about him in history books, what do you think Abraham Lincoln would be doing if he were alive today? 1. Writing his memoirs of the Civil War. 2. Advising the president. 3. Desperately clawing at the inside of his coffin.
     David Letterman


History teaches us the mistakes we are going to make.
     Laurence Johnston Peter


Hardly a pure science, history is closer to animal husbandry than it is to mathematics, in that it involves selective breeding. The principal difference between the husbandryman and the historian is that the former breeds sheep or cows or such, and the latter breeds (assumed) facts. The husbandryman uses his skills to enrich the future; the historian uses his to enrich the past. Both are usually up to their ankles in bullshit.
     Tom Robbins


History is always written wrong, and so always needs to be rewritten.
     George Santayana


Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted, the indifference of those who should have known better, the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most, that has made it possible for evil to triumph.
     Haile Selassie


It is always wise, as it is also fair, to test a man by the standards of his own day, and not by those of another.
     Odell Shepard


If Beethoven had been killed in a plane crash at the age of twenty-two, it would have changed the history of music . . . and of aviation.
     Tom Stoppard


History is nothing but a collection of fables and useless trifles, cluttered up with a mass of unnecessary figures and proper names.
     Leo Tolstoy


History would be a wonderful thing — if it were only true.
     Leo Tolstoy


The very ink with which all history is written is merely fluid prejudice.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)
     "Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"


A student who changes the course of history is probably taking an exam.


Historians, it is said, fall into one of three categories: Those who lie. Those who are mistaken. Those who do not know.


Try to keep things in perspective. Fifty years from now, kids in history classes will be yawning over what panics us today.


All history is an agreed-upon fiction.


History is no more than the portrayal of crimes and misfortunes.
     Voltaire, L'Ingénu (1767)


It is very much more difficult to talk about a thing than to do it. In the sphere of actual life, that is of course obvious. Anybody can make history. Only a great man can write it.
     Oscar Wilde, "The Critic as Artist" (1890)


The ages live in history through their anachronisms.
     Oscar Wilde, "Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young" (1894)


History Repeats Itself
(Or Does It?)

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
     George Santayana, The Life of Reason (1905)


Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat the eleventh grade.
     James W. Loewen, Lies My Teacher Told Me (1995)


History doesn't repeat itself — it stutters.
     Alex Ayres, The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain (editor, 1987)


Does history repeat itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce? No, that's too grand, too considered a process. History just burps, and we taste again that raw-onion sandwich it swallowed centuries ago.
     Julian Barnes


History is a very tricky thing. To begin with, you can't get it mixed up with the past. The past actually happened, but history is only what someone wrote down. If you don't think there is a difference, just witness an event and then read about it the next day in the New York Post. History is made by writers — made up, if they have a deadline. Knowing this exposes one of the greatest mysteries of history: The reason history repeats itself is not a cosmic plan, it's plagiarism.
     A. Whitney Brown, The Big Picture (1991)


There's a lot we should be able to learn from history. And yet history proves that we never do. In fact, the main lesson of history is that we never learn the lessons of history.
     A. Whitney Brown, The Big Picture (1991)


They say history repeats itself, and the proof of it is they've said it before.
     A. Whitney Brown, The Big Picture (1991)


History repeats itself; that's one of the things that's wrong with history.
     Clarence Darrow


The mistake we all make is in assuming anybody remembers anydamnthing from one day to the next. If that were true, we'd stop getting involved with approximately the same kind of wrong lover each time, we'd learn the lessons of history, the death penalty would discourage those plotting murder, and George Santayana's famous quote would be about as popular as "the bee's knees."
     Harlan Ellison, "The Deadly 'Nackles' Affair" 
     (The Twilight Zone Magazine, c. 1986)


Everything's already been said, but since nobody was listening, we have to start again.
     André Gide


History repeats itself; historians repeat each other.
     Philip Guedalla


We learn from history that we do not learn from history.
     Georg Friedrich Wilhelm Hegel, The Philosophy of History (1832)


"The whole of history is merely one long repetition. One century plagiarizes another."
     Victor Hugo, Les Misérables (1862)


That men do not learn from history is the most important of all the lessons history has to teach.
     Aldous Huxley, Collected Essays (1959)


The charm of history and its enigmatic lesson consist in the fact that, from age to age, nothing changes and yet everything is completely different.
     Aldous Huxley, The Devils of Loudun (1952)


History repeats itself — first as tragedy, second as farce.
     Karl Marx


History never repeats itself.
     Larry Niven, "Niven's Laws" in N-Space (1990)


Even historians fail to learn from history.
     John Gill, "Patterns of Force"
     STAR TREK:  The Original Series


History repeats itself because nobody listens.


History does repeat itself, but only when you least expect it.


History repeats itself, but each time the price goes up.


History is the science of things which are not repeated.
     Paul Valéry, Variété IV



The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
by Douglas Adams (1952-2001)
So long, and thanks . . .


Arthur Dent has just fallen through the air and landed (very improbably) on the back of a large, ticked-off bird passing underneath.
BIRD: You'll be better off on the ground.
ARTHUR: No I won't, I'll be dead.
BIRD: Well, it's your habitat, not mine.
ARTHUR: It's not a question of who's habitat it is, it's a question of how fast you hit it.
     Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy 
(radio program, 1977-1980)


Well it's something called the Infinite Improbability Drive. Don't ask me how it works or I'll start to whimper.
     Arthur Dent in Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's 
     Guide to the Galaxy
(radio program, 1977-1980)


Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea. This planet has — or rather had — a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn't the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy. And so the problem remained; lots of the people were mean, and most of them were miserable, even the ones with digital watches. Many were increasingly of the opinion that they'd all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans.
     Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979)


Cover of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy [written in large, friendly letters]: Don't Panic.
     Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979)


... wrap [a towel] round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it can't see you — daft as a brush, but very very ravenous) ...
     Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979)


This must be Thursday. I never could get the hang of Thursdays.
     Arthur Dent in Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979)


Original entry for "Earth" in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:  Harmless.
Revised entry after Ford Prefect's fifteen years of painstaking research:  Mostly harmless.
     Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979)


The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything:  Forty-two.
     Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979)


Far back in the mists of ancient time, in the great and glorious days of the former Galactic Empire, life was wild, rich and largely tax free. Mighty starships plied their way between exotic suns, seeking adventure and reward among the farthest reaches of Galactic space. In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. And all dared to grave unknown terrors, to do mighty deeds, to boldly split infinitives that no man had split before — and thus was the Empire forged.
     Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979)


Arthur ... had found a Nutri-Matic machine which had provided him with a plastic cup filled with a liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea. The way it functioned was very interesting. When the Drink button was pressed it made an instant but highly detailed examination of the subject's taste buds, a spectroscopic analysis of the subject's metabolism and then sent tiny experimental signals down the neural pathways to the taste centers of the subject's brain to see what was likely to go down well. However, no one knew quite why it did this because it invariably delivered a cupful of liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea. The Nutri-Matic was designed and manufactured by the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation whose complaints department now covers all the major landmasses of the first three planets in the Sirius Tau Star system.
     Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979)


"My white mice have escaped!" she [Trillian] said. An expression of deep worry and concern failed to cross either of Zaphod's faces. ... It is possible that her remark would have commanded greater attention had it been generally realized that human beings were only the third most intelligent life form present on the planet Earth, instead of (as was generally thought by most independent observers) the second.
     Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979)


It is an important and popular fact that things are not always what they seem. For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much — the wheel, New York, wars and so on — while all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man — for precisely the same reasons.
     Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979)


The last ever dolphin message was misinterpreted as a surprisingly sophisticated attempt to do a double-backward somersault through a hoop while whistling the "Star-Spangled Banner," but in fact the message was this: So long and thanks for all the fish.
     Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979)


There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.
There is another theory which states that this has already happened.
     Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (1980)


"Share and Enjoy" is the company motto of the hugely successful Sirius Cybernetics Corporation Complaints Division, which now covers the major land masses of three medium-sized planets and is the only part of the Corporation to have shown a consistent profit in recent years.
     Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (1980)


The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is an indispensable companion to all those who are keen to make sense of life in an infinitely complex and confusing Universe, for though it cannot hope to be useful or informative on all matters, it does at least make the reassuring claim, that where it is inaccurate it is at least definitively inaccurate. In cases of major discrepancy it's always reality that's got it wrong.
     Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (1980)


The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy skips lightly over this tangle of academic abstraction [of the grammar used during time travel], pausing only to note that the term "Future Perfect" has been abandoned since it was discovered not to be.
     Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (1980)


"Hotblack? I sort of spoke to him, yeah," [said Ford]. "What'd he say?" "Well, not a lot really. He's . . . er . . . He's spending a year dead for tax reasons. I've got to sit down."
     Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (1980)


"Trouble with a long journey like this," continued the Captain, "is that you end up just talking to yourself a lot, which gets terribly boring because half the time you know what you're going to say next." "Only half the time?" asked Arthur in surprise. The Captain thought for a moment. "Yes, about half, I'd say."
     Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (1980)


The major problem — one of the major problems, for there are several — one of the many major problems with governing people is that of whom you get to do it; or rather of who manages to get people to let them do it to them.
     To summarize: it is a well-known fact that those people who most want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it. To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job. To summarize the summary of the summary: people are a problem.
     Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (1980)


... Arthur had a sudden vague flash of what it might mean, but he refused to believe it. The Universe could not possibly work like that, he thought, cannot possibly. That, he thought to himself, would be as absurd as, as absurd as . . . he terminated that line of thinking. Most of the absurd things he could think of had already happened.
     Douglas Adams, Life, the Universe, and Everything (1982)


The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has this to say on the subject of flying. There is an art, it says, or rather a knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.
     Douglas Adams, Life, the Universe, and Everything (1982)


The Fuolornis Fire Dragons were revered throughout the lands of Brequinda in the Foth of Avalars for the savage beauty, their noble ways, and their habit of biting people who didn't revere them.
     Douglas Adams, So Long And Thanks For All The Fish (1985)


The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, in a moment of reasoned lucidity which is almost unique among its current tally of 5,973,509 pages, says of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation products that "it is very easy to be blinded to the essential uselessness of them by the sense of achievement you get from getting them to work at all."
     Douglas Adams, So Long And Thanks For All The Fish (1985)


The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has, in what we laughingly call the past, had a great deal to say on the subject of parallel universes. Very little of this is, however, at all comprehensible to anyone below the level of Advanced God, and since it is now well established that all known gods came into existence a good three millionths of a second after the Universe began rather than, as they usually claimed, the previous week, they already have a great deal of explaining to do as it is, and are therefore not available for comment on matters of deep physics at this time.
     Douglas Adams, Mostly Harmless (1992)


Once something actually happens somewhere in something as wildly complicated as the Universe, Kevin knows where it will all end up — where "Kevin" is any random entity that doesn't know nothin' about nothin'.
     Douglas Adams, Mostly Harmless (1992)


"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)


It's easy to think that as a result of the extinction of the dodo, we are now sadder and wiser, but there's a lot of evidence to suggest that we are merely sadder and better informed.
     Douglas Adams, Last Chance To See (with Mark Carwardine, 1990)





Hobbies are for people who lack direction.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


Names are an interest of mine. Not a hobby; hobbies cost money. Interests are free.
     George Carlin, "You Are All Diseased" (audio, 1999)


A hobby is, of course, an abomination, as are all consuming interests and passions that do not lead directly to large, personal gain.
     Fran Lebowitz, Metropolitan Life (1978)
     "Or Not CB: That Is the Answer"


Within two minutes, or even less, he had forgotten all his troubles. Not because his troubles were one whit less heavy and bitter to him than a man's are to a man, but because a new and powerful interest bore them down and drove them out of his mind for the time — just as men's misfortunes are forgotten in the excitement of new enterprises.
     Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer (1876)


A great and priceless thing is a new interest! How it takes possession of a man! how it clings to him, how it rides him!
     Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad (1880)


A person should always have a hobby. Observe how a sweetheart fills every waking moment to the brim and makes life a jubilation. Observe the miser and the successful stock speculator and proprietor of vast money-making industries. Observe the student in his specialty — in bees, ant, bugs, fossils, — any specialty that is absorbing. But the hobby must not be the result — no, only the pleasure of working for the result, and the final trial of accomplishing it.
     Mark Twain, Notebook, 1885


I have a large seashell collection, which I keep scattered on beaches all over the world. Perhaps you've seen it.
     Steven Wright



The Human Condition
A small collection of some less-than-complimentary remarks
made about the only animal that blushes (or needs to)


One of the things Ford Prefect had always found hardest to understand about humans was their habit of continually stating and repeating the very very obvious, as in It's a nice day, or You're very tall, or Oh dear you seem to have fallen down a thirty-foot well, are you all right? At first Ford had formed a theory to account for this strange behavior. If human beings don't keep exercising their lips, he thought, their mouths probably seize up. After a few months' consideration and observation he abandoned this theory in favor of a new one. If they don't keep on exercising their lips, he thought, their brains start working. After a while he abandoned this one as well as being obstructively cynical and decided he quite liked human beings after all, but he always remained desperately worried about the terrible number of things they didn't know about.
     Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979)


"It seemed to me," said Wonko the Sane, "that any civilization that had so far lost its head as to need to include a set of detailed instructions for use in a package of toothpicks, was no longer a civilization in which I could live and stay sane."
     Douglas Adams, So Long And Thanks For All The Fish (1985)


The great thing about being the only species that makes a distinction between right and wrong is that we can make up the rules for ourselves as we go along.
     Douglas Adams, Last Chance To See (with Mark Carwardine, 1990)


On the other hand, human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.
     Douglas Adams, Last Chance To See (with Mark Carwardine, 1990)


It's easy to think that as a result of the extinction of the dodo, we are now sadder and wiser, but there's a lot of evidence to suggest that we are merely sadder and better informed.
     Douglas Adams, Last Chance To See (with Mark Carwardine, 1990)


The average man is a great deal above the average.
     Franklin Pierce Adams, quoted in Robert E. Drennan (ed.), 
     The Algonquin Wits (1985)


"Some say it is man's ability to reason which separates him from mere animals."
"Yeah, but surely you realize that in the animal kingdom there is no equivalent to 'All-Star Wrestling.'"
     Dilbert and Dogbert in Scott Adams, 
     Shave the Whales
("Dilbert," 1994)

Lately, the only thing keeping me from being a serial killer is my distaste for manual labor.
     Dilbert in Scott Adams, When Did Ignorance 
     Become a Point of View
("Dilbert," 2001)


I figured out what's wrong with life: it's other people.
     Dilbert in Scott Adams, Another Day in 
     Cubicle Paradise
("Dilbert," 2002)


     "Today I realized I hate everyone in the entire world.  I used to think I might like some people I hadn’t met.  But now I think they’re weasels too."
     "How about a wide-eyed and innocent child you loves you unconditionally?"
     "Tiny weasels."
          Dilbert and Dogbert in Scott Adams, Words You Don’t Want To Hear
          During Your Annual Performance Review
(“Dilbert,” 2003)


I’ve noticed that all of my problems are caused by other people.  Yet it seems so unlike that other people would cause me so much discomfort while I never bother anyone.  Is it possible that I’m oblivious to my effect on others?  [Dogbert falls asleep.]
     Dilbert in Scott Adams, The Fluorescent Light Glistens Off Your Head (“Dilbert,” 2005)


Sometimes I doubt whether there is divine justice; all parts of the human body get tired eventually — except the tongue. And I feel this is unjust.
     Konrad Adenauer


It seems the world was divided into good and bad people. The good ones slept better . . . while the bad ones seemed to enjoy the waking hours much more.
     Woody Allen, Side Effects (1980)


More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.
     Woody Allen, Side Effects (1980)
     "My Speech to the Graduates"


I think that if advanced beings were visiting Earth, we'd know it by their laughter.
     Bill Amend, Fox Trot (comic strip, April 8, 1997)


The only normal people are the ones you don't know very well.
    Joe Ancis


Humanity has the stars in its future, and that future is too important to be lost under the burden of juvenile folly and ignorant superstition.
     Isaac Asimov


He who cannot possibly mend his own case, will do what he can to impair others.
     Francis Bacon, Essays (1625)


In fact, when you get right down to it, almost every explanation Man came up with for anything until about 1926 was stupid.
     Dave Barry


Cabbage, n. A familiar kitchen-garden vegetable about as large and wise as a man's head.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


Humanity, n. The human race, collectively, exclusive of the anthropoid poets.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


Man, n. An animal so lost in rapturous contemplation of what he thinks he is as to overlook what he indubitably ought to be. His chief occupation is extermination of other animals and his own species, which, however, multiplies with such insistent rapidity as to infest the whole habitable earth and Canada.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


Ocean, n. A body of water occupying about two-thirds of a world made for man — who has no gills.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


Beware! I'm acting under the influence of human nature.
     Ashleigh Brilliant


I am as frustrated with society as a pyromaniac in a petrified forest.
     A. Whitney Brown


I had power over nothing. And that’s when this feeling came over me like a warm blanket. I knew, somehow, that I had to stay alive. Somehow. I had to keep breathing. Even though there was no reason to hope. And all my logic said that I would never see this place again. So that’s what I did. I stayed alive. I kept breathing. And one day my logic was proven all wrong because the tide came in, and gave me a sail.
     Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) in William Broyles Jr., Cast Away (movie, 2000)


Man is the only animal that can remain on friendly terms with the victims he intends to eat until he eats them.
     Samuel Butler


People are okay taken two or three at a time. Beyond that number they tend to choose up sides and wear armbands.
     George Carlin


The decay and disintegration of this culture is astonishingly amusing if you are emotionally detached from it. I have always viewed it from a safe distance, knowing I don't belong; it doesn't include me, and it never has. No matter how you care to define it, I do not identify with the local group. Planet, species, race, nation, state, religion, party, union, club, association, neighborhood improvement committee; I have no interest in any of it. I love and treasure individuals as I meet them, I loathe and despise the groups they identify with and belong to.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


My interest in “issues” is merely to point out how badly we’re doing, not to suggest a way we might do better. Don’t confuse me with those who cling to hope. I enjoy describing how things are, I have no interest in how they “ought to be.” And I certainly have no interest in fixing them. I sincerely believe that if you think there’s a solution, you’re part of the problem.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


I view my species with a combination of wonder and pity, and I root for its destruction.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


This species is a dear, hateful, sweet, barbaric, tender, vile, intelligent, confused, virtuous, evil, thoughtful, perverted, generous, greedy species. In short, great entertainment.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


You are all diseased.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


Regarding the title of this book, Napalm & Silly Putty: Sometime ago I was struck by the fact that, among many other wondrous things, Man has had the imagination to invent two such distinctly different products. One, a flaming, jellied gasoline used to create fire, death, and destruction; the other, a claylike mass good for throwing, bouncing, smashing, or pressing against a comic strip so you can look at a backwards picture of Popeye. I think the title serves as a fairly good metaphor for Man's dual nature, while also providing an apt description of the kinds of thoughts that occupy me, both in this book and in my daily life ...
     George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)


I've never been quarantined. But the more I look around the more I think it might not be a bad idea.
     George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)


Road rage, air rage. Why should I be forced to divide my rage into separate categories? To me, it's just one big, all-around, everyday rage. I don't have time for fine distinctions. I'm busy screaming at people.
     George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)


If it's true that our species is alone in the universe, then I'd have to say the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little.
     George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)


If a group of people stand around in a circle long enough, eventually they will begin to dance.
     George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)


I think many years ago an advanced civilization intervened with us genetically and gave us just enough intelligence to develop dangerous technology but not enough to use it wisely. Then they sat back to watch the fun. Kind of like a human zoo. And you know what? They're getting their money's worth.
     George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)


It's time to start slapping people.
     George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)


After this he'll be a perfectly normal human being — and you know what stinkers they are!
     Cab driver in Mary Chase and Oscar Brodney,
     Harvey (movie, 1950)


The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.
     Joseph Conrad, Under Western Eyes (1911)


Never mind, dead, we're all made the same, though some more than others.
     Noel Coward


To know all is not to forgive all. It is to despise everybody.
     Quentin Crisp


Do not trust to the cheering, for those very persons would shout as much if you and I were going to be hanged.
     Oliver Cromwell


The things we have in common far outnumber and outweigh those that divide us.
     Walt Disney


An Animated Cartoon Theology:
1. People are animals.
2. The body is mortal and subject to incredible pain.
3. Life is antagonistic to the living.
4. The flesh can be sawed, crushed, frozen, stretched, burned, bombed, and plucked for music.
5. The dumb are abused by the smart and the smart destroyed by their own cunning.
6. The small are tortured by the large and the large destroyed by their own momentum.
7. We are able to walk on air, but only as long as our illusion supports us.
     E. L. Doctorow, The Book of Daniel


I believe the best definition of man is the ungrateful biped.
     Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky


Man is a small thing,
and the night is very large
and full of wonders.
     Lord Dunsany, The Laughter of the Gods


It is easier to denature plutonium than to denature the evil spirit of man.
     Albert Einstein


Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former.
     Albert Einstein


The problems we have created cannot be solved on the level of the mind that created them.
     Albert Einstein


Half of the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important.
     T. S. Eliot


That's evil: only the human predator destroys slowly, any decent hunting animal rips out the throat and feeds, and that's that. The more I see of people, the better I like animals.
     Harlan Ellison, introduction to Paingod and Other Delusions (1965, 1975)


The bird [Voyager II] has been in transit for three years and the biggest miscalculation is 49 seconds. The next time I call the telephone company about a repair and they tell me it can't be done, I will tell them anything can be done. I smile with pride at my lovely species. We ain't so goddam dumb after all.
     Harlan Ellison, An Edge in My Voice (1985)


I believe to my shoe-tips that the human race is the noblest experiment ever attempted by the uncaring universe, and any species capable of painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling, or writing Moby Dick, and of putting a man on the surface of the moon, is a species worth giving a damn about. It is when representatives of that noble experiment settle for McDonald's toadburgers, Judith Krantz novels and The Dukes of Hazzard that my love affair with the human race becomes polluted, and I rail not against what we can be in our noblest moments, but what we settle for.
     Harlan Ellison, An Edge in My Voice (1985)


The last sound on the worthless Earth will be two human beings trying to launch a homemade spaceship and already quarreling about where they are going next.
     William Faulkner


Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.
     He must learn them again. He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed — love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, of victories without hope and, worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.
     Until he relearns these things, he will write as though he stood among and watched the end of man. I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last dingdong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking. I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet's, the writer's, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.
          William Faulkner, Nobel Prize acceptance speech (1949)


... at Oxford he had learned to say that the importance of human beings has been vastly overrated by specialists.
     E. M. Forster, Howard's End (1910)


Looking over the whole scene of self-deception and the lust for wonders, [George Gaylord] Simpson concluded: "Humans are the most inventive, deceptive, and gullible of all animals." Quite so. We are the only mammals who like to make things up and deceive for the pleasure of it — a way of saying that fiction, art, and religion are uniquely human contrivances.
     Paul Fussell, BAD, or, The Dumbing of America (1991)


Man is nature's sole mistake.
     Sir W. S. Gilbert


We do not have to visit a madhouse to find disordered minds; our planet is the mental institution of the universe.
     Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


The theme [ of Lord of the Flies] is an attempt to trace the defects of society back to the defects of human nature. The moral is that the shape of a society must depend on the ethical nature of the individual and not on any political system however apparently logical or respectable. The whole book is symbolic in nature except the rescue in the end where adult life appears, dignified and capable, but in reality enmeshed in the same evil as the symbolic life of the children on the island. The officer, having interrupted a man-hunt, prepares to take the children off the island in a cruiser which will presently be hunting its enemy in the same implacable way. And who will rescue the adult and his cruiser?
     William Golding, notes to Lord of the Flies (1954)


Man is the only animal that laughs and weeps; for he is the only animal that is struck with the difference between what things are and what they ought to be.
     William Hazlitt, Lectures on the English Comic Writers (1819)


To think ill of mankind, and not to wish ill to them, is perhaps the highest wisdom and virtue.
     William Hazlitt, Characteristics (1823)


Never underestimate the power of human stupidity.
     Robert A. Heinlein


A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, and die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
     Robert A. Heinlein, "The Notebook of Lazarus Long"


People with courage and character always seem sinister to the rest.
     Hermann Hesse


One does not really love mankind when one expects too much from them.
     Eric Hoffer, The Passionate State of Mind (1954)


There is always a chance that he who sets himself up as his brother's keeper will end up by being his jailkeeper.
     Eric Hoffer, The Passionate State of Mind (1954)


Sometimes the means we use to hide a thing serve only to advertise it.
     Eric Hoffer, The Passionate State of Mind (1954)


It is always safe to assume that people are more subtle and less sensitive than they seem.
     Eric Hoffer, The Passionate State of Mind (1954)


On man's journey through life he is confronted by two tragedies: one when he wants a thing he cannot get; and the other when he gets a thing and finds he does not want it.
     Elbert Hubbard


It would be a swell world if everybody was as pleasant as the fellow who's trying to skin you.
     Kin Hubbard


The fellow that agrees with everything you say is either a fool or he is getting ready to skin you.
     Kin Hubbard


Nothing is as irritating as the fellow who chats pleasantly while he's overcharging you.
     Kin Hubbard


Man is an intelligence in servitude to his organs.
     Aldous Huxley


Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.
     Aldous Huxley


Why did Nature create man? Was it to show that she is big enough to make mistakes, or was it pure ignorance?
     Holbrook Jackson


I hate mankind, for I think myself one of the best of them, and I know how bad I am.
     Samuel Johnson


There is no being so poor and so contemptible, who does not think there is somebody still poorer, and still more contemptible.
     Samuel Johnson, Boswell's Life of Johnson (1791)


Out of timber so crooked as that from which man is made nothing entirely straight can be built.
     Immanuel Kant


Darwin was wrong. Man's still an ape.
     Gene Kelly


If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, it’s just possible you haven’t grasped the situation.
     Jean Kerr


If you can fill the unforgiving minute
     With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
     And — which is more — you'll be a Man, my son!
          Rudyard Kipling "If —"


"We of the jungle know that Man is wisest of all. If we trusted our ears we should know that of all things he is most foolish."
     Bagheera in Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Books (1894, 1895)
     "Letting in the Jungle"


People — you can't live with 'em, period.
     Marshall Kirk


Doesn't it seem that if homo sap put as much energy into understanding it's environs as it does in believing in silliness that we might be much farther along some path to somewhere instead of mired in this morass of ignorance where we seem to have dwelt for that last "n" millennia.
     Roger M. Kolaks


The devil is an optimist if he thinks he can make people meaner.
     Karl Kraus


People (a group that in my opinion has always attracted an undue amount of attention) have often been likened to snowflakes. This analogy is meant to suggest that each is unique — no two alike. This is quite patently not the case. People, even at the current rate of inflation — in fact, people especially at the current rate of inflation — are quite simply a dime a dozen. And, I hasten to add, their only similarity to snowflakes resides in their invariable and lamentable tendency to turn, after a few warm days, to slush. ... [E]verybody talks about people but nobody ever does anything about them.
     Fran Lebowitz, Social Studies (1981)


You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view — until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.
     Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird (1960)


     "Naw, Jem, I think there's just one kind of folks. Folks."
     Jem turned around and punched his pillow. When he settled back his face was cloudy. He was going into one of his declines, and I grew wary. His brows came together; his mouth became a thin line. He was silent for a while.
     "That's what I thought, too," he said at last, "when I was your age. If there's just one kind of folks, why can't they get along with each other? If they're all alike, why do they go out of their way to despise each other? Scout, I think I'm beginning to understand something. I think I'm beginning to understand why Boo Radley's stayed shut up in the house all this time . . . it's because he wants to stay inside."
     Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird (1960)


I know there are people in the world who do not love their fellow human beings and I hate people like that!
     Tom Lehrer


The proof that man is the noblest of all creatures is that no other creature has ever denied it.
     Georg Christoph Lichtenberg


I believe I've found the missing link between animal and civilized man. It is us.
     Konrad Lorenz


We must view with profound respect the infinite capacity of the human mind to resist the introduction of useful knowledge.
     Thomas Raynesford Lounsbury


Men go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.
     Charles Mackay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions 
     and the Madness of Crowds


Our is a world where people don't know what they want and are willing to go through hell to get it.
     Don Marquis


I've always been interested in people, but I've never liked them.
     W. Somerset Maugham


No one really listens to anyone else, and if you try it for a while you'll see why.
     Mignon McLaughlin


Only human beings guide their behaviour by a knowledge of what happened before they were born and a preconception of what may happen after they are dead; thus only humans find their way by a light that illuminates more than the patch of ground they stand on.
     P. B. and J. S. Medawar, The Life Science (1977)


Nothing, I think, has ever formally disproved the doctrine of original virtue, though there is precious little incentive to believe it true. Yet one cannot help thinking the tendency to believe in it is a lovable human trait.
     Peter Medawar, Advice to a Young Scientist (1979)


Men may seem detestable as joint stock-companies and nations; knaves, fools, and murderers there may be; men may have mean and meagre faces; but man, in the ideal, is so noble and so sparkling, such a grand and glowing creature, that over any ignominious blemish in him all his fellows should run to throw their costliest robes.
     Herman Melville, Moby-Dick, or, The Whale (1851)


… there is no folly of the beasts of the earth which is not infinitely outdone by the madness of men.
     Herman Melville, Moby-Dick, or, The Whale (1851)


All men are frauds. The only difference between them is that some admit it. I myself deny it.
     H. L. Mencken


It is precisely at their worst that human beings are most interesting.
     H. L. Mencken


No one in this world, so far as I know — and I have searched the records for years, and employed agents to help me — has ever lost money underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people.
     H. L. Mencken, "Notes on journalism" 
     ( Chicago Tribune, September 19, 1926)


Evil is that which one believes of others. It is a sin to believe evil of others, but it is seldom a mistake.
     H. L. Mencken, A Mencken Chrestomathy (1949)
     "Sententiæ — The Mind of Man"


Man is a beautiful machine that works very badly. He is like a watch of which the most that can be said is that its cosmetic effect is good.
     H. L. Mencken, Minority Report: H. L. Mencken's Notebooks (1956)


Men are the only animals who devote themselves assiduously to making one another unhappy.
     H. L. Mencken, Minority Report: H. L. Mencken's Notebooks (1956)


The fact that I have no remedy for all the sorrows of the world is no reason for my accepting yours. It simply supports the strong probability that yours is a fake.
     H. L. Mencken, Minority Report: H. L. Mencken's Notebooks (1956)


Man is inherently vile — but he is never so vile as when he is trying to disguise and deny his vileness.
     H. L. Mencken, Prejudices: A Selection (1958)
     "The Cult of Hope"


Some people are alive simply because it is against the law to kill them.
     Mark Meyer


Begrudging someone else's existence just happens to be the most convenient way to validate your own.
     Dennis Miller, Dennis Miller Live (March 8, 1996)


It's silly to go on pretending that under the skin we are all brothers. The truth is more likely that under the skin we are all cannibals, assassins, traitors, liars, hypocrites, poltroons.
     Henry Miller


Human beings are the only creatures who are able to behave irrationally in the name of reason.
     Ashley Montague


There is no man so good, who, were he to submit all his thoughts and actions to the laws, would not deserve hanging ten times in his life.
     Michel de Montaigne, Essays


Human being: an ingenious assembly of portable plumbing.
     Christopher Morley


Madness is rare in individuals — but in groups, political parties, nations, and eras it's the rule.
     Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil (1885-1886)


It is easier to destroy than to create. If human beings didn't have a strong preference for creation, nothing would get built.
     Larry Niven, N-Space (1990)
     "Niven's Laws"


The ways of being human are bounded but infinite.
     Larry Niven, N-Space (1990)
     "Niven's Laws"


On the whole, human beings want to be good, but not too good and not quite all the time.
     George Orwell


To an ordinary human being love means nothing if it does not mean loving some people more than others.
     George Orwell


There is a passion in the human heart stronger than the desire to be free from injustice and wrong, and that is the desire to inflict injustice and wrong upon others, and men resent more keenly an attempt to prevent them from oppressing other people than they do the oppression from which they themselves suffer.
     Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston, letter (1859)


All man's troubles come from not knowing how to sit still in one room.
     Blaise Pascal, Pensées (1670)


Man is but a reed, the weakest in nature, but he is a thinking reed.
     Blaise Pascal, Pensées (1670)


All in all, nothing human is worth taking very seriously; nevertheless . . .
     Plato, The Republic (c. 400 B.C.)


We're really good at it, Teppic thought. Mere animals couldn't possibly manage to act like this. You need to be a human being to be really stupid.
     Terry Pratchett, Pyramids (1989)


... there are hardly any excesses of the most crazed psychopath that cannot easily be duplicated by a normal, kindly family man who just comes in to work every day and has a job to do.
     Terry Pratchett, Small Gods (1992)


It was much better to imagine men in some smoky room somewhere, made mad and cynical by privilege and power, plotting over the brandy.  You had to cling to this sort of image, because if you didn’t then you might have to face the fact that bad things happened because ordinary people, the kind who brushed the dog and told their children bedtime stories, were capable of then going out and doing horrible things to other ordinary people.  It was so much easier to blame it on Them.  It was bleakly depressing to think that They were Us.  If it was Them, then nothing was anyone’s fault.  If it was us, what did that make Me?  After all, I’m one of Us.  I must be.  I’ve certainly never thought of myself as one of Them.  No one ever thinks of themselves as one of Them.  We’re always one of Us.  It’s Them that do the bad things.
     Terry Pratchett, Jingo (1997)


Vimes had spent his life on the streets and had met decent men, and fools, and people who’d steal a penny from a blind beggar, and people who performed silent miracles or desperate crimes every day behind the grubby windows of little houses, but he’d never met The People.
     People on the side of The People always ended up disappointed, in any case.  They found that The People tended not to be grateful or appreciative or forward-thinking or obedient.  The People tended to be small-minded and conservative and not very clever and were even distrustful of cleverness.  And so, the children of the revolution were faced with the age-old problem:  it wasn’t that you had the wrong kind of government, which was obvious, but that you had the wrong kind of people.
     As soon as you saw people as things to be measured, they didn’t measure up.
          Terry Pratchett, Night Watch (2002)


It was funny how people were people everywhere you went, even if the people concerned weren’t the people the people who made up the phrase “people are people everywhere” had traditionally thought of as people. And even if you weren’t virtuous, as you had been brought up to understand the term, you did like to see virtue in other people, provided it didn’t cost you anything.
     Terry Pratchett, The Fifth Elephant (2000)


It may help to understand human affairs to be clear that most of the great triumphs and tragedies of history are caused, not by people being fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, but people being fundamentally people.
     Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, Good Omens (1990)


We all have strength enough to endure the misfortunes of others.
     François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, 
     The Maxims (translated by Louis Kronenberger, 1936)


If we had no faults, we should take less pleasure in noticing those of others.
     François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, 
     The Maxims (translated by Louis Kronenberger, 1936)


Men would not live together for long if they did not fool one another.
     François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, 
     The Maxims (translated by Louis Kronenberger, 1936)


Our readiness to believe the worst without sufficiently examining the matter is based upon pride and laziness. We want to find people to blame, we don't want the bother of studying their crimes.
     François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, 
     The Maxims (translated by Louis Kronenberger, 1936)


Human nature is largely something that has to be overcome.
     Rita Rudner, Naked Beneath My Clothes: 
     Tales of a Revealing Nature


Few people can be happy unless they hate some other person, nation, or creed.
     Bertrand Russell


Man is a rational animal — so at least I have been told. Throughout a long life, I have looked diligently for evidence in favor of this statement, but so far I have not had the good fortune to come across it, through I have searched in many countries spread over three continents.
     Bertrand Russell, Unpopular Essays (1950)
     "An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish"


... folly is perennial and yet the human race has survived. The follies of our own times are easier to bear when they are seen against the background of past follies.
     Bertrand Russell, Unpopular Essays (1950)
     "An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish"


A wise man will enjoy the goods of which there is a plentiful supply, and of intellectual rubbish he will find an abundant diet, in our own age as in every other.
     Bertrand Russell, Unpopular Essays (1950)
     "An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish"


You would see that the dominant lifeforms [of Earth] have a simultaneous passion for territoriality and Euclidean geometry.
     Carl Sagan, "Is There Intelligent Life on Earth?" 
     (Lecture, Austin, October 11, 1993)


In every culture we imagined something like our own political system running the Universe. Few found the similarity suspicious. ... But why should we want to think that the Universe was made for us? Why is the idea so appealing? Why do we nurture it? Is our self-esteem so precarious that nothing short of a universe custom-made for us will do?
     Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of 
     the Human Future in Space


It almost never feels like prejudice. Instead, it seems fitting and just — the idea that, because of an accident of birth, our group (whichever one it is) should have a central position in the social universe. Among Pharaonic princelings and Plantagenet pretenders, children of robber barons and Central Committee bureaucrats, street gangs and conquerors of nations, members of confident majorities, obscure sects, and reviled minorities, this self-serving attitude seems as natural as breathing. It draws sustenance from the same psychic wellsprings as sexism, racism, nationalism, and the other deadly chauvinisms that plague our species. Uncommon strength of character is needed to resist the blandishments of those who assure us that we have an obvious, even God-given, superiority over our fellows. The more precarious our self-esteem, the greater our vulnerability to such appeals.
     Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of 
     the Human Future in Space


Philosophers of marauding high-technology civilizations have often argued that humans deserve a category distinct from and above all the other animals. [Many of them would not have included the word "other," and even today there are those who bristle at being called — even by scientists speaking generically and without affect — "animals."] It is not enough that humans have a different assortment of the qualities evident in the other animals — more of some traits, fewer of others. A radical difference in kind, not some fuzzy-edged difference in degree, is needed, longed for, sought.
     Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan, Shadows of Forgotten 
     Ancestors: A Search for Who We Are


We must stop pretending we're something we are not. Somewhere between romantic, uncritical anthropomorphizing of the animals and an anxious, obdurate refusal to recognize our kinship with them — the latter made tellingly clear in the still-widespread notion of "special" creation — there is a broad middle ground on which we humans can take our stand.
     Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan, Shadows of Forgotten 
     Ancestors: A Search for Who We Are


Hell is other people.
     Jean Paul Sartre


Every nation ridicules other nations, and all are right.
     Arthur Schopenhauer


Man is the only animal who causes pain to others with no other object than wanting to do so.
     Arthur Schopenhauer, Parerga and Paralipomena


I love mankind . . . it's people I can't stand.
     Linus Van Pelt in Charles M. Schulz,
     Go Fly A Kite, Charlie Brown ("Peanuts," 1960)


There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people . . . religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin!
     Linus Van Pelt in Charles M. Schulz,
     You Can’t Win, Charlie Brown ("Peanuts," 1962)


Man is a clever animal who behaves like an imbecile.
     Albert Schweitzer


When Oedipus met the Sphinx, who asked him her riddle, he replied Man. This simple word destroyed the monster. We have many monsters to destroy: let us remember Oedipus' answer.
     George Seferis, on receiving the Nobel Prize (1963)


Forget about likes and dislikes. They are of no consequence. Just do what must be done. This may not be happiness, but it is greatness.
     George Bernard Shaw


It is obvious that the great majority of humans throughout history have had grossly, even ridiculously, unrealistic concepts of the world. Man is, among many other things, the mistaken animal, the foolish animal. Other species doubtless have much more limited ideas about the world, but what ideas they do have are much less likely to be wrong and are never foolish.
     George Gaylord Simpson, This View of Life: 
     The World of an Evolutionist


When there are two conflicting versions of a story, the wise course is to believe the one in which people appear at their worst.
     H. Allen Smith


I hate people. People make me pro-nuclear.
     Margaret Smith


I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions, but to understand them.
     Baruch Spinoza


I'm frequently appalled by the low regard you Earthmen have for life.
     Spock, "The Galileo Seven"
     STAR TREK:  The Original Series


You are still half-savage, but there is hope.
     The Metron, "Arena"
     STAR TREK:  The Original Series


After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true.
     Spock, "Amok Time"
     STAR TREK:  The Original Series


     "I've noticed that about you people, Doctor. You find it easier to understand the death of one than the death of a million. You speak about the objective hardness of the Vulcan heart, yet how little room there seems to be in yours."
     "Suffer the death of thy neighbor, Spock — now you wouldn't wish that on us, would you?"
     "It might have rendered your history a bit less bloody."
     Spock and McCoy, "The Immunity Syndrome"
     STAR TREK:  The Original Series


     "To hunt a species to extinction is not logical."
     "Who ever said the human race was logical?"
     Spock and Dr. Gilliam Taylor, STAR TREK IV The Voyage Home


You can't deny that you're still a dangerous, savage, child-race.
     Q, "Encounter At Farpoint"
     STAR TREK:  The Next Generation


The Telerians had reached Earth's late twentieth century level of knowledge. That's all you need if you're a damned fool.
     Dr. Crusher, "Haven"
     STAR TREK:  The Next Generation


Human intuition and instinct are not always right. But they do make life interesting.
     Guinan, "The Loss"
     STAR TREK:  The Next Generation


We should not discount Jean-Luc Picard yet. He is human. And humans have a way of showing up with you least expect them.
     Commander Sela, "Redemption"
     STAR TREK:  The Next Generation


     "Some may argue that a diamond is still a diamond even if it is one amongst millions. It still shines as brightly."
     "Someone might think that, dear lady, if someone thought that the human race was akin to a precious jewel. But this increasingly hypothetical someone would not be me."
     Guinan and Samuel L. Clemens, "Time's Arrow"
     STAR TREK:  The Next Generation


     "Poverty was eliminated on Earth a long time ago, and a lot of other things disappeared with it: hopelessness, despair, cruelty —"
     "Young lady, I come from a time when men achieved power and wealth by standing on the backs of the poor, where prejudice and intolerance are commonplace and power is an end unto itself, and you're telling me that isn't how it is anymore?"
     "That's right."
     "Hmph. Maybe it's worth giving up cigars for, after all."
     Troi and Samuel L. Clemens, "Time's Arrow, Part II"
     STAR TREK:  The Next Generation


The one thing I've learned about humanoids is that in extreme situations even the best of you are capable of terrible things.
     Odo, "The Collaborator"
     STAR TREK:  Deep Space Nine


... it's been my experience that all humanoids have an agenda of some sort, and that their agendas can influence the without their even realizing it.
     Odo, "Destiny"
     STAR TREK:  Deep Space Nine


     "What's that disgusting smell?"
     "I think it's called tobacco. It's a deadly drug. When used frequently, it destroys the internal organs. ... It's also highly addictive. ..."
     "If they'll buy poison, they'll buy anything. I think I'm gonna like it here."
     Quark and Nog, "Little Green Men"
     STAR TREK:  Deep Space Nine


     "These humans — they're nothing like the ones from the Federation. They're crude, gullible and greedy."
     "You mean like you."
     "Yeah! These are humans I can understand — and manipulate."
     Quark and Odo, "Little Green Men"
     STAR TREK:  Deep Space Nine


     "Just remember: under that placid Federation veneer, humans are still a bunch of violent savages."
     "Maybe. But I like 'em."
     Quark and Nog, "Little Green Men"
     STAR TREK:  Deep Space Nine


I've found that when it comes to doing what's best for you, you humanoids have the distressing habit of doing the exact opposite.
     Odo, "Homefront (Part 1 of 2)"
     STAR TREK:  Deep Space Nine


Oh, well, now, aren't you contentious for a minor, bipedal species!
     The Caretaker, "Caretaker"
     STAR TREK:  Voyager


All of us have violent instincts. We have evolved from predators. Well, not me, of course; I've just been programmed by you predators.
     The Doctor, "Meld"
     STAR TREK:  Voyager


The human fascination with "fun" has led to many tragedies in your short but violent history. One wonders how your race has survived having so much "fun."
     Tuvok, "Flashback"
     STAR TREK:  Voyager


The captain has committed all our resources to help people he didn't even know existed two days ago. Once again I'm struck by your species' desire to help others.
     Dr. Phlox, "Dear Doctor"


For man, unlike any other thing organic or inorganic in the universe, grows beyond his work, walks up the stairs of his concepts, emerges ahead of his accomplishments. This you may say of man — when theories change and crash, when schools, philosophies, when narrow dark alleys of thought, national, religious, economic, grow and disintegrate, man reaches, stumbles forward, painfully, mistakenly sometimes. Having stepped forward, he may slip back, but only half a step, never the full step back.
     John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath (1939)


It was the rifle that broke down the barriers. This was an impossibility, and if he could think of having a rifle whole horizons were burst and he could rush on. For it is said that humans are never satisfied, that you give them one thing and they want something more. And this is said in disparagement, whereas it is one of the greatest talents the species has and one that has made it superior to animals that are satisfied with what they have.
     John Steinbeck, The Pearl (1947)


Our species is the only creative species, and it has only one creative instrument, the individual mind and spirit of a man. ... And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual. This is what I am and what I am about. I can understand why a system built on a pattern must try to destroy the free mind, for that is one thing which can by inspection destroy such a system. Surely I can understand this, and I hate it and I will fight against it to preserve the one thing that separates us from the uncreative beasts. If the glory can be killed we are lost.
     John Steinbeck, East of Eden (1952)


Maybe we all have in us a secret pond where evil and ugly things germinate and grow strong. But this culture is fenced, and the swimming brood climbs up only to fall back. Might it not be that in the dark pools of some men the evil grows strong enough to wriggle over the fence and swim free? Would not such a man be our monster, and are we not related to him in our hidden water? It would be absurd if we did not understand both angels and devils, since we invented them.
     John Steinbeck, East of Eden (1952)


It is true that we are weak and sick and ugly and quarrelsome, but if that is all we ever were, we would, millenniums ago have disappeared from the face of the earth.
     Samuel Hamilton in John Steinbeck, East of Eden (1952)


Fearful and unprepared, we have assumed lordship over the life or death of the whole world — of all living things.
     The danger and the glory and the choice rest finally in man. The test of his perfectibility is at hand.
     Having taken Godlike power, we must seek in ourselves for the responsibility and the wisdom we once prayed some deity might have.
     Man himself has become our greatest hazard and our only hope.
     So that today, St. John the apostle may well be paraphrased: In the end is the Word, and the Word is Man — and the Word is with Men.
          John Steinbeck, Nobel Prize acceptance speech (1962)


Humanity is special only subjectively, because we ourselves are humans.
     Victor J. Stenger, Physics and Psychics: 
     The Search for a World Beyond the Senses


I hate and despise the animal called Mankind, but I like the occasional Tom, Dick and Harry.
     Jonathan Swift


The only thing that separates us from the animals is mindless superstition and pointless ritual.
     Latka Gravas in Taxi (TV show)


Homo sum: humani nihil a me alienum puto.
I am human, and am therefore indifferent to nothing done by humans.


We are, perhaps, uniquely among the earth's creature, the worrying animal. We worry away our lives, fearing the future, discontent with the present, unable to take in the idea of dying, unable to sit still.
     Lewis Thomas, The Medusa and the Snail (1979)
     "The Youngest and Brightest Thing Around"


Thus men will lie on their backs, talking about the fall of man, and never make an effort to get up.
     Henry David Thoreau, "Life Without Principle" 
     (1862, first published 1863)


With the near avalanche of technological progress, the horizons are nearly limitless for creating new scams.
     Kelvin Throop III


     'And doubtless the good stone-work is the older and was wrought in the first building,' said Gimli. 'It is ever so with the things that Men begin: there is a frost in Spring, or a blight in Summer, and they fail of their promise.'
     'Yet seldom do they fail of their seed,' said Legolas. 'And that will lie in the dust and rot to spring up again in times and places unlooked-for. The deeds of Men will outlast us, Gimli.'
     'And yet come to naught in the end but might-have-beens, I guess,' said the Dwarf.
     'To that the Elves know not the answer,' said Legolas.
          J. R. R. Tolkien, The Return of the King (1956)


The Bible tells us to love our neighbors and also love our enemies, probably because they're the same people.
     Mark Twain, quoted in L. M. Boyd


Such is life, and the trail of the serpent is over us all.
     Mark Twain, "Lucretia Smith's Soldier" (1864)


Moralizing, I observed, then, that "all that glitters is not gold." Mr. Ballou said I could go further than that, and lay it up among my treasures of knowledge, that nothing that glitters is gold. So I learned then, once for all, that gold in its native state is but dull, unornamental stuff, and that only low-born metals excite the admiration of the ignorant with an ostentatious glitter. However, like the rest of the world, I still go on underrating men of gold and glorifying men of mica. Commonplace human nature cannot rise above that.
     Mark Twain, Roughing It (1872)


A man who comes down to us without a stain upon his name, unless it was a stain to take one apple when most of us would have taken the whole crop.
     Mark Twain, "On Adam" (speech, 1883)


There is no accounting for human beings.
     Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889)


A man is a man, at bottom. Whole ages of abuse and oppression cannot crush the manhood clear out of him. Whoever thinks it a mistake is himself mistaken. Yes, there is plenty good enough material for a republic in the most degraded people that ever existed ...
     Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889)


Well, there are times when one would like to hang the whole human race and finish the farce.
     Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889)


... before primeval man himself, just emerged from his four-footed estate, stepped out upon this plain, first sample of his race, a thousand centuries ago, and cast a glad eye up there, judging he had found a brother human being and consequently something to kill ...
     Mark Twain, "Switzerland, the Cradle of Liberty" (1892)


Adam was but human — this explains it all. He did not want the apple for the apple's sake; he wanted it only because it was forbidden. The mistake was in not forbidding the serpent; then he would have eaten the serpent.
     Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894)
     " Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar"


If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.
     Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894)
     " Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar"


I have been studying the traits and dispositions of the "lower animals" (so-called), and contrasting them with the traits and dispositions of man. I find the result humiliating to me. For it obliges me to renounce my allegiance to the Darwinian theory of the Ascent of Man from the Lower Animals; since it now seems plain to me that that theory ought to be vacated in favor of a new and truer one, this new and truer one to be named the Descent of Man from the Higher Animals.
     Mark Twain, "Man's Place in the Animal World" 
     (a.k.a. "The Lowest Animal") (1896)


In the course of my experiments I convinced myself that among the animals man is the only one that harbors insults and injuries, broods over them, waits till a chance offers, then takes revenge. The passion of revenge is unknown to the higher animals.
     Mark Twain, "Man's Place in the Animal World" 
     (a.k.a. "The Lowest Animal") (1896)


Man is "The Animal that Laughs." But so does the monkey, as Mr. Darwin pointed out; and so does the Australian bird that is called the laughing jackass. No — Man is the Animal that Blushes. He is the only one that does it — or has occasion to.
     Mark Twain, "Man's Place in the Animal World" 
     (a.k.a. "The Lowest Animal") (1896)


The higher animals engage in individual fights, but never in organized masses. Man is the only animal that deals in that atrocity of atrocities, War. He is the only one that gathers his brethren about him and goes forth in cold blood and with calm pulse to exterminate his kind.
     Mark Twain, "Man's Place in the Animal World" 
     (a.k.a. "The Lowest Animal") (1896)


Man is the only animal that robs his helpless fellow of his country — takes possession of it and drives him out of it or destroys him. Man has done this in all the ages. There is not an acre of ground on the globe that is in possession of its rightful owner, or that has not been taken away from owner after owner, cycle after cycle, by force and bloodshed.
     Mark Twain, "Man's Place in the Animal World" 
     (a.k.a. "The Lowest Animal") (1896)


Man is the only Patriot. He sets himself apart in his own country, under his own flag, and sneers at the other nations, and keep multitudinous uniformed assassins on hand at heavy expense to grab slices of other people's countries, and keep them from grabbing slices of his. And in the intervals between campaigns he washes the blood off his hands and works for "the universal brotherhood of man" — with his mouth.
     Mark Twain, "Man's Place in the Animal World" 
     (a.k.a. "The Lowest Animal") (1896)


Man is the Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion — several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself, and cuts his throat if his theology isn't straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother's path to happiness and heaven. ... The higher animals have no religion. And we are told that they are going to be left out, in the Hereafter. I wonder why? It seems questionable taste.
     Mark Twain, "Man's Place in the Animal World" 
     (a.k.a. "The Lowest Animal") (1896)


Man is the Reasoning Animal. Such is the claim. I think it is open to dispute. Indeed, my experiments have proven to me that he is the Unreasoning Animal. Note his history, as sketched above. It seems plain to me that whatever he is he is not a reasoning animal. His record is the fantastic record of a maniac. I consider that the strongest count against his intelligence is the fact that with that record back of him he blandly sets himself up as the head animal of the lot: whereas by his own standards he is the bottom one.
     Mark Twain, "Man's Place in the Animal World" 
     (a.k.a. "The Lowest Animal") (1896)


And so I find that we have descended and degenerated, from some far ancestor, — some microscopic atom wandering at its pleasure between the mighty horizons of a drop of water perchance, — insect by insect, animal by animal, reptile by reptile, down the long highway of smirchless innocence, till we have reached the bottom stage of development — namable as the Human Being. Below us — nothing. Nothing but the Frenchman.
     There is only one possible stage below the Moral Sense; that is the Immoral Sense. The Frenchman has it. Man is but little lower than the angels. This definitely locates him. He is between the angels and the French.
     Mark Twain, "Man's Place in the Animal World" 
     (a.k.a. "The Lowest Animal") (1896)


He has just one stupendous superiority. In his intellect he is supreme. The Higher Animals cannot touch him there. It is curious, it is noteworthy, that no heaven has ever been offered him wherein his one sole superiority was provided with a chance to enjoy itself. Even when he himself has imagined a heaven, he has never made provision in it for intellectual joys. It is a striking omission. It seems a tacit confession that heavens are provided for the Higher Animals alone. This is matter for thought; and for serious thought. And it is full of a grim suggestion: that we are not as important, perhaps, as we had all along supposed we were.
     Mark Twain, "Man's Place in the Animal World" 
     (a.k.a. "The Lowest Animal") (1896)


Human beings seem to be a poor invention. If they are the noblest works of God where is the ignoblest?
     Mark Twain, Notebook, 1896


Does the human being reason? No; he thinks, muses, reflects, but doesn't reason. Thinks about a thing; rehearses its statistics and its parts and applies to them what other people on his side of the question have said about them, but he does not compare the parts himself, and is not capable of doing it.
     That is, in the two things which are the peculiar domain of the heart, not the mind — politics and religion. He doesn't want to know the other side. He wants arguments and statistics for his own side, and nothing more.
     Mark Twain, Notebook, 1896


The average human being is a perverse creature; and when he isn't that, he is a practical joker. The result to the other person concerned is about the same: that is, he is made to suffer.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)


There are three kinds of people — Commonplace Men, Remarkable Men, and Lunatics.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)


A human being has a natural desire to have more of a good thing than he needs.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)


It was mean to be glad about it, but it is the way we are made; I could not have been gladder if it had been my enemy that had suffered this misfortune. We all like to see people in trouble, if it doesn't cost us anything.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)


It is strange and fine — Nature's lavish generosities to her creatures. At least to all of them except man. ... the valuable part of his inheritance really consists of but a single fifth of the family estate; and out of it he has to grub hard to get enough to keep him alive and provide kings and soldiers and powder to extend the blessings of civilization with. Yet man, in his simplicity and complacency and inability to cipher, thinks Nature regards him as the important member of the family — in fact, her favorite. Surely, it must occur to even his dull head, sometimes, that she has a curious way of showing it.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)


... no life could be imagined, howsoever comfortless and forbidding, but somebody would want to try it.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)


Human pride is not worth while; there is always something lying in wait to take the wind out of it.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)


Everything human is pathetic. The secret source of Humor itself is not joy but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)
     " Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"


We can secure other people's approval if we do right and try hard, but our own is worth a hundred of it and no way has been found out of securing that.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)
     " Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"


Man will do many things to get himself loved; he will do all things to get himself envied.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)
     " Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"


There are people who can do all fine and heroic things but one: keep from telling their happiness to the unhappy.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)
     " Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"


Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)
     " Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"


The universal brotherhood of man is our most precious possession, what there is of it.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)
     " Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"


When people do not respect us we are sharply offended; yet deep down in his private heart no man much respects himself.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)
     " Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"


The man with a new idea is a Crank until the idea succeeds.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)
     " Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"


If the desire to kill and the opportunity to kill came always together, who would escape hanging?
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)
     " Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"


Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)
     " Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"


"It is like the human race; they have a fine large opinion of themselves, with nothing to found it on."
     Mark Twain. "The Chronicle of Young Satan" (1897-1900)


"The first man was a hypocrite and a coward, qualities which have not yet failed in his line: it is the foundation upon which all civilizations have been built."
     Mark Twain, "The Chronicle of Young Satan" (1897-1900)


The human race consists of the damned and the ought-to-be damned.
     Mark Twain, Notebook, 1898


I am quite sure that (bar one) [the French] I have no race prejudices, and I think I have no color prejudices or caste prejudices nor creed prejudices. Indeed I know it. I can stand any society. All that I care to know is that a man is a human being — that is enough for me; he can't be any worse.
     Mark Twain, "Concerning the Jews" (1899)


I have been reading the morning paper. I do it every morning — well knowing that I shall find in it the usual depravities and baseness and hypocrisies and cruelties that make up Civilization, and cause me to put in the rest of the day pleading for the damnation of the human race. I cannot seem to get my prayers answered, yet I do not despair.
     Mark Twain, letter to William Dean Howells (April 2-13, 1899)


We do confess in public that we are the noblest work of God, being moved to it by long habit, and teaching, and superstition; but deep down in the secret places of our souls we recognize that, if we are the noblest work, the less said about it the better.
     Mark Twain, "Does the Race of Man Love a Lord?" (1902)


There is no variety in the human race. We are all children, all children of the one Adam, and we love toys.
     Mark Twain, "Does the Race of Man Love a Lord?" (1902)


Indeed, we do love our distinctions, get them how we may. And we work them for all they are worth. In prayer we call ourselves "worms of the dust," but it is only on a sort of tacit understanding that the remark shall not be taken at par. We — worms of the dust! Oh, no, we are not that. Except in fact; and we do not deal much in fact when we are contemplating ourselves.
     Mark Twain, "Does the Race of Man Love a Lord?" (1902)


At bottom I suppose I take a private delight in seeing the human race making an ass of itself again — which it has always done whenever it had a chance. That's its affair — it has the right — and it will sweat blood for it a century hence, and for many centuries thereafter.
     Mark Twain, letter to Frederick W. Peabody (December 1902)


We are all erring creatures, and mainly idiots, but God made us so and it is dangerous to criticise.
     Mark Twain, letter to the President of Western Union (York Harbor, 1902)


Being human accounts for a good many insanities, according to 44 — upwards of a thousand a day was his estimate.
     Mark Twain, "No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger" (1902-1908)


"I am sure I can say with truth that I have no prejudices against the human race or other bugs, and no aversions, no malignities. I have known the race a long time, and out of my heart I can say that I have always felt more sorry for it than ashamed of it."
     Mark Twain, "No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger" (1902-1908)


I was made as most people are made, and was afraid to follow my own instincts when they ran counter to other people's. The best of us would rather be popular than right. I found that out a good while ago.
     Mark Twain, "No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger" (1902-1908)


"To be envied is the human being's chiefest joy."
     Mark Twain, "No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger" (1902-1908)


The human race consists of the dangerously insane and such as are not.
     Mark Twain, Notebook, 1902


Man was made at the end of the week's work, when God was tired.
     Mark Twain, Notebook, 1903


I seem to be the only scientist and theologian still remaining to be heard from on this important matter of whether the world was made for man or not. I feel that it is time for me to speak.
     I stand almost with the others. They believe the world was made for man, I believe it likely that it was made for man; they think there is proof, astronomical mainly, that it was made for man, I think there is evidence only, not proof, that it was made for him. It is too early, yet, to arrange the verdict, the returns are not all in. When they are all in, I think they will show that the world was made for man; but we must not hurry, we must patiently wait till they are all in.
     Mark Twain, "Was the World Made for Man?" (1903)


An oyster has hardly any more reasoning power than a scientist has; and so it is reasonably certain that this one jumped to the conclusion that the nineteen million years [of evolution] was a preparation for him; but that would be just like an oyster, which is the most conceited animal there is, except man.
     Mark Twain, "Was the World Made for Man?" (1903)


The monkey went on developing for close upon five million years, and then turned into a man — to all appearances. Such is the history of it. Man has been here 32,000 years. That it took a hundred million years to prepare the world for him is proof that that is what it was done for. I suppose it is. I dunno. If the Eiffel Tower were now representing the world's age, the skin of paint on the pinnacle-knob at its summit would represent man's share of that age; and anybody would perceive that that skin was what the tower was built for. I reckon they would, I dunno.
     Mark Twain, "Was the World Made for Man?" (1903)


I wish I could learn to pity the human race instead of censuring it and laughing at it.
     Mark Twain, letter to Joseph Twichell (New York, November 4, 1904)


Well, we are curious creatures. Sometimes I wonder if there is anybody who is not a self-deceiver.
     Mark Twain, "3,000 Years Among the Microbes" (1905)


There isn't anybody that isn't right, I don't care what the subject is. It comes of our having reasoning powers.
     Mark Twain, "3,000 Years Among the Microbes" (1905)


Is the human race a joke? Was it devised and patched together in a dull time when there was nothing important to do? Has it no respect for itself?
     Mark Twain, "The Czar's Soliloquy" (1905)


"You see, everybody is a little crazy — some about one fool thing, some about another, and nearly all of them harmless — but as for a person that ain't any way crazy at all, damn'd if there's any such!"
     Mark Twain, "The Refuge of the Derelicts" (1905)


In the matter of slavish imitation, man is the monkey's superior all the time.
     Mark Twain, Chapters from My Autobiography 
(North American Review, 1906-1907)


What is ambition? It is only the desire to be conspicuous. The desire for fame is only the desire to be continuously conspicuous and attract attention and be talked about.
     Mark Twain, Chapters from My Autobiography 
(North American Review, 1906-1907)


As to the human race. There are many pretty and winning things about the human race. It is perhaps the poorest of all the inventions of all the gods but it has never suspected it once. There is nothing prettier than its naïve and complacent appreciation of itself. It comes out frankly and proclaims without bashfulness or any sign of a blush that it is the noblest work of God. It has had a billion opportunities to know better, but all sign fail with this ass. I could say harsh things about it but I cannot bring myself to do it — it is like hitting a child.
     Mark Twain, "Reflections on Religion" (from Mark 
     Twain's Autobiography, June 25, 1906)


From his cradle to his grave a man never does a single thing which has any first and foremost object but one — to secure peace of mind, spiritual comfort, for himself.
     Mark Twain, "What Is Man?" (1906)


A man will do anything, no matter what it is, to secure his spiritual comfort; and he can neither be forced nor persuaded to any act which has not that goal for its object. ... A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval. He will secure the largest share possible of that, at all costs, all sacrifices.
     Mark Twain, "What Is Man?" (1906)


... that desire which is in us all to better other people's condition by having them think as we think.
     Mark Twain, "What Is Man?" (1906)


Our consciences take no notice of pain inflicted on others until it reaches a point where it gives pain to us.
     Mark Twain, "What Is Man?" (1906)


No man performs a duty for mere duty's sake; the act must content his spirit first. He must feel better for doing the duty than he would for shirking it. Otherwise he will not do it.
     Mark Twain, "What Is Man?" (1906)


The human being always looks down when he is examining another person's standard; he never finds one that he has to examine by looking up.
     Mark Twain, "What Is Man?" (1906)


... if you wish to confer upon a human being something which he is not sure he wants, the best way is to make it apparently difficult for him to get it — then he is no son of Adam if that apple does not assume an interest in his eyes which it lacked before.
     Mark Twain, Christian Science (1907)


However, such is the human race. Often it does seem such a pity that Noah and his party didn't miss the boat.
     Mark Twain, Christian Science (1907)


"Man is an experiment, the other animals are another experiment. Time will show whether they were worth the trouble."
     Mark Twain, "Letters from the Earth" (1909)


This is a strange place, an extraordinary place, and interesting. There is nothing resembling it at home. The people are all insane, the other animals are all insane, the Earth is insane, Nature itself is insane. Man is a marvelous curiosity. When he is at his very very best he is a sort of low grade nickel-plated angel; at his worst he is unspeakable, unimaginable; and first and last and all the time he is a sarcasm. Yet he blandly and in all sincerity calls himself the "noblest work of God." This is the truth I am telling you. And this is not a new idea with him, he has talked it through all the ages, and believed it. Believed it, and found nobody among all his race to laugh at it.
     Mark Twain, "Letters from the Earth" (1909)


He is a marvel — man is! I would I knew who invented him.
     Mark Twain, "Letters from the Earth" (1909)

What do you think of the human mind? I mean, in case you think there is a human mind.
     Mark Twain, "Letters from the Earth" (1909)


Sometimes a temperament is an ass. When that is the case the owner of it is an ass, too, and is going to remain one. Training, experience, association, can temporarily so polish him, improve him, exalt him that people will think he is a mule, but they will be mistaken. Artificially he is a mule, for the time being, but at bottom he is an ass yet, and will remain one.
     Mark Twain, "The Turning-Point of my Life" (1910)


By temperament I was the kind of person that does things. Does them, and reflects afterwards. ... In all that time by temperament has not changed, by even a shade. I have been punished many and many a time, and bitterly, for doing things first and reflecting afterward, but these tortures have been of no value to me; I still do the thing commanded by Circumstance and Temperament, and reflect afterward. Always violently. When I am reflecting, on those occasions, even deaf persons can hear me think.
     Mark Twain, "The Turning-Point of my Life" (1910)


The symbol of the race ought to be a human being carrying an ax, for every human being has one concealed about him somewhere, and is always seeking the opportunity to grind it.
     Mark Twain, Albert Bigelow Paine, 
     Mark Twain: A Biography (1912)


In later life his gentler laughter, his old, untroubled enjoyment of human weakness, would return, but just now he was in that middle period, when the "damned human race" amused him indeed, though less tenderly. (It seems proper to explain that in applying this term to mankind he did not mean that the race was foredoomed, but rather that it ought to be.)
     Mark Twain, Albert Bigelow Paine, 
     Mark Twain: A Biography (1912)


It does look like a lot of fuss and trouble to go through to build anything, especially a human being, and nowhere along the way is there any evidence of where he picked up that final asset — his imagination. It makes him different from the others — not any better, but certainly different. Those earlier animals didn't have it, and the monkey hasn't it or he wouldn't be so cheerful.
     Mark Twain, Albert Bigelow Paine, 
     Mark Twain: A Biography (1912)


Yes, we are a sufficiently comical invention, we humans.
     Mark Twain, Albert Bigelow Paine, 
     Mark Twain: A Biography (1912)


Oh, this infernal Human Race! I wish I had it in the Ark again — with an auger!
     Mark Twain, "In Memory of Samuel Langhorne Clemens" 
     (American Academy of Arts and Letters pamphlet, 1922)


We drew a deep sigh; it ought to have been a sigh of pity for a defeated fellow craftsman, but it was not — for we were and selfish, like all the human race, and it was a sigh of satisfaction to see our unoffending brother mean fail.
     Mark Twain, Albert Bigelow Paine (ed.), 
     Mark Twain's Autobiography (1924)


CONCERNING MAN — he is too large a subject to be treated as a whole; so I will merely discuss a detail or two of him at this time. I desire to contemplate him from this point of view — this premise: that he was not made for any useful purpose, for the reason that he hasn't served any; that he was most likely not even made intentionally; and that his working himself up out of the oyster bed to his present position was probably matter of surprise and regret to the Creator.
     Mark Twain, Albert Bigelow Paine (ed.), 
     Mark Twain's Autobiography
     "The Character of Man" (1884)


We are discreet sheep; we wait to see how the drove is going, and then go with the drove. We have two opinions: one private, which we are afraid to express; and another one — the one we use — which we force ourselves to wear to please Mrs. Grundy, until habit makes us comfortable in it, and the custom of defending it presently makes us love it, adore it, and forget how pitifully we came by it.
     Mark Twain, Albert Bigelow Paine (ed.), 
     Mark Twain's Autobiography
     "The Character of Man" (1884)


And what a paltry poor lie is that one which teaches that independence of action and opinion is prized in men, admired, honored, rewarded.
     Mark Twain, Albert Bigelow Paine (ed.), 
     Mark Twain's Autobiography
     "The Character of Man" (1884)


All the talk about tolerance, in anything or anywhere, is plainly a gentle lie. It does not exist. It is in no man's heart; but it unconsciously, and by moss-grown inherited habit, drivels and slobbers from all men's lips. Intolerance is everything for oneself, and nothing for the other person. The mainspring of man's nature is just that — selfishness.
     Mark Twain, Albert Bigelow Paine (ed.), 
     Mark Twain's Autobiography
     "The Character of Man" (1884)


Etiquette requires us to admire the human race.
     Mark Twain, More Maxims of Mark (Merle Johnson, ed., 1927)


God's noblest work? Man. Who found it out? Man.
     Mark Twain, More Maxims of Mark (Merle Johnson, ed., 1927)


To create man was a quaint and original idea, but to add the sheep was tautology.
     Mark Twain, More Maxims of Mark (Merle Johnson, ed., 1927)


What a coward every man is! and how surely he will find it out if he will just let other people alone and sit down and examine himself. The human race is a race of cowards; and I am not only marching in that procession but carrying a banner.
     Mark Twain, Bernard DeVoto (ed.), Mark Twain in Eruption (1940)


It sounds like a libel upon the intelligence of the human race but it isn't; there isn't any way to libel the intelligence of the human race.
     Mark Twain, Bernard DeVoto (ed.), Mark Twain in Eruption (1940)


I have long suspected that man's claim to be the reasoning animal was a doubtful one, but this episode has swept that doubtfulness away; I am quite sure now that often, very often, in matters concerning religion and politics, a man's reasoning powers are not above the monkey's.
     Mark Twain, Bernard DeVoto (ed.), Mark Twain in Eruption (1940)


I believe that our Heavenly Father invented Man because he was disappointed in the monkey. I believe that whenever a human being, of even the highest intelligence and culture, delivers an opinion upon a matter apart from his particular and especial line of interest, training, and experience, it will always be an opinion of so foolish and so valueless a sort that it can be depended upon to suggest to our Heavenly Father that the human being is another disappointment, and that he is no considerable improvement upon the monkey.
     Mark Twain, Bernard DeVoto (ed.), Mark Twain in Eruption (1940)


There is a great deal of human nature in people.
     Mark Twain, F. Walker and G. E. Dane (eds.), 
     Mark Twain's Travels with Mr. Brown (1940)


In all my seventy-two years and a half I have never come across such another ass as this human race is.
     Mark Twain, Charles Neider (ed.), 
     The Autobiography of Mark Twain


It is a curious and interesting invention, the Human Race. Etiquette requires that we admire it.
     Mark Twain, Hal Holbrook (ed.), 
     Mark Twain Tonight! An Actor's Portrait (1959)


There is a familiar old maxim which assures us that Man is the noblest work of God. Who found that out?
     Mark Twain, Hal Holbrook (ed.), 
     Mark Twain Tonight! An Actor's Portrait (1959)


I am the only man living who understands human nature; God has put me in charge of this branch office; when I retire there will be no one to take my place. I shall keep on doing my duty, for when I get over on the other side, I shall use my influence to have the human race drowned again, and this time drowned good, no omissions, no Ark.
     Mark Twain, quoted in Janet Smith (ed.), 
     Mark Twain on the Damned Human Race


I am only human, although I regret it.
     Mark Twain, quoted in the Ken Burns documentary Mark Twain (2001)


There being 22 billion microbes in each man, and feeding upon him, we now perceive who the whole outfit was made for.
     Mark Twain, Notebook, unknown


Can any plausible excuse be found for the crime of creating the human race?
     Mark Twain, annotation in Twain's copy of Charles Darwin's 
     Journal of Researches, quoted in Leonard Roy Frank (ed.), 
     Random House Webster's Wit and Humor Quotationary (2000)


Of course, if our sensitive spectrographs also detect smog, ozone-destroying chlorofluoro- carbons, hydrocarbon contaminants, soot from global deforestation, and localized atmospheric radiation belts, we will know for sure that the life we have found it is intelligent.
     Neil de Grasse Tyson, "The Search for Planets" 
     (Natural History, Oct 1997, p. 86)


Human nature is often the greatest deterrent to making an intelligent decision.


Whenever someone says, "We can't be sentimental," you know they're about to do something cruel. When they also say, "We have to be realistic," you know they're going to make money at it.


Men use thought only to justify their wrong-doings, and speech only to conceal their thoughts.
     Voltaire, Le Chapon et la Poularde (1766)


It is just as foolish to complain that people are selfish and treacherous as it is to complain that the magnetic field does not increase unless the electric field has a curl.
     John von Neumann


I think William Shakespeare was the wisest human being I ever hear of. To be perfectly frank, though, that's not saying much. We are impossibly conceited animals, and actually dumb as heck.
     Kurt Vonnegut, Hocus Pocus (1990)


Just because some of us can read and write and do a little math, that doesn't mean we deserve to conquer the Universe.
     Kurt Vonnegut, Hocus Pocus (1990)


If you're a humanist you can't think of much to do but go on living.
     Kurt Vonnegut, "How To Get A Job Like Mine" 
     (Lecture, Austin, March 26 1993)


As soon as humankind began to discover the truth about itself, we began to find ways to cover up that truth. But maybe that's for the best: Our ability to delude ourselves may be an important survival tool.
     Jane Wagner


Did you know, the RNA/DNA molecule can be found throughout space in many galaxies — only everybody spells it different?
     Jane Wagner


Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us.
     Calvin in Bill Watterson, Scientific Progress 
     Goes "Boink"
("Calvin and Hobbes," 1991)


The problem with people is that they're only human.
     Hobbes in Bill Watterson, The Indispensible Calvin and Hobbes
     ("Calvin and Hobbes," 1992)


Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us.
     Calvin in Bill Watterson, The Indispensible Calvin and Hobbes
     ("Calvin and Hobbes," 1992)


In my opinion, we don't devote nearly enough scientific research to finding a cure for jerks.
     Calvin in Bill Watterson, Attack of the Deranged Mutant 
     Killer Monster Snow Goons
("Calvin and Hobbes," 1992)


     "Do you believe in the devil? You know, a supreme evil being dedicated to the temptation, corruption, and destruction of man?"
     "I'm not sure man needs the help."
     "You just can't talk to animals about these things."
          Calvin and Hobbes in Bill Watterson, The Days Are 
Packed ("Calvin and Hobbes," 1993)


. . . my epitaph. That, when the time comes, will manifestly have to be: "I told you so. You damned fools." (The italics are mine.)
     Herbert George [H. G.] Wells, preface to the 1941 edition 
     of The War in the Air, originally written in 1907


If the whole human race lay in one grave, the epitaph on its headstone might well be: "It seemed a good idea at the time."
     Rebecca West


The brotherhood of man is not a mere poet's dream; it is a most depressing and humiliating reality.
     Oscar Wilde


Man is least himself when he is in his own person. Give him a mask and he will tell you the truth.
     Oscar Wilde


The world is a stage, but the play is badly cast.
     Oscar Wilde, Lord Arthur Savile's Crime (1887)


... one is tempted to define man as a rational animal who always loses his temper when he is called upon to act in accordance with the dictates of reason.
     Oscar Wilde, "The Critic as Artist" (1890)


It's absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious.
     Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere's Fan (1892)


You can please some of the people some of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but some of the people you can't please none of the time.
     Tom Wilson


The human tendency prefers familiar horrors to unknown delights.
     Fred Woodworth


Man is the sum total of everything he has done, wishes to do or not to do, and wishes he had done or hadn't.
     Roger Zelazny, The Doors of His Face, the Lamps 
     of His Mouth and Other Stories
     "This Moment of the Storm" (1966)



Humor and Satire


Puns! Never apologize, never explain.
     Dogbert in Scott Adams, Always Postpone Meetings 
     With Time-Wasting Morons ("Dilbert," 1992)


The seeds of Punning are in the minds of all men, and tho’ they may be subdued by Reason, Reflection, and good Sense, they will be very apt to shoot up in the greatest Genius, that is not broken and cultivated by the rules of Art.
     Joseph Addison, quoted in Richard Lederer, Get Thee To a Punnery (1988)


Hanging is too good for a man who makes puns; he should be drawn and quoted.
     Fred Allen


Wit is educated insolence.


Puns are little ‘plays on words’ that a certain breed of person loves to spring on you and then look at you in a certain self-satisfied way to indicate that he thinks that you must think that he is by far the cleverest person on Earth now that Benjamin Franklin is dead, when in fact what you are thinking is that if this person ever ends up in a lifeboat,  the other passengers will hurl him overboard by the end of the first day even if they have plenty of food and water.
     Dave Barry, Dave Barry’s Greatest Hits (1988)
     “Why Humor Is Funny”


People often ask me: "Dave, what is the best thing about being a professional humor columnist?"
     I always answer: "The best thing is that I can help others and make the world a better place."
     Then everybody has a hearty laugh, because, of course, I am lying. In fact, that's one of the great things about being a humor columnist: You can lie! You get PAID to lie! What other profession can say that?
     OK, lawyers. But they have to wear suits.
          Dave Barry, Dave Barry Is Not Taking This Sitting Down (2000)


I laugh about everything for fear of crying.
     Caron de Beaumarchais, The Barber of Seville (1775)


In the beginning was the pun.
     Samuel Beckett, quoted in Richard Lederer, Get Thee To a Punnery (1988)


Laughter, n. An interior convulsion, producing a distortion of the features and accompanied by inarticulate noises. It is infectious and, though intermittent, incurable.
     Ambrose Bierce The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


Pun, n. A form of wit to which wise men stoop and fools aspire.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


Satire, n. An obsolete kind of literary composition in which the vices and follies of the author's enemies were expounded with imperfect tenderness. In this country satire never had more than a sickly and uncertain existence, for the soul of it is wit, wherein we are dolefully deficient, the humor that we mistake for it, like all humor, being tolerant and sympathetic. Moreover, although Americans are "endowed by their Creator" with abundant vice and folly, it is not generally known that these are reprehensible qualities, wherefore the satirist is popularly regarded as a sour-spirited knave, and his every victim's outcry for codefendants evokes a national assent.
     Ambrose Bierce The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


Wit, n. The salt with which the American humorist spoils his intellectual cookery by leaving it out.
     Ambrose Bierce The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


Witticism, n. A sharp and clever remark, usually quoted, and seldom noted; what the Philistine is pleased to call a "joke."
     Ambrose Bierce The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


There are some things so serious you have to laugh at them.
     Niels Bohr


Humor [is] something that thrives between man's aspirations and his limitations. There is more logic in humor than in anything else. Because, you see, humor is truth.
     Victor Borge, London Times (January 3, 1984)


For my own part I think no innocent species of wit or pleasantry should be suppressed; and that a good pun may be admitted among the smaller excellencies of lively conversation.
     James Boswell, Life of Johnson (1791)


The funniest thing about some people is that they have no sense of humor.
     Ashleigh Brilliant


They laughed at Edison and Einstein, but somehow I still feel uncomfortable when they laugh at me.
     Ashleigh Brilliant


Humor is just another defense against the universe.
     Mel Brooks


Tragedy is if I cut my finger. Comedy is if you walk into an open sewer and die.
     Mel Brooks


Humor is grit in the evolutionary process. "Does it matter?" is the underlying mood in almost every expression of humor. And of course it does matter.
     Heywood Broun, quoted in Robert E. Drennan (ed.), 
     The Algonquin Wits (1985)


. . . that's the saving grace of humor; if you fail, at least you don't have anyone laughing at you.
     A. Whitney Brown, The Big Picture: 
     An American Commentary


People should be taught what is, not what should be. All my humor is based on destruction and despair. If the whole world were tranquil, without disease and violence, I'd be standing in the breadline.
     Lenny Bruce, The Essential Lenny Bruce (1967)


Science has not yet found a cure for the pun.
     Robert Byrne, The 1,911 Best Things Anybody Ever Said (1988)


The day most wholly lost is the day on which one does not laugh.
     Nocolas-Sebastian Chamfort


In the creation of comedy, it is paradoxical that tragedy stimulates the spirit of ridicule, because ridicule, I suppose, is an attitude of defiance: We must laugh in the face of our helplessness against the forces of nature — or go insane.
     Charlie Chaplin


In the end, everything is a gag.
     Charlie Chaplin


In a lecture on Shakespeare, Coleridge said that punning “may be the lowest, but at all events is the most harmless kind of wit, because it never excites envy.”
     Samuel Taylor Coleridge


[Puns:] A paltry, humbug jest; those who have the least wit make them best.
     William Combe


Wit ought to be a glorious treat, like caviar; never spread it around like marmalade.
     Noel Coward


If someone complains that punning is the lowest form of humor, you can tell them that poetry is verse.
     John Crosbie and Bob Davies, quoted in Richard Lederer, Get Thee To a Punnery (1988)


The pun has been said to be the lowest form of humus — earthy wit that everyone digs.
     John Crosbie and Bob Davies, quoted in Richard Lederer, Get Thee To a Punnery (1988)


The perception of the comic is a tie of sympathy with other men.
     Ralph Waldo Emerson, Letters and Social Aims (1876)
     "The Comic"


Wit makes its own welcome, and levels all distinctions.
     Ralph Waldo Emerson, Letters and Social Aims (1876)
     "The Comic"


Nothing is more foolish than to talk of frivolous things seriously; but nothing is wittier than to make frivolities serve serious ends.
     Erasmus, quoted in Richard Lederer, Get Thee To a Punnery (1988)


When asked if the pun is the lowest form of wit, Erskine replied, “It is, and therefore the foundation of all wit.”
     Henry Erskine


The assumption that puns are per se contemptible, betrayed by the habit of describing every pun not as ‘a pun,’ but as ‘a bad pun,’ or ‘a feeble pun,’ is a sign at once of sheepish docility and a desire to seem superior. Puns are good, bad, and indifferent, and only those who lack the wit to make them are unaware of the fact.
     Henry Fowler, quoted in Richard Lederer, Get Thee To a Punnery (1988)


Wit is the best safety valve modern man has evolved; the more civilization, the more repression, the more the need there is for wit.
     Sigmund Freud


Punsters’ minds work like Las Vegas one-armed bandits, with plums and cherries and oranges spinning madly upon someone’s utterance, searching for the right combination to connect on a pun.
     Robert Greenman, quoted in Richard Lederer, Get Thee To a Punnery (1988)


You can pretend to be serious; you can't pretend to be witty.
     Sacha Guitry


A humorist is a man who feels bad but who feels good about it.
     Don Herold


People that make puns are like wanton boys that put coppers on the railroad tracks.  They amuse themselves and other children, but their little trick may upset a freight train of conversation for the sake of a battered witticism.
     Oliver Wendell Holmes


There is no such thing as a female punster.  [I guess that means that punning is a crime for male-factors only!]
     Oliver Wendell Holmes


A pun does not commonly justify a blow in return. But if a blow were given for such cause, and death ensued, the jury would be judges both of the facts and of the pun, and might, if the latter were of an aggravated character, return a verdict of justifiable homicide.
     Oliver Wendell Holmes, The Autocrat 
     of the Breakfast-Table


Le calembour est la fiente de l’esprit qui vole.
Puns are the droppings of soaring wits.
     Victor Hugo


Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing.
     Clive James


If I were punished for every pun I shed,  there would not be left a puny shed of my punnish head.
     Samuel Johnson


The funniest line in English is "Get it?" When you say that, everyone chortles.
     Garrison Keillor


[Puns] ... a noble thing per se.  It fills the mind, it is as perfect as a sonnet; better.
     Charles Lamb


A pun is not bound by the laws which limit nicer wit. It is a pistol let off at the ear; not a feather to tickle the intellect. It is an antic which does not stand upon manners, but comes bounding into the presence, and does not show the less comic for being dragged in sometimes by the head and shoulders. What though it limp a little, or prove defective in one leg — all the better.
     Charles Lamb, Last Essays of Elia (1833)
     "Popular Fallacies: IX, That the Worst Puns are the Best"


Many of us can still remember the social nuisance of the inveterate punster. This man followed conversation as a shark follows a ship.
     Stephen Leacock


A pun (in Greek, paronomasia, “equal word”) has been defined as a play upon words and a bad pun as two-thirds of a pun — p.u.
     Richard Lederer, Get Thee To a Punnery (1988)


Punnery is largely the trick of compacting two or more ideas within a single word or expression. Punnery challenges us to apply the greatest pressure per square syllable of language. Punnery surprises us by flouting the law of nature that pretends that two things cannot occupy the same space at the same time. Punnery is an exercise of the mind at being concise.
     Richard Lederer, Get Thee To a Punnery (1988)


A pun is the lowest form of humor — if you didn't think of it first.
     Oscar Levant


[Puns] ... a joke based on the infirmities of language.”
     Leonard L. Levinson


Wit has a deadly aim and it is possible to prick a large pretense with a small pin.
     Marya Mannes, But Will It Sell? (1964)


What is comedy? Comedy is the art of making people laugh without making them puke.
     Steve Martin


Think of what would happen to us in America if there were no humorists; life would be one long Congressional Record.
     Tom Masson


Impropriety is the soul of wit.
     W. Somerset Maugham, The Moon and Sixpence (1919)


A man who can laugh, if only at himself, is never really miserable.
     H. L. Mencken, Minority Report: 
     H. L. Mencken's Notebooks


[Puns] ... language on vacation.
     Christopher Morley


The aim of a joke is not to degrade the human being but to remind him that he is already degraded.
     George Orwell


Wit has truth in it; wisecracking is simply calisthenics with words.
     Dorothy Parker, quoted in Robert E. Drennan (ed.), 
     The Algonquin Wits (1985)


He laughs best whose laugh lasts.
     Laurence Johnston Peter


Of puns it has been said that those who most dislike them are those who are least able to utter them.
     Edgar Allen Poe


The goodness of the true pun is in the direct ratio of its intolerability.
     Edgar Allen Poe, Marginalia (1844-49)


He who laughs, lasts.
     Mary Pettibone Poole


No clowns were funny. That was the whole purpose of a clown. People laughed at clowns, but only out of nervousness. The point of clowns was that, after watching them, anything else that happened seemed enjoyable. It was nice to know there was someone worse off than you. Someone had to be the butt of the world.
     Terry Pratchett, Men At Arms (1993)


A comedian can only last till he either takes himself serious or his audience takes him serious.
     Will Rogers


Everything is funny as long as it is happening to somebody else.
     Will Rogers, The Illiterate Digest (1924)


Comedy is the last refuge of the nonconformist mind.
     Gilbert Seldes, The New Republic (December 20, 1954)


When a thing is funny, search it carefully for a hidden truth.
     George Bernard Shaw


My method is to take the utmost trouble to find the right thing to say, and then to say it with the utmost levity.
     George Bernard Shaw, Answers to Nine Questions


[On puns:]  The wit of words.  They are exactly the same to words which wit is to ideas, and consist in the sudden discovery of relations in language.
     Sydney Smith


Punning is an art of harmonious jingling upon words, which, passing in at the ears, excites a titillary motion in those parts; and this, being conveyed by the animal spirits into the muscles of the face, raises the cockles of the heart.
     Jonathan Swift


Punning is a talent which no man affects to despise but he that is without it.
     Jonathan Swift


Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody's face but their own, which is the chief reason for that kind of reception it meets in the world, and that so very few are offended with it.
     Jonathan Swift "The Battle of the Books" (1704)


Beware of the psychoanalyst who analyzes jokes rather than laughs at them.
     Thomas Szasz


The wit makes fun of other persons; the satirist makes fun of the world; the humorist makes fun of himself.
     James Thurber, television interview


Humor: the ability to laugh at any mistake you survive.
     Jerry Tucker


Puns cannot be allowed a place in this department. Inoffensive ignorance, benignant stupidity, and unostentatious imbecility will always be welcomed and cheerfully accorded a corner, and even the feeblest humor will be admitted, when we can do no better; but no circumstance, however dismal, will ever be considered a sufficient excuse for the admission of that last and saddest evidence of intellectual poverty, the Pun.
     Mark Twain, "Introductory" (The Galaxy, May 1870)


The fair record of my life has been tarnished by just one pun. My father overheard that, and he hunted me over four or five townships seeking to take my life. I I had been full-grown, of course he would have been right; but, child as I was, I could not know how wicked a thing I had done.
     Mark Twain, "Wit-Inspirations of the 'Two-Year-Olds'" (1870)


When a stranger says to me, with a glow of inspiration in his eye, some gentle, innocuous little thing about "Twain and one flesh," and all that sort of thing, I don't try to crush that man into the earth — no. I feel like saying: "Let me take you by the hand, sir; let me embrace you; I have not heard that pun for weeks." We will deal in palpable puns. We will call parties named King "Your Majesty," and we will say to the Smiths that we think we have heard that name before somewhere. Such is human nature.
     Mark Twain, "About London" (speech given at the 
     Savage Club, London, September 28, 1872)


The funniest things are the forbidden.
     Mark Twain, Notebook, 1879


Somebody has said "Wit is the sudden marriage of ideas which before their union were not perceived to have any relation.
     Mark Twain, Notebook, 1885


The humorous story is told gravely; the teller does his best to conceal the fact that he even dimly suspects that there is anything funny about it; but the teller of the comic story tells you beforehand that it is one of the funniest things he has ever heard, then tells it with eager delight, and is the first person to laugh when he gets through. And sometimes, if he has had good success, he is so glad and happy that he will repeat the "nub" of it and glance around from face to face, collecting applause, and then repeat it again. It is a pathetic thing to see. ... All of which is very depressing, and makes one want to renounce joking and lead a better life.
     Mark Twain, "How To Tell a Story" (1895)


Well, humor is the great thing, the saving thing, after all. The minute it crops up, all our hardnesses yield, all our irritations and resentments flit away, and a sunny spirit takes their place.
     Mark Twain, "What Paul Bourget Thinks Of Us" (1895)


Two of these creatures [monkeys] came into my room in the early morning, through a window whose shutters I had left open, and when I woke one of them was before the glass brushing his hair, and the other one had my note-book, and was reading a page of humorous notes and crying. I did not mind the one with the hair-brush, but the conduct of the other one hurt me; it hurts me yet.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)


"Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand."
     Mark Twain, "The Chronicle of Young Satan" (1897-1900)


Wit, by itself, is of little account. It becomes of moment only when grounded on wisdom.
     Mark Twain, in Fisher, Abroad With Mark Twain (1922)


The ordinary chestnut can beget a sickly and reluctant laugh, but it takes a horse chestnut to fetch the gorgeous big horse-laugh.
     Mark Twain, More Maxims of Mark (Merle Johnson, ed., 1927)


Humor must not professedly teach and it must not professedly preach, but it must do both if it would live forever.
     Mark Twain, Bernard DeVoto (ed.), Mark Twain in Eruption (1940)


Laughter without a tinge of philosophy is but a sneeze of humor. Genuine humor is replete with wisdom.
     Mark Twain, in Opie Read, Mark Twain and I (1940)


Humor is the good-natured side of a truth.
     Mark Twain, Alex Ayres (ed.),
     The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain (1987)


[Puns] ... something every person belittles and everyone attempts.
     Louis Untermeyer


Comedy: a funny way of being serious.
     Peter Ustinov


A witty saying proves nothing.
     Voltaire, Diner du Comte de Boulainvilliers


How do jokes work? The beginning of each good one challenges you to think. .... Why does a chicken cross the road? Why does a fireman wear red suspenders? Why did they bury George Washington on the side of a hill? The second part of the joke announces that nobody wants you to think, nobody wants to hear your wonderful answer. You are so relieved to at last meet somebody who doesn't demand that you be intelligent. You laugh for joy.
     Kurt Vonnegut, Palm Sunday (1981)
     Graduation speech at Fredonia College,
          Fredonia, New York (May 20, 1978)


[Puns] ... a low species of wit.
     Noah Webster


Analysts have had their go at humor, and I have read some of this interpretative literature, but without being greatly instructed. Humor can be dissected, as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind.
     E. B. White, "Some Remarks on Humor" (1941)


Here in America we have an immensely humorous people in a land of milk and honey and wit, who cherish the ideal of the "sense" of humor and at the same time are highly suspicious of anything that is nonserious. Whatever else an American believes or disbelieves about himself, he is absolutely sure he has a sense of humor.
     E. B. White, "Some Remarks on Humor" (1941)


The world likes humor, but it treats it patronizingly. It decorates its serious artists with laurel, and its wags with Brussels sprouts. It feels that if a thing is funny it can be presumed to be something less than great, because if it were truly great it would be wholly serious.
     E. B. White, "Some Remarks on Humor" (1941)