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Talent and Ability



Television and Radio


There's No Place Like Home


Tolerance and Intolerance

Traditions and Customs

Travel and Transportation





Talent and Ability


Gullibility is the key to all adventures. The greenhorn is the ultimate victor in everything; it is he that gets the most out of life.
     G. K. Chesterton


We acquire a sense of worth either by realizing our talents, or by keeping busy, or by identifying ourselves with something apart from us — be it a cause, a leader, a group, possessions and the like. Of the three, the path of self-realization is the most difficult. It is taken only when other avenues to a sense of worth are more or less blocked. Men of talent have to be encouraged and goaded to engage in creative work. Their groans and laments echo through the ages.
     Eric Hoffer, The Passionate State of Mind (1954)


Of all human qualities, the one I admire most is competence. A tailor who is really able to cut and fit a coat seems to me to be an admirable man, and by the same token a university professor who knows little or nothing of the thing he presumes to teach seems to me to be a fraud and rascal.
     H. L. Mencken, Minority Report: H. L. Mencken's Notebooks (1956)


... the exercise of an extraordinary gift is the supremest pleasure in life ...
     Mark Twain, The American Claimant (1892)


We are always more anxious to be distinguished for a talent which we do not possess, than to be praised for the fifteen which we do possess.
     Mark Twain, More Maxims of Mark (Merle Johnson, ed., 1927)





When that April with its sweet showers has made every man to pay his income tax, then do men long to make a pilgrimage back unto mid-December wherein, had they been foresightful and expensively advised by tax lawyers, they might yet have built a tidy tax shelter before the fatal midnight of December 31.
     Russell Baker, Poor Russell's Almanac (1972)


Why does a slight tax increase cost you two hundred dollars and a substantial tax cut save you thirty cents?
     Peg Bracken


To the Tax Office: All is over between us. Please don't attempt to communicate with me again.
     Ashleigh Brilliant


Any reasonable system of taxation should be based on the slogan of "Soak the rich."
     Heywood Broun, quoted in Robert E. Drennan (ed.), 
     The Algonquin Wits (1985)


Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.
     Benjamin Franklin, letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy (November 13, 1789)


I wouldn't mind paying taxes — if I knew they were going to a friendly country.
     Dick Gregory


The avoidance of taxes is the only intellectual pursuit that carries any reward.
     John Maynard Keynes


The wages of sin are death, but by the time taxes are taken out, it's just sort of a tired feeling.
     Paula Poundstone


Income tax has made more liars out of the American people than golf has.
     Will Rogers, The Illiterate Digest (1924)


When everybody has got money they cut taxes, and when they're broke they raise 'em. That's statesmanship of the highest order.
     Will Rogers, Autobiography (1949)


If I Live in a Fantasy World, Why Do I Have to Pay Taxes? (chapter title)
     Rita Rudner, Naked Beneath My Clothes: 
     Tales of a Revealing Nature (1992)


I was so relieved when Judge Leventritt did find something that was not taxable — when he said that the commissioner could not tax your patience. And that comforted me. We've got so much taxation. I don't know of a single foreign product that enters this country untaxed except the answer to prayer.
     Mark Twain, "When in Doubt, Tell the Truth" (speech, March 9, 1906)


What is the difference between a taxidermist and a tax collector? The taxidermist takes only your skin.
     Mark Twain, More Maxims of Mark (Merle Johnson, ed., 1927)


Income tax returns are the most imaginative fiction being written today.
     Herman Wouk





From the birth of man until March 10, 1876, it was impossible for any man on earth to interrupt another man at dinner for the purpose of telling him, with the assistance of a machine and some wires, that he had been awarded a free dance lesson. Then — on this day just one hundred six years ago — at his home in Boston, Alexander Graham Bell placed the first telephone call. It went to Thomas Augustus Watson on another floor at Bell's house. Watson was not eating dinner. Bell did not attempt to sell him $399 worth of dance lessons. They did not even dawdle on the phone sighing and breathing; instead, Bell set a precedent for telephone use that has, regrettably, fallen into disuse. "Mr. Watson," he said, "come here; I want you."
     Russell Baker, Poor Russell's Almanac (1972)


Telephone, n. An invention of the devil which abrogates some of the advantages of making a disagreeable person keep his distance.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


"Excuse me, everybody," Mrs. Parker said one day, rising from her chair at the Round Table, "I have to go to the bathroom." Then, after a brief pause: "I really have to telephone, but I'm too embarrassed to say so."
     Dorothy Parker, quoted in Robert E. Drennan (ed.), 
     The Algonquin Wits (1985)


I don't like the idea that people can call you in your car. I think there's news you shouldn't get at sixty miles per hour. "Pregnant? Whooaaaah!" But if we're gonna have car telephones, I think we definitely should have car telephone answering machines: "Tom's at home right now. But as soon as he goes out, he'll get back to you."
     Tom Parks


At the end of every year, I add up the time that I have spent on the phone on hold and subtract it from my age. I don't count that time as really living. I spend more and more time on hold each year. By the time I die, I'm going to be quite young.
     Rita Rudner, Naked Beneath My Clothes: 
     Tales of a Revealing Nature (1992)


Well, if I called the wrong number, why did you answer the phone?
     James Thurber, Men, Women and Dogs (1943)


Is this the party to whom I am speaking? (Ernestine the Operator, Laugh-In)
     Lily Tomlin


Confound a telephone, anyway. It is the very demon for conveying similarities of sound that are miracles of divergence from similarity of sense.
     Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889)


A telephone is a wire stretched on poles or underground, and has a thing at each end of it. These things are to speak into and to listen at. The wire carries the words; it can carry them several hundred miles. It is a time-saving, profanity-breeding, useful invention, and in America is to be found in all houses except parsonages.
     Mark Twain, "Letters to Satan" (1897)


In this day of the telegraph man waits not for time or tide.
     Mark Twain, Notebook, 1898


Mark Twain once wrote to the telephone management: "The time is coming very soon when the telephone will be a perfect instrument, when proximity will no longer be a hindrance to its performance, when, in fact, one will hear a man who is in the next block just as easily and comfortably as he would if that man were in San Francisco.
     Mark Twain, Albert Bigelow Paine, 
     Mark Twain: A Biography (1912)


It is my heart-warm and world-embracing Christmas hope and aspiration that all of us, the high, the low, the rich, the poor, the admired, the despised, the love, the hated, the civilized, the savage (every man and brother of us all throughout the whole earth), may eventually be gathered together in a heaven of everlasting rest and please and bliss, except the inventor of the telephone.
     Mark Twain, gramaphone recording; quoted in Alex Ayres (ed.), 
     The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain (1987)


We keep our phone in a closet here, as you might confine a puppy that isn't fully house-trained.
     E. B. White, "Home-Coming" (1955)
     Essays of E. B. White (1977)


Now, suppose you go off on an entirely different tack when the phone rings and someone asks for you by name. Suppose you say, with forced cheeriness, "Speaking!" What a pitiful attempt! The word has hardly rolled off your tongue when it becomes meaningless, for you are no longer speaking but are listening — and hoping against hope that it isn't somebody you can't stand.
     E. B. White, The Second Tree from the Corner (1954, 1984)
     "Answers to Hard Questions"


I got an answering machine for my phone. Now when I'm not home and somebody calls me up, they hear a recording of a busy signal. I like to leave messages before the beep.
     Steven Wright


I plugged my phone in where the blender used to be. I called someone. They went "Aaahhh..."
     Steven Wright


Last week I bought a new phone. I took it out of the box, hooked it up to the wall, and pressed redial. The phone had a nervous breakdown.
     Steven Wright


Today I dialed a wrong number... The other person said, "Hello?" and I said, "Hello, could I speak to Joey?" They said, "Uh, I don't think so, he's only 2 months old." I said, "I'll wait."
     Steven Wright


Under my bed I have shoe box full of telephone rings. Whenever I get lonely I open it up just a bit and I get a call. One time I dropped the box all over the floor and the phone wouldn't stop ringing, so I had it disconnected. I bought a new phone though. I didn't have much money so I had to buy an irregular phone — it had no number 5 on it. I saw a close friend of mine the other day. He said, "Steven, why haven't you called me?" I said, "I can't call everyone I want. My new phone has no five on it." He said, "How long have you had it?" I said, "I don't know. My calendar has no sevens on it."
     Steven Wright



Television and Radio
(The Bland Leading the Bland)


TV — a clever contraction derived from the words Terrible Vaudeville. We call it a medium because nothing's well done.
     Goodman Ace


Does no one in this galaxy do anything other than appear on chat shows?
     Arthur Dent in Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's 
     Guide to the Galaxy
(radio program, 1977-1980)


All television is children's television.
     Richard P. Adler


Imitation is the sincerest form of television.
     Fred Allen


Television is a device that permits people who haven't anything to do to watch people who can't do anything.
     Fred Allen


Television is the first truly democratic culture — the first culture available to everyone and entirely governed by what the people want. The most terrifying thing is what people do want.
     Clive Barnes, New York Times (December 30, 1969)


If you surveyed a hundred typical middle-aged Americans, I bet you'd find that only two of them could tell you their blood types, but every last one of them would know the theme song from The Beverly Hillbillies.
     Dave Barry, Dave Barry Turns 40 (1990)


Television brings the whole world into every home, providing everyone a way to escape from it. It does this in different ways, though. Consider the difference between Soviet and American television. In America, the purpose of television is to sell people consumer junk. In the Soviet Union, its purpose is to explain to people why there's no consumer junk to buy. The ancient Chinese had a curse: "May you live in interesting times." I suppose they had time to think of wise curses like that because they didn't have CNN.
     A. Whitney Brown, The Big Picture: 
     An American Commentary


TV has made the Three Stooges an ingrained part of the universal preteen experience, and shared memories are the building blocks of a homogeneous culture. It turns people into a People. If it is not too good at making people think, it is very good at making people think alike.
     A. Whitney Brown, The Big Picture: 
     An American Commentary


Art is moral passion married to entertainment. Moral passion without entertainment is propaganda, and entertainment without moral passion is television.
     Rita Mae Brown


We get about fifty channels in our house — it is possible on some systems now to get up to two hundred, I believe — so you think at first that you are going to be spoiled for choice, but gradually you come to the conclusion that the idea of the bulk of TV these days is simply to fill up the air with any old junk.
    Bill Bryson, I’m a Stranger Here Myself:  Notes on Returning
     To America After Twenty Years Away
     “The Wasteland”


I never watch "Sesame Street"; I know most of that stuff.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


What exactly is "viewer discretion"? If viewers had discretion, most television shows would not be on the air.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


The only thing high-definition television will do is provide sharper pictures of the garbage.
     George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)


I am amazed at radio DJ's today. I am firmly convinced that AM on my radio stands for Absolute Moron. I will not begin to tell you what FM stands for.
     Jasper Carrott


Television is democracy at its ugliest.
     Paddy Chayevsky


A moderate watcher of children's television programs receives over 5,000 messages per year, primarily advising him to eat snacks, sweets, and soda pop.
     Robert B. Choate


Television is more interesting than people. If it were not, we would have people standing in the corners of our rooms.
     Alan Corenk


What do you get from a glut of TV?
A pain in the neck and an IQ of three
    The Oompa Loompas in Roald Dahl, David Seltzer (uncredited),
     Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory


Television is a medium of entertainment which permits millions of people to listen to the same joke at the same time, and yet remain lonesome.
     T. S. Eliot


I now believe that television itself, the medium of sitting in front of a magic box that pulses images at us endlessly, the act of watching TV, per se, is mind crushing. It is soul deadening, dehumanizing, soporific in a poisonous way, ultimately brutalizing. It is, simply put so you cannot mistake my meaning, a bad thing.
     We need near fear Orwell's 1984, because it's here, with us now, nearly a decade ahead of schedule, and has been with us for quire a while already. Witness the power of television and the impact it has had on you.
          Harlan Ellison, "Revealed at Last! What Killed the Dinosaurs! 
          And You Don't Look So Terrific Yourself" (1978); Strange Wine (1978)


Unlike television, films, football games, the roller derby, wars in underdeveloped nations and Watergate hearings, which are spectator sports, a book requires the activation of its words by the eyes and the intellect of a reader.
     Harlan Ellison, "Revealed at Last! What Killed the Dinosaurs! 
     And You Don't Look So Terrific Yourself" (1978); Strange Wine (1978)


I hate television because it keeps people stupid and keeps them occupied when they should be doing other things.
     Harlan Ellison, quoted in TV Guide (February 19, 1994)


When all this started, two years ago, I did not have a video cassette recorder. What I had was a position on video cassette recorders. I was against them. It seemed to me that the fundamental idea of VCRs — which is that if you go out and miss what's on television, you can always watch it later — flew in the fact of almost the only thing I truly believed — which is that the whole point of going out is to miss what's on television. Let's face it: part of being a grownup is that every day you have to choose between going out at night or staying home, and it is one of life's unhappy truths that there is not enough time to do both.
     Nora Ephron, Nora Ephron Collected (1991)
     "Living With My VCR" (1984)


Television is an invention that permits you to be entertained in your living room by people you wouldn't have in your home.
     David Frost


Although now and then it tries to cover its shame and put on airs, television is a grossly proletarian medium, efficient at merchandising denture cleansers and incontinence diapers, beer, laxatives, cars, and laundry supplies, but death to books, ideas, the sense of history, and the complexities, subtleties, and ironies of civilized discourse.
     Paul Fussell, BAD, or, The Dumbing of America (1991)


You can say of television today what Charles Lamb said of newspapers long ago: you never open one (i.e., turn on the set) without a slight thrill of expectation, and you never close one (i.e., turn the damned thing off) without disappointment. If you are at all bright, you initial slight titillation is rapidly overcome by the bromides and formulas, the constant victory of presentation over substance, the unremitting wheeling-out of the tired and tested instead of anything original.
     Paul Fussell, BAD, or, The Dumbing of America (1991)


Nobody stuck a microphone or a camera in from of Abraham Lincoln's face. Even he probably would have said some foolish things if he had had to provide sound bites for CNN.
     Larry Gelbart


Television, the drug of the nation, breeding ignorance and feeding radiation.
     Larry Gilbert


If it wasn't for electricity we'd all be watching television by candlelight.
     George Gobel


Television has raised writing to a new low.
     Sam Goldwyn


Why should people go out and pay to see bad movies when they can stay at home and see bad television for nothing?
     Samuel Goldwyn


Seeing a murder on television . . . can help work off one's antagonisms. And if you haven't any antagonisms, the commercials will give you some.
     Alfred Hitchcock


Television has brought murder back into the home — where it belongs.
     Alfred Hitchcock


Television has done much for psychiatry by spreading information about it, as well as contributing to the need for it.
     Alfred Hitchcock


We can put it [television] in its proper perspective by supposing that Gutenberg's great invention had been directed at printing only comic books.
     Robert M. Hutchins, News Summaries (December 31, 1977)
          [I'd have to add, though, that statistically speaking, 
          I'm not sure that printing has produced any less 
          "comic books" per capita than has television has.]


All television is educational television. The question is: what is it teaching?
     Nicholas Johnson


Ninety-eight percent of American homes have TV sets — which means the people in the other two percent of the households have to generate their own sex and violence.
     Franklin P. Jones


Television — a medium. So called because it is neither rare nor well done.
     Ernie Kovacs


There's a standard formula for success in the entertainment medium, and that is: "Beat it to death if it succeeds."
     Ernie Kovacs


Television has proved that people will look at anything rather than each other.
     Ann Landers


Radio news is bearable. This is due to the fact that while the news is being broadcast, the disc jockey is not allowed to talk.
     Fran Lebowitz, Metropolitan Life (1978)
     "No News Is Preferable"


America is the only country in the world that’s still in the business of making bombs that can end the world and TV shows that make it seem like a good idea.
     Bill Maher


I must say I find television very educational. The minute somebody turns it on, I go into the library and read a good book.
     Groucho Marx, "King Leer" (Tele-Views), quoted in
     The Essential Groucho
(Stefan Kanfer, ed.)


This instrument [television] can teach. It can illuminate. Yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise, it is merely wires and lights in a box.
     Edward R. Murrow


When the politicians complain that TV turns the proceedings into a circus, it should be made clear that the circus was already there, and that TV has merely demonstrated that not all the performers are well trained.
     Edward R. Murrow


I suppose I should get a VCR, but the only thing I like about television is its ephemerality.
     P. J. O'Rourke


Television has changed the American child from an irresistible force into an immovable object.
     Laurence Johnston Peter


Well! I object to all this sex on the television. I mean! I keep fallin' off!
     Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969-1974)


If there was a remote-control Olympics, my husband would easily win it. He can flick through our fifty channels faster and more often than anyone I've ever seen. We can watch a football game, a sitcom, and a war all at the same time. Often, I'm not sure which is which.
     Rita Rudner, Naked Beneath My Clothes: 
     Tales of a Revealing Nature


Television has lifted the manufacture of banality out of the sphere of handicraft and placed it in that of a major industry.
     Nathalie Sarraute


Don't you hate "To Be Continued"s on TV? ... I mean the whole reason you watch a TV show is because it ends. If I wanted a long, boring story with no point to it, I've got my life.
     Jerry Seinfeld, SeinLanguage (1993)


You have to work years in hit shows to make people sick and tired of you, but you can accomplish this in a few weeks on television.
     Walter Slezak


"57 Channels, Nothing's On"
     Bruce Springsteen, song title


I believe he means television, sir. That particular form of entertainment did not last much beyond the year 2040.
     Data, "The Neutral Zone"
     STAR TREK:  The Next Generation


Does the phrase "To Be Continued" mean anything to you?
     The Doctor, "Night"
     STAR TREK:  Voyager


In a disturbing development today, the average IQ was surpassed by the average number of available cable channels.
     Bob Thaves, "Frank and Ernest" (comic strip)


Well, if Jerry Springer isn't educational TV, why does it make me feel so much smarter?
     Bob Thaves, "Frank and Ernest" (comic strip)


If you read a lot of books, you're considered well read. But if you watch a lot of TV, you're not considered well viewed.
     Lily Tomlin


Kitman's Law: Pure drivel on the TV screen tends to drive off ordinary drivel.


Late-night TV is very educational. It teaches you that you should have gone to bed earlier.


Television: the bland leading the bland.


There are days when any electrical appliance in the house, including the vacuum cleaner, seems to offer more entertainment possibilities than the TV set.
     Harriet Van Horne


I have the terrible feeling that, because I am wearing a white beard and am sitting in the back of the theatre, you expect me to tell you the truth about something. These are the cheap seats, not Mount Sinai.
     Orson Welles


Television is a twenty-one inch prison. I'm delighted with it because it used to be that films were the lowest form of art. Now we have something to look down on.
     Billy Wilder


Disparagement of television is second only to watching television as an American pastime.
     George F. Will


Television: chewing gum for the eyes.
     Frank Lloyd Wright


One night I walked home very late and fell asleep in somebody's satellite dish. My dreams were showing up on TV's all over the world.
     Steven Wright





Lead me not into temptation; I can find the way myself.
     Rita Mae Brown


I'm searching for some temptation to give in to.
     Mal Hancock


Don't worry about temptation — as you grow older, it starts avoiding you.
     Old Farmer's Almanac


The trouble with resisting temptation is that you may not get another chance.
     Laurence Johnston Peter


'Tis one thing to be tempted, another thing to fall.


There are several good protections against temptations but the surest is cowardice.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)
     "Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"


I generally avoid temptation unless I can't resist it.
     Mae West


There are terrible temptations that it requires great strength and courage to yield to.
     Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891)


Every impulse that we strive to strangle broods in the mind and poisons us. . . . The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.
     Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891)


I can resist everything except temptation.
     Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere's Fan (1892)



There's No Place Like Home


Los Angeles ... [is] like several thousand square miles of American Express junk mail, but without the same sense of moral depth. Plus the air is, for some reason, yellow.
     Douglas Adams, So Long And Thanks For All The Fish (1985)


California is a great place to live if you're an orange.
     Fred Allen


I have just returned from Boston. It is the only thing to do if you find yourself there.
     Fred Allen


The curtain rises on a vast primitive wasteland, not unlike certain parts of New Jersey.
     Woody Allen


I mean, who would want to live in a place [Los Angeles] where the only cultural advantage is that you can turn right on a red light.
     Woody Allen, Annie Hall (with Marshall Brickman, movie, 1977)


Unpacking: It is best not to attempt this all at once. It is best to space it out over a period of several years, so that you may savor the joy of discovering the kinds of comical items you chose to pack and, at great cost in money and effort, move to your new home.
     Dave Barry, Dave Barry's Homes and Other Black Holes (1988)


There is a lot of dirt around.
     What this means is that you, as a homeowner, have to make a decision: Are you going to let the dirt overcome you, so that you live your life encrusted by a permanent layer of greasy yellowish filth, so that you are no better than slugs writhing in their own putrid slime? Or are you going to make the commitment, in time, in effort, to fighting back — to really trying to keep your new home neat and tidy?
     I have tried it both ways, and trust me, the writhing slug approach is better. ... What you want to do, in your household, is adopt the cleaning system my wife and I use, which is based on the old philosophical question: "If a tree falls in the forest, and nobody is there to hear it, does it make any sound?" (The answer, by the way, is yes; the tree goes: "Moo.") Our theory is, if there is nobody besides ourselves around to see the dirt, then the dirt isn't really there. So Rule Number One of successful housecleaning is: ***> Never Let Anybody into Your House. >***
     Dave Barry, Dave Barry's Homes and Other Black Holes (1988)


     "Tell me something about yourself and the country you came from," said the Scarecrow, when she had finished her dinner. So she told him all about Kansas, and how gray everything was there, and how the cyclone had carried her to this queer Land of Oz.
     The Scarecrow listened carefully, and said, "I cannot understand why you should wish to leave this beautiful country and go back to the dry, gray place you call Kansas."
     "That is because you have no brains" answered the girl. "No matter how dreary and gray our homes are, we people of flesh and blood would rather live there than in any other country, be it ever so beautiful. There is no place like home."
     The Scarecrow sighed.
     "Of course I cannot understand it," he said. "If your heads were stuffed with straw, like mine, you would probably all live in the beautiful places, and then Kansas would have no people at all. It is fortunate for Kansas that you have brains."
     L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)


I have never understood what Ohio was thinking when it called itself the "Buckeye State" or Indiana the "Hoosier State," and I haven't the faintest idea what New York means by dubbing itself the "Empire State." As far as I am aware, New York's many undoubted glories do not include overseas possessions. Still, I can't criticize because I live in the state with the most demented of all license plate slogans, the strange and pugnacious "Live Free or Die." Perhaps I take these things too literally, but I really don't like driving around with an explicit written vow to expire if things don't go right. Frankly, I would prefer something a little more equivocal and less terminal — "Live Free or Pout" perhaps, or maybe "Live Free or Bitch Mightily to Anyone Who'll Listen."
     Bill Bryson


That's what your house is, a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get — more stuff.
     George Carlin "A Place For My Stuff" (HBO, 1981)


I grew up in New York City and lived there until I was thirty. At that time, I decided I'd had enough of life in a dynamic, sophisticated city, so I moved to Los Angeles. Actually, I moved there because of the time difference. I was behind in my work, and wanted to pick up the extra three hours. Technically, for the last thirty years I've been living in my own past.
I knew I didn't want to move to the Midwest. I could never live in a place where the outstanding geographic feature is the horizon. The Midwest seems like a nice place to catch up on your sleep. ...
Still, I live in California. But I'm not "laid-back," and I'm certainly not "mellow." I associate those qualities with the comatose. The solar system wasn't formed because matter was laid-back; life didn't arise from the oceans and humans descend from the trees because DNA was mellow. It happened because of something called energy.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


California: bordering always on the Pacific and sometimes on the ridiculous.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


There are only two places in the world: over here and over there.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


There are no natives anywhere in the world. Everyone is from somewhere else. All people are refugees, immigrants, or aliens. If there were natives anywhere, they would be people who still live in the Great Rift valley in Africa where the human species arose. Everyone else is just visiting.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


I'd like to live in a country where the official motto was, "You never know." It would help me relax.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.
     Robert Frost, "The Death of the Hired Man"


New York: where everyone mutinies but no one deserts.
     Harry Hershfield


The fellow that owns his own home is always just coming out of a hardware store.
     Kin Hubbard


A marriage, to be happy, needs an exterior threat. New York provides that threat.
     Garrison Keillor


"There's no place like home when you're not feeling well."
     annual Christmas toast of the Sons of Knute in 
     Garrison Keillor, Lake Wobegon Days (1985)


... in New York it's not whether you win or lose — it's how you lay the blame.
     Fran Lebowitz, Metropolitan Life (1978)
     "Modern Sports"


If there’s a bright center to the universe, you’re on the planet that it’s farthest from.
    Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in George Lucas,
     Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope
(movie, 1977)


“I want my lamp back. I’m gonna need it to get out of this slimy mudhole.”
“Mudhole? Slimy? My home this is.”
    Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and Yoda (voice of Frank Oz) in Leigh Brackett &
     Lawrence Kasdan (screenplay), George Lucas (story), Star Wars: Episode V -
     The Empire Strikes Back
(movie, 1980)


Nothing is wrong with California that a rise in the ocean level wouldn't cure.
     Ross MacDonald


He makes his home where the living is best.
     Latin Proverb


Our house was beautiful, but tiny. "How tiny?" you ask. I did a situp in the living room and broke two lamps. The front door opened onto the backyard. It was a quaint house. It had charm. I wish it had a window.
     Rita Rudner, Naked Beneath My Clothes: 
     Tales of a Revealing Nature (1992)


We had a great house. We didn't really want to move, but we were living within our means and people were starting to talk. We live in Los Angeles, where you are expected to move every two to four years so people can see how well your career is going. Most places people walk into a house and think, This is where I want to live for the rest of my life. In Los Angeles people walk into a house and think, This is where I want to live till my series gets sold into syndication.
     Rita Rudner, Naked Beneath My Clothes: 
     Tales of a Revealing Nature (1992)


... as one of Finagle's laws puts it, "Any home port the ship makes will be somebody else's, not mine."
     James T. Kirk, "Amok Time"
     STAR TREK:  The Original Series


My father had a saying: "Home is wherever you happen to be."
     Chakotay, "Deadlock"
     STAR TREK:  Voyager


The trouble with Oakland is that when you get there, there isn't any there there.
     Gertrude Stein


At a certain season of our life we are accustomed to consider every spot as the possible site of a house.
     Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or, Life in the Woods (1854)
     "Where I Lived, and What I Lived For"


"It is best to love first what you are fitted to love, I suppose: you must start somewhere and have some roots, and the soil of the Shire is deep. Still there are things deeper and higher; and not a gaffer could tend his garden in what he calls peace but for them, whether he knows about them or not. I am glad that I know about them, a little."
     Merry in J. R. R. Tolkien, The Return of the King (1956)


Being a New Yorker is never having to say you're sorry.
     Lily Tomlin


[Suggested motto for New Jersey:] Not as bad as you might have imagined.
     Calvin Trillin


Nevada was discovered many years ago by the Mormons, and was called Carson county. It only became Nevada in 1861, by act of Congress. There is a popular tradition that God Almighty created it; but when you come to see it, William, you will think differently.
     Mark Twain, "Washoe — Information Wanted" (1864)


In Marseilles they make half the fancy toilet soap we consume in America, but the Marseillaise only have a vague theoretical idea of its use, which they have obtained from books of travel, just as they have acquired an uncertain notion of clean shirts, and the peculiarities of the gorilla, and other curious matters.
     Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad (1869)


France has neither winter nor summer nor morals — apart from these drawbacks it is a fine country.
     Mark Twain, Notebook, 1879


"When we were finishing our house, we found we had a little cash left over, on account of the plumber not knowing it."
     Mr. McWilliams, in Mark Twain "The McWilliamses 
     and the Burglar Alarm" (1882)


The first time I ever saw St. Louis, I could have bought it for six million dollars, and it was the mistake of my life that I did not do it. It was bitter now to look abroad over this domed and steepled metropolis, this solid expanse of bricks and mortar stretching away on every hand into dim, measure-defying distances, and remember that I had allowed that opportunity to go by. Why I should have allowed it to go by seems, of course, foolish and inexplicable to-day, at a first glance; yet there were reasons at the time to justify this course.
     Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (1883)


The average man is profoundly ignorant of countries that lie remote from his own. When they are mentioned in his presence one or two facts and maybe a couple of names rise like torches in his mind, lighting up an inch or two of it and leaving the rest all dark. The mention of Egypt suggests some Biblical facts and the Pyramids — nothing more. The mention of South Africa suggests Kimberly and the diamonds and there an end. Formerly the mention, to a Hindoo, of America suggested a name — George Washington — with that his familiarity with our country was exhausted. Latterly his familiarity with it has doubled in bulk; so that when America is mentioned now, two torches flare up in the dark caverns of his mind and he says, "Ah, the country of the great man — Washington; and of the Holy City — Chicago." For he knows about the Congress of Religion, and this has enabled him to get an erroneous impression of Chicago.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)


Satan (impatiently) to New-Comer. The trouble with you Chicago people is that you think you are the best people down here, whereas you are merely the most numerous.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)
     "Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"


A friend once asked him about the cost of building his Redding residence. The architect's estimates, he said, had been so many thousands of dollars. "Did it cost that much?" asked the friend. "Well, half of it did," replied Mark Twain.
     Mark Twain, Alexander McD. Stoddardt, "Twainiana," 
     Independent 68 (5 May 1910): 960-63


A king's castle is his home.


Californians are not without their faults.


Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them.
     Bill Vaughan


I had to move to New York for health reasons. I'm extremely paranoid and New York is the only place my fears are justified.
     Anita Wise


"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."
     Dorothy (Judy Garland)
     Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson, and Edgar Allan Woolf,
     The Wizard of Oz (movie, 1939)


"What have you learned, Dorothy?"
     "Well, I — I think that it — it wasn't enough to just want to see Uncle Henry and Auntie Em — and it's that — if I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with!"
     Tin Woodsman (Jack Haley) and Dorothy (Judy Garland)
     Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson, and Edgar Allan Woolf,
     The Wizard of Oz (movie, 1939)


"Oh, but anyway, Toto, we're home. Home! And this is my room, and you're all here. And I'm not gonna leave here ever, ever again, because I love you all, and — oh, Auntie Em — there's no place like home!"
     Dorothy (Judy Garland)
     Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson, and Edgar Allan Woolf,
     The Wizard of Oz (movie, 1939)


Doing a little work around the house. I put fake brick wallpaper over a real brick wall, just so I'd be the only one who knew. People come over and I'm gonna say, "Go ahead, touch it, it feels real."
     Steven Wright


For my birthday I got a humidifier and a dehumidifier. I put them in the same room and let them fight it out. Then I filled my humidifier with wax, and now my room is all shiny.
     Steven Wright


I bought a cheap piece of land. It was on someone else's property.
     Steven Wright


I bought a house, on a one-way dead-end street. I don't know how I got there.
     Steven Wright


I have a decaffeinated coffee table. You'd never know it to look at it.
     Steven Wright


I have a microwave fireplace in my house. The other night I laid down in front of the fire for the evening in two minutes.
     Steven Wright


I installed a skylight in my apartment. The people who live above me are furious.
     Steven Wright


I put hardwood floors on top of wall-to-wall carpet.
     Steven Wright


I put tape on the mirrors in my house so I don't accidentally walk through into another dimension.
     Steven Wright


I went to San Francisco. I found someone's heart.
     Steven Wright


I went to the hardware store and bought some used paint. It was in the shape of a house.
     Steven Wright


I'm moving to Mars next week, so if you have any boxes . . .
     Steven Wright


In my house there's this light switch that doesn't do anything. Every so often I would flick it on and off just to check. Yesterday, I got a call from a woman in Germany. She said, "Cut it out."
     Steven Wright


My house is on the median strip of a highway. You don't really notice, except I have to leave the driveway doing 60 miles per hour.
     Steven Wright


My neighbor has a circular driveway. He can't get out.
     Steven Wright


My neighbors don't like it when I talk to my plants. I use a megaphone.
     Steven Wright


One time the power went out in my house and I had to use the flash on my camera to see my way around. I made a sandwich and took fifty pictures of my face. The neighbors thought there was lightning in my house.
     Steven Wright


People ask me where I live, and I say, "E6".
     Steven Wright


"So, do you live around here often?"
     Steven Wright


The other day somebody stole everything in my apartment and replaced it with an exact replica. When my roommate came home I said, "Roommate, someone stole everything in our apartment and replaced it with an exact replica." He looked at me and said, "Do I know you?"
     Steven Wright


Winny and I lived in a house that ran on static electricity. If you wanted to run the blender, you had to rub balloons on your head. If you wanted to cook, you had to pull off a sweater real quick.
     Steven Wright





"Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so."
"Very deep. You should send that in to the Reader's Digest. They've got a page for people like you."
     Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent in Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's 
     Guide to the Galaxy (radio program, 1977-1980)


Reason notwithstanding, the Universe continues unabated. Its history is terribly long and awfully difficult to understand, even in its simpler moments which are, roughly speaking, the beginning and the end. The wave harmonic theory of historical perception, in its simplest form, states that history is an illusion caused by the passage of time, and that time is an illusion caused by the passage of history.
     Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the 
     Galaxy (radio program, 1977-1980)


... as you stare at the clock the hands will move relentlessly on to four o'clock , and you will enter the long dark teatime of the soul.
     Douglas Adams, Life, the Universe, and Everything (1982)


"Don't try and phone yourself up at home. ... People who talk to themselves on the phone," said Ford, "never learn anything to their advantage. This is not my first temporal anomaly."
     Douglas Adams, Life, the Universe, and Everything (1982)


Anything that happens, happens.
Anything that, in happening, causes something else to happen, causes something else to happen.
Anything that, in happening, causes itself to happen again, happens again.
It doesn't necessarily do it in chronological order, though.
     Douglas Adams, Mostly Harmless (1992)


     "Do you see 'time' as a sequence of discrete events or simply a line of perception through infinite possibilities?"
     "I see 'Time' as more of a magazine."
     "You know these moments we have together — we really must have them less often."
     "Ask me about 'Life.'"
     Dogbert and Dilbert in Scott Adams, I'm Not Anti-
     Business, I'm Anti-Idiot ("Dilbert," 1998)


Eternity is a long time, especially toward the end.
     Woody Allen


Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.
     Marcus Aurelius


Aside from Velcro, time is the most mysterious substance in the universe. You can't see it or touch it, yet a plumber can charge you upwards of seventy-five dollars per hour for it, without necessarily fixing anything.
     Dave Barry, Dave Barry Turns 40 (1990)


Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils.
     Hector Louis Berlioz, "Almanach des lettres francaises"


Clock, n. A machine of great moral value to man, allaying his concern for the future by reminding him what a lot of time remains to him.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


Dawn, n. The time when men of reason go to bed.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


Day, n. A period of twenty-four hours, mostly misspent.  This period is divided into two parts, the day proper and the night, or day improper — the former devoted to sins of business, the latter consecrated to the other sort. These two kinds of social activity overlap.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


Future, n. That period of time in which our affairs prosper, our friends are true and our happiness is assured.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


Past, n. That part of Eternity with some small fraction of which we have a slight and regrettable acquaintance. A moving line called the Present parts it from an imaginary period known as the Future. These two grand divisions of Eternity, of which the one is continually effacing the other, are entirely unlike. The one is dark with sorrow and disappointment, the other bright with prosperity and joy. The Past is the region of sobs, the Future is the realm of song. In one crouches Memory, clad in sackcloth and ashes, mumbling penitential prayer; in the sunshine of the other Hope flies with a free wing, beckoning to temples of success and bowers of ease. Yet the past is the Future of yesterday, the Future is the Past of to-morrow. They are one—the knowledge and the dream.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


Present, n. That part of eternity dividing the domain of disappointment from the realm of hope.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


Year, n. A period of three hundred and sixty-five disappointments.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


You can't measure time in days the way you can money in dollars because every day is different.
     Jorge Luis Borges


I can face anything, except the future, and certain parts of the past and present.
     Ashleigh Brilliant


Instead of past, present and future, I'd prefer chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry.
     Ashleigh Brilliant


It's hard letting go of the past, when there are no firm handholds in the future.
     Ashleigh Brilliant


The longer I live the less future there is to worry about.
     Ashleigh Brilliant


Time will end all my troubles, but I don't always approve of Time's methods.
     Ashleigh Brilliant


Time is my particular downfall. Once something moves into the past tense, I lose all track of it. My sincerest dread in life is to be arrested and asked: "Where were you between the hours of 8:50 A.M. and 11:02 A.M. on the morning of December 11, 1998?" When this happens, I will just hold out my wrists for the handcuffs and let them take me away because there isn't the remotest chance of my recalling. It has been like this for me for as long as I can remember, which of course is not very long.
     Bill Bryson


The day after tomorrow is the third day of the rest of your life.
     George Carlin


There are no times that don't have moments like these.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


Tomorrow is very much like today, except it's not here yet.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY. Not true. Today is another day. We have no idea what tomorrow is going to be. It might turn out to be another day, but we can't be sure. If it happens, I'll be the first to say so. But, you know what? By that time, it'll be today again.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


When you think about it, 12:15 PM is actually 11:75 AM.
     George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)


No one ever says "half a week," although obviously there is such a thing. As in, "I'll be back in a week and a half."
     George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)


You know what bothers me? People who want to know the time. The ones who come up and ask me, "What time is it?" as if I, personally, were responsible for keeping track of such things.
     Sometimes they phrase it a little differently. They'll say, "Do you have the time?" And I say, "No. I don't believe I do. I certainly didn't have it this morning when I left the house. Could you possibly have left it somewhere? You know, now that you mention it, I believe the navy has the time. In Washington. They keep it in an observatory or something, and they let a little of it out each day. Not too much, of course. Just enough. They wouldn't want to give us too much time; we might not use it wisely." Sometimes, in a playful mood, when asked if I have the time, I'll say, "Yes," and simply walk away.
     George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)


Do you ever look at your watch and immediately forget the time, so you look again? And still it doesn't register, so you have to look a third time. And then someone asks you what time it is, and you actually have to look at your watch for the fourth time in three minutes? Don't you feel stupid?
     George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)


Have you ever noticed how sometimes all day Wednesday you keep thinking it's Thursday? Then the next day when you're back to normal, you wonder, why don't you think it's Friday?
     George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)


The future will soon be a thing of the past.
     George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)


Nothing ages so quickly as yesterday's vision of the future.
     Richard Corliss, Time


This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.
     Ralph Waldo Emerson, "The American Scholar" (1837)


Tomorrow, every fault is to be amended; but tomorrow never comes.
     Benjamin Franklin


Lost time is never found again.
     Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanac


Posterity is just around the corner.
     George S. Kaufman


If God had meant for everything to happen at once, he would not have invented desk calendars.
     Fran Lebowitz, Metropolitan Life (1978)
     "The Sound of Music: Enough Already"


[After my retirement] I felt I had avalanches of free time at my disposal: if before I had written three or four books, working in the evening and on Sunday, now I would write another twenty or thirty. Instead it didn't go like that: a friend of mine used to say that in order to do things, "one mustn't have time." Time is an eminently compressible material.
     Primo Levi in Tullio Regge and Primo Levi, Dialogo (1989)


Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.
     Groucho Julius Marx


Time wounds all heels.
     Groucho Julius Marx, attributed (1933)


What's always disappointing about déjà vu is that you've seen it before.
     Hester Mundis, 101 Ways To Avoid Reincarnation, 
     or, Getting It Right the First Time (1989)


Worrying about the future is a thing of the past. I don't think about it.
     Pat Paulsen


The past is a good place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.
     Laurence Johnston Peter


     Death in Terry Pratchett, Soul Music (1995)


A lost ounce of gold may be found, a lost moment of time never.


Enjoy yourself. It's later than you think.
     Chinese Proverb


You can't turn back the clock. But you can wind it up again.
     Bonnie Prudden


I've seen the future, and it's much like the present, only longer.
     Dan Quisenberry


Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save.
     Will Rogers, Autobiography (1949)


It’s a strange thing, but when you are dreading something, and would give anything to slow down time, it has a disobliging habit of speeding up.
     J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2000)


The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.
     Bertrand Russell


Sometimes I lie awake at night, and I ask, "What can I do to keep my life from going by so fast?" Then a voice comes to me that says, "Try slowing down at the corners."
     Charlie Brown in Charles M. Schulz, 
     The World According To Lucy ("Peanuts," 2002)


Everything happens to everybody sooner or later if there is time enough.
     George Bernard Shaw, Back to Methuselah (1921)


Make the most of an uncertain future. Enjoy yourself today. Tomorrow may never come at all.
     Squire Trelane, "The Squire of Gothos"
     STAR TREK:  The Original Series


In déjà vu you only think you're repeating events; we actually are.
     Dr. Crusher, "Cause and Effect"
     STAR TREK The Next Generation


     "We're all going to die sometime, it's just a question of how and when. You will too, Captain. Aren't you beginning to feel time gaining on you? It's like a predator. It's stalking you. Oh, you can try to outrun it with doctors, medicines, new technologies, but in the end, time is going to hunt you down and make the kill."
     "It's our mortality that defines us, Soran; it's part of the truth of our existence."
     "What if I told you I found a new truth?"
     "The Nexus."
     "Time has no meaning there. The predator has no teeth."
     Soran and Picard, STAR TREK Generations


The days of the digital watch are numbered.
     Tom Stoppard


For I dipped into the Future, far as human eye could see; saw the vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be.
     Alfred, Lord Tennyson


As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.
     Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or, Life in the Woods (1854)


Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in.
     Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or, Life in the Woods (1854)
     "Where I Lived, and What I Lived For"


I said there was but one solitary thing about the past worth remembering, and that was the fact that it is the past — can't be restored.
     Mark Twain, letter to Frank E. Burrough (Hartford, November 1, 1876)


"I wonder why we hate the past so?" "It's so damned humiliating," which is what any man would say of his past if he were honest; but honest men are few when it comes to themselves.
     Mark Twain, William Dean Howells, My Mark Twain (1910)


Geological time is not money.
     Mark Twain, More Maxims of Mark (Merle Johnson, ed., 1927)


For the majority of us, the past is a regret; the future an experiment.
     Mark Twain, Opie Read, Mark Twain and I (1940)


Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.


Pap: If a man smashed a clock, could he be accused of killing time?
Pus: Not if he could prove that the clock struck first.
     Unknown, quoted in Linde Silvey and Barnabus 
     Hughes (eds.), Mathematics and Humor


The problem with the future is that it keeps turning into the present.
     Hobbes in Bill Watterson, Attack of the Deranged Mutant 
     Killer Monster Snow Goons
("Calvin and Hobbes," 1992)


Most modern calendars mar the sweet simplicity of our lives by reminding us that each day that passes is the anniversary of some perfectly uninteresting event.
     Oscar Wilde


Time is waste of money.
     Oscar Wilde, "Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young" (1894)


Time is the longest distance between two places.
     Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie (1945)


The future is called "perhaps," which is the only possible thing to call the future. And the only important thing is not to allow that to scare you.
     Tennessee Williams, Orpheus Descending (1957)


Today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday!
     Tom Wilson


He asked me if I knew what time it was. I said, "Yes, but not right now."
     Steven Wright


I put instant coffee in a microwave oven and almost went back in time.
     Steven Wright


I Xeroxed my watch. Now I have time to spare.
     Steven Wright


It's a fine night to have an evening.
     Steven Wright


Whenever I think about the past, it just brings back so many memories.
     Steven Wright



Tolerance and Intolerance


Prejudgments become prejudices only if they are not reversible when exposed to new knowledge.
     Gordon Allport


What a minority group wants is not the right to have geniuses among them but the right to have fools and scoundrels without being condemned as a group.
     Agnes Elizabeth Benedict


Prejudice, n. A vagrant opinion without visible means of support.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


It's no trick to be tolerant of somebody you don't like. What's tough is to be tolerant of somebody who doesn't like you. Students of behavior say most people can't handle it. It's what perpetuates prejudice, they say.
     L. M. Boyd (October 21, 1993)


I have no prejudices: all my irrational hatreds are based on solid evidence.
     Ashleigh Brilliant


Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilized by education; they grow there, firm as weeds among stones.
     Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre (1847)


The end of bigotry will come not when all minorities are judged by the same standard, but when all bigots are.
     A. Whitney Brown, The Big Picture: 
     An American Commentary (1991)


Couldn't we even argue that it is because men are unequal that they have that much more need to be brothers.
     Charles Du Bos, Jounal intime (February 27, 1918)


What used to be called a prejudice is now called a null hypothesis.
     A. W. F. Edwards, Nature (9th March 1971)


Prejudices are never shaken by counter-prejudices because we never perceive our prejudices to be such. We take them either for reasoned conclusions or for revealed truths, and the most serious prejudices of all, those that affect our thinking most, are generally below the level of consciousness. We think within the framework of concepts of which we are often unaware. Our most earnest thoughts are sometimes shaped by our absurdest delusions. We see what we want to see, and observation conforms to hypothesis.
     Bergen Evans, The Natural History of Nonsense (1945, 1958)


... though we cannot expect to love one another, we must learn to put up with one another. Otherwise we shall all of us perish.
     E. M. Forster, Two Cheers for Democracy (1951)
     "Prefatory Note"


'Love is what is needed,' we chant, and then sit back and the world goes on as before. The fact is we can only love what we know personally. And we cannot know much. In public affairs, in the rebuilding of civilisation, something much less dramatic and emotional is needed, namely, tolerance. Tolerance is a very dull virtue. It is boring. Unlike love, it has always had a bad press. It is negative. It merely means putting up with people, being able to stand things. No one has ever written an ode to tolerance, or raised a statue to her. Yet this is the quality which will be most needed after the war. This is the sound state of mind which we are looking for. This is the only force which will enable different races and classes and interests to settle down together to the work of reconstruction.
     E. M. Forster, Two Cheers for Democracy (1951)
     "Tolerance" (1941)


Tolerance is not the same as weakness. Putting up with people does not mean giving in to them.
     E. M. Forster, Two Cheers for Democracy (1951)
     "Tolerance" (1941)


The best religion is tolerance.
     Victor Hugo


I do not understand, I cannot tolerate the fact that a man should be judged not for what he is but because of the group to which he happens to belong . . . [from a letter to the German translator of Survival in Auschwitz, used as the introduction to the German edition of the book]
     Primo Levi, The Drowned and the Saved (1986)


Toward no crimes have men shown themselves so cold-bloodedly cruel as in punishing differences of belief.
     James Russell Lowell, Literary Essays


Folks never understand the folks they hate.
     James Russell Lowell, The Bigelow Papers: Series II (1886)


The doctrine which, from the very first origin of religious dissensions, has been held by bigots of all sects, when condensed into a few words and stripped of rhetorical disguise, is simply this: I am in the right, and you are in the wrong. When you are the stronger, you ought to tolerate me; for it is your duty to tolerate truth. But when I am the stronger I shall persecute you; for it is my duty to persecute error.
     Thomas Babington Macaulay, Macintosh's History of the Revolution


Love can lead to devotion, but the devotion of the lover is unlike that of the True Believer in that it is not militant. I may be surprised — even shocked — to find that you do not feel as I do about a given book or work of art or even person; I may very well attempt to change your mind; but I will finally accept that your tastes, your loves, are your business and not mine. The True Believer knows no such restraints. The True Believer knows that he is simply right, and you are wrong. He will seek to convert you, even by force, and if he cannot he will, at the very least, despise you for your unbelief.
     Salman Rushdie, Imaginary Homelands


The thing, above all, that a teacher should endeavor to produce in his pupils, if democracy is to survive, is the kind of tolerance that springs from an endeavor to understand those who are different from ourselves. It is perhaps a natural human impulse to view with horror and disgust all manners and customs different from those to which we are used. Ants and savages put strangers to death. And those who have never traveled either physically or mentally find it difficult to tolerate the queer ways and outlandish beliefs of other nations and other times, other sects and other political parties. This kind of ignorant intolerance is the antithesis of a civilized outlook, and is one of the gravest dangers to which our overcrowded world is exposed.
     Bertrand Russell, Unpopular Essays (1950)
     "The Functions of a Teacher"


Never try to reason the prejudice out of a man. It was not reasoned into him, and cannot be reasoned out.
     Sydney Smith


LOKAI: You see, you are from the planet Earth. There is no persecution on your planet. How can you understand my fear, my apprehension, my degradation, my suffering?
CHEKOV: There was persecution on Earth once. I remember reading about it in my history class.
SULU: Yes, but it happened way back in the twentieth century. There's no such primitive thinking today.
     "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield"
     STAR TREK:  The Original Series


One gets large impressions in boyhood, sometimes, which he has to fight against all his life.
     Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad (1869)


Where prejudice exists it always discolors our thoughts.
     Mark Twain, Charles Neider (ed.), 
     The Autobiography of Mark Twain (1959)


What is tolerance? — it is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly — that is the first law of nature.


Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so too.
     Voltaire, "Essay on Tolerance"


To anyone who equates disagreement with hatred, I say, "Bosnia!"
     Gene Wolfe



Traditions and Customs


We're still benefiting from the sacrifices of people long dead — but we're also suffering from their errors.
     Ashleigh Brilliant


A tradition without intelligence is not worth having.
     T. S. Eliot, "After Strange Gods" (1934)


We have learned so well how to absorb novelty that receptivity itself has turned into a kind of tradition — "the tradition of the new." Yesterday's avant-garde experience is today's chic and tomorrow's cliché.
     Ricahrd Hofstadter, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (1963)


You did something because it had always been done, and the explanation was “but we’ve always done it this way. A million dead people can’t have been wrong, can they?
     Terry Pratchett, The Fifth Elephant (2000)


Often, the less there is to justify a traditional custom, the harder it is to get rid of it.
     Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer (1876)


A thing that is backed by the cumulative experience of centuries naturally gets nearer and nearer to being proof all the time; and if this continue and continue, it will some day become authority — and authority is a bedded rock, and will abide.
     Mark Twain, The Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc (1896)


All human rules are more or less idiotic, I suppose. It is best so, no doubt. The way it is now, the asylums can hold the sane people, but if we tried to shut up the insane we should run out of building materials.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)


Custom is a petrification; nothing but dynamite can dislodge it for a century.
     Mark Twain, "Diplomatic Pay and Clothes" (1899)


Laws can be evaded and punishment escaped, but an openly transgressed custom brings sure punishment. The penalty may be unfair, unrighteous, illogical, and a cruelty; no matter, it will be inflicted, just the same.
     Mark Twain, "The Gorky Incident" (1906)


It's a good idea to obey all the rules when you're young just so you'll have the strength to break them when you're old.
     Mark Twain, Hal Holbrook (ed.), Mark Twain 
     Tonight! An Actor's Portrait (1959)



Travel and Transportation
Planes, Trains, Automobiles, and Transporters


Bypasses are devices that allow some people to dash from point A to point B very fast while other people dash from point B to point A very fast. People living at point C, being a point directly in between, are often given to wonder what's so great about point A that so many people from point B are so keen to get there, and what's so great about point B that so many people from point A are so keen to get there. They often wish that people would just once and for all work out where they hell they wanted to be.
     Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979)


The trouble with most forms of transport ... is basically that not one of them is worth all the bother. On Earth — when there had been an Earth, before it was demolished to make way for a new hyperspace bypass — the problem had been with cars. The disadvantages involved in pulling lots of black sticky slime from out of the ground where it had been safely hidden out of harm's way, turning it into tar to cover the land with, smoke to fill the air with and pouring the rest into the sea, all seemed to outweigh the advantages of being able to get more quickly from one place to another — particularly when the place you arrived at had probably become, as a result of this, very similar to the place you had left, i.e., covered with tar, full of smoke and short of fish.
     Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (1980)


One of the problems has to do with the speed of light and the difficulties involved in trying to exceed it. You can't. Nothing travels faster than the speed of light with the possible exception of bad news, which obeys its own special laws. The Hingefreel people of Arkintoofle Minor did try to build spaceships that were powered by bad news but they didn't work particularly well and were so extremely unwelcome whenever they arrived anywhere that there wasn't really any point in being there.
     Douglas Adams, Mostly Harmless (1992)


Is fuel efficiency what we need most desperately? I say what we really need is a car that can be shot when it breaks down.
     Russell Baker


In America there are two classes of travel — first class, and with children.
     Robert Benchley quoted in Robert E. Drennan (ed.), 
     The Algonquin Wits (1985)


Railroad, n. The chief of many mechanical devices enabling us to get way from where we are to where we are no better off. For this purpose the railroad is held in highest favor by the optimist, for it permits him to make the transit with great expedition.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


Road, n. A strip of land along which one may pass from where it is too tiresome to be to where it is futile to go.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


Even if you're not enjoying the flight, it's futile threatening to get out and walk.
     Ashleigh Brilliant


As you can imagine, I was particularly attracted to all those things that might hurt me, which in an Australian context is practically everything. It really is the most extraordinarily lethal country. Naturally they play down the fact that every time you set your feet on the floor something is likely to jump out and seize an ankle. Thus my guidebook blandly observed that "only" fourteen species of Australian snake are seriously lethal, among them the western brown, desert death adder, tiger snake, taipan, and yellow-bellied sea snake. The taipan is the one to watch out for. It is the most poisonous snake on earth, with a lunge so swift and a venom so potent that your last mortal utterance is likely to be: "I say, is that a sn—"
     Bill Bryson


Billy Cruiser says the best navigators are not always certain where they are, but they are always aware of their uncertainty.
     Jimmy Buffett, Where Is Joe Merchant? (1992)


Parking is such street sorrow.
     Herb Caen


If you haven't gotten where you're going, you aren't there yet.
     George Carlin


Have you ever noticed that anyone driving slower than you is an "idiot," and anyone driving faster than you is a "maniac"?
     George Carlin, "Carlin on Campus" (HBO, 1984)


The Chinese have a saying: On a journey of a thousand miles, 512 is a little more than half.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


When you step on the brakes your life is in your foot's hands.
     George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)


'Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?'
     'That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,' said the [Cheshire] Cat.
     'I don't much care where —' said Alice.
     'Then it doesn't matter which way you go,' said the Cat.
     '— so long as I get somewhere,' Alice added as an explanation.
     'Oh, you're sure to do that,' said the Cat, 'if you only walk long enough.'
     Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865)


You can get a driver’s license when you’re sixteen years old, which made a lot of sense to me when I was sixteen but now seems insane.
     Phyllis Diller


To feel at home, stay at home. A foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It's designed to make its own people comfortable.
     Clifton Fadiman


To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.
     Aldous Huxley


"I haven't read all that many books, but I've read every single one Jack London wrote about Alaska, ever since I was a kid, and not just once, either. And I had my own idea of the place; but now that I've been there, excuse me for saying this to your face, I've begun to lose faith in the printed page."
     Primo Levi, The Monkey's Wrench (1978)


Twoflower was a tourist, the first ever seen on the Discworld. Tourist, Rincewind had decided, meant 'idiot'.
     Terry Pratchett, The Color of Magic (1983)


A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
     Chinese Proverb


Frequent flyer miles are a brilliant idea. If you travel all the time for a living and build up thousands of miles, you get a free trip. This is just what someone who travels all the time for a living wants to do with their time off. It's like giving a garbage person who has completed several thousand successful runs a free ride on the truck.
     Rita Rudner, Naked Beneath My Clothes: 
     Tales of a Revealing Nature (1992)


I never did trust this thing [the transporter] in the first place.
     Dr. McCoy, "Mudd's Women"
     STAR TREK:  The Original Series


I signed aboard this ship to practice medicine, not to have my atoms scattered back and forth across space by this gadget [the transporter].
     Dr. McCoy, "Space Seed"
     STAR TREK:  The Original Series


Crazy way to travel, spreading a man's molecules all over the universe . . . 
     Dr. McCoy, "Obsession"
     STAR TREK:  The Original Series


"Let's go. ..."
"Go? Where are we going?"
"Where they went."
"Suppose then went nowhere."
"Then this'll be your big chance to get away from it all."
     Kirk and McCoy, STAR TREK II The Wrath of Khan


Transporting really is the safest way to travel.
     LaForge, "Realm of Fear"
     STAR TREK:  The Next Generation


In Spanish there is a word for which I can't find a counterword in English. It is the verb vacilar, present participle valcilando. It does not mean vacillating at all. If one is valcilando, he is going somewhere but doesn't greatly care whether or not he gets there, although he has direction. My friend Jack Wagner has often, in Mexico, assumed this state of being. Let us say we wanted to walk in the streets of Mexico City, but not at random. We would choose some article almost certain not to exist there and then diligently try to find it.
     John Steinbeck, Travels With Charley: In Search of America (1962)


A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us. Tour masters, schedules, reservations, brass-bound and inevitable, dash themselves to wreckage on the personality of the trip. Only when this is recognized can the blown-in-the-glass bum relax and go along with it. Only then do the frustrations fall away. In this a journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.
     John Steinbeck, Travels With Charley: In Search of America (1962)


A journey of a thousand miles occasionally begins with the realization that a thousand miles is one hell of a long journey.
     Mick Stevens


You define a good flight by negatives: you didn't get hijacked, you didn't crash, you didn't throw up, you weren't late, you weren't nauseated by the food. So you're grateful.
     Paul Théroux, The Old Patagonian Express (1979)


The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.
     Henry David Thoreau


Go where we will on the surface of things, men have been there before us.
     Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord 
     and Merrimack Rivers (1849)


It is a great art to saunter.
     Henry David Thoreau, Journal (1906)


     "That sounds like a bit of old Bilbo's rhyming," said Pippin. "Or is it one of your imitations? It does not sound altogether encouraging."
     "I don't know," said Frodo. "It came to me then, as if I was making it up; but I may have heard it long ago. Certainly it reminds me very much of Bilbo in the last years, before he went away. He used often to say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep, and every path was its tributary. 'It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,' he used to say. 'You step into the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to. Do you realize that this is the very path that goes through Mirkwood, and that if you let it, it might take you to the Lonely Mountain or even further and to worse places?' He used to say that on the path outside the front door at Bag End, especially after he had been out for a long walk."
     J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring (1954)


The Road goes ever on and on
     Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
     And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
     Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
     And whither then? I cannot say.

     J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring (1954)


The Road goes ever on and on
     Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
     Let others follow it who can!
Let them a journey new begin,
     But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
     My evening-rest and sleep to meet.

     J. R. R. Tolkien, The Return of the King (1956)


It liberalizes the Vandal to travel. You never saw a bigoted, opinionated, stubborn, narrow-minded, self-conceited, almighty mean man in your life but he had stuck in one place ever since he was born and thought God made the world and dyspepsia and bile for his especial comfort and satisfaction.
     So I say, by all means let the American Vandal go on traveling. And let no man discourage him.
     Mark Twain, "American Vandal Abroad" (speech, 1868)


Travel and experience mar the grandest pictures and rob us of the most cherished tradition of our boyhood. Well, let them go. I have already seen the Empire of King Solomon diminish to the size of the State of Pennsylvania; I suppose I can bear the reduction of the seas and the river.
     Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad (1869)


The pleasure ship was a synagogue, and the pleasure trip was a funeral excursion without a corpse. (There is nothing exhilarating about a funeral excursion without a corpse.)
     Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad (1869)


It was not lively enough for a pleasure trip; but if we had only had a corpse it would have made a noble funeral excursion. [describing the highly touted Quaker City excursion]
     Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad (1869)


The people stared at us everywhere, and we stared at them. We generally made them feel rather small, too, before we got done with them, because we bore down on them with America's greatness until we crushed them.
     Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad (1869)


Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.
     Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad (1869)


[On having pictures of oneself taken with Niagara Falls in the background:] There is no actual harm in making Niagara a background whereon to display one's marvelous insignificant in a good strong light, but it requires a sort of superhuman self-complacency to enable one to do it.
     Mark Twain, "A Day at Niagara" (1869)


The steps of one's progress are distinctly marked. At the end of each lesson he knows he has acquired something, and he also knows what that something is, and likewise that it will stay with him. It is not like studying German, where you mull along, in a groping, uncertain way, for thirty years; and at last, just as you think you've got it, they spring the subjunctive on you, and there you are. No — and I see now, plainly enough, that the great pity about the German language is, that you can't fall off it and hurt yourself. There is nothing like that feature to make you attend strictly to business.
     Mark Twain, "Taming the Bicycle" (1886)


And now you come to the voluntary dismount; you learned the other kind first of all. ... It certainly does sound exceedingly easy; but it isn't. I don't know why it isn't, but it isn't. Try as you may, you don't get down as you would from a horse, you get down as you would from a house afire. You make a spectacle of yourself every time.
     Mark Twain, "Taming the Bicycle" (1886)


Get a bicycle. You will not regret it, if you live.
     Mark Twain, "Taming the Bicycle" (1886)


It was one of those trains that gets tired every seven minutes and stops to rest three quarters of an hour. ... Next year we will walk.
     Mark Twain, letter to Mrs. Crane (September 18, 1892)


I have found out that there ain't no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.
     Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer Abroad (1894)


Anecdote about how he advised the conductor to put the cowcatcher on the other end of the train "because we are not going to overtake any cows, but there is no protection against their climbing aboard at the other end and biting the passengers."
     Mark Twain, Notebook, 1896


Sept. 3. In 9 50; north latitude, at breakfast. Approaching the equator on a long slant. Those of use who have never seen the equator are a good deal excited. I think I would rather see it than any other thing in the world. ... Afternoon. Crossed the equator. In the distance it looked like a blue ribbon stretched across the ocean. Several passengers kodak'd it.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)


[The Southern Cross] is ingeniously named, for it looks just as a cross would look if it looked like something else. ... It does after a fashion suggest a cross — a cross that is out of repair — or out of drawing; not correctly shaped.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)


I find that, as a rule, when a thing is a wonder to us it is not because of what we see in it, but because of what others have seen in it. We get almost all our wonders at second hand. We are eager to see any celebrated thing — and we never fail of our reward; just the deep privilege of gazing upon an object which has stirred the enthusiasm or evoked the reverence or affection or admiration of multitudes of our race is a thing which we value; we are profoundly glad that we have seen it, we are permanently enriched from having seen it, we would not part with the memory of that experience for a great price. ... By and by you sober down, and then you perceive that you have been drunk on the smell of somebody else's cork.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)


I have traveled more than any one else and I have noticed that even the angels speak English with an accent.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)
     "Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"


I once went to Heidelberg on an excursion. I took a clergyman along with me, the Rev. Joseph Twichell, of Hartford, who is still among the living despite that fact. I always travel with clergymen when I can. It is better for them, it is better for me. And any preacher who goes out with me in stormy weather and without a lightning rod is a good one. The Reverend Twichell is one of those people filled with patience and endurance, two good ingredients for a man travelling with me, so we got along very well together.
     Mark Twain, "In Aid of the Blind" (speech, March 29, 1906)


When they learned the price for a boat on Galilee, and the deacons who had traveled nearly half around the world to sail on that sacred water were confounded by the charge, Jack said:
     "Well, Denny, do you wonder now that Christ walked?"
     Mark Twain Albert Bigelow Paine, 
     Mark Twain: A Biography (1912)


[After learning to ride the bicycle] He always declared afterward that he invented all the new bicycle profanity that has since come into general use.
     Mark Twain, Albert Bigelow Paine, 
     Mark Twain: A Biography (1912)


As Mark Twain was crossing the Atlantic Ocean a storm came up and he was terribly seasick. Afterwards, when he was recounting the incident to a friend, he remarked: "At first you were afraid you would die and then you got so sick you were afraid you wouldn't die."
     Mark Twain, Cyril Clemens (ed.), Mark Twain Anecdotes (1929)


Mark Twain was not a patient traveler. Once, he found himself stuck on a slow train that stopped and hesitated every few hundred yards. He grew so incensed at the incessant delays that when the conductor came around, Mark Twain handed him a half fare, which was customarily used for children. The conductor glared at him. "And are you a child?" he asked sarcastically. "No, not any more," replied Mark Twain. "But I was when I got on your damn train!"
     Mark Twain, Alex Ayres (ed.), 
     The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain (1987)


Flying is the second greatest thrill known to man. The greatest thrill is landing.


Persons of a suspicious or pugnacious turn of mind bought a rear-view mirror; but most Model T owners weren't worried by what was coming from behind because they would soon enough see it out in front. They rode in a state of cheerful catalepsy.
     E. B. White, "Farewell, My Lovely!" (1936)
     Essays of E. B. White (1977)


Why do they call it rush hour when nothing moves?
     Robin Williams


A cop stopped me for speeding. He said, "Why were you going so fast?" I said, "See this thing my foot is on? It's called an accelerator. When you push down on it, it sends more gas to the engine. The whole car just takes right off. And see this thing? This steers it."
     Steven Wright


Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.
     Steven Wright


I didn't get a toy train like the other kids. I got a toy subway instead. You couldn't see anything, but every now and then you'd hear this rumbling noise go by.
     Steven Wright


I got my driver's license photo taken out of focus on purpose. Now when I get pulled over the cop looks at it (moving it nearer and farther, trying to see it clearly) and says, "Here, you can go."
     Steven Wright


I had to stop driving my car for a while; the tires got dizzy.
     Steven Wright


I hooked up my accelerator pedal in my car to my brake lights. I hit the gas, people behind me stop, and I'm gone.
     Steven Wright


I like to pick up hitchhikers. When they get in the car I say, "Put on your seat belt. I want to try something. I saw it once in a cartoon, but I think I can do it."
     Steven Wright


I locked my keys in the car the other day. But it was all right, I was still inside.
     Steven Wright


I once locked my keys out of my car. I had break out of my car with a coat hanger.
     Steven Wright


I replaced the headlights in my car with strobe lights, so it looks like I'm the only one moving.
     Steven Wright


I took lessons in bicycle riding. But I could only afford half of them. Now I can ride a unicycle.
     Steven Wright


I used to be an airline pilot. I got fired because I kept locking the keys in the plane. They caught me on an 80 foot stepladder with a coathanger.
     Steven Wright


I was going 70 miles an hour and got stopped by a cop who said, "Do you know the speed limit is 55 miles per hour?" "Yes, officer, but I wasn't going to be out that long."
     Steven Wright


I went to court for a parking ticket. I pleaded insanity. I said, "Your honor, why would anyone in their right mind park in the passing lane?"
     Steven Wright


Last week I forgot how to ride a bicycle.
     Steven Wright


Last year we drove across the country. We switched on the driving every half mile. We had one cassette tape to listen to on the entire trip. I don't remember what it was.
     Steven Wright


One night a jet flew a little bit too close to my house. I was walking from the living room to the kitchen, and the stewardess told me to sit down.
     Steven Wright


One time a cop pulled me over for running a stop sign. He said, "Didn't you see the stop sign?" I said, "Yeah, but I don't believe everything I read."
     Steven Wright


The other night I came home late, and tried to unlock my house with my car keys. I started the house up. So I drove it around for a while. I was speeding, and a cop pulled me over. He asked where I lived. I said, "Right here, officer." Later, I parked it on the freeway, got out, and yelled at all the cars, "Get out of my driveway!"
     Steven Wright


We were in Salino, Utah when we were arrested for not going through a green light. We pleaded "maybe." I asked the judge if he knew what time it is, he did, and I said, "No further questions."
     Steven Wright


When I get real bored, I like to drive downtown and get a great parking spot, then sit in my car and count how many people ask me if I'm leaving.
     Steven Wright


When I was a kid, I went to the store and asked the guy, "Do you have any toy train schedules?"
     Steven Wright


Yesterday I parked my car in a tow-away zone. When I came back the entire area was missing.
     Steven Wright





Trust ivrybody — but cut th' ca-ards.
     Finley Peter Dunne, Mr. Dooley's Philosophy (1900)


To trust people is a luxury in which only the wealthy can indulge; the poor cannot afford it.
     E. M. Forster, Howard's End (1910)


There's none deceived but he that trusts.
     Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanac


To think, after all this time, all our lunches together, you still don't trust me. There's hope for you yet, Doctor.
     Garak, "Distant Voices"
     STAR TREK Deep Space Nine


I make it a policy to never question the word of anyone who wears that uniform. Don't make me change that policy.
     Commander Sisko to Eddington, "The Die Is Cast"
     STAR TREK: Deep Space Nine


"Sir, have you ever reminded Starfleet Command that they stationed Eddington here because they didn't trust me?"
"Please do."
     Odo and Sisko, "For the Uniform"
     STAR TREK Deep Space Nine


"You can either stay in front of me, or walk beside me, but I won't turn my back on you again."
"Cadet, there may be hope for you yet."
     Nog and Garak, "Rocks and Shoals"
     STAR TREK Deep Space Nine



Truth, or, the Lost Art of Honesty


Ambiguity succeeds where honesty dares not venture.
     Dogbert in Scott Adams, Shave the Whales ("Dilbert," 1994)


"I believe it's what's inside a person that counts."
"How can you get respect for hidden qualities?"
"You have to act humble while generating as many clues as possible."
"So you recommend being a deceitful, manipulative, hypocritical, braggart?"
"It's a funny world."
     Dilbert and Dogbert, Scott Adams, 
     Don't Step in the Leadership
("Dilbert," 1999)


I've noticed that honesty doesn't mix well with anything.
     Dogbert in Scott Adams, 
     Don't Step in the Leadership ("Dilbert," 1999)


The truth that makes men free is for the most part the truth which men prefer not to hear.
     Herbert Sebastian Agar, A Time for Greatness (1942)


I'm happy that you've made the statement. But I cannot agree with most of my colleagues. See, I don't think an adult of your intelligence should be commended for simply, at long last, telling the truth.
     Congressman Derounian (Joseph Attanasio) in Paul Attanasio, Quiz Show (movie, 1994)


I cannot comprehend how any man can want anything but the truth.
     Marcus Aurelius, Meditations


Truth is the daughter of time, not of authority.
     Francis Bacon


Truth comes out of error more readily than out of confusion.
     Francis Bacon, Novum Organon (1620)


It is pure illusion to think that an opinion which passes down from century to century, from generation to generation, may not be entirely false.
     Pierre Bayle, Thoughts on the Comet (1682)


The antiquity and general acceptance of an opinion is no assurance of its truth.
     Pierre Bayle, Thoughts on the Comet (1682)


Friendless, adj. Having no favors to bestow. Destitute of fortune. Addicted to the utterance of truth and common sense.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


Truth, n. An ingenious compound of desirability and appearance. Discovery of truth is the sole purpose of philosophy, which is the most ancient occupation of the human mind and has a fair prospect of existing with increasing activity to the end of time.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


Truthful, adj. Dumb and illiterate.
     Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)


As a general thing, if you want to get at the truth of a particular argument, hear both sides and believe neither.
     Josh Billings


There are people so addicted to exaggeration that they can't tell the truth without lying.
     Josh Billings


As scarce as truth is, the supply has always been in excess of the demand.
     Josh Billings, Josh Billings: His Sayings (1865)


. . . two sorts of truth: trivialities, where opposites are obviously absurd, and profound truths, recognised by the fact that the opposite is also a profound truth.
     Niels Bohr, Niels Bohr: his life and work 
(S. Rozental, ed., 1967)


Hitler had said that if you tell a big enough lie, people will believe it, but he rather overlooked the fact that once the lie is exposed, everything else you've said is also disbelieved.
     Paul Brickhill, The Great Escape (1950)


History records no more gallant struggle than that of humanity against the truth.
     Ashleigh Brilliant


I have just discovered the truth, and can't understand why everybody isn't eager to hear it.
     Ashleigh Brilliant


My sources are unreliable, but their information is fascinating.
     Ashleigh Brilliant


Speak nothing but the truth, and you'll soon be considered dangerous.
     Ashleigh Brilliant


The habit of truth is hard to learn, and a mixed blessing. It leaves no refuge when a new truth comes along that hurts.
     David Brin, Infinity's Shore (1996)


I have nothing against lying in general — after all, I work on television. It's just incompetent lying I object to. I don't want an honest President any more than anyone else; there are some hard facts out there I'd rather not fact right now. The best we can hope for, and in fact the most we deserve, is a liar we can believe in.
     A. Whitney Brown, The Big Picture: 
     An American Commentary


It is proof of a base and low mind for one to wish to think with the masses or majority, merely because the majority is the majority. Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people.
     Giordano Bruno


Truthful, adj. Unappreciated, unloved, and unemployed.
     Chaz Bufe, The American Heretic's Dictionary (1992)


The most important thing in acting is honesty. If you can fake that, you've got it made.
     George Burns


The best liar is he who makes the smallest amount of lying go the longest way.
     Samuel Butler, The Way of All Flesh (1903)


Any fool can tell the truth, but it requires a man of some wit to know how to tell a lie.
     Samuel Butler, Note-Books (1912)


Some men love truth so much that they seem to be in continual fear lest she should catch cold from overexposure.
     Samuel Butler, Note-Books (1912)


There is no permanent absolute unchangeable truth; what we should pursue is the most convenient arrangement of our ideas.
     Samuel Butler, Note-Books (1912)


I do not mind lying, but I hate inaccuracy.
     Samuel Butler, Note-Books (1912)
     "Truth and Convenience: Falsehood"


Truth is stranger than fiction.
     George Gordon, Lord Byron


Frankly speaking, adv. Not frankly speaking.
     Victor L. Cahn


Genuine, adj. Not totally fraudulent.
     Victor L. Cahn


Sometimes it is easier to see clearly into a liar than into a person telling the truth. Truth, like light, is blinding. Falsehood, on the other hand, is a beautiful twilight that enhances every object.
     Albert Camus, The Fall (1956)


Honesty may be the best policy, but it's important to remember that, apparently, by elimination, dishonesty is the second best policy. Second is not all that bad.
     George Carlin, Brain Droppings (1997)


By and large, language is a tool for concealing the truth.
     George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)


The following statement is true.
The above statement is false.
     George Carlin, Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)


It is a fine thing to be honest, but it is also very important to be right.
     Sir Winston Churchill


Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.
     Sir Winston Churchill


Truth is shorter than fiction.
     Irving Cohen


It's discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty, and how few by deceit.
     Noel Coward


We know nothing in reality; for truth lies in an abyss.


Respect for the truth is an acquired taste.
     Mark Van Doren, Liberal Education (1943)


I do not go so far as to say that the English are more honest than any other nation, but I have found the more expensive to buy.
     Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Final Adventures 
     of Sherlock Holmes
(Peter Haining, ed.; 1980)
     "The Story of the Lost Special" (1898)


By academic freedom I understand the right to search for truth and to publish and teach what one holds to be true. This right implies also a duty: one must not conceal any part of what one has recognized to be true.
     Albert Einstein, letter on his seventy-fifth birthday (1954)


[Truth] is only very rarely, and then generally inadvertently, put to a fair test, with the natural consequence that Falsehood is continually besting it. The besting of Truth by Falsehood is what is otherwise known as the history of mankind.
     Ralph Estling, "Science and Truth and Us" 
     (Skeptical Inquirer 18:1, Fall 1993)


The truth, said somebody who clearly hadn't considered the matter, shall make you free. That is the last thing the truth is likely to do. It is far more likely to make you utterly miserable.
     Ralph Estling, "Science and Truth and Us" 
     (Skeptical Inquirer 18:1, Fall 1993)


People dearly love the old lies, while truth, as Milton said, "never comes into the world but like a bastard, to the ignominy of him that brought her birth."
     Bergen Evans, The Natural History of Nonsense (1945, 1958)


The business man who assumes that this life is everything, and the mystic who asserts that it is nothing, fail, on this side and on that, to hit the truth. ... No; truth, being alive, was not halfway between anything. It was only to be found by continuous excursions into either realm, and though proportion is the final secret, to espouse it as the outset is to insure sterility.
     E. M. Forster, Howard's End (1910)


What you would seem to be, be really.
     Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanac


Truth may sometimes come out of the Devil's mouth.
     Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia (1732)


Believe those who are seeking the truth; doubt those who find it.
     André Gide


The color of truth is gray.
     André Gide


The most erroneous stories are those we think we know best — and therefore never scrutinize or question.
     Stephen Jay Gould


I have actually a great deal of sympathy for the increasingly common sort of person, often one in a high position, who is caught fabricating. You mean I didn't go to Harvard Med School? I did not have sex with that woman . ... It's not the collapse of morality (for I think there has never been truth based on memory) but rather the triumph of intellectual property, that blizzard of invented realities — artificial lives, Photoshopped photos, ghosted novels, lip-synched rock bands, fabricated reality shows, American foreign policy — through which we daily slog. Everyone, from the president on down, is a novelist now.
     Michael Gruber


I always divide people into two groups. Those who live by what they know to be a lie, and those who live by what they believe, falsely, to be the truth.
     Christopher Hampton


To most of us nothing is so invisible as an unpleasant truth.
     Eric Hoffer, The Passionate State of Mind (1954)


One could drive a prairie schooner through any part of this argument and never scrape against a fact.
     David Houston


The punishment of the liar is that he eventually believes his own lies.
     Elbert Hubbard


There is no more sovereign eloquence than the truth [told] with indignation.
     Victor Hugo, Les Misérables (1862)


Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad.
     Aldous Huxley


Time, whose tooth gnaws away everything else, is powerless against truth.
     Thomas Henry [T. H.] Huxley, Administrative Nihilism (1871)


A man cannot cheat himself in a game of solitaire and really believe that he has won the game.
     Robert Ingersoll


All the martyrs in the history of the world are not sufficient to establish the correctness of an opinion. Martyrdom, as a rule, established the sincerity of the martyr — never the correctness of his thought. Things are true or false in themselves. Truth cannot be affected by opinions; it cannot be changed, established, or affected by martyrdom. An error cannot be believed sincerely enough to make it a truth.
     Robert Ingersoll


A lie will not fit a fact. It will only fit another lie made for the purpose. The life of a lie is simply a question of time. Nothing but truth is immortal.
     Robert Ingersoll, "The Ghosts" in On the Gods 
     and Other Essays
(Paul Kurtz, ed., 1990)


The road to truth is long, and lined the entire way with annoying bastards.
     Alexander Jablokov, "The Place of no Shadows"


We have to live today by what truth we can get today, and be ready tomorrow to call it falsehood.
     William James


Difference of opinion leads to enquiry, and enquiry to truth.
     Thomas Jefferson


He who knows nothing is closer to the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors.
     Thomas Jefferson


... truth is great and will prevail if left to herself; that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them.
     Thomas Jefferson


It is always the best policy to speak the truth — unless, of course, you are an exceptionally good liar.
     Jerome K. Jerome


In this world, truth can wait; she's used to it.
     Douglas Jerrold


"That's why the high-school debate team always loses. They think that the truth is always somewhere in the middle. But it ain't true — truth is out there; you gotta look for it. You can't arrive at the truth by adding up two sides and dividing by two."
     Garrison Keillor, A Prairie Home Companion: 
     The Second Annual Farewell Performance
     "News From Lake Wobegon"


I feel that lying is a way of taking personal responsibility for reality.
     Garrison Keillor, "Hello, Love" (TV special, 1993)


But it's the truth even if it didn't happen.
     Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962)


In earlier times, they had no statistics, and so they had to fall back on lies.
     Stephen Leacock


Never lie when the truth is more profitable.
     Stanislaw Lec


The most dangerous of all falsehoods is a slightly distorted truth.
     Georg Christoph Lichtenberg


No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar.
     Abraham Lincoln


Truth is a great flirt.
     Franz Liszt


Lying increases the creative faculties, expands the ego, and lessens the frictions of social contacts.
     Clare Booth Luce


Always tell the truth — it's the easiest thing to remember.
     David Mamet


A harmful truth is better than a useful lie.
     Thomas Mann


Honesty is a good thing, but it is not profitable to its possessor unless it is kept under control.
     Don Marquis


Just because you have heard a thing so often that it bores you is no sign it isn't true.
     Don Marquis


There is one way to find out if a man is honest — ask him. If he says yes, you know he is crooked.
     Groucho Marx


We don't lie. We put our own interpretation on what the truth is.
     Robert McFarlane, quoted in Propaganda Review (Spring, 1988)


It is hard to believe that a man is telling the truth when you know that you would lie if you were in his place.
     H. L. Mencken


The truth that survives is the lie that it is pleasantest to believe.
     H. L. Mencken


What ails the truth is that it is mainly uncomfortable, and often dull. The human mind seeks something more amusing, and more caressing.
     H. L. Mencken


The most costly of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably not true. It is the chief occupation of mankind.
     H. L. Mencken, A Mencken Chrestomathy (1949)
     "Sententiæ — The Mind of Man"


In the long run, perhaps, we'll reach a point in human progress where denying the truth will be a crime, and not only a crime but a dishonorable act. This point has been envisioned by the man who argued in Harper's some time ago that there is a moral obligation to be intelligent. Unless we reach it it will be vain to talk too much of human dignity, for no man can be dignified who believes anything that is palpably not true.
     H. L. Mencken, Minority Report: 
     H. L. Mencken's Notebooks


The most expensive thing on this earth is to believe in something that is palpably not true. The burden of quackery has never been properly estimated.
     H. L. Mencken, Minority Report: 
     H. L. Mencken's Notebooks


The capacity of human beings to believe the obviously not true is apparently almost unlimited.
     H. L. Mencken, Minority Report: 
     H. L. Mencken's Notebooks


No normal human being wants to hear the truth. It is the passion of a small and aberrant minority of men, most of them pathological. They are hated for telling it while they live, and when they die they are swiftly forgotten. What remains to the world, in the field of wisdom, is a series of long-tested and solidly agreeable lies. It is out of such lies that most of the so-called knowledge of humanity flows. What begins as poetry ends as fact, and is embalmed in the history books.
     H. L. Mencken, Prejudices: A Selection (1958)
     "Hymn to the Truth"


My point is that, despite all this extravagant frenzy for the truth, there is something in the human mind that turns instinctively to fiction, and that even the most gifted journalists succumb to it.
     H. L. Mencken, Prejudices: A Selection (1958)
     "Hymn to the Truth"


Truth ... never comes into the world but like a bastard, to the ignominy of him that brought her forth.
     John Milton, The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce (1643)


Let [Truth] and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter.
     John Milton, Areopagitica (1644)


Truth nowadays is not what is, but what others can be convinced of.
     Michel de Montaigne


I speak the truth, not quite my fill of it, but as much as I dare, and I dare a little more as I grow older.
     Baron de la Brède et de Montesquieu 
     (Charles-Louis de Secondat), Essays (1580)


A little inaccuracy sometimes saves tons of explanation.
     H. H. Munro (Saki)


All we know of the truth is that the absolute truth, such as it is, is beyond our reach.
     Nicholas of Cusa, De Docta Ignorantia [Learned Ignorance]


Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies.
     Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche


No one lies as much as the indignant do.
     Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche


There was truth and there was untruth and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world you were not mad.
     George Orwell


If you tell a lie, always rehearse it. If it don't sound good to you, it won't sound good to anybody.
     Satchel Paige


I don't care what is written about me so long as it isn't true.
     Dorothy Parker


We also know how cruel the truth often is, and we wonder whether delusion is not more consoling.
     Jules Henri Poincaré


A half-truth is a whole lie.


He who tells the truth must have one foot in the stirrup.
     Armenian Proverb


Whoever tells the truth is chased out of nine villages.
     Turkish Proverb


Truth never dies but it lives a wretched life.
     Yiddish Proverb


Tell the truth and run.
     Yugoslav Proverb


Better the illusions that exalt us than ten thousand truths.
     Alexander Pushkin


There is no more subtle maneuvre than to pretend to fall into the snares which other people set for us; one is never so easily fooled as when one thinks one is fooling others.
     François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, 
     The Maxims (translated by Louis Kronenberger, 1936)


Very clever men pretend all their lives to condemn trickery so that, at a big moment and for a big stake, they may indulge in it.
     François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, 
     The Maxims (translated by Louis Kronenberger, 1936)


However we may distrust the sincerity of those who speak to us, we always imagine they speak more truthfully to us than to others.
     François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, 
     The Maxims (translated by Louis Kronenberger, 1936)


The truth is found when men are free to pursue it.
     Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Speech, 
     Temple University (February 22, 1936)


Insight, untested and unsupported, is an insufficient guarantee of truth.
     Bertrand Russell, Mysticism and Logic (1929)


Man has an inexhaustible faculty for lying, especially to himself.
     George Santayana


Only wholeness leads to clarity,
And truth lies in the abyss.
     Friedrich von Schiller


Though I am not naturally honest, I am so sometimes by chance.
     Autolycus in William Shakespeare, 
     The Winter's Tale
, Act IV, scene iii


I'm afraid we must make the world honest before we can honestly say to our children that honesty is the best policy.
     George Bernard Shaw


The liar's punishment is not in the least that he is not believed, but that he cannot believe anyone else.
     George Bernard Shaw


The most awful thing that one can do is to tell the truth. It's all right in my case because I am not taken seriously.
     George Bernard Shaw


The truth is the one thing nobody will believe.
     George Bernard Shaw


All great truths begin as blasphemies.
     George Bernard Shaw, Annajanska (1919)


The public will believe anything, so long as it is not founded on truth.
     Edith Sitwell


A good place to begin the search for truth is to look squarely at the idea that just perhaps you don't want to find it.
     Gene Ward Smith


If you want to be thought a liar, always tell the truth.
     Logan Pearsall Smith


There are only two ways of telling the complete truth — anonymously and posthumously.
     Thomas Sowell


Honesty: The Road to Bankruptcy
     Herbert Spencer, The Morals of Trade (subhead)


It takes the highest courage to utter unpopular truths.
     Charles T. Sprading, Freedom and its Fundamentals


Truth invites inquiry, falsehood dreads examination.
     Charles T. Sprading, Freedom and its Fundamentals


"You lied?"  "I exaggerated."
     Saavik and Spock, STAR TREK II The Wrath of Khan


That man has a rare gift for obfuscation.
     Enabrin Tain describing Garak, "The Wire"
     STAR TREK:  Deep Space Nine


"What I want to know is, out of all the stories you told me, which ones were true and which ones weren't?"
"My dear Doctor, they're all true."
"Even the lies?"
"Especially the lies."
     Bashir and Garak, "The Wire"
     STAR TREK:  Deep Space Nine


"Why is it no one ever believes me even when I'm telling the truth?"
"Have you ever heard the story about the boy who cried wolf? ... It's a children's story about a young shepherd boy who gets lonely while tending his flock. So he cries out to the villagers that a wolf is attacking the sheep. The people come running, but of course there's no wolf. He claims it had run away, and the villagers praise him for his vigilance. ... The next day, the boy does it again, and the next too. On the fourth day a wolf really comes. The boy cries out at the top of his lungs, but the villagers ignore him, and the boy and his flock are gobbled up."
"Well, that's a little graphic for children, wouldn't you say?"
"The point is, if you lie all the time, nobody's going to believe you, even when you're telling the truth."
"Are you sure that's the point, Doctor?"
"Of course. What else could it be?"
"That you should never tell the same lie twice."
     Garak and Bashir, "Improbable Cause"
     STAR TREK:  Deep Space Nine

The truth is usually just an excuse for a lack of imagination.
     Garak, "Improbable Cause"
     STAR TREK:  Deep Space Nine


But while you offer kindness, I offer mystery. Where you offer sympathy, I offer intrigue. Just give me a seat next to Odo's bed and I promise you I'll conjure up enough innuendoes, half-truths, and bald-face lies about my so-called career in the Obsidian Order to keep the constable distracted for days. If there's one thing Cardassians excel at, it's conversation.
     Garak, "Broken Link"
     STAR TREK:  Deep Space Nine


Lying is a skill like any other, and if you want to maintain a level of excellence you have to practice constantly.
     Garak, "In Purgatory's Shadow (Part 1 of 2)"
     STAR TREK:  Deep Space Nine


Because he loved true things, he thought everyone did. The fact that it was otherwise did not sadden him. It simply interested him.
     John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez (1941, 1951)
     "About Ed Ricketts"


There's more beauty in the truth even if it is dreadful beauty. The storytellers at the city gate twist life so that it looks sweet to the lazy and the stupid and the weak, and this only strengthens their infirmities and teaches nothing, cures nothing, nor does it let the heart soar.
     John Steinbeck, East of Eden (1952)


It is better to be quotable than to be honest.
     Tom Stoppard


All your life you live so close to truth, it becomes a permanent blur in the corner of your eye, and when something nudges it into outline it is like being ambushed by a grotesque.
     Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern 
     Are Dead
(play, 1967)


Considering that natural disposition in many men to lie, and in multitudes to believe, I have been perplexed what to do with that maxim so frequent in everybody's mouth, that truth will at last prevail.
     Jonathan Swift, "The Art of Political Lying"


Don't lie if you don't have to.
     Leo Szilard, Science 1972, 176, 966


It is morally as bad not to care whether a thing is true or not, so long as it makes you feel good, as it is not to care how you got your money as long as you have got it.
     Edmund Way Teale, Circle of the Seasons (1950)


The lawyer's truth is not Truth, but consistency, or a consistent expediency. Truth is always in harmony with herself, and is not concerned chiefly to reveal the justice that may consist with wrong-doing.
     Henry David Thoreau, "Civil Disobedience" (1866)


Say what you have to say, not what you ought. Any truth is better than make-believe.
     Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or, Life in the Woods (1854)


If you do not wish to be lied to, do not ask questions. If there were no questions, there would be no lies.
     B. Traven


Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.
     Mark Twain


I have too much respect for the truth to drag it out on every trifling occasion.
     Mark Twain


As a boy he [George Washington] gave no promise of the greatness he was one day to achieve. He was ignorant of the commonest accomplishments of youth. He could not even lie. But then he never had any of those precious advantages which are within the reach of the humblest of the boys of the present day. Any boy can lie, now. I could lie before I could stand — yet this sort of sprightliness was so common in our family that little notice was taken of it. Young George appears to have had no sagacity whatever. It is related of him that he once shopped down his father's favorite cherry tree, and then didn't know enough to keep dark about it.
     Mark Twain, "A New Biography of Washington" (1866)


And, sir, I say it with bowed head and deepest veneration, look at the Mother of Washington! she raised a boy that could not lie — could not lie —. But he never had any chance. It might have been different with him if he had belonged to a newspaper correspondent's club. [This speech was delivered at a Newspaper Correspondent's Club Banquet]
     Mark Twain, "Woman — an Opinion" (speech, 1867)


That sounded pretty complacent, but barring that natural expression of villainy which we all have, the man looked honest enough.
     Mark Twain, "A Mysterious Visit" (1870)


But enough of this. Homely truth is unpalatable.
     Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer (1876)


"The truth is always respectable."
     Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer (1876)


In my enthusiasm I may have exaggerated the details a little, but you will easily forgive me that fault, since I believe it is the first time I have ever deflected from perpendicular fact on an occasion like this.
     Mark Twain, "Whittier Birthday Speech" 
     (speech, December 17, 1877)


Age has taught me wisdom. If a spectacle is going to be particularly imposing I prefer to see it through somebody else's eyes, because that man will always exaggerate. Then I can exaggerate his exaggeration, and my account of the thing will be the most impressive.
     Mark Twain, "O'Shah" (1878)


I don't mind what the opposition say of me so long as they don't tell the truth about me. But when they descend to telling the truth about me I consider that this is taking an unfair advantage.
     Mark Twain, speech at a Republican rally (1879)


Then they said they had walked thirty English miles the day before, and asked how many we had walked. I could not lie, so I told Harris to do it. Harris told them we had made thirty English miles, too. That was true; we had "made" them, though we had had a little assistance here and there.
     Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad (1880)


Only rigid cultivation can enable a man to find truth in a lie.
     Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad (1880)


I did not believe a word of this, but rather than have trouble I let it go; for it is a waste of breath to argue with a bigot. ... I could not make anything by contradicting a man who would probably put me down at once with manufactured evidence.
     Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad (1880)


... I simply declare in all my sincerity and with my hand on my heart that I never heard of that diamond robbery till I saw it in the morning paper. And I can say with perfect truth that I never saw that box of dynamite till the police came to inquire of me if I had any more of it. These are mere assertions, I grant you, but they come from the lips of one who was never known to utter an untruth except for practice ...
     Mark Twain, "Dinner Speech in Montreal" (speech, 1881)


Now as to the matter of lying. You want to be very careful about lying, otherwise you are nearly sure to get caught. Once caught you can never again be in the eyes of the good and the pure what you were before. Many a young person has injured himself permanently through a single clumsy and ill-finished lie, the result of carelessness born of incomplete training.
     Mark Twain, "Advice To Youth" (speech, 1882)


Some authorities hold that the young ought not to lie at all. That, of course, is putting it rather stronger than necessary; still, while I cannot go quite so far as that, I do maintain, and I believe I am right, that the young ought to be temperate in the use of this great art until practice and experience shall give them that confidence, elegance and precision which along can make the accomplishment graceful and profitable.
     Mark Twain, "Advice To Youth" (speech, 1882)


Think what tedious years of study, thought, practice, experience went to the equipment of that peerless old master who was able to impose upon the whole world the lofty and sounding maxim that "truth is mighty and will prevail" — the most majestic compound fracture of fact which any of woman born has yet achieved. For the history of our race, and each individual's experience, are sown thick with evidence that a truth is not hard to kill and that a lie told well is immortal.
     Mark Twain, "Advice To Youth" (speech, 1882)


An awkward, feeble, leaky lie is a thing which you ought to make it your unceasing study to avoid. Such a lie as that has no more real permanence than an average truth. Why, you might as well tell the truth at once and be done with it. A feeble, stupid, preposterous lie will not live two years — except it be a slander upon somebody. It is indestructible, then, of course, but that is no merit of yours.
     Mark Twain, "Advice To Youth" (speech, 1882)


... the Lie, as a Virtue, a Principle, is eternal; the Lie, as a recreation, a solace, a refuge in time of need, the fourth Grace, the tenth Muse, man's best and surest friend, is immortal, and cannot perish from the earth while this Club remains.
     Mark Twain, "On the Decay of the Art of Lying" (speech, 1882)


What chance has the ignorant, uncultivated liar against the educated expert? ... Judicious lying is what the world needs. I sometimes think it were even better and safer not to lie at all than to lie injudiciously. An awkward, unscientific lie is often as ineffectual as the truth.
     Mark Twain, "On the Decay of the Art of Lying" (speech, 1882)


Nature habitually lies, except when she promises execrable weather.
     Mark Twain, "On the Decay of the Art of Lying" (speech, 1882)


Now let us see what the philosophers say. Note that venerable proverb: Children and fools always speak the truth. The deduction is plain: adults and wise persons never speak it.
     Mark Twain, "On the Decay of the Art of Lying" (speech, 1882)


None of us could live with an habitual truth-teller; but thank goodness none of us has to. An habitual truth-teller is simply an impossible creature; he does not exist; he never has existed. Of course there are people who think they never lie, but it is not so, — and this ignorance is one of the very things that shame our so-called civilization.
     Mark Twain, "On the Decay of the Art of Lying" (speech, 1882)


... that commonest and mildest form of lying which is sufficiently described as a deflection from the truth ...
     Mark Twain, "On the Decay of the Art of Lying" (speech, 1882)


An injurious truth has no merit over an injurious lie. Neither should ever be uttered. The man who speaks an injurious truth, lest his soul be not saved if he do otherwise, should reflect that that sort of a soul is not strictly worth saving.
     Mark Twain, "On the Decay of the Art of Lying" (speech, 1882)


Among other common lies, we have the silent lie, — the deception which one conveys by simply keeping still and concealing the truth. Many obstinate truth-mongers indulge in this dissipation, imagining that if they speak no lie, they lie not at all.
     Mark Twain, "On the Decay of the Art of Lying" (speech, 1882)


A wise man does not waste so good a commodity as lying for naught.
     Mark Twain, The Prince and the Pauper (1882)


You take the lies out of him, and he'll shrink to the size of your hat; you take the malice out of him, and he'll disappear.
     Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (1883)


I says to myself, I reckon a body that ups and tells the truth when he is in a tight place is taking considerable many risks, though I ain't had no experience and can't say for certain; but it looks so to me, anyway; and yet here's a case where I'm blest if it don't look to me like the truth is better and actually safer than a lie. I must lay it by in my mind and think it over some time or other, it's so kind of strange and unregular. I never see nothing like it. Well, I says to myself at last, I'm a-going to chance it; I'll up and tell the truth this time, though it does seem most like setting down on a keg of powder and touching it off just to see where you'll go to.
     Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884)


Truth is mighty, and will prevail. I may be partial, but I think that that remark is in itself the compactest and the most symmetrical lie that has been constructed by man.
     Mark Twain, from an earlier draft of "The Character 
     of Man" (1884); quoted in Paul Baender (ed.), What Is 
     Man? and Other Philosophical Writings


In all lies there is wheat among the chaff ...
     Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889)


Get your facts first, and then you can distort 'em as much as you please.
     Mark Twain, "Rudyard Kipling on Mark Twain" 
     (New York Herald, August 17, 1890)


If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything.
     Mark Twain, Notebook, 1894


Tell the truth or trump — but get the trick.
     Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894)
     "Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar"


One of the most striking differences between a cat and a lie is that a cat has only nine lives.
     Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894)
     " Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar"


It is often the case that the man who can't tell a lie thinks he is the best judge of one.
     Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894)
     " Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar"


It is my belief that nearly any invented quotation, played with confidence, stands a good chance to deceive. There are people who think that honesty is always the best policy. This is a superstition; there are times when the appearance of it is worth six of it.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)


When we recall the details of that great romance we marvel to see what daring chances truth may freely take in constructing a tale, as compared with the poor little conservative risks permitted to fiction.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)


He [Twain's father] laid his hand upon me in punishment only twice in his life, and then not heavily; once for telling him a lie — which surprised me, and showed me how unsuspicious he was, for that was not my maiden effort.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)


The only difference that I know of between a silent lie and a spoken one is, that the silent lie is a less respectable one than the other. And it can deceive, whereas the other can't — as a rule.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)


At first I was strongly interested in the tree, for I was told that it was the renowned peepul — the tree in whose shadow you cannot tell a lie. This one failed to stand the test, and I went away from it disappointed.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)


I was told by a resident that the summit of Kinchinjunga is often hidden in the clouds, and that sometimes a tourist has waited twenty-two days and then been obliged to go away without a sight of it. And yet went not disappointed; for when he got his hotel bill he recognized that he was now seeing the highest thing in the Himalayas. But this is probably a lie.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)


My own luck has been curious all my literary life; I never could tell a lie that anybody would doubt, nor a truth that anybody would believe.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)


When in doubt, tell the truth.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)
     "Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"


Truth is the most valuable thing we have. Let us economize it.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)
     " Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"


Truth is stranger than fiction — to some people, but I am measurably familiar with it.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)
     " Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"


Truth is stranger than Fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)
     " Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"


There are eight hundred and sixty-nine different forms of lying, but only one of them has been squarely forbidden. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)
     " Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"


Often, the surest way to convey misinformation is to tell the strict truth.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)
     " Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"


The principal difference between a cat and a lie is that the cat has only nine lives.
     Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897)
     " Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"


Honesty is often the best policy, but sometimes the appearance of it is worth six of it.
     Mark Twain, More Tramps Abroad (1897) 
     [British edition of Following the Equator]
     "Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"


He was not a direct liar, but he would subtly convey untruth. He never dealt in any but large things, if you let him tell it. If by accident his trousers got stained in diverse tints, he would explain it by no actual lie, yet he would leave with you the impression that he got it sliding down a rainbow.
     Mark Twain, Notebook, 1897


Familiarity breeds contempt. How accurate that is. The reason we hold truth in such respect is because we have so little opportunity to get familiar with it.
     Mark Twain, Notebook, 1898


Truth is mighty and will prevail. There is nothing the matter with this, except that it ain't so.
     Mark Twain, Notebook, 1898


Truth is more of a stranger than fiction.
     Mark Twain, Notebook, 1898


As I understand it, what you desire is information about "my first lie, and how I got out of it." I was born in 1835; I am well along, and my memory is not as good as it was. If you had asked about my first truth it would have been easier for me and kinder of you, for I remember that fairly well; I remember it as if it were last week.
     Mark Twain, "My First Lie, and How I Got Out of It" (1899)


What I am arriving at is this: When whole races and peoples conspire to propagate gigantic mute lies in the interest of tyrannies and shams, why should we care anything about the trifling lies told by individuals? Why should we try to make it appear that abstention from lying is a virtue? Why should we want to beguile ourselves in that way? Why should we without shame help the nation lie, and then be ashamed to do a little lying on our own account? Why shouldn't we be honest and honorable, and lie every time we get a chance? That is to say, why shouldn't we be consistent, and either lie all the time or not at all? Why should we help the nation lie the whole day long and then object to telling one little individual private lie in our own interest to go to bed on? Just for the refreshment of it, I mean, and to take the rancid taste out of our mouth.
     Mark Twain, "My First Lie, and How I Got Out of It" (1899)


Mr. [William Cullen] Bryant said, "Truth crushed to earth will rise again." I have taken medals at thirteen world's fairs, and may claim to be not without capacity, but I never told as big a one as that. Mr. Bryant was playing to the gallery; we all do it. Carlyle said, in substance, this — I do not remember the exact words: "This gospel is eternal — that a lie shall not live." I have a reverent affection for Carlyle's books, and have read his Revolution eight times; and so I prefer to think he was not entirely at himself when he told that one. ... He told it above thirty years ago, but it is alive yet; alive, and very healthy and hearty, and likely to out-live any fact in history.
     Mark Twain, "My First Lie, and How I Got Out of It" (1899)


The silent colossal national lie is the support and confederate of all the tyrannies and shams and inequalities and unfairnesses that afflict the peoples — that is the one to throw bricks and sermons at. But let us be judicious and let somebody else begin.
     Mark Twain, "My First Lie, and How I Got Out of It" (1899)


I have not professionally dealt in truth. Many when they come to die have spent all the truth that was in them, and enter the next world as paupers. I have saved up enough to make an astonishment there.
     Mark Twain, speech at Savages Club, London (1899)


And this is just a little maxim which has saved me from many a difficulty and many a disaster, and in times of tribulation and uncertainty has come to my rescue, as it shall to yours if you observe it as I do day and night. I always use it in an emergency, and you can take it home as a legacy from me, and it is: "When in doubt, tell the truth."
     Mark Twain, "To the Whitefriars" (speech, June 20, 1899)


... errors cannot creep in among facts where there are no facts for them to creep in among ...
     Mark Twain, "My Boyhood Dreams" (1900)


Honesty is the best policy — when there is money in it.
     Mark Twain, "Business" (speech, March 30, 1901)


Another instance of unconscious humor was of the Sunday school boy who defined a lie as "An abomination before the Lord and an ever present help in time of trouble." That may have been unconscious humor but it looked more like hard, cold experience and knowledge of facts.
     Mark Twain, "Humor" (speech, 1901)


No real gentleman will tell the naked truth in the presence of ladies.
     Mark Twain, "The Double-Barreled Detective Story" (1902)


There are times when guff is better than fact, and you get more for the price.
     Mark Twain, "3,000 Years Among the Microbes" (1905)


It would have been a sin to tell her the truth, and I think it is not right to commit a sin when there is no occasion for it. If we would observe this rule oftener our lives would be purer.
     Mark Twain, "3,000 Years Among the Microbes" (1905)


Yes, even I am dishonest. Not in many ways, but in some. Forty-one, I think it is.
     Mark Twain, letter to Joe Twichell (March 14, 1905)


Although this work is a History, I believe it to be true. There is internal evidence in every page of it that its Author was conscientiously trying to state bare facts, unembellished by fancy. While this insures irksome reading, it also insures useful reading; and I feel satisfied that this will be regarded as full compensation by an intelligent public which has long been suffering from a surfeit of pure History unrefreshed by fact.
     Mark Twain, "3,000 Years Among the Microbes" (1905)


It is curious. When the magician's engagement closed there was but one person in the village who did not believe in mesmerism, and I was the one. All the others were converted, but I was to remain an implacable and unpersuadable disbeliever in mesmerism and hypnotism for close upon fifty years. This was because I never would examine them, in after life. I couldn't. The subject revolted me. Perhaps it brought back to me a passage in my life which for pride's sake I wished to forget; though I thought, or persuaded myself I thought, I should never come across a "proof" which wasn't thin and cheap and probably had a fraud like me behind it.
     Mark Twain, Chapters from My Autobiography 
(North American Review, 1906-1907)


How easy it is to make people believe a lie, and how hard it is to undo that work again!
     Mark Twain, Chapters from My Autobiography 
(North American Review, 1906-1907)


Carlyle said "a lie cannot live." It shows that he did not know how to tell them. If I had taken out a life policy on this one the premiums would have bankrupted me ages ago.
     Mark Twain, Chapters from My Autobiography 
(North American Review, 1906-1907)


When I was seven or eight, or ten, or twelve years old — along there — a neighbor said to [my mother], "Do you ever believe anything that that boy says?" My mother said, "He is the well-spring of truth, but you can't bring up the whole well with one bucket" — and she added, "I know his average, therefore he never deceives me. I discount him thirty per cent. for embroidery, and what is left is perfect and priceless truth, without a flaw in it anywhere."
     Mark Twain, Chapters from My Autobiography 
(North American Review, 1906-1907)


Besides, I had learned, a good while before that, that it is not wise to keep the fires going under a slander unless you can get some large advantage out of keeping it alive. Few slanders can stand the wear of silence.
     Mark Twain, Chapters from My Autobiography 
(North American Review, 1906-1907)


Figures often beguile me, particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force:
"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."
     Mark Twain, Chapters from My Autobiography 
(North American Review, 1906-1907)


When I had told those boys that I knew nothing about that game I was speaking only the truth; but it was ever thus, all through my life: whenever I have diverged from custom and principle and uttered a truth, the rule has been that the hearer hadn't strength of mind enough to believe it.
     Mark Twain, Chapters from My Autobiography 
(North American Review, 1906-1907)


Now, then, that is the tale. Some of it is true.
     Mark Twain, Chapters from My Autobiography 
(North American Review, 1906-1907)


We are always hearing of people who are around seeking after Truth. I have never seen a (permanent) specimen. I think he has never lived. But I have seen several entirely sincere people who thought they were (permanent) Seekers after Truth. They sought diligently, persistently, carefully, cautiously, profoundly, with perfect honesty and nicely adjusted judgment — until they believed that without doubt or question they had found the Truth. That was the end of the search. The man spent the rest of his life hunting up shingles wherewith to protect his Truth from the weather.
     Mark Twain, "What Is Man?" (1906)


["When in doubt, tell the truth."] That maxim I did invent, but never expected it to be applied to me. I meant to say, "When you are in doubt"; when I am in doubt myself I use more sagacity.
     Mark Twain, "When in Doubt, Tell the Truth" (speech, March 9, 1906)


I am not one of those who in expressing opinions confine themselves to facts. I don't know anything that mars good literature so completely as too much truth. Facts contain a deal of poetry, but you can't use too many of them without damaging your literature.
     Mark Twain, "The Savage Club Dinner" (speech, July 6, 1907)


To the reporters who met him in October 1900, when he came home from nine years' exile, having paid his debts, Mark Twain remarked: "Some people lie when they tell the truth; I tell the truth lying."
     Mark Twain, Alexander McD. Stoddardt, "Twainiana," 
     Independent 68 (5 May 1910): 960-63


When George [one of Twain's household servants] first came he was one of the most religious of men. He had but one fault — young George Washington's. But I have trained him; and now it fairly breaks Mrs. Clemens's heart to hear him stand at that front door and lie to an unwelcome visitor.
     Mark Twain, Albert Bigelow Paine, 
     Mark Twain: A Biography (1912)


Yes, even I am dishonest. Not in many ways, but in some. Forty-one, I think it is. We are certainly all honest in one or several ways — every man in the world — though I have reason to think I am the only one whose blacklist runs so light. Sometimes I feel lonely enough in this lofty solitude.
     Mark Twain, Albert Bigelow Paine, 
     Mark Twain: A Biography (1912)


George Washington couldn't tell a lie. I can; but I won't
     Mark Twain, Archibald Henderson, Mark Twain (1911)


Never tell a lie — except for practice.
     Mark Twain, Archibald Henderson, Mark Twain (1911)


Never waste a lie; you never know when you may need it.
     Mark Twain, Archibald Henderson, Mark Twain (1911)


Truth is good manners; manners are a fiction.
     Mark Twain, "The Mysterious Stranger" (1916)


If a person thinks that he has known me at some time or other, all I require of him is that he shall consider it a distinction to have known me; and then, as a rule, I am perfectly willing to remember all about it and add some things that he has forgotten.
     Mark Twain, Albert Bigelow Paine (ed.), 
     Mark Twain's Autobiography (1924)


These things may have been true. They may not have been true. But they were interesting. That is the main requirement in a village like that.
     Mark Twain, Albert Bigelow Paine (ed.), 
     Mark Twain's Autobiography (1924)


I don't believe these details are right but I don't care a rap. They will do just as well as the facts.
     Mark Twain, Albert Bigelow Paine (ed.), 
     Mark Twain's Autobiography (1924)


Do not tell fish stories where the people know you; but particularly, don't tell them where they know the fish.
     Mark Twain, More Maxims of Mark (Merle Johnson, ed., 1927)


Every man is wholly honest to himself and to God, but not to any one else.
     Mark Twain, More Maxims of Mark (Merle Johnson, ed., 1927)


Honesty was the best policy.
     Mark Twain, More Maxims of Mark (Merle Johnson, ed., 1927)


Honesty: The best of all the lost arts.
     Mark Twain, More Maxims of Mark (Merle Johnson, ed., 1927)


Never tell the truth to people who are not worthy of it.
     Mark Twain, More Maxims of Mark (Merle Johnson, ed., 1927)


That George could refrain from telling the lie is not the remarkable feature, but that he could do it off-hand, that way.
     Mark Twain, More Maxims of Mark (Merle Johnson, ed., 1927)


I never saw an author who was aware that there was any dimensional difference between a fact and a surmise.
     Mark Twain, Clara Clemens, My Father, Mark Twain (1931)


You may have noticed that the less I know about a subject the more confidence I have, and the more new light I throw on it.
     Mark Twain, Merle Johnson, A Bibliography of Mark Twain (1935)


I was not telling them the strict truth and I knew it at the time, but it was no great matter; it is not worth while to strain one's self to tell the truth to people who habitually discount everything you tell them, whether it is true or isn't.
     Mark Twain, Bernard DeVoto (ed.), 
     Mark Twain in Eruption (1940)


I think we never become really and genuinely our entire and honest selves until we are dead — and not then until we have been dead years and years. People ought to start dead and then they would be honest so much earlier.
     Mark Twain, Bernard DeVoto (ed.), 
     Mark Twain in Eruption (1940)


A man is never more truthful than when he acknowledges himself a liar.
     Mark Twain, Opie Read, Mark Twain and I (1940)


When a person cannot deceive himself the chances are against his being able to deceive other people.
     Mark Twain, Charles Neider (ed.), 
     The Autobiography of Mark Twain (1959)


Honest men must be pretty scarce when they make so much fuss over even a defective specimen.
     Mark Twain, quoted in Charles Neider (ed.), 
     Plymouth Rock and the Pilgrims and Other 
     Salutary Platform Opinions


A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.
     Mark Twain, attributed; in Alex Ayres (ed.), 
     The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain (1987)


No matter how often a lie is shown to be false, there will remain a percentage of people who believe it true.


There are truths which are not for all men, nor for all times.
     Voltaire, letter to Cardinal de Bernis (April 23, 1761)


One does not speak of a Euclidean, an Archimedean. When truth is evident, it is impossible for parties and factions to arise. There has never been a dispute as to whether there is daylight at noon.
     Voltaire, Dictionnaire Philosophique (1764)


There is nothing so powerful as truth, and often nothing so strange.
     Daniel Webster


Actions lie louder than words.
     Carolyn Wells


... he had read that clever liars give details, but that the cleverest do not.
     Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence (1920)


There are no whole truths; all truths are half-truths. It is trying to treat them as whole truths that plays the devil.
     Alfred North Whitehead, Dialogues of 
     Alfred North Whitehead


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


A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.
     Oscar Wilde, "The Critic as Artist" (1890)


If one tells the truth, one is sure, sooner or later, to be found out.
     Oscar Wilde, "Phrases and Philosophies 
     for the Use of the Young" (1894)


A truth ceases to be true when more than one person believes in it.
     Oscar Wilde, "Phrases and Philosophies 
     for the Use of the Young" ( 1894)


The truth is rarely pure and never simple. Modern life would be very tedious if it were either, and modern literature a complete impossibility.
     Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest (1895)


If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.
     Virginia Woolf, The Moment and Other Essays (1948)


This isn't all true.
     Steven Wright