And I Quote:

Transuranian proverb:

"The master points to the moon, but the disciple looks at the master."

In Saturday Night Live's takeoff on the second presidential debate, Kate McKinnon, as Hillary Clinton, responds to the request to say something nice about Donald Trump, just after the leak of a tape of extraordinarily vulgar sexual comments:

"I do like how generous he is. Just last Friday he handed me the election."

Marcel Proust:

"The only true voyage of discovery is not to go to new places, but to see with other eyes."

Camilla Cleese:

"Being a comedian has a lot in common with being a matador. The feedback is so instant you can't argue about it."

Sir Thomas Beecham:

"The English may not like music, but they absolutely love the noise it makes."

Mrs Henry Adams:

"Henry James chews more than he has bitten off."

Wumen Huikai, 'The Gateless Barrier':

"Two monks were watching a flag flapping in the wind.
One said to the other, 'The flag is moving.'
The other replied, 'The wind is moving.'
Huineng overheard this.
He said, 'Not the flag, not the wind; mind is moving.'"

Max Planck, on the disadvantages of deference to the great and old:

"Science progresses one funeral at a time."

Will Durst characterizes the attendees of a rally for Donald Trump:

"Skinheads with hair."

A member of Britain's Joint Intelligence Subcommittee muses on the difficulty of predicting Hitler's actions:

"Our failures lay in our inability to appreciate the extreme obstinacy of Hitler. More than once we forecast that he would withdraw to shorter lines in Italy or Russia or the Balkans in order to economize on divisions. I still believe he would have done better if he had followed our advice!"

Paul Krugman:

"If one party declared that the earth was flat, the headlines would read 'Views Differ on Shape of Planet'."

Cormac McCarthy, 'Cities of the Plain':

"All I was sayin is that a horse is a different proposition from what a lot of people think. A lot of what people take for ignorance on the part of the horse is just confusion between the righthand horse and the lefthand horse. Like if you was to saddle a horse and all and then walk around to his off side and start to mount up. You know what's goin to happen.
Sure. All hell's goin to bust loose.
That's right. That particular horse aint even seen you yet."

From "Titanic, or Dash, Dot dot, Dash, Dot Dash, Dash Dot, Dot dot, Dash dot dash dot", one of the first operas to be written and performed entirely in Morse code:

"Dot dot dot, dash dash dash, dot dot dot!"

A S Byatt, 'Still Life':

"Kepler observed that the apparently irregular motions of the planets were a function of the form of the lens of the eye. This does not mean that we cannot study the planets, only that we must also study the eye."

Rachel Barbra Berry, on the TV show 'Glee':

"Nowadays being anonymous is worse than being poor."

Charles Mackay, 'Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds':

"Men, it has been well said, think in herds. It will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one."

Chaim Weizmann, after a transatlantic ship journey with Albert Einstein in 1921:

"Einstein explained his theory to me every day, and soon I was fully convinced that he understood it."

A sentimental country-western song:

"How can I miss you when you won't go away?"

Jack Nicholson as Jake Gittes in 'The Two Jakes':

"In this town, I'm the leper with the most fingers."

The Old Programmer's Almanack:

"Never modify your office computer on a Friday afternoon."

Norm Schryer:

"If the comments and the code disagree, both are probably wrong."

Josh Kaufman:

"Colleges aren't really in the education business. Colleges are in the credentialing business."

Brewster Bragsheer, 'The Dictionary of Useless Units':

"How far does a photon travel between the beginning of January 1st, 2016, and the end of December 31, 2016? - Exactly one lightleapyear."

Jud Northbark, in "Quote, Ere a Demon Strand 'em!":

"People think that facts help you see a theory, when in fact, it is only by having a theory that you are able to see facts."

Laurence Olivier, at the front desk of the Ukraine Hotel in Moscow:

"'Do you get many complaints about the service here?'
'Certainly not, there is no service!'"

Lukas Bystricky:

"Hard work pays off in the long run...but procrastination pays off now."

Stendhal, in 'The Charterhouse of Parma':

"On the other hand, in America, in the Republic, one must waste a whole day in paying serious court to the shopkeepers in the streets, and must become as stupid as they are, and over there, no opera."

A Transuranian proverb:

"He who excuses himself accuses himself."

William Gladstone:

"The first essential for a prime minister is to be a good butcher."

Bun Rabbit, in Walt Kelly's 'Potluck Pogo':

"It's when you don't know where you is goin that you gotta hurry!"

John Osborne, 'The Entertainer':

"You were a pretty thing once. Not that looks are everything. You don't look at the mantelpiece when you poke the fire."

Pilot Kerry St Pe's preflight instructions to passenger Mike Tidwell, in 'Bayou Farewell':

"Make sure you buckle up tight. It's the difference between a closed and open casket."

Laurence Sterne, 'The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman':

"Every man will speak of the fair as his own market has gone in it."

Silyas Dogwood, 'Proverbs and Converbs:

"'No, you've got it exactly wrong', said McManus, 'the fundamental task of publishers is to decide what NOT to print.'"

Joyce Cary, 'Herself Surprised':

"She wished God had left Adam and Eve plain, and not stuck the odd bits on to them."

Highlights from the filibuster:

"Senator Foghorn: You're lying, and you know it!
Senator Leghorn: Well yes I am, but hear me out!"

Painter Walter Sickert, escorting a guest to the door:

"You must come again when you have less time."

Semolina Pilchard:

"I am utterly exhausted. All last night a man was knocking at my door; finally at 6am I just got up and let him out."

Transuranian proverb:

"Corpses can be found - it's the living who disappear."

Jud Northbark, after a particularly tedious faculty dinner:

"There are only a few truly interesting things in this world, maybe sex, sports, feuds, accidents and death; the rest we leave to university professors."

Battle of the Sophists:

"Socrates: Well, you know, you can't prove a negative.
Mocrates: Oh, yeah? And can you prove that?"

Tom Lehrer:

"I feel if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up."

Kurt Tucholsky:

"The German nightmare is to stand in front of a counter; the German dream is to sit behind a counter."

Rembell Ofderbally:

"Although every week we had a different colloquium speaker, the abstract I was given to publicize was invariably two or three indigestible paragraphs of unappealing jargon, so that, in order to attract an audience, I was compelled to append a short catchy blurb like `Spider Silk Stronger Than Kevlar?' - it was sort of like English Subtitles for the Hard of Thinking."

John Burkardt's Corollary to Jeff Borggaard's Theorem:

"When you own a presentation device, everyone who has to give a presentation becomes your friend."

Jeff Borggaard's Theorem:

"When you own a truck, everyone who has to move becomes your friend."

The Larry Sanders Show:

"Artie: 'Larry's a good man, but he is a performer, and you should try to think of a performer as a small, helpless child.'
Jeannie: 'No, Artie - you know I have sex with him.'
Artie: 'I'm so sorry.'"

A haphazardly programmed Sun Trust ATM:

"Do you want:

Caledonian chieftain Calgacus, criticizing the encroachments of the Roman empire, quoted by Tacitus:

"They make a desert and call it peace."


"George: 'My whole life has been a complete waste of time!'
Jerry: 'And there's so much more to go!'"

Eric Hobsbawm, in 'The Age of Capital':

"anarchy (or, to use a more neutral term, the passion for armed self-help)"

Porfirio Diaz, president of Mexico:

"Poor Mexico, so far from God, so near the United States!"

Disraeli, of how Tory Sir Robert Peel `stole' the increased franchise, originally one of the Whig party's initiatives.

"The right honorable Gentleman caught the Whigs bathing,
and walked away with their clothes.
He has left them in the full enjoyment of their liberal position,
and he is himself a strict conservative of their garments."

Oppenheimer, on Einstein's unproductive later years, spent denying quantum mechanics and pursuing a unified field theory:

"He is a landmark, but not a beacon."

Physicist David Mermin, on the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen (EPR) paradox:

"Contemporary physicists come in two varieties.
Type 1 physicists are bothered by EPR.
Type 2, the majority, are not.
But one has to distinguish two subvarieties.
Type 2a physicists explain why they are not bothered.
Their explanations tend to miss the point entirely,
or to contain physical assertions that can be shown to be false.
Type 2b are not bothered and refuse to explain why.
Their position is unassailable."

Computer Scientist Marvin Minsky:

"LOGO is a language with a great grammar, but not much literature."

Muriel Spark, in 'A Far Cry From Kensington':

"Try as I do, I can't recall her surname. Indeed, her very abstractedness and insubstantial personality seemed to say 'forget me'; she seemed to live in parenthesis."

Charles Baxter, in 'The Feast of Love':

"I will say that the one feature I like about men is that they can usually figure out how small appliances work."

A Transylvanian proverb:

"None go so far as those who know not whither they are going."

John Boyd, reviewing Oliver Buehler's 'Waves and Mean Flow':

"The kind of mathematician who can't find his shoes except in a Sobolev space will not like this book at all."

John Boehner, Speaker of the House of Representatives:

"My goal every day is to try to keep 218 frogs in a wheelbarrow long enough to get something passed."

Samuel Johnson:

"The Irish are a very fair people. They never speak well of one another."

Mary Mapes explains why the movie based on her discredited 60 Minutes II report on George Bush's military record is called 'Truth':

"There is a tremendously strong perception that we bungled, bungled, bungled very badly. I think we were within the normal journalistic range of bungle."

From a review of a biography of poet Ted Hughes:

"There were so many women, at various stages of his life, that we read not only of mistresses but of submistresses."

A Transuranian proverb:

"Memory is the only true real estate."

A Transuranian proverb:

"If you need a new idea, read an old book."

Mathematician John Horton Conway, inventor of the game of Life:

"You know, people think mathematics is complicated. Mathematics is the simple bit. It's the stuff we can understand. It's cats that are complicated."

Joanna Trollope, in 'Second Honeymoon':

"Men love women; women love children; children love hamsters."

Stephen Colbert, interviewing Donald Trump:

"I want to thank you not only for being here but for running for president. I'm not going to say this stuff writes itself, but you certainly do deliver it on time every day."

Former East German Stasi officer Florian Tenbrock, expressing his exasperation with police work in the united Germany:

"We investigated before the crime was committed, not after!"

A Transuranian proverb:

"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."

The Bullshit Asymmetry Principle, enunciated by Alberto Brandolini:

"The amount of energy necessary to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it."

General Leslie Groves, on why he picked J Robert Oppenheimer to head the Manhattan project:

"A real genius. Why, Oppenheimer knows about everything. He can talk to you about anything you bring up. Well, not exactly. I guess there are a few things he doesn't know about. He doesn't know anything about sports."

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"This post was written by : if ( function_exists( 'coauthors_posts_links' ) ) { coauthors_posts_links(); } else { the_author_posts_link(); } who has written 296 posts on The Movie Blog."

Advice from his company commander, when historian William Langer enlisted during the first World War:

"All you need in the Army is a strong back and a weak mind."

Margaret Thatcher:

"The problem with socialism is that you always run out of other people's money."

Physicist James Chadwick, upon reading yet another paper on the emerging but murky field of quantum mechanics, 1926.

"Yet another cackle! Will there ever be an egg?"

King Charles II, after meeting his future bride Catherine of Braganza, whose bizarre Portuguese dress included wings:

"They have brought me a bat!"

Susanna Clarke, in "Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell":

"There is nothing in the world so easy to explain as failure - it is, after all, what everybody does all the time."

Samuel Johnson, after unwillingly listening to a violin piece and being told to appreciate it because it was difficult:

"Difficult do you call it, Sir? I wish it were impossible."

Hilary Mantel, in "Bring Up the Bodies":

"He has the air of a man who has not so much achieved success, as become resigned to it."

A Transuranian proverb:

"The sun will shine on a dog's ass."

A Transuranian proverb:

"Even the bad man is given the Sabbath."

Stringfellow Barr and Scott Buchanan, asked to take over Saint John's College in Annapolis, divide the spoils.

"Barr: 'You know this means one of us will have to be president.'
Buchanan: 'Well that would have to be you, because I don't answer my mail."

Anonymous faculty member at St John's College, where every faculty member is expected to be able to teach every class.

"Having a PhD is no barrier to being hired at St John's, but it can't help."

The erotic Mortimer Adler:

"I love you with all the passion attendant thereto."

Irene Nemirovsky, "Suite Francaise":

"He is incapable of taking any initiative whatsoever, one of those people who could drown in a glass of water."

Tony Horwitz, "Blue Latitudes":

"For us, Zen means to empty our minds. For a Tahitian to have Zen, he would first have to fill it up."

H L Mencken:

"Tucson Arizona is where the summer comes for the winter and Hell comes for the summer."

Edsgar Dijkstra:

"The question of whether machines can think is about as relevant as the question of whether submarines can swim."

An anonymous fan:

"Donald Knuth loves to begin his papers with obscure quotations. On occasion, he has found a saying he likes so much that he has written a paper just so that he can preface it with that quotation."

Biologist John Maynard Smith on Lynn Margulis:

"I think she is often wrong, but most of the people I know think it is important to have her around because she's wrong in such a fruitful way."

Jud Northbark, 'Pointers to Nothing':

"No speaker of any natural language would casually say 'I saw a cow, call it 'cow', which was doing cow things in a cowly way among other instances of cows,' and yet this repetitious moronic drivel is the standard pattern in the culture of computer programming."

Judge Bullard, on Judge Martin of the Louisiana Supreme Court:

"It would often happen that he would return the next day after a protracted discussion and say, 'Well, I have consulted my pillow on that question, and after all, I believe I was wrong.'"

Jud Northbark, 'The Acid Bath':

"To evaluate modern education, look at a student's handwriting. It will appall you. They don't teach handwriting anymore. They don't teach reading or mathematics either, but that's easier to hide."

A Transuranian proverb:

"You live, you die, your stuff goes out to the curb."

Morris Kline, 'Why the Professor Can't Teach':

"Universities hire professors the way some men choose wives - they want the ones the others will admire."

David Canadine, 'Ornamentalism: How the British Saw Their Empire'.

"Almost any competent administrators became CMG (known among recipients as standing for 'Call Me God'); governors of second-class crown colonies were advanced to KCMG ('Kindly Call Me God'); and governors of first-class colonies were promoted to GCMG ('God Calls Me God')."

New York Times obituarist Robert Thomas:

"Of course I go too far, but unless you go too far, how can you tell how far you can go?"

Transuranian proverb:

"If you only have five minutes to solve a problem, use three of them to determine the best approach."

Clarence Barron:

"Facts are not the truth. They only indicate where the truth may lie."

Benjamin Banneker, upon being shot at:

"Standing by my door, I heard the discharge of a gun, and in 4 or 5 seconds of time after the discharge, the small shot came rattling about me, one or two of which struck the house, which plainly demonstrates that the velocity of sound is much greater than that of a cannon-bullet."

Albert Brooks, as Aaron Altman in the movie 'Broadcast News':

"Wouldn't this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive?"

Francois de La Rouchefoucauld:

"People would never fall in love if they hadn't heard it talked about."

Pablo Picasso:

"When I was a child, I could already draw as well as Raphael. But it has taken my whole life to learn to draw as well as a child."

Brewster Bragsheer, in 'Recycled Gum':

"Success is a self-correcting phenomenon."

Vladimir Nabokov, on hearing that his friend Edmund Wilson was taking up chess.

"I hope you will soon be playing well enough for me to beat you."

Robert Carver, "The Accursed Mountain".

"First buy the horse, then buy the saddle."

Robert Carver, "The Accursed Mountain".

"Two political prisoners were talking on their arrival at the notorious Burrel gaol. 'I got ten years, what did you get?' asked the first. 'I got fifteen' said the second. 'What for?' asked the first. 'Nothing,' replied the second. 'Listen,' riposted the first sharply, if we're going to be friends you're going to have to be honest with me. For fifteen years you must have done something - ten years is the sentence for nothing."

Robert Carver, "The Accursed Mountain".

"The unsmiling girl at the reception desk spoke a few words of Greek, Italian, and English. In all of these she was equally unhelpful."

Anthony Trollope:

"How hard it is to win by attacking the reason when the heart is the fortress in question."

Edith Wharton:

"Life has a way of overgrowing its achievements as well as its ruins."

Vincent Van Gogh foretells the doom of his art:

"Nothing would help us to sell our canvases more than if they could gain acceptance as decorations for middle-class houses."

Arthur Eddington:

"We used to think that if we knew one, we knew two, because one and one are two. We are finding that we must learn a great deal more about 'and'."

The Gloom and Doom News Template:

"Authorities expect the death toll to rise as fundamentalist activists and radical protesters clash with militant reactionaries."

Silyas Dogwood, of a despised enemy who recently died.

"His mail is now delivered by gophers."

Nikita Krushchev, after being heckled by the Chinese delegation for deviating from Communist doctrine by supporting Tito:

"We support Tito the way a rope supports a hanged man."

Brigadier Ritchie-Hook, in Evelyn Waugh's 'Men at Arms':

"The rule of attack is 'never reinforce failure'."

Arnold Toynbee:

"Intelligentsias are born to be unhappy."

Dr Hans-Ephraim von Seidensticker, in 'The Unguarded Moment':

"Madness is a language like any other, and thus it has a dictionary, a grammar, and a corresponding and evolving set of cliches whose meaning may be construed."

A refrigerator magnet poem, quoted by 'Celine' (Julie Delpy) in the movie 'Before Midnight':

"Women explore for eternity in the vast garden of sacrifice."

Kingsley Amis, in 'The Old Devils':

"If you can see Cil Point it means rain later; if not, rain now."

Silyas Dogwood, in 'A True Bill of Particulars':

"When American movie executives decided to make a film version of Alan Bennett's play 'The Madness of George III', they insisted on renaming it 'The Madness of King George', knowing that otherwise the American audience would assume they had missed the first two parts."

Brewster Bragsheer, in 'Compressing the Vacuum':

"Teachers embraced computers in the classroom because it allowed them to stop actually teaching; who can blame students for following their lead?"

Jud Northbark, in 'The Ring in Poseidon's Bathtub':

"It's only after you have attempted to constuct a fool-proof system that you begin to appreciate the inexhaustible inventiveness of fools."

Jud Northbark, in 'Sculptures in the Dust':

"Newton had a cat he loved so much that with his own hands he sawed a little opening at the bottom of the door to his office so that she could visit him freely. When the cat had kittens, Newton got out the saw again and cut another, smaller opening so that the kittens could visit him as well. You can't be a genius at everything."

Jud Northbark, in 'As the Tick Swells':

"Like lava walls in Hawaii, the frontiers of a country mark the limits of the most recent eruption of hatred."

E M Forster:

"Each of us knows from his own experiences that there is something beyond the evidence."

Randy Powell, revealing Vortex Based Mathematics, the most profound re-discovery of all time:

"The importance of this discovery cannot be underestimated."

A man, having jumped off a 100 story building, passing the second floor:

"So far, so good."

Silyas Dogwood, in 'The Buck Passed Me':

"The spirit of community is not dead. When I saw that the sidewalk in front of our office was covered in mud and started cleaning it away with a board, many people stopped by to help. They helped by giving me phone numbers I could call so that someone else could come and do the work."

Joanna Coles, editor of Cosmopolitan:

"I stepped into fabulosity late in life."

Heraclitus Junior, in 'Battle of the Books, the Rematch':

"The river cannot be stepped in twice by the same you."

Letter from a prisoner during the Terror period of the French revolution:

To Citizeness Boilleau,
Rue Revolutionnaire, former Saint-Louis, at Paris,
this 4 Floreal.

My dear friend,

I beg you to do your utmost to bring a well-seasoned lettuce salad
or rather the materials for making one, we have bowls; but try to
make sure that it is fresh and in good condition. If you have no
money, try to get hold of some for this advance. As I am writing
to you by the small post, I don't want to send it to you, but I
shall get it to you later. Don't forget the oil and vinegar. If
you cannot get money to do this, take the trouble to come and see
me and I shall give you what you need to buy what is necessary.
We have salt, but bring a little pepper. Try to do this for us
today, if at all possible, I shall be very obliged to you, and
bring as much oil as you can. I shall be very obliged to you and
embrace you with all my heart.

Your husband Boilleau.

Ruth Rendell, in 'Adam and Eve and Pinch Me':

"When you talk to God, it's praying;
when God talks to you, it's schizophrenia."

Michael Ondaatje, in 'The Cat's Table':

"And all the crows in all the trees
cry Banyan for the Banyanese!"

Michael Ondaatje, in 'The Cat's Table':

"So I asked him, how can it be both an aphrodisiac and a laxative, and he said, well, it's all in the timing."

Mike Schneier explains the nickname of a hapless departmental drudge:

"His nickname is 'Else' because if no one else is willing to handle a problem, then he has to."

A woman who chanced to dine successively with both contestants for the premiership of Great Britain:

"After dining with Gladstone, I believed he was the smartest person in England;
After dining with Disraeli, I believed I was the smartest person in England."

Jud Northbark, in 'Jesus Driving the Coffee Vendors from the Library':

"Millions were spent on the library renovation, the staff got bright new offices, the students got chat rooms, TV's and Starbucks; meanwhile the books were all 'archived' or sent to the basement, and yet we kept all the librarians."

Jud Northbark, 'The Form Hungers for its Filling':

"Corporate mission statements prove that the emperor's new clothes fit every size."

Brewster Bragsheer, 'Hell Money':

"Every environmental slogan boils down to: ...We're destroying the world a little more slowly than before..."

A visitor complains to Niels Bohr after spending time at his atomic physics laboratory in Copenhagen:

"Visitor: 'In your institute, nobody takes anything seriously.'
Bohr: 'That is quite true, and even applies to what you just said.'"

An acquaintance recalls the difficulty of conversing with bacteriologist Alexander Fleming, who first described the mold that produces penicillin:

"Talking with him was like playing tennis with a man who, whenever you knocked the ball over to his side, put it in his pocket."

Franz Kafka:

"The man in ecstasy, and the man drowning - both throw up their arms."

Somerset Maugham, 'Cakes and Ale'.

"The Americans, who are the most efficient people on the earth, have invented so wide a range of pithy and hackneyed phrases that they can carry on an amusing and animated conversation without giving a moment's reflection to what they are saying and so leave their minds free to consider the more important matters of big business and fornication."

Silyas Dogwood, in 'Dotting Your Ellipsis':

"USER-FRIENDLY: Software I have written."

Brewster Bragsheer, in 'Concrete Argosies':

"Los Angeles: three million people in search of a downtown."

From the movie 'A Field in England', by Ben Wheatley:

"It does not surprise me that the devil is an Irishman, though I thought perhaps a bit taller."

W C Fields:

"I always keep a supply of stimulant handy, in case I see a snake, which I also keep handy."

Walt Kelly:

"When you starve with a tiger, the tiger starves last."

Woody Allen:

  1. "Socrates is a man;
  2. All men are mortal;
  3. Therefore, all men are Socrates."

Transuranian proverb:

"Even donkey shit is shiny on the outside."

Judge Barnyard Slaw, in 'The Shredded Thumb':

"You see things that are and you say, 'Why?'... I dream things that never were, and you say, 'Stop making things up!'"

The (first) Six Stages of Debugging:

  1. "No, that cannot happen!
  2. Well, it does not happen when I run the program!
  3. Honestly, that wasn't supposed to happen;
  4. So..., why did that actually happen?
  5. Oh...
  6. Then how did my program ever work?"

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, during the disastrous riots at the 1968 Democratic Convention:

"The police are not here to create disorder, they're here to preserve disorder."

Ezra Klein:

"Dick Armey is a stupid person's idea of a smart person."

A Norwegian farmer's confession to his best friend:

"I love my wife so much I almost told her."

The worst possible insult in the Klingon language, literally 'Hab SoSlI Quch':

"Your mother has a smooth forehead."

How the Dowager Empress of China suggested to one of her officials that his immediate suicide would be politically useful to her:

"The price of coffins is rising."

Jud Northbark, Time Magazine's Man of the Year, 2006:

"The calculator is a shamelessly inadequate crutch for the mathematical cripples produced by the current education system. If you don't believe this, ask a student to evaluate:
  1 + 1 / ( 2 + 1 / ( 3 + 1 / ( 4 + 1 / 5 ) ) )
The correct answer is 225/157 or about 1.4331, but they will spend far more time arguing with you that this expression has no meaning before effortlessly dashing off some ridiculously wrong answer which they neither believe nor doubt."

Ernest Hemingway, in 'The Sun Also Rises':

"'How did you go bankrupt?' Bill asked.
'Two ways,' Mike said. 'Gradually and then suddenly.'"

Brewster Bragsheer, in 'The Dummy Argument':

"A true fan won't agree that anything about MATLAB is bad; he won't even agree that there are bad MATLAB programs. No, he will say, giving you a meaningful stare, there are just bad MATLAB programmers."

Brewster Bragsheer, in 'They Should Have Stopped at B':

"In the folk tradition of C, programs are written 'upside down', with the most trivial parts coming first, so that the main program, which explains it all, comes as a belated surprise to the weary reader. C theologians praise this as 'bottom up' programming, whereas it is, in fact, a stone-cold case of a lazy avoidance of properly declaring procedures."

Brewster Bragsheer, in 'They Should Have Stopped at B':

"The really bad features of a programming language are unique. They are so awful that no other language copies them. Among such ghastly goofs we must include the question mark operator of C, which does nothing but abbreviate a simple logical operation into an obscure miasma of punctuation."

Silyas Dogwood, in 'The Golden Dustbin':

"PRECYCLE: to use only one side of a sheet of paper; to discard clothes because they are no longer fashionable; to create waste products; to leave a trail of unused products; Sample sentence: 'If it weren't for us precyclers, the recyclers would have nothing to work with!'"

Patrick Weston Joyce, in 'English as We Speak it in Ireland':

"What can you expect from a pig but a grunt?"

Alistair Cooke, describing the public relations specialist Benjamin Sonnenberg:

"His skill is building large pediments for small statues."

James Agate, rejecting the analytic approach to literary criticism:

"I don't want to see a Swiss watch in pieces. I want to hear it tick."

Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, returning a florid essay to the Cambridge undergraduate Alistair Cooke:

"Cooke, you must learn to murder your darlings."

Silyas Dogwood, in 'Ransom Note: First Draft':

"TROPE-A-DOPE: The use of the word 'trope' in any circumstance whatsoever, revealing that one has had an education just good enough to know a lot of extra words, but not when not to use them."

The real reason that the controversial 'Captions: The Public Performance' was shut down:


Silyas Dogwood, 'The Dictionary of Mythological Mythology':

"TAURCEN: A creature formed from the head of a horse and the lower body of a man; the leftovers from a centaur; considered neither intelligent nor speedy, this armless creature generally starved to death, since attempts to graze resulted in an unrecoverable fall."

Malcolm Tucker, Director of Communications on 'The Thick of It':

"I've never seen anyone so ugly with just one head."

Dorothy Parker, after Neville Chamberlain's many airplane trips to Europe culminated in the shameful Munich agreement with Hitler:

"He is the first prime minister to crawl at 250 miles per hour."

Hugh Abbot, minister in charge of the Department of Social Affairs, in 'The Thick of It':

"There's no time to go home. I'll pass myself coming back in."

Jud Northbark, in 'Spoon River':

"AMORSTICE: The voluntary, mutual, temporary cessation of a state of woo."

Michael Lewis, in 'Liar's Poker':

"Investors do not fear losing money as much as they fear solitude."

John Gutfreund, CEO of the Wall Street investment bank Salomon Brothers:

"To succeed at Salomon Brothers, you have to wake up every morning ready to bite the ass off a bear."

Transuranian proverb:

"It's no use crying over all the fish in the sea."

Octavia Butler:

"There's nothing new under the sun, but there are new suns."

A book review by Ambrose Bierce, author of 'The Devil's Dictionary':

"The covers of this book are too far apart."

Silyas Dogwood, of a boaster:

"He pisses more than he drinks."

Silyas Dogwood, in 'Don't print this e-book!':

"No trees were harmed in the creation of this document."

Financial analyst Steve Eisman:

"The Lomas Financial Corporation is a perfectly hedged financial institution: it loses money in every conceivable interest rate environment."

Bencherman Franken, in 'Murmurrings and Refractions':

"You gaze at a photograph and see yourself frozen in time;
it gazes back and sees you crumbling into old age."

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, after a night sleeping on a Cambridge dormitory bed he described as like two sacks of potatoes tied together:

"I lay down at night a man and arose in the morning a bruise."

Julian Barnes, in 'The Sense of an Ending':

"Some Englishman once said that marriage is a long dull meal with the pudding served first."

Upton Downs, in 'The Wizard of Up':

"The free ride on ever-faster computer processors is over. It is time for lazy programmers to get smart or get out."

Roger Gradstud, investigating the chances of a career in the Marine Corps:

"So what are the possibilities of working from home?"

Arthur MacGregor, on Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II [1552-1612], compulsive collector of treasures, monstrosities and wonders.

"As well as being an outstanding patron, Rudolf built up a truly remarkable collection which has frequently been likened to his own personality in its immense richness and lack of purposeful direction."

From a campaign for the American Paragraphic Association:

"Can't spell? Then be apart of our group!"

A guide, standing before Gilbert Stuart's portrait of Washington at the Museum of Modern Art:

"This may not be what George Washington looked like then, but this is what he looks like now."

Alan Turing:

"In the case that the formula is neither provable nor disprovable, such a machine certainly does not behave in a very satisfactory manner, for it continues to work indefinitely without producing any result at all, but this cannot be regarded as very different from the reaction of the mathematicians."

How PBS told me I'm doing a great job:

"Escape from a Nazi death camp was made possible by contributions from viewers like you."

The engineer's motto:

"If it isn't broken, take it apart and fix it."

James Murray, first editor of the Oxford English Dictionary:

"The circle of the English language has a well defined center but no discernible circumference."

Bencherman Franken, in 'Porridge is on My Neck':

"Three may keep a secret if two are deaf."

Silyas Dogwood, in 'Blind Potatoes':

"Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy."

Upton Downs, in 'Down-Time':

"Our city's forestry plan is evidently the typical compromise: the forest is to be preserved forever, but the trees may go."

Silyas Dogwood, in 'A Thousand Follies':

"Youth will pass; immaturity is forever."

'The Quotable Marcel Marceau':

"On the sun, it is noon, always and everywhere."

Cicero, in 'Pro Milone':

"Inter arma enim silent leges. [During war, the law is silent.]"

J Robert Oppenheimer, war-time director of Los Alamos Laboratory:

"I spent four years having nothing but classified thoughts."

Morris Udall:

"The only medicine that can cure presidential amibition is embalming fluid."

Master electrician Denny McLean, accident-free for 30 years but repeatedly cited by his boss for refusing to wear safety gloves on the job:

"Rubber gloves don't keep you alive; fear does."

After having lost his life savings to the bankruptcy of his demolition business, Morris Lipsett announces he will make a fresh start, in the demolition business:

"You should always look for money where you lost it."

Alcibiades, on receiving a thunderous ovation from the audience:

"Have I said something unexpectedly foolish?"

Richard Member, director of the Easter Egg Gnostic App Driver (EEGAD):

"They said our operating system was unusable. So how did we solve that problem? We wrote manuals, tons and tons of them - but no one read them. They said the manuals were unreadable. So how did we solve that problem? If no one can read the manuals, we obviously don't need them. And now we're the world's top manual-free operating system. Problem solved!"

Text on the computer screen of the late Jud Northbark:

"Your proposed new password 'jfurkenbong$4209' failed the dictionary test."

Silyas Dogwood, in 'Cleaner Vacuums':

"If you stop asking when the job will be done, the answer is 'Never'."

Jud Northbark, in 'Now Playing in the Security State Theater':

"Upon reports of computer security issues, have all users change their passwords. Then go back to bed."

Brewster Bragsheer, acting second deputy vice-chair pro-tem of the ad hoc standing committee of the whole:

"The amount of work a committee can fail to do is proportional to the square of the size of the committee."

Arthur Conan Doyle's daughter Mary, leaving a funeral after being told that Mr Jones was in a coffin because he was being sent to heaven:

"So I guess God is unpacking him now."

Francis Bacon, in 'Of Friendship':

"A man cannot speak to his son but as a father; to his wife but as a husband; to his enemy but upon terms: whereas a friend may speak as the case requires."

Ludwig Wittgenstein:

"My work consists of two parts: the one presented here, plus all that I have not written. And it is precisely this second part that is the important one."

Lyndon Johnson:

"If I walked across the Potomac river in front of a hundred witnesses, the headline in the Washington Post would be THE PRESIDENT CAN'T SWIM."

Ludwig Wittgenstein:

"Don't try to shit higher than your asshole."

Congressman Francis J Underwood:

"Never slap a man in the face when he's chewing tobacco."

Jud Northbark, in "Parentheses in Every Direction":

"It is said that Plato admitted no student ignorant of geometry. These days, we admit students entirely unable to master or even understand the notion of nested parentheses, suggesting that their own intellects operate at a correspondingly primitive level of simple, direct sentences: I eat food; hand scratches nose; car goes fast."

Jud Northbark, in "Parentheses in Every Direction":

"Set theory takes as its fundamental atom the empty set, a thing that contains nothing. You might think such an idea can go no further, but set theory creates a new, distinct thing, the set which contains the empty set, essentially a box full of a box full of nothing. You can see that nothing will stop a mind that thinks this way. Even God must tip his hat to such audacious creation ex nihilo."

BBC Panorama broadcast on the annual spaghetti harvest in Switzerland, 1 April 1957:

"Many people are puzzled by the fact that spaghetti is produced in such uniform lengths, but this is the result of many years of patient endeavor by plant breeders in producing the perfect spaghetti."

The motto of the Church of the Second Coming of Waldo:

"Have YOU found Waldo?"

Logo for a T-shirt at an unbearably boring engineering conference:

"This mind intentionally blank."

David Hume rebuffs the philosophic arguments of George Berkeley, who argued that the material world is an illusion we generate, and that the only reality is an ideal one in our minds:

"Berkeley's views admit of no answer and produce no conviction."

Lionel Curtis, while settling the Anglo-Irish treaty of 1921:

"Negotiating with Michael Collins is like trying to write on water."

Mike Schneier, during the presentation of a paper at a math conference:

"Let's say that as a general rule, I like to be able to follow a talk, but not to actually predict it!"

From 'The Secret Protocols of the Tallahassee Department of Roads':

"A straight road is an offense unto God; then let it bend, yea, let it turn and cross itself. And if it nonetheless go straight, then let its length be not long, else that is presumption and arrogance. But if straight and long it must be, then let it not go so in both directions, for the life of ease and convenience is an abomination. Yet if it will be straight and long and bidirectional, then may it be cursed with many names, so that those who attempt to traverse it will be crushed by confusion and misery."

Insufferable TV celebrity interviewer Piers Morgan, after asking what could explain the mysterious diversion and disappearance of a Malaysian Airlines plane, and receiving the answer that it was 'unfathomable':

"Fathom it for me."

Rainer Maria Rilke:

"If my devils are to leave me,
I am afraid my angels will take flight as well."

Stephen Fry:

"Compromise is a stalling between two fools."

Sydney Smith, eccentric editor of the Edinburgh Review, on meeting at dinner a woman of similar tastes:

"Madam, I have been looking for a person who disliked gravy all my life; let us swear eternal friendship."

English cleric Sydney Smith, trying to convey the isolation of an assignment to the English countryside:

"My living in Yorkshire was so far out of the way, that it was actually twelve miles from a lemon."

Sydney Smith:

"Daniel Webster struck me much like a steam engine in trousers."

Silyas Dogwood:

"The thing about poverty is that it happens to the people who can least afford it."

Jason Rosenhouse, approximately, in 'The Monty Hall Problem':

"A paradox is a red flag indicating a fundamental error in reasoning. When I was a a child, my father asked me which direction I would look in order to see the moon, and I said, up, of course. Then he asked me, if I was standing on the moon, which direction I would look to see the earth, and I said, down, of course, and he said: but then you would only see your shoes."

William Butler Yeats:

"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire."

Jud Northbark, in 'Shoes for the Dead':

"CHUTZPAH: When you shit on a stranger's doorstep, then knock on the door and ask for toilet paper."

A Transuranian proverb:

"When it comes to love,
woman gives and forgives,
man gets and forgets.

Jud Northbark, 'The Literary Sins of Gulden J Stevens':

"When I was a minimal bud on the evolutionary bush, my happiness was maximally contingent on the false dichotomy of visiting an echt museum or, faute de mieux, equilibrating my punctuation at Yankee Stadium, that optimal hecatomb of Babe Ruth's career (see my book, 'Dynamic Stasis')."

Brewster Bragsheer, in 'This Mind Intentionally Blank':

"The definition of inanity is repeating the same axiom over and over and expecting the same result."

Bill Clinton:

"Dealing with Newt Gingrich is like hugging an eel."

Alex Pareene, journalist for Salon magazine, faces the reality of the Internet attention span:

"The majority of people who clicked on this piece stopped reading it a few paragraphs ago."

Epitaph for Jan Wesley Shockley, lifelong proofreader for the Waycross Indiana News-Historian:


Jud Northbark, in 'Shoes for the Dead':

"AGNOSTIC: One who imagines it possible that God has simply left the room for a moment."

Robert Oppenheimer recalls his decision to remain on the General Advisory Commission after the Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, vetoed their report denouncing the hydrogen bomb:

"There is the attitude that says, 'As long as I keep riding on this train, it won't go to the wrong destination.'"

A special kind of loneliness:

"I have plenty of friends to do something with; I have nobody to do nothing with."

Thomas Powers, in 'Heisenberg's War':

"When Pauli had gone looking for an assistant to join him in Zurich in the spring of 1933, it was almost an accident that he had chosen Weisskopf instead of Bethe.
'Who are you?' Pauli asked without ceremony after he had finished a calculation at the desk.
'I am Weisskopf, you asked me to be your assistant.'
'Yes,' said Pauli. 'First I wanted to take Bethe, but he works in solid-state theory, which I don't like, although I started it.'
When Weisskopf showed Pauli what he'd done with his first assignment after a week's work, Pauli looked at it with a growing expression of fathomless disgust and then said, 'I should have taken Bethe after all.'"

Physicist Fritz Houtermans defends his heritage:

"When your ancestors were still living in trees, mine were already forging checks!"

Carl Friedrich von Weizsaecker, after meeting Niels Bohr:

"I have seen a physicist for the first time. He suffers as he thinks!"

Physicist Niels Bohr criticizes the argument of a speaker at a conference:

"No, no, you are not thinking - you are just being logical!"

Joseph O'Neill, in 'Netherland':

"Like an old door, every man past a certain age comes with historical warps and creaks of one kind or another, and a woman who wishes to put him to serious further use must expect to do a certain amount of sanding and planing."

Transuranian proverb:

"The church is near, but the road is icy;
the pub is far, but I will walk carefully."

John von Neumann:

"It is easier to write a new code than to understand an old one."

Max Gunzburger:

"Never turn down an offer that hasn't been made yet."

Preface to the RAND Corporation book 'A Million Random Digits, With 100,000 Normal Deviates':

"Because of the very nature of the tables, it did not seem necessary to proofread every page of the final manuscript in order to catch random errors."

An anti-loitering sign in Bengal:

"If you have nothing to do, please do not do it here."

Raoul Bott reveals why John von Neumann treated smart and stupid people equally:

"He couldn't really tell very good people from less good people. I guess they all seemed so much slower."

David Hilbert's only question put to PhD candidate John von Neumann:

"In all my years I have never seen such beautiful evening clothes: pray, who is the candidate's tailor?"

Jud Northbark, from 'Sejanus in Repose':

"Rainbow: the symbol of hope, indicating that the rain is about to be driven away by the sun;
Wobniar: the symbol of despair, indicating that the sun is about to disappear behind a murderous downpour."

Frank O'Prussia, from 'Backing Lookwards':

"ECNALUBMA: The mysterious wailing vehicle you have just crashed into head-on, which is now incapable of taking you to the MOOR YCNEGREME."

Brewster Bragsheer, from 'Holiday in Darkness':

"BBC Radio's correspondent Peter Day has a rumbling baritone so rich and throaty that he must be pressing all the keys on the pipe organ at once. You could take any one of his broadcasts, slice it, butter it, and feed a nation for a week."

Abraham Lincoln, after being denounced as a half-hearted patriot by a woman who wanted him to drive the South into the ground:

"But Madam, do I not also destroy my enemies by making them my friends?"

Grammarian Otto Tintenfleck, speaking literally the last word on the war over the misuse of the word 'literally':

"It is time to recognize that we have lost the battle against the indiscriminate use of the word 'literally'. But we only lost because we still believed that the word actually had meaning. It now has none, and is simply a sort of language extender. In fact, every sentence can be improved by inserting the word 'literally' in it, and the only remaining question we face is where and how often to do so."

British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, asked how he could bear to face a miner's strike and an uprising in Ireland while prosecuting the first World War:

"I find a change of nuisance to be a sort of vacation."

Ralph Boas, on Otto Neugebauer's editorship of 'Mathematical Reviews':

"Neugebauer always insisted that the length of the review was not intended to be directly proportional to the importance of the paper. Indeed, a bad paper needed to have a review sufficiently detailed so that nobody needed to look at the paper itself, whereas a really important paper needed only to be called to the world's attention."

A book review:

"This book fills a much-needed gap."

Queen Elizabeth I chastises Mary Queen of Scots:

"Remember that those who have two strings to their bow may shoot stronger, but they rarely shoot straight."

John Maynard Keynes:

"The market can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent."

Chris Moukarbel, director of a pilot for a proposed new HBO series called 'Sex/Now':

"Interviewer: 'Assuming the show gets picked up for more episodes, what topics are next?'
Moukarbel: 'Ceara Lynch is a humiliatrix in Portland. One service she provides is called 'ignored'. For a few dollars a minute, she'll ignore you. Sometimes, she'll turn that camera on so you can watch her ignore you."

Brewster Bragsheer, on the difference between wisdom and intelligence:

"The intelligent man is able to overcome the difficulties that the wise man avoided in the first place."

Alfred North Whitehead:

"Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations we can perform without thinking about them."

Zapp Brannigan, captain of the Democratic Order Of Planets spaceship 'Nimbus':

"You haven't ignored the last of me!"

Jud Northbark, 'Banished from Zembla':

"A Harvard Medical School study found, by examining social networks, that obese people are most likely to have obese friends, and that the weight of your friends is a predictor of your own weight. We conclude that the best way to lose weight is to drop all friends heavier than yourself."

Brewster Bragsheer, 'The Cross-eyed Cyclops':

"Time travel is possible; it is practical; in fact it is happening right now - but at a very very slow rate."

Jud Northbark, 'The Nail Cries Out for a Hammer':

"Killing time is the worst of murders."

Brewster Bragsheer, 'Message Found in a Klein Bottle':

"Fearing pain, hunger or illness is rational.
We have experienced these and come out the other side.
But fearing death - no."

Ambrose Bierce:

"APPLAUSE: (noun), the echo of a platitude."

The Devil's public relations agent:

"Actually, killer robot warriors will save lives, by reducing the number of human soldiers on the battlefield."

The Lachrymaniacs blues band:

"Our motto is: We're not happy until you're not happy."

Brewster Bragsheer, 'Surfing the Maelstrom':

"Being on a university committee taught me two things. The first was about people: no one wants to do anything. The second was about committees: no one wants anything done."

Johnny Carson, assessing Chevy Chase:

"He couldn’t ad-lib a fart after a baked-bean dinner."

Bill Clinton dismissing the career of Barack Obama:

"He's luckier than a dog with two dicks."

Jud Northbark, in 'The Fugitive Splinter':

"Things are getting better so much faster now that soon progress will leave us all behind."

Brewster Bragsheer, in 'The Treadmill Marathon':

"Now it's possible for me to record every moment of my life, but when will I get time to watch it all?"

Murray Kempton:

"If you talk to gangsters long enough, you'll find out they're just as bad as respectable people."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, after Ohio governor John Kasich justified extending Medicaid by saying that Saint Peter would ask him if he had helped the poor, not if he had supported smaller government:

"Republicans get a vote before Saint Peter does."

A Transuranian proverb:

"There's no education in the second kick of a mule."

Milan Kundera, 'The Book of Laughter and Forgetting':

"Women don't look for handsome men.
Women look for men who have had beautiful women."

A Transuranian proverb:

"To fail at one thing is to fail at everything."

A Transuranian proverb:

"How do you eat an elephant? One teaspoonful a day."

A Transuranian proverb:

"If a man wants to learn to ride a horse, he must first learn how to fall off it."

Jud Northbark, from 'Tinsel in the Ice Cream':

"Politics is show business for ugly people."

The title of a song by country musician Dan Hicks:

"How can I miss you if you won't go away?"

A Transuranian proverb:

"To avoid mistakes, avoid activity."

Jud Northbark, after the university library remodeled itself into a gaping study hall, chat room, and coffee house, with books and journals banished to a moldy basement on crank-shelves:

"Who needs barbarians to destroy the library, when the librarians themselves will do the job so enthusiastically, and so thoroughly too!"

Most bizarre question posed by a visitor at Mount Vernon to a slave, impersonated by a re-enactor:

"So how did you get this job?"

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, after the New Republic edited one of his columns down to its residual mixed metaphors and cliches:

"A wake-up call's mother is unfolding. At the other end is a bell, which is telling us we have built a house at the foot of a volcano. The volcano is spewing lava, which says move your house."

A Transuranian proverb:

"No matter how long you feed the wolf, his gaze returns to the forest."

From the introduction to Jud Northbark's report, 'Computer Software: Threat or Menace?':

"Before you express surprise or anger at the miserable stage of user software, you should realize that to a software designer, it makes perfect sense to include in a drop-down menu the option 'SHOOT YOURSELF IN THE HEAD'. After all, he reasons, if there are any complaints, I can always add an 'UNDO' option."

Excerpt from a grotesquely premature application for admission to MIT:

"My second-grader is seriously considering a career in electrical engineering."

A Transuranian proverb:

"If you blame the axe, you must also blame the tree."

Betteridge's Law:

"Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no."

A Transuranian proverb:

"Opportunity is like a bald man with a beard:
easier to grab coming than going."

A Transuranian proverb:

"Trouble comes cheap, and leaves expensive."

Mike Grace, first baseman for the Chicago Cubs:

"If you're not cheating, you're not trying."

Simon Lovell, cheering up his friend Alex Stone, who was expelled by the Society of American Magicians for revealing how certain tricks were performed:

"Their average age is dead."

William Murray, story editor for the New Yorker:

"Another persistent petitioner was a professor in the English department at Louisiana State University who submitted at least a story a week for months, each one worse than the last. He wrote what I consider the single worst opening sentence in the history of English literature: 'Geez, she said, undulating toward the jukebox'."

William Blake:

"Wisdom is sold in the desolate market where none come to buy."

A Transuranian proverb:

"If you pay peanuts, you'll only hire monkeys."


"In the rich man's house, the only place to spit is in his face."

Marvin the paranoid android expresses the tedium of parking cars while waiting to meet his time-traveling friends:

"The first ten million years were the worst.
The second ten million years were the worst, too.
The third ten million years I didn't enjoy at all.
After that, I went into a bit of a decline."

Anna North:

"A friend of mine recently moved out of her apartment, stayed away for six months, and moved back in again, a sort of real estate Grover Cleveland."

Mark Twain:

"When I was younger, I could remember anything,
whether it happened or not,
but I am getting old,
and soon I shall remember only the latter."

Explaining the mysteries of telecommunication:

"Mork: The telephone is very simple. It's like a long dachshund that stretches from your house to mine. You pull the tail in your house, and it barks in my house.
Dork: OK, I guess I understand. But then how does radio work?
Mork: The same, only without the dachshund."

Don West, defense attorney for George Zimmerman, begins his presentation by joking about the pre-trial publicity:

"Knock knock!
Who's there?
George Zimmerman.
George Zimmerman who?
Congratulations, you're on the jury!"

Taunt and counter-taunt of two rap stars:

"Canibus: '99% of your fans wear high heels.'
LL Cool J: '99% of your fans don't exist.'"

Sir Cyril Hinshelwood:

"Fluid dynamicists were divided into hydraulic engineers who observe what cannot be explained, and mathematicians, who explain things that cannot be observed."

Lester Brooks, "Behind Japan's Surrender":

"Yonai's first appearance before the diet was a great success. It was reported that he said nothing, said it briefly, elegantly, and forcefully."

W H Auden:

"We were put here on earth to help others.
I'm not sure what the others were put here for."

Arthur Koestler:

"Evolution is an epic recited by a stutterer."

Vincent van Gogh:

"The blank canvas is afraid of me."

Jud Northbark, 'The Work Proclaims Its Maker':

"It seemed that his greatest asset was an instantaneous ability to hesitate."

Len Kirkson, 'The Loathsome Threshhold':

"I was still reeling from my first day as a resident in the Charity ward when a grizzled doctor, with breath reeking of onions, took me out to the smoking lounge and in what he must have thought a kindly manner declared that inside every patient was a dead man trying to get out, and that I was there merely to ensure a comfortable delivery."

Jennifer Kahn describes Internet opinionator Jaron Lanier:

"Lanier is often described as ‘visionary,’, a word that manages to convey both a capacity for mercurial insight and a lack of practical job skills."

Jud Northbark, 'Blows Against the Vampire':

"One doubts the intellectual consistency of the radical who denounces the Wall Street banker while idealizing the poor; after applying his remedy of universal wealth, he would presumably be impelled to hate everyone."

Epitaph chosen by Jane Kendall Mason for herself:

"Talents too many,
Not enough of any."

A demonstrator's sign during the Paris student uprising of 1968:


Alfred North Whitehead:

"Everything of importance has been said before by someone who did not discover it."


"The great book of Nature lies ever open before our eyes and the true philosophy is written in it.
But we cannot read it unless we have first learned the language and the characters in which it is written.
It is written in mathematical language, and the characters are triangles, circles, and other geometrical figures."

A determinedly upbeat director of a Ukrainian needle exchange program for heroin users:

"Addicts who inject themselves in the groin are now using an antiseptic wipe before and after they inject. People are really taking care of themselves!"

Eccentric pianist Glenn Gould:

"It's true that I've driven through a number of red lights on occasion, but on the other hand, I've stopped at a lot of green ones and never gotten credit for that."

The motto of a South Dakota rancher who has to rely on whatever help he can find:

"When it comes to work, one boy is worth half a man, -
and two boys are worthless."

George Orwell:

"Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful,
and murder respectable,
and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind."

Wolfgang Pauli, 1930, queasy after giving birth to the neutrino:

"I have done a terrible thing. I have postulated a particle that cannot be detected."

Roger Gradstud:

"I just love sleeping. I could do it for days in a row. For me, waking up is like having to hit the pause button in the middle of a really great movie."

Samuel 'Dictionary' Johnson:

"A cucumber should be well sliced, and dressed with pepper and vinegar, and then thrown out, as good for nothing."

Benoit Mandelbrot, his own first admirer:

"In order to be taken seriously, I had to invent my predecessors."

Yogi Berra:

"If you're not sure where you're going, be very careful, or you might not get there."

Nassim Taleb:

"Don't plan to wade across a river that's four feet deep on average."

Yogi Berra:

"Nowadays, the future ain't what it used to be."

George Orwell:

"Every joke is a little revolution."

Jud Northbark, 'Blots From the Copybook':

"The paper was due in the afternoon. He spent all morning not writing it and was emotionally exhausted by noon. He wondered whether, next time, he could find someone else who could not write the paper instead of him."

Abraham Lincoln:

"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."

Jud Northbark, in 'Leaving the Scene':

"Being an outspoken person, there are many bumper stickers I would like to put on my car, but I don't want the causes I believe in to be blamed for my bad driving!"

Brewster Bragsheer becomes suspicious:

"Following vigorous recommendations from friends, I took up his book with much anticipation, but reading it, I found that the less I knew about a subject, the more profound he seemed, and I began to wonder if he really knew anything at all."

William Caldicote has an emotional crisis, in Barbara Pym's 'Excellent Women':

"They've moved me to a new office and I don't like it at all. Different pigeons come to the windows."

Jud Northbark, in 'At the Coffin-Fitter's':

"Science is a broad church of narrow minds."

Brewster Bragsheer, in 'Crumbs in the Mustache':

"Life is beautiful, and it begins tomorrow."

A condemned pirate complains to Alexander the Great:

"Because I had only one rickety ship, I'm called a bandit.
Because you have a large fleet, you are called an emperor."

Lance Armstrong, asked by Oprah Winfrey if he felt remorse for winning the Tour de France seven times by cheating:

"I am starting a process."

Brewster Bragsheer, in 'Thanks for Trying, I Guess':

"The man of many wishes is the man of little will."

Jud Northbark, in 'Parade of the Dust Bunnies':

"Science is the poetics of experience. It does not explain reality; rather, it helps us stage plausible re-enactments."

The Finns, putting up an unexpectedly fierce resistance to Russian invaders in 1939:

"Our country is so small and there are so many Russians. Where will we bury them all?"

Brewster Bragsheer, the Serendip professor of synchronology:

"A coincidence is an explanation waiting to happen."

Bart Simpson's friend Milhouse, after losing his girlfriend:

"I don’t know how it could have happened. It started out like 'Romeo and Juliet' but it ended in tragedy."

The French ambassador, skinny dipping in the Potomac with Teddy Roosevelt, and explaining why he kept his gloves on:

"Because we might meet some ladies."

State Department employees, brainstorming a response to the hostage crisis, after realizing none of the standard approaches would work, as imagined in the movie 'Argo'.

"It's the best bad idea we've had, sir, by far."

George Santayana:

"Skepticism is the chastity of the soul, and it is a shame to surrender it too soon."

Bernard Suits, in 'The Grasshopper: Games, Life and Utopia':

"A game is the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles."

Jud Northbark, in 'My Cup is Full of Empty':

"Be very careful when dealing with the minor bureaucrat behind the glass partition with his little rubber stamp. It's true that there is not much he can do, but there is no limit to what he can fail to do."

Groucho Marx:

"Those are my principles. And if you don't like them,
... well, I have others."

George II, on hearing the opinion that General James Wolfe, who drove the French out of Canada, had no more manners than a mad dog:

"I wish he would bite my other generals!"

Brewster Bragsheer, newly-appointed coach of the last-place Leamington Lemmings:

"I'm going to turn this team around 360 degrees!"

Kaya Bondi, who starred in 'Always...Patsy Cline' for over ten years:

"I've been playing Patsy Cline longer than Patsy Cline did."

A Transuranian proverb:

"Sometimes I go around in pity for myself, and all the while, a great wind carries me across the sky."

Stephen Colbert blurbs his book 'America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren't':

"If there's a better book than this, I haven't written it."

John Kennedy, describing a conversation with a California delegate to the 1960 convention, from whom he had requested support:

"All I can say is that even though I can't make up my mind, when I do, I'll be mighty bitter about it."

Brewster Bragsheer, in 'The Beckoning Scab':

"When you tell me that 9 out of 10 forest fires are caused by humans, all I hear is that somewhere out there is a crazy bear with matches."

Frank O'Prussia, from 'The Rhyme of the Ancient Programmer':

"A computer program written to solve problems in any spatial dimension is most likely to fail in the case of one dimension."

Christopher Moltisanti:

"Fear heard the knock at the door.
Faith got up to answer.
There was no one there."

Emo Phillips:

"I used to think that the brain was the greatest organ in the human body, then I realized, 'Hey! Look who's telling me that!'"

Seneca, as Nero prepared another bloody purge of the Roman nobles:

"No matter how many you kill, you can't kill your successor."

Chef #1408275, in an angry comment about an online recipe for ice cubes:

"This recipe is horrible! Maybe I should have left them in longer than two minutes (the recipe doesn't say how long to leave them in the freezer so I just kind of guessed) but mine came out all watery. I won't be making these again."


"Every man is guilty of all the good things he failed to do."

Napoleon, momentarily furious at Talleyrand:

"You are nothing but shit in a silk stocking!"

Steven Englund:

"Napoleon was a self-made man, and he worshipped his creator."

Steven Englund:

"There is an old Latin saying - the French attack each other like wolves. This may be unfair - to wolves."

La Rochefoucauld:

"Absence diminishes small passions and inflates large ones, as the wind extinguishes candles but whips up a fire."

Colin Dexter, 'Service of All the Dead':

"'Do you mind me asking how old you are, Mrs Walsh-Atkins?'
'Can you keep a secret, Inspector?'
'So can I', she whispered."

Jud Northbark, in 'No Vacancy at the Hilbert Hotel':

"A word processor with automatic tabbing and indenting has all the specious advantages and disastrous consequences of an automatic flush toilet."

G K Chesterton, speaking of a madman:

"He is in the clean and well-lit prison of one idea."

Gore Vidal, commenting on the death of Truman Capote:

"Good career move."

C S Forester, putting a moral spin on naval warfare:

"A battleship's purpose is to give and not to receive."

An Albanian insult:

"Everyone knows that all your ancestors died in bed."

Alexander Herzen reports an entry in the records of the Siberian bureaucracy:

"Number of persons fallen in the water: 2
Number of persons saved: 2
Total: 4"

Pablo Picasso:

"Critics meet and talk about aesthetics. Artists meet and talk about turpentine."

An exchange between Alexander and his chief general Parmenio, on receipt of a desperate and generous treaty offer from the embattled Persian king Darius:

"Parmenio: If I were Alexander, I should accept this offer.
Alexander: So should I, if I were Parmenio."

Coenus, who had accompanied Alexander on a ten year journey of conquest across Asia, asked whether he would support Alexander's desire to carry the battle into the seemingly endless plains of India:

"Sir, if there is one thing above all others a successful man should know, it is when to stop."

Philip of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great, gathered his armies and marched across Greece to threaten the independent cities. Before approaching Sparta, he sent a herald with the message:

"Shall I come as friend or foe?"
to which the Lacedemonians economically responded:

Transuranian proverb:

"Give your children enough to do something; but don't give them enough to do nothing."

Transuranian proverb:

"Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes."

Oakland A's manager Billy Beane, challenging the formulas that expert baseball performance evaluators rely on:

"If he's such a good hitter, why doesn't he hit good?"

Transuranian proverb:

"Just because you're excruciatingly critical doesn't mean you’re not also naive."

An earnest high school essayist, quoted by Meg Wolitzer in 'The Uncoupling':

"At the time that Virginia Woolf and James Joyce were writing, the world was very much as it is today, though to a lesser extent."

Thomas Huxley:

"Irrationally held truths may be more harmful than reasoned errors."

Mark Twain:

"Get your facts first. Then you can distort them as much as you please."

Gian Carlo Rota:

"My late friend Stan Ulam used to remark that his life was sharply divided into two halves. In the first half, he was always the youngest person in the group; in the second half, he was always the oldest. There was no transitional period."

Transuranian proverb:

"A self made man is like a turtle on a fence post; no matter what he says, you know he had help getting there."

Observed during a software training session:

"Speaker: This is going to be a fun workshop. For instance, each time you ask a question, I'm going to give you a T-shirt from our company. Ah, and I see I already have a first question. Yes?
Attendee: Can I have a T-shirt?"

Gore Vidal:

"Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little."

Benjamin Disraeli on William Gladstone:

"He has not a single redeeming defect."

Abraham Lincoln:

"He can compress the most words into the smallest ideas better than any man I ever met."

Toby Young, in 'How to Lose Friends and Alienate People:

"I was a 20-year-old Oxford undergraduate at the time suffering from what I diagnosed as 'negative charisma' - I only had to walk across a crowded room in which I knew nobody and nobody knew me and already I had ten enemies."

Telegram from Herman Mankiewicz to Ben Hecht:

"Will you accept three hundred per week to work for Paramount Pictures? All expenses paid. The three hundred is peanuts. Millions are to be grabbed out here and your only competition is idiots. Don't let this get around."


"My prayer to God is a very short one:
Oh Lord, make my enemies ridiculous."

Irving Stone, on William Jennings Bryan:

"His mind was like a soup dish, wide and narrow. It could hold a small amount of nearly anything."

Philosophy in the age of social media:

"Man,The Vietnam war had such a profound effect on Music, I wish all those people didn't have to die, but wouldn't that suck if this music wasn't out there??"

Futurama's Philip J Fry learns from his Wall Street executive buddy:

"Wall Street Exec: Now that you're my protege, it's time to clue you in on the secret of success. You know what that is?
Fry: Uh, work really really hard?
Wall Street Exec: No!
Fry: Oh, thank goodness!"

Heinrich Wilhelm Olbers, famous for his paradox that asks why the night sky is dark if the universe is infinite:

"My greatest astronomical discovery was Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel."

Conversational exchange at Mount Wilson Observatory:

"Astronomer: This is the 100 inch telescope with which we are determining the structure of the universe.
Mrs Einstein: Oh, my husband just uses the back of an envelope."

Henry Ford:

"If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses."

Kevin Bleyer, 'Me the People':

"I once drove through Nebraska, via I-80, days after my girlfriend broke up with me, on a self-imposed road trip from Los Angeles to Cedar Rapids to find my brother's shoulder and cry on it. It is a long, straight, hypnotically boring drive that not only gave me ample time to think about the loss, but also put my recent heartbreak in much-needed perspective. It could be worse, I realized. I could live here."

General Joao Baptista Figueiredo, the last dictator of Brazil:

"I intend to open this country up to democracy, and anyone who is against that, I will jail, I will crush."

A favorite proverb of Joseph Stalin, who was fond of insisting that his ministers join him for all-night drinking parties:

"What the sober man has on his mind, the drunken man has on his tongue."

Will Rogers:

"When the Okies left Oklahoma and moved to California, they raised the average intelligence level in both states."

Groucho Marx:

"I'm so old I knew Doris Day before she was a virgin."

A Transuranian proverb:

"To understand recursion, you must first understand recursion."

Oscar Wilde, handcuffed, in pouring rain, and about to be taken to prison:

"If this is the way Queen Victoria treats her convicts, she doesn't deserve to have any."

A Transuranian proverb:

"TB or not TB, that is the congestion. Consumption be done about it? Of cough not!"

Christopher Buckley:

"The French presidential election season only lasts a month. But even their system is not perfect. You still end up with a French president."

Bat Masterson, US Marshall, and columnist for the New York Morning Telegraph:

"The rich man gets ice in the summer and the poor man gets it in the winter."

Malcolm Gladwell, whom no one thinks is brilliant, in 'Blink':

"Silvan Tomkins was the author of 'Affect, Imagery, and Consciousness', a four-volume work so dense that its readers were evenly divided between those who understood it and thought it was brilliant, and those who did not understand it and thought it was brilliant."

Julius Caesar, as quoted on the HBO series 'Rome':

"Guards can keep away my enemies, but not my friends."

A Transuranian proverb:

"Knowing when to stop is the beginning of wisdom."

Harried vice-presidential assistant Amy Brookheimer:

"I don't have time to ignore you."

Brendan Filone:

"Not only does he shit on my head but I'm supposed to say thanks for the hat."

John Scalvi:

"If you want me to treat your ideas with more respect, get some better ideas."

Midnight rambler Soren Kierkegaard:

"I've walked myself into some of my best thoughts."

Weston Easterly, who camped with three others in a narrow canyon despite a flood warning from park rangers, and was the only survivor after a midnight storm sent a wall of water through the canyon:

"Yes, we got a warning. But no one told us to pay attention to the warning."

Clark Kerr:

"A university is a sequence of individual faculty entrepreneurs united by a common grievance over parking."

Jud Northbark, in 'Time in a Bottle':

"With a stronger light you can see more darkness."

James Clerk Maxwell:

"Thoroughly conscious ignorance is a prelude to every real advance in knowledge."

Television's football commentator John Madden:

"If you don't see, then you don't know what you're looking at."

Brewster Bragsheer's 'Modern History of Iran':

"When Reza Shah mounted the Peacock throne, the country was plagued by thousands of bandits and brigands, but by the end of his reign there was only one left."

Pastor Brewster Bragsheer's 'Letters to a Young Preacher':

"Talk about God, talk about sin, and talk about five minutes."

Jud Northbark, in 'The Empty Sleeve':

"Don't tax you, don't tax me, tax that fellow behind the tree."

Jud Northbark, in 'The Minister of Spite':

"Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die."

Jud Northbark, in 'You First, Captain!':

"In a bureaucracy, you meet those gray men who say 'The answer is no. What was the question?'."

Jud Northbark:

"In order to have one good idea, you must have nine bad ones."

Jud Northbark:

"Beauty is merely pornography without the sex."

A Transuranian proverb:

"In your first thirty years, you make habits;
in your next thirty years, your habits make you."

Jean-Louis Gassee, who replaced Steve Jobs as head of the Macintosh division at Apple:

"I am a recovering assaholic."

A Transuranian proverb:

"Every lie creates a parallel world."

Alan Kay:

"The best way to predict the future is to invent it."

The first brochure from Apple:

"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."

Jud Northbark, in 'The Post-Hoc Post Doc':

"People may be entitled to their own opinions, but they're not entitled to their own facts!"

Attorney Cheryl Milone, who searches legal, government and scientific records to challenge patent claims:

"Instead of looking for a needle in a haystack, what if you could ask each piece of hay if it was a needle?"

Victor Borge:

"Ladies and Gentlemen, I want you to know that I have suffered for my music. Now it's your turn."

Abraham Lincoln, asked by an author to comment on his book:

"Well, for those who like that sort of thing, I should think it is just about the sort of thing they would like."

Maurice Cotterell, quoting a review of his book by the Institute of Physics Publishing:

"'How Gravity Works' is completely new.
It contains nothing that we have been working on."

James Hetfield:

"It's all fun and games until someone gets blinded -
then it's all fun and games you can't see."

A Transuranian proverb:

"One generation plants trees;
the next generation gets the shade."

Ciaran O Murchadha, in 'The Great Famine', describing how starving Irish peasants contrived to be fed:

"It took three days to try some of those accused of petty crimes, all of whom pleaded guilty in the hope of receiving prison sentences. The following day, some of those who were freed tried to break into the jail, and were arraigned for causing a riot, which resulted in at least some of them achieving their objective of incarceration."

Newt Gingrich:

"One of the great problems we have in the Republican party is that we don't encourage you to be nasty."

Inept trail scout Steven Meeks, reassuring the weary followers in his wagon train:

"We're not lost. We're just finding our way."

Joseph Epstein:

"John Updike simply cannot pass up any opportunity to tap dance in prose."


"Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book."

Rolf-Dieter Heuer:

"Physicists know everything about the Higgs particle, except whether it exists."

Jud Northbark:

"He wouldn't recognize subtlety if it hit him over the head with a hammer."

The always quotable Albert Einstein:

"Would you please pass the salt, please?"

John Wanamaker:

"I know that half my advertising budget is wasted.
What I don't know is which half."

Mark Twain:

"Truth is our most precious possession. Therefore, let us economize."

Oscar Wilde:

"A gentleman is one who never hurts another's feelings unintentionally."

A wise child retort reported by Frank Wimberly:

"Father: If I were you, I wouldn't do that.
Daughter: Papa, if you were me means you would do what I do."


"The cook was a good cook, as cooks go,
and as cooks go, she went."

Sir Boyle Roche:

"Half the lies our opponents tell about me are not true."

Rick Santorum, during the 2012 New Hampshire primary:

"Now, I get a kick out of this, because I’m told all the time: 'Santorum, quit trying to impose your ideas on everybody else.' But what's that? Is that not trying to impose their morality on everybody else?"

Jeremy Irons, in the movie 'Margin Call', director of a financial firm that has suddenly collapsed, rejects the vague and complicated reports of his advisors:

"Explain it to me like I'm a Golden Retriever."

A Transuranian proverb:

"A battle is nothing but a sequence of mistakes. The side making the fewest mistakes wins."

Gene Golub, recalling an academic dispute:

"Maurice Wilkes was teaching a course on elementary numerical analysis, and he was being harassed by Velvel. So he sent a polite little note: 'Mr. Kahan, for the comments, why don’t you come and see me privately?' So Kahan went, and told him, of course, everything that was incorrect. Now Wilkes wasn't actually supposed to have taught that course; somebody else had died. So at the end, Wilkes said, 'Well, it’s only an elementary course', to which Velvel responded: 'There's a difference between an elementary course and a superficial one.'"

A Transuranian proverb:

"He who chases two rabbits catches none."

Gore Vidal, quoting the Wise Hack at the Writer's Table in the MGM Commissary:

"Shit has its own integrity."

Richard Russo, in 'The Risk Pool', in which he and his father have stopped in a trailer park to pick up a fishing buddy, who sleepily emerges in his underwear and urinates on their car bumper.

"'No class', said my father, 'and plenty of it.'"

Stephen Leacock, 'Nonsense Novels':

"He flung himself upon his horse and rode madly off in all directions."

The Duc de la Rochefoucald:

"Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue."

Jean Rhys:

"I am a doormat in a world of boots."

Thomas Browne:

"There is no antidote for the opium of time."

Howard Jacobson, 'The Finkler Question':

"In the morning, he woke to twin realisations.
The first was that she had left him.
The second was that his sheets were on fire."

Transuranian proverb:

"The well does not walk to the thirsty man."

Brewster Bragsheer:

"At his wife's wake, three silent guests remained. In the morning, the first guest arose saying, 'I am Shock, and I can go now.' Months later, the second guest remarked at the door, 'It is time for Grief to depart'. 'But don't worry,' said Loneliness, 'I can stay.'"


"A diplomat was given a tongue in order to conceal his thoughts."

Saul Perlmutter, physics Nobelist 2011:

"The only reason to win a Nobel prize is to be able to park on campus."

Woody Allen, interviewed about his first movie, 'What's New, Pussycat?':

"Woody Allen: 'It was a boring movie.'
Interviewer: 'I rather enjoyed it.'
Woody Allen: 'Yes, but you were mistaken.'"

Woody Allen, revisiting his childhome home:

"It doesn't look like much, but it wasn't."

Nicola Tesla, who felt that the Nobel prize was awarded for small accomplishments rather than the discovery of new and fundamental principles, refused to consider sharing the 1915 Nobel prize in physics with Edison, which then went instead to a pair of X-ray crystallographers:

"In a thousand years, there will be many thousand recipients of the Nobel prize. But I have not less than four dozens of my creations identified with my name in the technical literature."

Jud Northbark:

"Any job is easy as long as I don't have to do it."

Homer Joseph Stewart, NASA scientist, who liked to smoke his cigarettes to the end without ever flicking them, after showing experimental proof that the design of the Mariner spacecraft was correct, and being told he had merely been lucky:

"Being lucky is as good as being right!"

Newt Gingrich:

"If you quote me, you are lying!"

Mark Twain:

"In a museum in Havana there are two skulls of Christopher Columbus, one when he was a boy and one when he was a man."

From 'Catapult: Harry and I Build a Siege Weapon', by Jim Paul:

"In the exhibit-crammed fieldhouse in Vernal, I'd watched a couple show their daughter the models of the mastodon, bigger than a modern elephant, and of eohippus, smaller than the modern horse. To her daughter, the mother had added matter-of-factly, 'When Jesus came, he made all the animals the right size.'"

From the movie 'Woman on Top':

"If a man truly loves a woman, he never lets her catch him cheating."

Director Michael Curtiz, complaining to Vincent Price when a gofer didn't return with his drink quickly enough:

"Next time I send some dumb son-of-a-bitch for a Coca-Cola, I go myself."

Joseph Stalin:

"In elections, it doesn't matter who votes, but who counts the votes."

Max Weinreich, Yiddish linguist:

"A language is just a dialect with an army and a navy."

Clive James, in the preface to 'Brilliant Creatures':

"I believe I was the first to suggest that there should be an Arts Council grant for not writing a novel. The candidate would submit an outline of the novel he proposed not to write. If he proposed not to write a whole sequence of novels, the grant would be renewed annually."

A Transuranian proverb:

"Cave ab homine unius libri.
(Beware the man of just one book.)"

Steven Shapin, 'The Scientific Revolution':

"There is no such thing as the Scientific Revolution, and this is a book about it."

Lord Derby, appointing Charles Lever to the English consulate at Trieste:

"Here is six hundred a year for doing nothing, and you are just the man to do it."

Glenn Greenwald:

"Those who voice prohibited truths are always more hated than those who spout obvious lies."

Jeehyun Lee trying to rouse her son in the morning:

"'Get up. Haven't you heard that the early bird catches the worm?'
'But Mom, what if I'm a worm?'"

Jud Northbark:

"It's always been my dream to be the most modest person in the world, though I'm sure I'd never deserve it."

A disappointed physicist:

"Cheap energy from nuclear fusion is just 10 years away...and holding."

Shakespeare, in 'The Two Noble Kinsmen':

"The world's a city full of straying streets,
And death's the market place where each one meets."

Erasmus's blessing for pregnant women:

"Heaven grant that the burden you carry may have as easy an exit as it had an entry."

Bob Beckel:

"Newt Gingrich has never had an unspoken thought."

William Henry Chamberlin, 'The Russian Revolution':

"The fiscal exactions of the tax collectors were so exorbitant that they drove free peasants to seek refuge in voluntary servitude to owners who would be responsible for their taxes, and in a typical medieval Russian paradox, this practice was forbidden and people were commanded to remain free."

Jud Northbark:

"There's a plentiful supply of history,
and they're making more of it every day."

Boss Tweed:

"It's good to know the law, but it's better to know the judge."

Oscar Wilde:

"Only the shallow know themselves."

Mr Garrison:

"Please don't be afraid to ask any question you want in this class.
Remember, there is no such thing as a stupid question,
only stupid people."

Detelina's Law:

"If your program doesn't run, that means it has an error in it.
If your program does run, that means it has two errors in it."

Shakespeare, in 'Hamlet':

"Imperious Caesar, dead and turned to clay,
Might stop a hole to keep the wind away."

Stephen Wolfram, taking on a thankless task:

"I am my own reality check."


"Year after year,
on the monkey's face,
the face of a monkey."

Dinsdale Pironeau, computational particle physicist:

"Stephen Wolfram is starting to give arrogance a bad name."

David Guterson, 'The Other':

"I once saw a book written by someone described on the flap as a Zen master, and though I didn't thumb its pages, it did seem to me a title describing something I'd known to be true - 'Mouth Open Already a Mistake'."

Friedrich von Schlegel:

"Historians: the prophets who look backwards."

Brewster Bragsheer:

"I don't think I was ever going to slow down and relax until someone told me life was not an endless IN basket that I had to get through."

Henry Phillips in 'Punching the Clown':

"I think Michelangelo said something like, if people knew how hard I worked, they wouldn't call me a genius, and I'm like, if people knew how little I worked on these songs, they wouldn't say I sucked."

Albert Einstein, in 'Before I Erase The Blackboard':

"Any sufficiently well-meaning banality, ascribed to a famous person, acquires a luster of borrowed profundity."

The Looking Glass Dossier:

"The Red Queen: 'Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast...'
Alice: 'Perhaps, but surely not all at the same time!'
The Red Queen: 'Of course all at the same time, or where's the fun?'
Alice: 'But that's impossible!'
The Red Queen: 'There, now that's seven!'"

Lazar Greenfield, incoming president of the American College of Surgeons, suddenly the outgoing president, after commenting on the mood-enhancing effects of semen experienced by women having sex without condoms:

"Now we know there's a better gift for Valentine's Day than chocolates."

Terry Darlington, trying to encourage his wife during a trip in which they managed to sail a five-foot-wide canal boat across the English Channel:

"Remember our motto - start slow and then give up."

Karl Marx, in 'The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte':

"Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please."

Steven Pinker, in 'Words and Rules':

"As an experimental psychologist,
I have been trained not to believe anything
unless it can be demonstrated in the laboratory on rats or sophomores."

Charles Babbage, correcting William Wordsworth's line:
'Every moment dies a man, Every moment one is born':

"It must be manifest that if this were true, the population of the world would be at a standstill. I would suggest that in the next edition of your poem, you have it read
'Every moment dies a man, Every moment 1 1/16 is born.'
The actual figure is so long I cannot get it onto a line, but I believe the figure 1 1/16 will be sufficiently accurate for poetry."

Piet Hein:

"The road to wisdom? Well, it is plain
And simple to express:
Err and err and err again,
But less and less and less."

George Sayitagainya:

"Those who can remember the past feel compelled to quote it."

Frederick Brooks,
in 'The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering':

"The bearing of a child takes nine months,
no matter how many women are assigned."

A Transuranian proverb:

"God is a comedian playing to an audience that's afraid to laugh."

Steven Weinberg, occasional commentator on the dispute between science and religion:

"I have learned that when you say anything controversial, you are likely to be blamed not so much for what you have said as for what people think that someone who has said what you said would also say."

Stanislaw Ulam, a founder of the Monte Carlo simulation technique, who determined how to initiate fusion in the hydrogen bomb, and subsequently became an advocate of arms control:

"Madness is the ability to make fine distinctions among different kinds of nonsense."

Steven Weinberg, particle physicist:

"In trying to get votes for the Superconducting Super Collider, I was very much involved in lobbying members of Congress, testifying to them, bothering them, and I never heard any of them talk about postmodernism or social constructivism. You have to be very learned to be that wrong."

Steven Weinberg, devisor of the electroweak unification theory:

"The philosophy of science is as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds."

Francis Bacon:

"Truth emerges more readily from error than from confusion."

Tony Soprano, waste management specialist:

"Revenge is like serving cold cuts."

Daniel Dennett, 'Consciousness Explained':

"The juvenile sea squirt wanders through the sea searching for a suitable rock or hunk of coral to cling to and make its home for life. For this task it has a rudimentary nervous system. When it finds its spot and takes root, it doesn't need its brain any more so it eats it. It's rather like getting tenure."

The Wizard of Id:

"Remember the Golden Rule: Them that has the gold makes the rules."

The last words of the irascible Lord Palmerston:

"Die? Why that's the last thing I shall do!"

Allan Felix, desperate for a date, in Woody Allen's 'Play it Again, Sam':

"Allan Felix: What are you doing Saturday night?
Woman: Committing suicide.
Allan Felix: What about Friday night?"

Woody Allen's 'Love and Death':

"Sonya: Sex without love is an empty experience.
Boris: Yes, but as empty experiences go, it's one of the the best!"

A curiously-worded TV 'news-crawler':

"Screen legend Elizabeth Taylor died Wednesday in her hospital room, surrounded by her child."

Feeble, in 'Henry IV Part II':

"A man can die but once: we owe God a death: and let it go which way it will, he that dies this year is quit for the next."

Jud Northbark's Fictionary of Argot, Cant, and Jive:

"DEJA-NEW: The eerie feeling that you've probably never done this before."

The Economist:

"Tata's best known frugal product, the Tata Nano, has run into problems:
some cars have suffered what the vice-chairman calls 'thermal incidents'...
and what his customers call 'catching fire'."

One of a pair of contradictory Transuranian proverbs.:

"And if your aunt had wheels, she'd be a bus."

One of a pair of contradictory Transuranian proverbs.:

"If your aunt had wheels, she still wouldn't be a bus."

Transuranian proverb:

"When the axe came into the forest, one tree said, 'Don't worry, the handle is one of us!'"

Neil Steinberg, in 'Complete and Utter Failure':

"And then there was Goff's Low Ash cat food ('contains only 1.5 percent ash'), which may have been designed to appeal to those knowledgeable about cat food ingredients, but still seems akin to naming a frankfurter 'Few Mouse Hairs'."

Christopher Hitchens:

"Thus did I become a 'Social Science Correspondent' on a paper that had yet to be printed: a Gogol-like ghost job which I held for about six months before its editor said something to me that made it impossible for me to go on working for him - 'You're fired' were the exact words as I remember them."

W. H. Auden:

"My face looks like a wedding-cake left out in the rain."

Trumping a snob:

"Snob: I suppose you know my ancestors came over with William the Conqueror.
John Smith: Yes indeed, since mine were here waiting for you."

Christopher Hitchens:

"The Freemasons: this mafia for the mediocre."

Kingsley Amis:

"Death has this much to be said for it:
You don't have to get out of bed for it.
Wherever you happen to be
They bring it to you - free."

Dean Gradgrind of Hardtack University:

"Why are you engineers always bothering me for money for more expensive equipment and laboratories? Why can't you be like the math department? They only ask for paper and trashcans! Or better yet, the philosophy department. They just ask for paper!"

From the Czech movie 'Autumn Spring', in which an eighty-year-old man refuses to behave:

"Wife: Don't smoke, you'll cough!
Husband: But I cough better when I smoke!"

The future George IV, impatient for his father to go mad or die, as voiced by Alan Bennett in 'The Madness of King George':

"To be Prince of Wales is not a position; it is a predicament!"

John Kenneth Galbraith, in 'A Tenured Professor':

"Lectures," said McCrimmon, "are our most flexible art form. Any idea, however slight, can be expanded to fill fifty-five minutes; any idea, however great, can be condensed to that time. And if no ideas are available, there can always be discussion. Discussion is the vacuum that fills the vacuum."

Tom Shone:

"They say it's important to live each day as if it were your last. What? Drunk, six cigarettes in my mouth, sobbing down the phone at all the relatives I haven't called in years?"

Jud Northbark:

"In Texas, anyone driving at the posted speed limit will never arrive at their destination."

Clark Kerr, after being dismissed from his university job by governor Ronald Reagan:

"I can honestly say I left the job exactly the same way that I took it up: fired with enthusiasm."

Karl Marx:

"Where is the medal without the reverse?"

Bill Bryson, in 'The Lost Continent':

"When you tell an Iowan a joke, you can see a kind of race going on between his brain and his expression."

Gerald Kaufman, describing the British Labour Party's manifesto for the 1983 election, which party leader Michael Foot had decreed would contain the text of every resolution approved at the party congress:

"The longest suicide note in history."

Sydney Hook, on the combative author of 'Darkness at Noon':

"Arthur Koestler was capable of reciting the truths of the multiplication table in a way to make some people indignant with him."

Washington Roebling, after thirteen years of controversy as the Chief Engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge:

"It took Cheops twenty years to build his pyramid, but if he had a lot of trustees, contractors, and newspaper reporters to worry him, he might not have finished it by that time. The advantages of modern engineering are in many ways over balanced by the disadvantages of modern civilization."

Scaramouche, as played by that ham-slinger Stewart Granger:

"I can no longer be taught by the man who taught my enemy. So what is more fitting in a mad world than to be taught by the man who taught the man who taught my enemy?"

Charles Edward Arnold, on James G Blaine, who lost the presidential race to Grover Cleveland in 1884:

"No man in our annals has filled so large a space -
and left it so empty."

Robert Hughes:

"Antoni Gaudi seems to have designed the church of the Holy Family out of melted candle wax and chicken guts."

Comedian Ricky Gervais:

"Now I know I'm making a lot of fun of fat people.
But I don't want any of you fat people to be uncomfortable during my show.
So next time, why don't you go ahead and pay for two seats?"

Jose da Fonseca and Pedro Carolino, in 'English as She is Spoke':

"That pond it seems me many multiplied of fishes. Let us amuse rather to the fishing."

John Banville, in the spy novel 'The Untouchable':

"If not a Hun, I thought, then an Austrian, surely - somewhere German-speaking, at any rate; all that gloom and soulfulness could only be the result of an upbringing among compound words."

The last words of Goethe, which were poeticized into 'More light!':

"Can you open the shutters, please?"

William Stanley Jevons, in 'The Coal Question', 1865, asserting that Britain's use of coal was unsustainable, and that measures to use coal more efficiently would not delay the crisis:

"It is wholly a confusion of ideas to suppose that the economical use of fuel is equivalent to diminished consumption. The very contrary is the truth."

Alaric, chief of the Goths, after a delegation from Rome warned him that every man, woman and child in the city would resist his assault:

"The thicker the hay, the easier the mowing."

A Transuranian proverb:

"Dig deep enough and you hit water;
think hard enough and you hit a mystery."

Ricky Gervais:

"If you just talk, I find that your mouth comes out with stuff."

Edward Gibbon, in 'The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire':

"Twenty-two acknowledged concubines, and a library of sixty-two thousand volumes, attested the variety of his inclinations, and from the productions which he left behind, it appears that the former as well as the latter were designed for use rather than ostentation."

A Transuranian proverb:

"To find many things, look for one."

Steven Weinberg's acidic epitome of Stephen Wolfram's proposal, in 'A New Kind of Science', that everything in the universe, and the universe itself, is a cellular automaton:

"So might a carpenter, looking at the moon,
suppose that it is made of wood."

Extract from a diplomatic cable following a meeting between British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and US Vice President Joe Biden:

"Vice President Biden described the complex nature of the security
problem in Afghanistan, commenting that besides the demography,
geography and history of the region, we have a lot going for us."

Robertson Davies, in 'A Mixture of Frailties':

"During the first day or two she tried to get on with War and Peace, but found it depressing, and as time went on she suffered from that sense of unworthiness which attacks sensitive people who have been rebuffed by a classic."

A left-handed compliment, made after staring at the picture of a colleague's daughter for a long time, and then back at the colleague:

"You must have a REALLY beautiful wife!"

Beverage distributor Al Capone:

"You may go far with a smile and a kind word;
you'll go farther with a smile, a kind word, and a gun."

Marine Corps lieutenant general Victor 'Brute' Kruluk recalls advice from his father:

"No one ever learned a bad habit from a horse."

Unemployed couch warmer and imaginary celebrity Rob Kardashian (23) explains why he's turning down an internship:

"My goal is to be a millionaire by the age of 25,
so I'm not wasting my time starting out at a minimum wage job."

Stephen Harper, prime minister of Canada, after George Bush recalled how Vladimir Putin had bragged that his dog was bigger, stronger, and faster than Bush's:

"You're lucky he only showed you the dog."

Bill Hicks:

"Nonsmokers die every day. And you know what doctors say?
If only you'd smoked, we'd have the technology to help you.
It's you people dying from nothing that are screwed!"

Ben Goldacre, in 'Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks':

"The plural of anecdote is not data!"

Noel Coward, in 'Pomp and Circumstance':

"On rereading the above paragraph I have the feeling that
the late Mr Henry James would be far from happy with it,
but as there are a great many of his paragraphs that I am
far from happy with, I shall let it stay."

David Frost:

"Having one child makes you a parent;
having two makes you a referee."

Melvin Belli:

"I am not an ambulance chaser;
I am usually there before the ambulance."

Quentin Crisp, author of 'The Naked Civil Servant':

"There was no need to do any housework at all.
After the first four years, the dirt doesn't get any worse."

A French student, protesting the proposal to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62, which means he'll have to wait two more years to 'inherit' a job:

"I've not even started working yet,
but I will now have to work longer -
that is, if I can find a job."

Gordon Eugene Nelson:

"If you think you understand the way time is expressed in a novel, consider the sentence 'Tomorrow was Christmas.'"

Henry David Thoreau, Walden Pond real estate developer:

"It's not where you look that matters, but what you see."

A Transuranian proverb:

"No one tests the river's depth using both feet."

Gustave Flaubert, meticulous stylist:

"A good sentence in prose should be like a good sentence in poetry: unchangeable."

Edsger Dijkstra, computer science's 'go to' guy:

"Computing is no more about computers
than astronomy is about telescopes."

Samuel Johnson, describing the poet Thomas Gray:

"He was dull in a new way, and that made many people think him great."

Mark Zuckerberg bickering with his girlfriend Erica, as portrayed in the movie 'The Social Network':

"'You don't have to study.'
'How do you know I don't have to study?'
'Because you go to B.U.!'"

Priscilla Chan recalls her first meeting with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg:

"He was this nerdy guy who was just a little bit out there.
I remember he had these beer glasses that said
'pound include beer dot H'."

Film producer Art Linson, fishing for support after agreeing to the casting of Willem Dafoe in the starring role of an action comedy:

"'Do you think Willem could make you laugh?' I asked my wife.
'I saw him smile once and I had nightmares, but what do I know?'"

Chauncey DePew, speaking of his fellow senator Henry Cabot Lodge:

"Like the soil of his native New England,
his mind is naturally barren but highly cultivated."

Paul Edwards, in 'A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming'.

"Without models, there are no data."

William Faulkner:

"For every Southern boy fourteen years old,
not once but whenever he wants it,
there is the instant when it’s still not yet two o'clock
on that July afternoon in 1863."

William Faulkner:

"The past is never dead; it's not even past."

The motto on the coffee cup of Joy Carroll (the inspiration for the TV show 'The Vicar of Dibley'):

"Lead me not into temptation. I can find it myself."

Screenwriter and author William Goldman:

"A character in an early novel of mine graded women for a hobby.
He would give them either A, B, C, D, F or Incomplete.
Incomplete was his biggest category. He was a very hard grader."

Jerry Seinfeld:

"Loyalty to any one sports team is pretty hard to justify, because the players are always changing, the team could move to another city. You're actually rooting for the clothes, when you get right down to it."

Brewster Bragsheer, in 'Stranger, Hurry By':

"I pointed to the screen monitoring the snarled traffic at the city center and asked 'Is that the worst part?'; my guide stroked his chin, waved his hand across the wall of screens he was monitoring, and finally said, 'It's all the worst part.'"

A Transuranian proverb:

"Beige for the beigeous."

A Transuranian proverb:

"Not everyone born in a stable is a horse."

L P Hartley, in 'The Go-Between':

"The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there."

Jud Northbark, upon being told that he was wearing the same shirt this Monday as last Monday, explaining that most of his clothes were packed in preparation for a move:

"I'm dressing mod 7."

Art Buchwald:

"People are broad-minded. They'll accept the fact that a person can be an alcoholic, a dope fiend, a wife beater and even a newspaperman ...but if a man doesn't drive, there's something wrong with him."

Rich Cohen, in 'Sweet and Low':

"Grandma Esther was the loudmouthed immigrant who suddenly becomes a member of your family. I once heard her ask a women in her condo complex, 'Why do you hate me, fatso?'"

From the website 'Custom Essay':

"With our writing service you can be 100% sure that you will not buy a plagiarized paper and even get a free plagiarism report! Everything you pay for is completely unique!"

The Economist, 17 July 2010:

"In the 1940's, a competition in the New Statesman invited readers to parody Graham Greene. Greene himself entered, under a pseudonym, and only came second."

Lewis Black:

"If you walk to the end of the block, there sits a Starbucks.
And directly across the street -
in the exact same building as that Starbucks -
there is another Starbucks.
There is a Starbucks across the street from a Starbucks!
And ladies and gentlemen, that is the end of the universe."

Greg Wilson:

"Computer scientists want to study computing for its own sake;
computational scientists want to build useful things."

Professor Lee Squires:

"The problem with high school calculus is that it convinces students that they have mastered it; as they flounder in college calculus, they naturally accuse their instructor of having made them stupid."

Transuranian folksong:

"I knew a lad who went to sea,
and left the land behind him.
I knew him well - the lad was me,
and now I cannot find him."

Max Hastings, in 'Retribution: The Battle for Japan 1944-1945':

"[Admiral Ernest] King's daughter described her father as an even-tempered man: 'He was always angry'."

General Miller, in 'In the Loop':

"War: Once you've been there, once you've seen it, you never want to go there again unless you absolutely have to. It's like France."

Jud Northbark, in 'An Almanac of Scorn':

"Anyone in America who might wish to be alone has only to step out onto the nearest sidewalk."

James Boswell, recalling a late night discussion:

"Much was said this night against the parliament. I said that,
as it seemed to be agreed that all Members of Parliament became
corrupted, it was better to chuse men already bad,
and so save good men."

A stewardess, talking to the passengers in 'Zero Hour', the inspiration for 'Airplane':

"The life of everyone on board depends upon just one thing:
finding someone back there who can not only fly this plane,
but who didn't have fish for dinner."

Sir Arthur Eddington:

"I hope it will not shock experimental physicists too much
if I say that we do not accept their observations
unless they are confirmed by theory."

A Transuranian proverb:

"Hope is good, but it's all that waiting that spoils it."

Engineer Oliver Heaviside, responding to attacks from mathematical purists against his ad hoc inventions of the step function and other calculational devices with which he could solve problems they had found intractable:

"Shall I refuse my dinner because I do not understand digestion?"

Somerset Maugham:

"The Riviera - a sunny place for shady people."

Richard Brinsley Sheridan, playwright, member of Parliament, and notorious debtor:

"Paying your creditors only encourages them."

Thomas Hardy, who expected little from life and was rarely disappointed:

"Some folk want their luck buttered."

Mark Twain:

"Wagner's music is better than it sounds."

George Orwell:

"An autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful."

Henry James (the elder) on the cantankerous historian and critic Thomas Carlyle:

"...same old sausage, fizzing and sputtering in his own grease."

Roman Jakobsson, explaining his opposition to appointing Vladimir Nabokov to a tenured professorship at Harvard based on his achievements as a writer:

"Gentlemen, even if one allows that he is an important writer,
are we next to invite an elephant to be the Professor of Zoology?"

A Transuranian proverb:

"There's no use in meeting trouble halfway."

Samuel Johnson, about to publish his dictionary, responding to Lord Chesterfield's efforts to offer belated patronage:

"Is not a Patron, my Lord, one who looks with unconcern on a man struggling for life in the water, and, when he has reached ground, encumbers him with help?"

Oscar Wilde, on the novelist George Meredith:

"As a writer, he has mastered everything except language;
as a novelist, he can do everything except tell a story;
as an artist, he is everything except articulate."

Thomas Carlyle, refusing to be introduced to the poet Algernon Charles Swinburne:

"I have no wish to know anyone sitting in a sewer and adding to it."

Plan 9 From Outer Space:

"We are all interested in the future,
for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives."

Paul Dirac, asked for his impressions of the Queen, who had just awarded him the Order of Merit in a private ceremony in 1973:

"Very small."

From the Monty Python skit 'Eric the Half-a-Bee':

"I promise you, you don't need a cat license. There is no such thing!"

The closing lines in the movie 'Dinner at Eight', between Kitty, a floozy played by Jean Harlow, and the ancient actress Carlotta Vance, played by Marie Dressler:

"Kitty: I was reading a book the other day.
Carlotta: Reading a book?
Kitty: Yes. It's all about civilization or something. A nutty kind of a book. Do you know that the guy says that machinery is going to take the place of every profession?
Carlotta: Oh, my dear. That's something you need never worry about."

Margot Asquith, correcting the pronunciation of her name:

"The 't' is silent, as in 'Harlow'."

Chandrasekhar, during his tenure as associate managing editor of The Astrophysical Journal:

"A bad sentence cannot be corrected;
it should never have been written."

Cal Tech astronomer Fritz Zwicky:

"My colleagues are spherical bastards;
In other words, no matter how you look at them, they're bastards."

Astronomer Arthur Eddington, commenting on the appearance of the book 'An Introduction to the Study of Stellar Structures' by his rival Chandrasekhar:

"How nice to have all the wrong things in one place."

Ingrid Bengis, in 'Metro Stop Dostoevsky':

"'Do you like it here in Russia?'
'Yes,' I said. 'My parents are Russian. Life is difficult here sure, but ...'
'Don't worry,' he said, 'Things are going to get much worse,
and then you'll like it even more.'"

The character Karol Borowiecki in Wajda's movie 'The Promised Land':

"I've got nothing, you've got nothing and he's got nothing.
That's just enough to start a factory!"

David Lodge, in 'Therapy':

"What is love, except thinking you're in it?"

Soren Kierkegaard:

"The most dreadful thing that can happen to a man is to become ridiculous in his own eyes in a matter of essential importance."

The young Nikola Tesla, describing his struggle to stay afloat after impulsively moving to Paris:

"The last 29 days of the month are the hardest."

Lewis Carroll, in 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland':

"'No, no!' said the Queen. 'Sentence first - verdict afterwards.'"

Oliver Cromwell, addressing the opening of Parliament in 1654:

"Notions will hurt none but those that have them."

Frank Zappa:

"You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline.
It helps if you have some kind of a football team or some nuclear weapons,
but at the very least you need a beer."

Dorothy Parker:

"I love to have written."

Dorothy Parker:

"If you want to know what God thinks of money, look at the people he gave it to."

Thomas Huxley, who had publicly debated Bishop 'Soapy Sam' Wilberforce about evolution, upon hearing that the bishop had died after a head injury from falling from his horse, supposedly remarked:

"Alas, today for the first time in his life the good Bishop's brains came in contact with reality. The result, I'm afraid, was fatal."

Hans Habe, quoted by Tony Randall in 'Which Reminds Me':

"I'm going to tell you a delicious piece of gossip.
Now listen very carefully, because I'm only going to tell it once
because I promised not to repeat it!"

John Mortimer, in the novel 'Dunster':

"The great secret of living in the country
is not to get on too well with your neighbours."

The key to academic success without all that stress:

"Plagiarize, plagiarize,
Let no one's work escape your eyes!"

Edgar Allan Poe, in 'The Mystery of Marie Roget', wondering why his sure-fire gambling scheme hasn't caught on:

"Nothing, for example, is more difficult than to convince the merely general reader that the fact of sixes having been thrown twice in succession by a player at dice, is sufficient cause for betting the largest odds that sixes will not be thrown again on the third attempt. A suggestion to this effect is usually rejected by the intellect at once. It does not appear that the two throws which have been completed, and which lie now absolutely in the Past, can have influence upon the throw which exists only in the Future. The chance for throwing sixes seems to be precisely as it was at any ordinary time - that is to say, subject only to the influence of the various other throws which may be made by the dice. And this is a reflection which appears so exceedingly obvious that attempts to controvert it are received more frequently with a derisive smile than with any thing like respectful attention. The error here involved - a gross error redolent of mischief - I cannot pretend to expose within the limits assigned me at present; and with the philosophical it needs no exposure. It may be sufficient here to say that it forms one of an infinite series of mistakes which arise in the path of Reason through her propensity for seeking truth in detail."

James Russell Lowell, in 'A Fable for Critics':

"There comes Poe, with his raven, like Barnaby Rudge,
Three-fifths of him genius and two-fifths sheer fudge."

Daniel Stashower, in 'The Beautiful Cigar Girl':

"The following morning, a local farmer named James McShane
came across Payne sprawled facedown, sobbing in the wet grass.
The smell of alcohol hung in the air. To McShane, this could
mean only one thing. 'My dear man,', he said, 'Are you a Frenchman?'"

Somerset Maugham, in 'The Moon and Sixpence':

"Human nature is not only about as bad as it can be,
but a great deal worse."

Mr Bennet, in 'Pride and Prejudice', seeking to gracefully curtail his daughter's excruciating performance:

"Thank you Mary, you have entertained us quite enough."

Elizabeth Bennet, played by Greer Garson, in the 1940 film of 'Pride and Prejudice':

"Isn't that the right time to stop -
when people still think you're charming?"

A Transuranian proverb:

"It is only the first bottle of wine that is expensive."

Ken Kesey:

"You can count the seeds in an apple,
but you can't count the apples in a seed."

Jud Northbark, in 'Tips for Charon':

"Awards, honors and medals exert a gravitational field.
Getting the first one is very difficult; after that, they fall effortlessly into your lap."

Mick Jagger:

"Anything worth doing is worth overdoing."

William Faulkner:

"A mule will labor ten years willingly and patiently for you,
for the privilege of kicking you once."

Tom Stoppard:

"The trouble with bad art is that the artist knows exactly what he's doing."

Eric Hoffer:

"Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket."

Voltaire, returning a manuscript to a would-be writer:

"You may write as carelessly and badly as this when you have become famous. Until then, you must take some care."

Sherwood Wilson, Virginia Tech VP for Administrative Services, about snow days:

"No one is ever happy. It's either
we should have cancelled and we didn't, or
we didn't cancel and we should have."

The nimble diplomat Talleyrand, who managed to thrive on both sides of the French Revolution:

"He who is absent is wrong."

Professor Jud Northbark, first day of class:

"Ladies and Gentlemen, the subject I am about to present to you may seem appallingly difficult, but I assure you that with just six months of diligent study you will be able to fully share my current state of utter confusion."

Richard Strauss exhorting his orchestra:

"Louder! Louder! I can still hear the singers!"

Ferenc Molnar:

"He's such a liar that not even the opposite is true."

George Santayana:

"A fanatic redoubles his effort when he has forgotten his aim."

Thomas Edison, when an associate suggested that he might feel disappointment in having done so much work without any results to show for it:

"Results! Why, man, I have gotten a lot of results.
I know several thousand things that won't work."

Tiberius Caesar, turning down the Senate's offer to name September after him, following the precedents of July and August:

"And what were you going to offer the thirteenth Caesar?"

Mark Yudof:

"Being president of the University of California
is like being manager of a cemetery:
there are many people under you, but no one is listening."

Film reviewer Wesley Morris:

"We see a low-tech version of motion-capture every time Jessica Biel acts."

The first rule of married life:

"Never apologize too quickly."

King Edward VII, after Winston Churchill suggested that he subscribe to a press-cutting agency:

"I have never put myself to the trouble of rummaging
through an immense rubbish-heap on the problematical
chance of discovering a cigar-end."

David Hays, in 'My Old Man and the Sea':

"Dammit, Dad, if I spend all my time trying to find my mistakes,
I won't have time to make new ones."

Susan Ertz, in 'Anger in the Sky':

"Millions long for immortality,
who don't know what to do with themselves
on a rainy Sunday afternoon."

Overworked, and learning to live with it:

"Once your in-basket is actually overflowing,
there's no point in refusing even more work."

A historical plaque in Key West, placed by someone who'd seen one too many of them:

"Hemingway pissed here."

Johann Hari:

"Arthur Koestler was not a skeptic at all.
Yes, he saw darkness at noon.
But he always saw another blinding light at 2pm."

Hud, as played by Paul Newman, in 'Hud':

"The only question I ever ask a woman is
'what time is your husband coming home?'."

Noah Cross, as played by John Huston, in 'Chinatown':

"Politicians, ugly buildings and whores all get respectable
if they last long enough."

Aksel Sandemose:

"It is defeats that make one a human being.
A man who never understands his defeats
takes nothing with him into the future."

Publishing executive Arthur Planck, played by Bob Balaban in 'Dedication':

"In this business, success is 99% perseverance and 1% talent.
Congratulations, gentlemen, you are 99% there!"

Last words of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, 1689-1762:

"It has all been very interesting."

Jerome K Jerome, author of 'Three Men in a Boat':

"I like work. It fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours."

John von Neumann:

"If people do not believe that mathematics is simple,
it is only because they do not realize how complicated life is."

A Transuranian proverb:

"Unless your words are more important than silence, hold your tongue."

Antoine de Saint-Exupery:

"Perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away."

An irate historian berating Andrey Kolmogorov:

"As a historian,
I cannot believe how low the standards are in mathematics!
In my field, no one would put forth an argument
without at least ten proofs, whereas in mathematics
they stop as soon as they have found a single one!"

John Gay:

"Man may escape from rope and gun;
Who takes a woman must be undone."

The Economist magazine:

"Chaos theory - an explanation in search of a problem."

Joanne Harris in 'Gentlemen and Players':

"Reminds me of the old joke about the pensioner convicted of murder.
'Thirty years, your Honor,' he protests. 'It's too much! I'll never manage it!'
And the judge says: 'Well, just do as many as you can...'"

Epitaph for a baby born at midnight who survived only two minutes:

"Seeing I was here for such a short time,
it was hardly worth coming at all."

William Butler Yeats, 'Adam's Curse':

"It's certain there is no fine thing
Since Adam's fall but needs much labouring."

The Federal Highway Administration, which will still forgive you:

"Still, almost no one can avoid occasional pedestrian status."

Mary Elizabeth Williams, in the Salon article 'How not to make love like a porn star':

"You know what description you never want a woman you've slept with to apply to your sexual technique? 'Baffling'."

J. Maarten Troost reports a warning sign on a house on Vanuatu, in 'Getting Stoned with Savages':


Cuthbert J Twillie, as played by W C Fields in 'My Little Chickadee':

"Cousin Zeb: Is this a game of chance?
Cuthbert J Twillie: Not the way I play it, no."

William Dunham:

"Euler published 228 papers after he died,
making the deceased Euler
one of history's most prolific mathematicians."

Ambrose Bierce, diabolical lexicographer:

"A Conservative is one who is enamored of existing evils,
as distinguished from the Liberal,
who wishes to replace them with others."

Alan Newell:

"Fluids are a lot easier to drink than they are to understand."

Warren Buffett:

"You don't know who's swimming naked til the tide goes out."

Samuel Butler:

"Although God cannot alter the past, historians can."

Needlepoint slogan in a historic mansion in Savannah, Georgia:

"A dirty mind is a perpetual feast."

Groucho Marx makes a thoughtful farewell to his host:

"I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it."

The warning at the beginning of the thiller 'Fermat's Room', in which the victims must solve math puzzles or be crushed to death:

"Do you understand what prime numbers are? Because if you don't you should just leave now."

Goro Shimura, of the Shimura-Taniyama Conjecture:

"Taniyama was not a very careful person as a mathematician.
He made a lot of mistakes,
but he made mistakes in a good direction,
and so eventually, he got right answers.
I tried to imitate him,
but I found out that it is very difficult to make good mistakes."

An agitated project manager:

"This project is too important to be held up by projects that are more important!"

Douglas Adams, in 'The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy':

"Arthur Dent: It's at times like this I wish I had listened to my mother.
Ford Prefect: Why? What did she say?
Arthur Dent: I don't know. I never listened."

William Blake:

"Those who restrain passion do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained."

The front desk clerk at a Third World hotel:

"The reason there are bugs in the bed is that they're too scared to get down on the floor."

Traffic jamologist Jud Northbark:

"People wouldn't mind rush hour nearly so much if it didn't occur just when everyone's trying to get back home."

A A Milne, in 'The House at Pooh Corner':

"The more he looked inside, the more Piglet wasn't there."

Mark Twain:

"In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years, the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. That is an average of a trifle over one mile and a third per year. Any person can see that seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long. There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact."

Sheriff Percy Egglefield, of Essex County, New York, laying out the law to a new inmate of his jail:

"I am going to let you out for the afternoon to walk around the town. But you have to be back by six. If you're not, I'm locking the doors, and I won't let you back in."

Grace Olive Wiley, short-time snake curator at Chicago's Brookfield Zoo:

"I do not feel I was guilty of carelessness.
I just forgot, simply forgot,
to close the door to the cobra's cage after I cleaned it."

Big Boy Matson, in Max Evans's 'The Hi Lo Country':

"I'd knock that boy's brains out if I knew where to hit him."

Addison Frey, mathematics professor at Alfred University, explaining the 'n!' notation for the factorial:

"Now the exclamation mark doesn't mean we're really excited about that letter n."

Richard Feynman:

"There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it's only a hundred billion. It's less than the national deficit. We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers."

Randall Jarrell, poet, and former occupant of what he considered the most poetically titled job in the Air Force - Celestial Navigation Tower Operator:

"The people who live in a Golden Age go around complaining how yellow everything looks."

Blaise Pascal, master of the graceful surrender:

"Reason's last step is the recognition that there are an infinite number of things beyond it."

Virginia Woolf:

"I do not believe that gifts,
whether of mind or character,
can be weighed like butter and sugar,
not even at Cambridge."

Homer Hickam, in 'Rocket Boys':

"I didn't know that if a girl broke your heart, another girl, virtuous at least in spirit, could mend it on the same night.
And I didn't know that the enthalpy decrease in a converging passage could be transformed into jet kinetic energy if a divergent passage was added."

A Transuranian proverb:

"A closed mouth gathers no feet."

Rabelais, his last will and testament:

"I owe much, I have nothing, the rest I leave to the poor."

Paracelsus (Theophrastus Phillippus Aureolus Bombastus von Hohenheim):

"The striving for wisdom is the second paradise of the world."

Oscar Wilde, in 'The Importance of Being Earnest':

"I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance.
Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit;
touch it and the bloom is gone."

Bishop Berkeley, refusing to accept Newton's concept of the derivative:

"Whatever therefore is got by such exponents and proportions is to be ascribed to fluxions: which must therefore be previously understood. And what are these fluxions? The velocities of evanescent increments. And what are these evanescent increments? They are neither finite quantities, nor quantities infinitely small, nor yet nothing. May we not call them the ghosts of departed quantities?"

Critic Louis Leroy, reviewing Claude Monet in Le Charivari:

"It is only too easy to catch people's attention by doing something worse than anyone else has dared to do before."

Oscar Mandel, in 'Chi Po and the Sorcerer':

"Bu Fu: No, no! You have merely painted what is! Anybody can paint what is. The real secret is to paint what isn't!
Chi Po: But what is there that isn't?"

Galileo, 'Dialogue on Two New Sciences' (1638):

"So far as I see,
we can only infer that the totality of all numbers is infinite,
that the number of squares is infinite,
and that the number of their roots is infinite;
neither is the number of squares less than the totality of all numbers,
nor the latter greater than the former;
and finally, the attributes 'equal', 'greater' and 'less'
are not applicable to infinite, but only to finite, quanitities."

Aristotle in 'Physics':

"But my argument does not anyhow rob mathematicians of their study,
although it denies the existence of the infinite
in the sense of actual existence
as something increased to such an extent that it cannot be gone through;
for, as it is, they do not need the infinite or use it,
but only require that the finite straight line
shall be as long as they please.
Hence it will make no difference to them for the purpose of proofs."

Carl Friedrich Gauss:

"I protest against the use of infinite magnitude as something completed,
which in mathematics is never permissible.
Infinity is merely a figure of speech, the real meaning being
a limit which certain ratios approach indefinitely near,
while others are permitted to increase without restriction."

Carl Friedrich Gauss:

"You know that I write slowly.
This is chiefly because I am never satisfied until
I have said as much as possible in a few words,
and writing briefly takes far more time than writing at length."

CP Snow, in 'The Sleep of Reason':

"It'll soon be over now", he said, "unless Clive Bosanquet makes an even longer speech than usual. Clive is a good chap, but he will insist on not leaving any stone unturned. And if in any doubt, he thinks it better to turn them back again."

Bill Bryson, in 'The Lost Continent':

"By and large, a ride on a long-distance bus in America
combines most of the shortcomings of prison life
with those of an ocean-crossing on a troopship."

Pete Dexter, in 'Paris Trout':

"He seemed confident," she said.
He smiled in spite of himself.
"Young lawyers are always confident. It's a failure of our law schools."

Henri Poincare:

"Geometry is the art of reasoning well with badly made figures."

The Duke of Wellington:

"An extraordinary affair.
I gave them their orders
and they wanted to stay and discuss them."

A Transuranian proverb:

"In front of every silver lining there's a cloud."

Caitlin Macy, in 'The Fundamentals of Play':

"We had the only kind of money that was respectable these days -
the kind that was all gone."

Brendan Behan:

"I never came across a situation so dismal that a policeman couldn't make it worse."

The philanderer's motto:

"If you're not in bed by midnight, you'd better go home."

Karl Kraus:

"The trouble with Germans is not that they fire artillery shells,
but that they engrave them with quotations from Kant."

Stephen Park, Keith Miller, Communications of the ACM, 1988:

SEED = 65539 * SEED
IF (SEED .LT. 0) SEED = (SEED + 2147483647) + 1
"It is difficult to find two lines of code which violate more software engineering principles;
the intent is obscure and the result is non-portable."

Napoleon, writing to Josephine:

"Home in three days. Don't wash."

Charles James Fox, satirizing the critics of the spendthrift George IV:

"I am conscious of my faults,
but I hope I atone for them
by my marked disapprobation of such faults in others."

Hydrodynamicist Horace Lamb, addressing the British Association for the Advancement of Science:

"I am an old man now,
and when I die and go to heaven
there are two matters on which I hope for enlightenment.
One is quantum electrodynamics,
and the other is the turbulent motion of fluids.
...And about the former I am rather optimistic."

The chamberlain of the ill-favored Queen Charlotte, wife of George III:

"I do think the bloom of her ugliness is going off."


"What genius does must be the best of all rules."

Napoleon on the French Council of State:

"There were good workmen among them.
The trouble was that they all wanted to be architects."


"A constitution should be short, and obscure."

Paul Valery:

"A poem is never finished, merely abandoned."

Boris Kolenkhov, in 'You Can't Take it With You!':

"I feel so good, life is running around inside of me like a squirrel!"

Immanuel Kant:

"Aus so krummem Holz als woraus der Mensch gemacht ist,
kann nichts ganz gerade gezimmert werden! -

(From such crooked wood as men are made,
nothing quite straight can be built!)"

A Transuranian proverb:

"If the rich could hire the poor to die for them,
the poor could make a good living."

Freeman Dyson, quoting Enrico Fermi in 'A meeting with Enrico Fermi', Nature, Volume 427, page 297, 2004:

"I remember my friend Johnny von Neumann used to say,
'with four parameters I can fit an elephant
and with five I can make him wiggle his trunk.'"

Bernard Baruch:

"I made my money by selling too soon."

Advice from John Boy's father when he was thinking of buying a horse:

"Son, never buy something that eats while you sleep."

Jud Northbark, in 'John Dvorak Folds His Arms':

"Every computer program is correct up until the moment it is written."

Otto Frisch, in 'What Little I Remember':

"An expert is someone who has made all possible mistakes."

Otto Frisch, in 'What Little I Remember':

"Nothing is eaten as hot as it is cooked."

Otto Frisch, in 'What Little I Remember':

"A really good scientist is one who knows how to draw correct conclusions from incorrect assumptions."

A Transuranian proverb:

"Sleep faster! We need the pillows."

Jonathan Swift:

"A tavern is a place where madness is sold by the bottle."

Saki (H H Munro), author of 'Sredni-Vashtar', 'Tobermory', and 'The Schartz-Metterklume Method':

"A little inaccuracy saves tons of explanation."

H L Mencken:

"A professor must have a theory as a dog must have fleas."

Shakespeare, in 'Cymbeline', Act IV, Scene 2:

"Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney sweepers, come to dust."

Douglas Adams, in 'The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy':

"Humans are not proud of their ape ancestors,
and rarely invite them round to dinner."

Thomas Edison, who believed that experimental inquiry was far more valuable than theory:

"I can always hire some mathematicians,
but they can't hire me!"

John Cleese, announcing that his firm must fire one of its two pantomime horses, a decision to be made by a death match:

"Now you may think that this is very harsh behavior,
but let me tell you that our management consultants actually queried
the necessity for us to employ a pantomime horse at all!"

An acquaintance of the 19th century American Clarence King:

"The trouble with King is that his description of the sunset spoils the original."

Oliver Wendell Holmes:

"Most people go to their graves with their music still inside them."

A Transuranian proverb:

"To travel fast, go alone;
to travel far, go together."

Ring Lardner, in 'The Young Immigrants':

"'Shut up!', he explained."

Miles Moses, on being asked by his grandfather if anyone could tell him the difference between average and mean:

"Most of the people in this house are average,
but my sister is just plain mean!"

Nigel Dennis, in 'Cards of Identity':

"She cried until her grief had been eased, after which, like any bereaved person, she half-shelved the dead and half-opened his bank account."

Samuel Taylor Coleridge:

"The light which experience gives is a lantern on the stern,
which shines only on the waves behind."

Flamboyant stage director Corky St Clair, in 'Waiting for Guffman':

"I hate you and your ass face!"

Monty Python:

"All things dull and ugly,
All creatures short and squat;
All things rude and nasty,
The Lord God made the lot.

Each nasty little hornet,
Each beastly little squid; -
Who made the spiky urchin?
Who made the sharks? He did!"

Samuel Beckett:

"Fail again. Fail better."

Zsa Zsa Gabor:

"How many husbands have I had? You mean, besides my own?"

Charles Grodin, recalling just one of the many insults and putdowns he received in his career:

"When Charles Grodin enters a room, it is as though someone just left."

Robert Frost:

"Happiness makes up in height what it lacks in length."

Draagekreik Neros, fearful trembler:

"Life must be understood backwards,
but it must be lived forwards."

Samuel Johnson, having explained himself and being told 'But I don't understand!':

"Sir, I have given you an argument.
I am not also obliged to provide you with an understanding."

Author Steven Millhauser, asked to give a brief biography:


Heather Wolfe, falling big time for Frank Langella in the movie 'Starting Out in the Evening':

"Dating younger men is like chewing gum:
ten minutes of flavor followed by bland repetition."

Samuel Johnson, of his frequent dinner host Henry Thrale:

"His conversation does not show the minute hand,
but he strikes the hour very correctly."

A university department chair, in Alison Lurie's 'Truth or Consequences':

"You take the job because you have ideas about how things could be better, and then you spend most of your time keeping them from getting worse."

The movie 'Music from Another Room':

"Nina: My name is Nina. I was named after a character in 'The Seagull'.
Jesus: Really? My name is Jesus. I was named after a bandleader in Panama City."

English dramatist Nathaniel Lee, who was confined for five years in Bethlehem Hospital for the Insane, better known as 'Bedlam':

"They called me mad, and I called them mad, and damn them, they outvoted me!"

Benjamin Disraeli, on being asked to explain the difference between misfortune and catastrophe:

"If Mr Gladstone fell into the Thames, that would be a misfortune;
if anyone pulled him out, that would be a catastrophe."

John Cusack, playing Rob Gordon, in 'High Fidelity':

"Well I've been listening to my gut since I was 14 years old, and frankly speaking, I've come to the conclusion that my gut has shit for brains."

A child actor in the original 'Lord of the Flies' film, asked why, between takes, he was catching lizards and tossing them into a fan:

"To see how many pieces they are cut up into."

Jud Northbark, in 'Elementary Penguins':

"Cruelty is the ideal children's game:
no equipment is needed,
the rules are simple to learn,
and you can play even if your opponent doesn't want to."

Delmore Schwartz:

"Time is the school in which we learn,
Time is the fire in which we burn."

J. Frank Dobie, 'A Texan in England':

"The average Ph.D. thesis is nothing but a transference of bones from one graveyard to another."

Jane Hamilton, in 'Disobedience':

"Living with a high school teacher is probably not that different from living with a coal miner. They are down the shaft, they are cleaning up from being down the shaft, or they are preparing to return to the shaft."

The winner of the Olympic ping pong competition:

"Winning the world title was easy.
The hard part was making the Chinese team!"

Sherman Stonor, Baron Camoys, explaining with his usual delicacy why a relative had suddenly abandoned his studies at a seminary:

"I believe he was jumping a little too low at the leapfrog."

Samuel Johnson:

"There is no point in settling the precedence between a louse and a flea."

Woodrow Wilson:

"In Washington, some men grow. Others merely swell."

Laurence Urdang, in his preface to The New York Times Everyday Reader's Dictionary of Misunderstood, Misused, and Mispronounced Words:

"This is not a succedaneum for satisfying the nympholepsy of nullifidians. Rather it is hoped that the haecceity of this enchiridion of arcane and recondite sesquipedalian items will appeal to the oniomania of an eximious Gemeinschaft whose legerity and sophrosyne, whose Sprachgefuehl and orexis will find more than fugacious fulfillment among its felicific pages."

Hannah Musgrove, in Russell Banks's novel 'The Darling':

"My mother was a closed circuit. All her poles and the pronouns that represented them were reversed. Of strangers, she would say, 'She hasn't met me yet'."

S. M. de Gyurky, in a letter to 'The Futurist' magazine, makes artificial intelligence practical:

"An autonomous system would take about 10 years to build. Human reason alone, using Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason as the software functional requirements document, would entail about 8 million lines of commented code. The systems architect would have to be conversant in Schopenhauer, Kant, and Hegel and have many years of experience in building software systems of 1 million lines of commented code."

Dean Acheson,
Alan Bennet,
Winston Churchill,
Historian H.A.L. Fisher,
Henry Ford,
William Randolph Hearst,
Douglas Hector in "The History Boys" by Alan Bennett,
Elbert Hubbard,
Robert Sherrill,
Arnold Toynbee,
Mark Twain,

"History is just one damn thing after another."

Edna St Vincent Millay:

"It is not true that life is one damn thing after another. It's one damn thing over and over."

Headline in the Washington Post, after Hilary Clinton's response to Barak Obama's declaration that he'd won the nomination:


Dana Stevens:

"Angelina Jolie is the closest thing we have to a real superhero. She's everywhere at once, never ages, travels the world crusading for right, and can easily be pictured crouching atop the Chrysler building."

John Archibald Wheeler, physicist who coined the phrase 'black hole':

"Time is Nature's way of keeping everything from happening at once.
Space is Nature's way of keeping everything from happening to me."

Woody Allen:

"Time is Nature's way of keeping everything from happening at once."

Frederick Brooks,
in 'The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering':

"Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later."

Terence Witt gives the null explanation of Null Physics:

"Null Physics is derived from the concept that our entire universe is the internal structure of nothingness. In other words, physical reality is an intricate, four-dimensional geometric equation that adds to zero because it exists within zero."

A Transuranian proverb:

"A drowning man reaches for a snake."

Representative Charles Rangel, explaining the limits of his unbounded support for Hillary CLinton:

"We pledged to support her to the end. Our problem is not being able to determine when the hell the end is."

Ludwig Prandtl, congratulated on his first use of English to present a paper at a conference:

"Ja, ja, I am shpeak the technical English, but I have great difficulty when I try to make intercourse."

Lewis Carroll, 'Alice in Wonderland':

"At last the Dodo said, 'Everybody has won, and all must have prizes.'"

Stephanus of Byzantium, geographer under Justinian I:

"Mythology is what never was, and always is."

Carl Friedrich Gauss:

"I mean the word proof not in the sense of lawyers, who set two half proofs equal to a whole one."

Shakespeare, in 'Henry IV', Part 1:

"Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man. But will they come when you do call for them?"

Scott Brown, reviewing 'Alone in the Dark', a movie, based on a video game, by Uwe Boll, the world's worst director:

"Far be it from me to dismiss a man's effort in a single sentence, but the film on your teeth after a three-day drunk possesses more cinematic value."

A banker in an avuncular mood:

"The most expensive thing you'll ever buy is money."

Moliere [still dead]:

"We die only once, and for such a long time."

The sucker's warning:

"If you can't spot the fool when a deal's being made, then everyone else can."

The first call, 2 January 1994, to Michael Wolff's NetGuide hotline, (motto: No question too dumb):

"Hello! Is this the Internet?"

Gordon Liddy, a veritable font of quotations, some original, was asked if it hurt when he would demonstrate his toughness by holding his hand over a candle flame:

"Of course it hurts. The secret is not to mind that it hurts."

The cinematic TE Lawrence (of Arabia, that is), extinguished a candle with his fingers, prompting his friend to try it as well, only to discover that it really hurts:

"What's the trick?"
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts!"

Jacques Lacan:

"Love is giving something you don't possess to someone who doesn't exist."

Yibiao Pan:

"I decide what's obvious, not my students."

Melissa Bank:

"When someone asks me to eat shit, I don't nibble."

Melissa Bank:

"The good thing about being nowhere in your career is you can do it anywhere."

Bob Dylan:

"It took me a long time to get young."

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, Conservative candidate for mayor of London (he won), after denying he was having an affair, and then being forced to admit it:

"My friends, I have discovered there are no disasters, only opportunities. And indeed, opportunities for further disasters."

The highlight of 'Gilgamesh', which suddenly switched to Latin for some reason, and so was imprinted perfectly in my mind for 40 years:

"Sex dies et septem noctes Enkidu coibat cum meretrice."

Patricia Pearson, author of 'A Brief History of Anxiety':

"Anxiety is fear in search of a cause."

The slogan of computer manufacturers, the title of a Spice Girls song, the title of the autobiography of extravagant architect Morris Lapidus, among many other occurrences:

"Too much is never enough."

Reporter and commentator Alex Dreier:

"A diplomat is someone who thinks twice before saying nothing."

Will Blythe, a self-described insane fan of the North Carolina basketball team, and hence a despiser of the rival Duke team:

"To hate like this is to be happy forever."

Sign under a trophy trout:

"I got here because I couldn't keep my mouth shut!"


"When the enemy is engaged in destroying himself, don't interfere!"

A Cramputational Scientist:

"Parallel processing allows an instructor to compute an inaccurate estimate for pi before the students have completely lost interest in the topic."

A West Virginian:

"You have to understand that West Virginia is such a tightly-knit, ingrown state that everything becomes political. And everything political becomes personal."

Woody Allen:

"There's an old joke. Two elderly women are at a Catskills mountain resort, and one of them says, 'Boy, the food at this place is really terrible!' and the other one says, 'Yeah, I know, and such small portions.' Well, that's essentially how I feel about life."

Secrets of the Millionaires:

"Say yes before your brain has time to say no!"

Willie Nelson:

"The second mouse gets the cheese."

Theodor von Karman:

"What's the point of Esperanto?
There's already an international language.
It's called bad English."

Vice President Dick Cheney opens up to an interviewer:

Q: "Can you briefly describe what kind of qualities you are looking for in a new CIA director?"
A: "Probably not."

George Orwell, in '1984' in 1948:

"Under the spreading chestnut tree,
I sold you, and you sold me."

Jud Northbark, in 'I et Eggo in Arcadia':

"I hesitate to say that any mathematician suffers from social pathology when in fact so many of them seem to thrive on it."

Ben Hogan:

"Golf is a game of luck. The more I practice, the luckier I get!"

Jud Northbark, in 'Round Up the Guilty Victims!':

"No matter how long or hard I spin,
Less gold goes out than straw comes in!"

Computer scientist Alan Kay:

"The Apple Macintosh is the first personal computer good enough to criticize."

Controversial heart surgeon Denton Cooley, under cross examination:

Lawyer: "Do you consider yourself the best heart surgeon in the world?"
Cooley: "Yes."
Lawyer: "Don't you think that's being rather immodest?"
Cooley: "Perhaps, but remember, I'm under oath."

David Lodge, 'Changing Places':

"He runs the Department very much in the spirit of Dunkirk, as a strategic withdrawal against overwhelming odds."

Haven Kimmel, 'A Girl Named Zippy':

"Mooreland, Indiana, is a long way to go
not to be anywhere when you get there."

From the documentary 'Because the Bible Tells Me So':

"A fifth grader's idea of God is OK - if you're a fifth grader."

A Transuranian proverb:

"The shortest distance between two lines is under construction."

Jack Nicholson:

"My mother never saw the irony in calling me a son of a bitch."

Jane Austen, 'Persuasion':

"It was the misfortune of poetry, to be seldom safely enjoyed by those who enjoyed it completely."

The San Jose Logfile:


A meteorological proverb:

"Climate is what you expect; weather is what you get."

An updated meteorological proverb:

"Climate is what you affect; weather is what gets you."

Penelope Keith:

"Shyness is just egotism out of its depth."

Saint Augustine,
Pearl Buck,
Winston Churchill,
Marcus Tullius Cicero,
Albert Einstein,
Pliny T. Elder,
TS Eliot,
Malcolm Forbes,
Benjamin Franklin,
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe,
Ernest Hemingway,
Oliver Wendell Holmes,
Thomas Jefferson,
Doctor Samuel Johnson,
Abraham Lincoln,
Viscount Mumbles,
Jud Northbark,
Blaise Pascal,
Ezra Pound,
Marcel Proust,
Robert Sayre,
Madame de Sevigne,
Diogenes Small,
Madame de Stael,
Henry David Thoreau,
Mark Twain,
EB White,
Oscar Wilde:

"If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter."

William Blake:

"A truth that is told with bad intent
beats all the lies you can invent."

Hal Abelson:

"If I have not seen as far as others, it is because giants were standing on my shoulders."

Gore Vidal:

"Idries Shah's books were a good deal harder to read than to write."

Kernighan's Law:

"Debugging is twice as hard as writing the code in the first place. Therefore, if you write the code as cleverly as possible, you are, by definition, not smart enough to debug it."

The prime minister, ending a meeting with a group of unemployed men, as 'reported' by David Frost on 'That Was The Week That Was':

"Well, I have to get back to work now, even if you don't."

Marshall McLuhan:

"I may be wrong, but I'm never in doubt."

Abraham Lincoln:

"If I were really two-faced, do you imagine this is the face I would wear?"

Last transmission from a Navy pilot:

"I'm lost, but I'm making record time."

Diane Johnson, in 'Le Mariage':

"Self pity has the merit that it is apt to be sincere."

A student, when confronted with evidence that her term paper contained plagiarized sentences and paragraphs (New Scientist, 10 February 2007):

"No, I didn't do that.
It was the person who wrote the paper for me."

Philosopher and brain theorist Pat Churchland after a bad faculty meeting:

"Paul, don't speak to me, my serotonin levels have hit bottom, my brain is awash in glucocorticoids, my blood vessels are full of adrenaline, and if it weren't for my endogenous opiates I'd have driven the car into a tree on the way home."

Bleeding Gums Murphy:

"Blues ain't about making yourself feel better; it's about making other people feel worse."

Winner of Corecomm's Worst Technical Communication Sample of the Month, submitted by Susan Gallagher from a manual she was rewriting:

"Type the field name Name in the Field Name field."

Former New York mayor Ed Koch defends his successor:

"Rudy Giuliani is absolutely not a racist.
He's nasty to EVERYBODY."

Jud Northbark:

"If you believe in infinity, you also believe a string can have just one end."

Lincoln's Secretary of State William Seward, after being pressed at a party for information about the Union Army's next moves:

"Madame, if I did not know, I would tell you."

From Oakley Doake's play 'The Crumpled Gusset':

Miranda: "They say the sirens were half woman, half monster."
Edgardo: "And what was the other half?"

Paul John Gascoigne, renowned English football player:

"I never predict anything, and I never will."

Homer Simpson:

"Alaska, where you can't be too fat or too drunk!"

Camilla Caimano, after receiving yet another change of address from me:

"I'll have to start writing your new addresses in pencil!"

Dorothy, in Oz:

"People come and go so quickly here!"

What a Russian yells when facing danger:

"Dvum smertiam nye by vat, I odnoi nye mino vat!"
(Two deaths cannot happen to a person, and one death can't be avoided!)

Barbara Amiel, consort of 'Lord' Conrad Black, perfectly expressing her frame of mind upon being criticized for her extravagant lifestyle:

"I suppose its the process of being singled out that is often more frightening than the thing itself. A Holocaust survivor once explained to me that when Jews were being rounded up it was awful, but you were not alone."

Joan Anderman, writing for the Boston Globe, defending Al Gore's 'Live Earth' event of 7 July 2007:

"Shame on the naysayers! I saw a drunk middle-aged man toss his beer bottle in a recycling bin for the first time. Multiply that by two billion. That's a measurable outcome."

Woody Allen:

"Unrequited love is the only kind that lasts."

A Transuranian proverb:

"A boy chases a girl until she catches him."

Roger Myers, Jr, Producer of 'The Itchy and Scratchy Show', on 'The Simpsons':

"You take away our right to steal ideas, where are they going to come from?"

Marshal Georgi Zhukov, whose Red Army shot 158,000 men for desertion during World War II:

"In the Red Army, it takes a very brave man to be a coward."

Dwight Schrute, of 'The Office':

"Would I ever leave this company? Look, I'm all about loyalty. In fact, I feel like part of what I'm being paid for here is my loyalty. But if there were somewhere else that valued loyalty more highly, I'm going wherever they value loyalty the most."

Jack Valenti, no longer sleeping so well:

"I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone."

Jud 'Mossy' Northbark:

"In our minds, our programs are always working. We really can't help believing in them utterly. Thus we test and debug until reality has been adjusted to match our incorrigible fantasies."

Jud 'Mossy' Northbark:

"If a computer code has not been tested, it is absolutely certain to be wrong. If it is not known how to test it, then the code should never have been written."

Carolyn See, in the novel 'Making History':

"Live your whole life as if it were deductible!"

Patti Novak, Buffalo matchmaker, on meeting her client, a 346 pound former Mr Nude Universe who was recently kicked out of a Chinese all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant:

"You've made a choice between doughnuts and sex."

Paulie Walnuts:

"I lost two friends this year. You can take 2007 and give it back to the Indians."

PG Wodehouse:

"He was so crooked he could hide behind a spiral staircase."

Zalmay Khalilzad, the US ambassador to the UN, replacing John Notlob, that is, Bolton:

"I have discovered from your comments that the best thing I have done was to choose my predecessor."

Steve Martin:

"Boy, those French! They have a different word for everything."

Norman Maclean, in "Young Men and Fire":

"I was told in a somewhat dreamlike way that the two mathematicians were at a conference, in Ogden, Utah, as I remember, and the man who told me sounded as if he were off somewhere too. I was to discover later that being away at a conference is a basic characteristic of mathematicians wherever you find them."

Sherlock Holmes:

"There comes a time when, for every addition of knowledge, you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones!"

Golda Meir:

"Don't be so humble - you're not that great!"

Jonathan Katz, physicist at Washington University at St Louis:

"I have known more people whose lives have been ruined by getting a PhD in physics than by drugs."

Garrison Keillor:

"A good newspaper is never quite good enough, but a lousy newspaper is a joy forever."

Wess Roberts, in "Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun":

"Being a leader of the Huns is often a lonely job."

Dave Barry:

"I've been known to email people who were literally standing next to me, which I know sounds crazy, because at that distance I could easily call them with my cellphone."

A Transuranian proverb:

"It's better to be at the table than on the menu."

Miikka Ryokas, 22 year old computer science student in Turku, Finland:

"As the popular joke goes, the problem with Wikipedia is that it only works in practice. In theory, it can never work."

PG Wodehouse, in "A Damsel in Distress":

"What a girl! He had never in his life before met a woman who could write a letter without a postscript, and this was but the smallest of her unusual gifts."

Bill Layton, after a basketball game with his students:

"The older I get, the better I used to be."

A Transuranian proverb:

"If you're plotting revenge, remember to take two shovels."

Tony Soprano:

"You can't put the shit back in the donkey."

Peter Medawar, reviewing Teilhard de Chardin's book 'The Phenomenon of Man':

"Its author can be excused of dishonesty only on the grounds that before deceiving others he has taken great pains to deceive himself."

Margery Sharp, in 'The Sun in Scorpio':

"Did I say paradigm? I must be drunk," said the M.O. "I'm always drunk when I say paradigm."

Frank Pakenham, Lord Longford, a former advocate for Myra Hyndley:

"Only dead fish swim with the stream."

Wells Tower, while attending a convention of young conservatives:

"What makes Newt Gingrich's face so attractive is the shape of the skull, which is concave in the center, so that its features are perfectly displayed in a sort of naturally occurring candy dish of head bone."

Bill Gifford, while recreating the adventures of an early explorer by sailing the Pacific in a small ship, quoting an observation from the ship's first officer:

"Some of you will get seasick," he admitted, "But as you're hanging over the rail, remember that you're providing entertainment for the rest of us."

George Will:

"Football incorporates the two worst elements of American society: violence punctuated by committee meetings."

Charlie LeDuff, surveying the scenic wonderland around Oklahoma City:

"The landscape is so flat and barren you could probably watch your dog run away all day long."

Ralph Smith, proactive procrastinator:

"The sooner you fall behind, the more time you'll have to catch up."

Deborah Wiener, an interior designer who said she hides terrycloth slippers in each bathroom of the house she shares with her husband and two sons.

"My fourth design mantra is never, ever go barefoot in a man's bathroom."

A Transuranian proverb:

"If the captain doesn't know where he wants to go, there is no wind that will take him there."

Woody Allen, currently presumptively premortal:

"I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it by not dying."

Wanda Sykes:

"NASA is like welfare for bright people.
They're so smart they're useless."

Jimmy Rabbitte, in the movie version of The Commitments:

"We would be working class, if there was any work."

George Box, professor of statistics at the University of Wisconsin:

"All models are wrong. Some models are useful."

Ugandan tyrant Idi Amin Dada, graciously brushing off accusations of cannibalism:

"It's not true that I like human flesh. It's much too salty for me."

The blessing that visitors and correspondents gave to James Murray, chief editor of the Oxford English Dictionary. (As it turns out, the last word in the dictionary was actually zyxt, and Murray died around the time that he was working on the word turn-down):

"May you live to see Zymotic!"

James Murray, chief editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, explaining why he had fired yet another of the seemingly well-qualified assistants to his work:

"He is an utter numb-skull, a most lack-a-daisical, graspless fellow, born to stare at existence."

Parvati, a female boxer and competitor on the version of Survivor which divided 20 people into four teams by race:

"So they're dividing us into different ethnic groups - is that kosher?"

Mark Twain:

"The researches of many commentators have already thrown much darkness on this subject, and it is probable that if they continue we shall soon know nothing at all about it."

If you've just been stopped for your drunken driving, demanded to know if the arresting cop is a Jew, told the attending policewoman "What are you looking at, sugar tits?", declared that you own Malibu, and then confided that the Jews have started all the wars in history, you might want to say "I am sorry", or at least say "I am sorry," or at least ask your publicist to say "I am sorry". But, being Mel Gibson, even on the second try, his publicist could only get the first two words right:

"I am in the process of understanding where those vicious words came from during that drunken display."

From the memoir 'The Sound of No Hands Clapping', by the hapless Toby Young:

"Toby Young is a balding bug-eyed opportunist with the looks of a punctured beach-ball, the charm of a glove-puppet, and an ego the size of a Hercules supply plane. And I speak as a friend."

Peter Carey, author of 'Oscar and Lucinda' and 'The True History of the Kelly Gang,' in 'My Life as a Fake':

"He was as happy as a dog with two tails."

Laconia is an ancient region of Greece, whose chief city is Sparta. The people of this region, known as Lacedemoneans, were as closed-mouthed and terse as the proverbial Mainers of today. Their behavior inspired the English word laconic, from the original Greek word 'Laconizein'. During the Peloponnesian War, the Athenians sent a blustery threat:

"If we come to your city, we will raze it to the ground!"
to which the Lacedemonians economically responded:
Thanks to Vasileios Basios for correcting the previous version of this discussion!

The supposed motto of Embrey, Indiana, childhood home of Harmony Faith Lane and Harry Lockhart of 'Kiss Kiss Bang Bang':

"When in doubt, cut up a pig."

Tony Soprano muses to his therapist:

"You know my feelings. Every day is a gift. It's just, does it always have to be a pair of socks?"

His grandfather's appraisal of comedian Ron White:

"That boy's got a lot of quit in him!"

Charles Hoare, inventor of the QuickSort algorithm, in his 1990 ACM Turing Award Lecture:

"I conclude that there are two ways of constructing a software design: One way is to make it so simple that there are obviously no deficiencies and the other way is to make it so complicated that there are no obvious deficiencies."

An anonymous student evaluator, as reported by AJ Meir:

"This instructor makes it difficult for the average student to get an A!"

John Haedrich, a nursing home director, paid for a DNA test, whose results suggested he shared a genetic signature commonly found among Jews. He then asserted an automatic right to Israeli citizenship from a Los Angeles rabbi, who replied:

"DNA, schmee-NA!"

Warren Hastings, the first governor general of British India, on trial for high crimes and misdemeanors involving the brutal taxation of the population. (He was acquitted.):

"My God, Mr Chairman, at this moment I stand amazed at my own moderation!"

The father of the bride, in 'Imagine Me and You':

"How long have I been married? Thirty years. If I'd killed her straightaway I would be out again by now."

Tim Flannery, in 'The Weather Makers: How Man is Changing the Climate and What It Means for Life on Earth':

"We must remember that if we act now, it lies within our power to save two species for every one that is currently doomed."

Clayton Webster, after being nutritionally deprived for several hours:

"I'm so hungry I could eat the ass out of a horse."

The company motto when Walt Disney first started hiring starving cartoonists:

"If you don't show up for work on Saturday, don't bother coming in on Sunday."

Catalin Trenchea, making a fine point:

"It's not that I dislike him. I don't like him."

Wallace Shawn, who recalls as a child putting on puppet shows with his brother on such topics as Patrice Lumumba, on being asked the names of celebrities who might have seen these shows:

"I'm not going to be a namedropper. I'm very resistant to what Chairman Mao calls the cult of personality."

Jud Northbark, after reading one too many articles about habitable universes found ticking away on the beach:

"Ah yes, the anthropic principle, the inevitable conclusion that astronomy is the study of astronomers."

Larry Shepp, professor of statistics at Rutgers, on being informed that a mathematicial discovery he made had actually been discovered by an earlier mathematician:

"Yes, but when I discovered it, it stayed discovered!"

Jud Northbark, after one week of constructing documentation for all the routines in a mathematical function package:

"The God of mathematical software has an inordinate fondness for Bessel functions."

David Clark, discussing how the worst disasters can be caused by the slow incremental growth of seemingly insignificant problems, in particular how the early disregard of security issues has corrupted the Internet:

"The problem is assigning the correct degree of fear to distant elephants."

Michael Kinsley, in an online article in Slate about Larry David titled 'America's Jane Austen':

"Nineteenth-century English village life will always loom large in the world's imagination, like Greenland in a Mercator projection map."

Hugo Dyson, a member of the Inklings literary group, as fellow member JRR Tolkien was reading from 'The Lord of the Rings':

"Oh no, not another fucking elf!"

David Edelstein's suggested promo for a movie version of 'Moby Dick':

"Sometimes you get the whale. And sometimes the whale gets you."

Oscar Wilde:

"It is a very sad thing that nowadays there is so little useless information."

Dan Rather:

"Well, we've said it many times - if a frog had sidepockets, he'd carry a gun."

Dan Rather:

"Frankly, we don't know whether to run, to watch, or to bark at the moon."

Manufactured temporary celebrity Nehemiah, of MTV's 'The Real World':

"I don't fail anything - except for math, twice."

Alan Greenspan, at his 1988 confirmation hearings:

"I guess I should warn you if I turn out to be particularly clear, you've probably misunderstood what I said."

Jud Northbark:

"A bureaucracy is born by asserting a monopoly on a particular activity; it flourishes by failing to accomplish it."

A Transuranian proverb:

"It's no use having a dog and barking too."

At an exhibition of Whistler's paintings, a critical woman is supposed to have stopped in front of one of Whistler's more abstract paintings, and remarked:

"Well, Mr Whistler, I certainly don't see things as you do!"
to which Whistler replied:
"No, ma'am, but don't you wish you could?"

Leslie Orgel's Second Rule:

"Evolution is cleverer than you."

John Cruickshank, publisher of the Chicago Sun-Times, describing F David Rader, the president of the publishing company, and associate of 'Lord' Conrad Black:

"He wasn't averse to quality journalism; he just thought it should go on somewhere else."

Willem Dafoe, playing a drug dealer in 'Light Sleeper':

"My philosophy is, if you've got nothing to say, then don't say it."

Richard Hamming, a pioneer numerical analyst:

"Just as there are wavelengths that people cannot see, and sounds that people cannot hear, computers may have thoughts that people cannot think."

Conan the Barbarian, (impersonated by Arnold Schwarzenegger), in answer to the question 'What is best in life?' (and paraphrasing a remark by Genghis Khan!):

"To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of the women."

Genghis Khan:

"The greatest thing in life is:


"Here lies the body of W W,
Who never again will trouble you, trouble you."

Brewster Bragsheer:

"Just because they're after you doesn't mean you're not paranoid."

Homer Simpson, while parading around with a sign announcing the coming of the apocalypse:

"In a world gone mad, only a lunatic is truly insane!"

Wolfgang Pauli, writing off a colleague:

"So young, and already so unknown!"
("So jung, und schon unbekannt!")

James Franck, a member of J Robert Oppenheimer's PhD committee:

"I got out of there just in time. He was beginning to ask me questions!"

Charles Babbage:

"On two occasions, I have been asked by members of Parliament,
'Pray, Mr Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?'
I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question."

Ari Fischer, press secretary for George Bush II:

"How can you ask a followup question when I didn't answer your first question?"

A Transuranian proverb:

"Why be difficult, when, with a little effort, you can be impossible?"

Brewster Bragscheer

"Job: a life support system for a web page."

Charles Babbage, who invented both the computer and the belief that as long as you were right it didn't matter who you irritated:

"Errors using inadequate data are much less than those using no data at all."

An aspiring film student, asked of a Dutch filmmaker at a festival:

"What's it like to make a foreign movie?"

An exchange on 'Futurama' between Frye, pizza delivery boy from the 20th century, and Leela, the one-eyed alien:

Frye [hesitantly]: "I'm having one of those, uh, things... like a headache with pictures".
Leela: "You mean an idea?"

Political gadfly Christopher Hitchens noted:

"George Bush's eyes are so closely set that he could get by with a monocle."

Florida governor Jeb Bush, after Hurricane Charley:

"You can't plan for the unforeseen. God doesn't follow the linear directions of computer models."

Jud Northbark's fortune cookie for 8 July 2004:

"Live life not expecting, then even the small tings you will be grateful for!"

Mark Rasch, who prosecuted Clifford Stoll's Hannover Hackers, commenting on the poor security practices and weak passwords that enabled a series of breakins at national laboratories:

"The silicon is fine. It's the carbon we have to deal with."

French model Nouni Cisse, explaining why she didn't know anything about the Israeli security barrier until the day she was posed there, beneath Arabic graffiti she also couldn't read that says 'I am a donkey!':

"They showed me a newspaper, but I can't read it, because it is in Israelian."

Boris Spassky, on the dissolution of his first marriage:

"We had become like bishops of opposite color."

Anton Chekhov:

"Any idiot can handle a crisis. But it's the day-to-day living that wears you down!"

Anthony Heath and Yogengra Yadav:

"The Indian National Congress Party is like a pillow: it reflects the shape of the last person who sat on it."

From a letter to Scientific American by Ray Kurzweil:

"According to my models, we are doubling the paradigm shift rate approximately every decade."

From a television commercial:

"The new Oral B toothbrush has amazing 3D action!"

From Madame Secretary by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright:

  1. Call Senator Helms;
  2. Call King Hussein;
  3. Call Foreign Minister Moussa;
  4. Make other congressional calls;
  5. Prepare for China meeting;
  6. Buy nonfat yogurt.

A venerable Russian adage:

"If you see a Bulgarian on the street, beat him. He will know why."

Asked of a waitress at a truck stop just over the Virginia state line:

"I don't know if I'll like grits - can I have just one?"
to which she replied,
"Honey, grits only come in groups."

Arnold Schwarzenegger, tossing his helmet into the ring for the California governorship:

"It's the most difficult decision I've ever made in my entire life, except for the one in 1978 when I decided to get a bikini wax."

Elvis Mitchell, film critic for the New York Times:

"The movie 'Legally Blonde' puts the 'b' in 'subtle'".

Robin Williams, in a comedy performance (and thus, probably 80 other times) said:

"Canada is like a loft apartment over a really great party."

Mark Twain, in a quote that seems to have cut itself loose from any exact formulation or textual attribution, supposedly said, more or less:

"History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme."

William Least Heat Moon, in 'Blue Highways':

"Indiana 66 is a road so crooked it could run for the legislature."

Steve Ballmer, Microsoft Goon, who would patent the fart and not even let you have a free trial:

"Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches."

Woody Allen:

"Eternity is very long, especially towards the end."

John Malkovich's T-shirt:

"The thing about doing something terrible is you hardly ever remember it."

Ben Ratliff, reviewing a performance by White Stripes:

"You can contradict yourself successfully if you do it with conviction."

Woody Allen, in 'Hollywood Ending':

She: "But he's made several commercially successful American movies."
He: "That's all you need to know about him. He's the white line in the middle of the highway."

Cardinal Jaime Sin, asked to comment on the ruinous population explosion of the Philippines:

"The more, the merrier!"

John Boyd, fighter pilot and military strategist:

"There are only so many ulcers in the world, and it's your job to see that other people get them."

Jeff Zucker, president of NBC Entertainment, commenting on a sweeps week surge in Michael Jackson coverage:

"Michael Jackson is the ultimate traffic accident. People can't take their eyes off him!"

Jeffrey Dahmer, anthropophage, recorded on video at his grandmother's house in 1990:

"I've been surviving mostly on McDonald's food, but like I said, that gets expensive. I have to start eating at home more."

Sophie Harris, in the New York Times Book Review of 05 January 2003:

"Will Self has a fatal weakness for daffy polysyllables, alliteration and puns. The effect is occasionally that of a man leaning carelessly on a nail gun."

Judith Stern and Robert Lettieri, in the manual 'QuickTime 5 for Macintosh and Windows', trying to take your breath away:

"Unlike most pieces of software, QuickTime isn't an application, but an enabling technology."

A can of Campbell's Pork and Beans, in which the 'Pork' ingredient has always been infinitesmal, has apparently accomplished the impossible, unless they're just using smaller beans:

"Now with more beans!"

Cullen Murphy, managing editor of The Atlantic, (which makes it a bit easier to get yourself published) writing in an article about limbo:

"...purgatory was merely an unpleasantness for transients, the afterlife's O'Hare."

Roman Jackiw, Professor of Physics at MIT, defending the French Bogdanov twins's embattled thesis relating infinite temperature and imaginary time to a theory of conditions before the Big Bang:

"I would be very careful before calling something nonsense if I didn't understand it yet."

Richard Kunkel, Dean of the College of Education at Florida State University, speaking for the ages at a ceremony for National Mediation Week:

"It's about resolution, stupid!"

Jud Northbark:

"I can't even lose correctly! First I was in the wrong place but the right time, then in the right place but the wrong time. So I was that what, exactly? Sheesh!"

Michael Dibdin, in the comic murder-romance 'Dirty Tricks':

"Though I refused to age, the students and other teachers grew younger year by year."

Raymond Syufy, chief executive of Century Theaters, commenting on an unsavory executive compensation scheme at AMC:

"Was one back scratching the other?"

Joshua Milrad, codirector of the video 'Spring Break Uncensored', commenting on a pair of awesomely artificial breasts:

"You could calculate pi with those things."

Jud Northbark, about to leave the bathroom, but then turning around after a sudden worry:

"I think I forget to hit RETURN."

Clifford Truesdell, in a review of a paper (Mathematical Reviews, Volume 12, page 561):

"This paper gives wrong solutions to trivial problems. The basic error, however, is not new."

Charles De Gaulle:

"The cemeteries are full of indispensable men."

Carrie Ameen, a cancer survivor, or an actor playing one, in a gushy television ad for 'America's pharmaceutical companies', inventing a new grammatical tense, the past-forward-contrapositive:

"Ten years ago I might not be sitting here today."

Lee Dreyfus, a former governor of Wisconsin:

"Madison, Wisconsin, is fifty-two square miles surrounded by reality."

Winston Churchill, on Clement Atlee, whom he preceded and succeeded in the office of prime minister:

"A modest man, who has much to be modest about!"

George W Bush:

"It makes no sense to replace someone who's on the Appropriations Committee with someone who is not!"

The motto on a pillow on Alice Longworth Roosevelt's couch:

"If you haven't got anything nice to say about anybody, come sit next to me!"

Michelle Kwan's skating costume's subliminal message, according to the New Yorker, as quoted in an article in the New York Times:

"I am going to make my First Communion, and I intend to yodel."

An uncredited constructor of the local television guide:

"Tonight we have the great Ring trilogy: Rocky I, Rocky II, and Rocky III."

HL Mencken:

"SELF RESPECT: The secure feeling that no one, as yet, is suspicious."

Doctor Samuel 'Dictionary' Johnson:

"Much may be made of a Scotsman, if he is caught young."

The best line from the movie version of 'The Fellowship of the Ring':

"No one tosses a dwarf!"

Todd Robbins, a New York magician who sometimes does his own blockhead act, quoted in the New York Times obituary for Melvin Burkhart, 'the Human Blockhead', 18 November 2001:

"Anyone who has ever hammered a nail into his nose owes a large debt to Melvin Burkhart."

Jud Northbark:

"Reading fussy modern programs with declarations like object object object or Line line LINE , I miss the days when using variable names like IP1 or XMAX would get you called verbose and eccentric."

EF Benson, in 'Queen Lucia':

"With regard to religion, finally, it may be briefly said that she believed in God in much the same way as she believed in Australia..."

Helmut Kopka and Patrick Daly, in A Guide to Latex2E, with their humor parameter set to zero:

"In the original version of Latex, there are several English words such as Figure and Bibliography included explicitly in certain commands. This in fact violates the rules of good programming which forbid doing anything explicitly."

Macbeth (as reported by Shakespeare):

"Who would have thought the old man had so much blood in him?"

Crusty Australian art critic and unreliable driver Robert Hughes:

"It's true that the unexamined life is not worth living, but then the unlived life is not worth examining."

Irving Wladawsky-Berger, who headed IBM's shift from traditional big-iron computer to systems using arrays of processors, on the fact that hardware advances have far outpaced software:

"All those Porsches and nowhere to drive."

A protest sign displayed during the Florida presidential recount:

"'Manual Count' Means Manipulation!"

Maurice Wilkes, after the first attempts to write programs for the EDSAC computer:

"I realized that a large part of my life from then on was going to be spent in finding mistakes in my own programs."

Governor Earl Long:

"I want to be buried in Louisiana, so I can stay active in politics."

Referring to the gaudy, grandiose, ostentatious buildings that Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen has splattered around Seattle, a critic remarked:

"We'll look back on this as the era when money was too cheap to meter."

A Montenegrin, interviewed in connection with an article about Montenegro's efforts to separate from Serbia:

"Of course we are better than those damn Serbs. Our alphabet has four more letters!"

Alan Perlis, first recipient of the Turing award, first chair of the CMU Computer Science Department, and author of 'Epigrams on Programming':

Epigram #63: "When we write programs that learn, it turns out that we do and they don't."

In a book about Great Britain's tortuous tango with European integration, a picture of Prime Minister John Major is dryly captioned:

"My hesitation is final."

Paul Halmos:

"Mathematics isn't in a hurry. Efficiency is meaningless. Understanding is what counts. So is the computer important to mathematics? My answer is no. It is important, but not to mathematics."

David Ervine, leader of the Progressive Unionist Party, commenting after the latest collapse of a peace plan in Northern Ireland:

"Northern Ireland is the only place I know where someone will drive 100 miles out of his way just to receive an insult."

Computational neuroscientist Greg Hood, after refusing to eat a suspiciously shiny sweet with a metallic glazing that Anjana Kar had brought back from India, going to his car, retrieving his digital volt/ohmmeter, and performing diagnostics:

"Never eat a cookie with a resistance of less than 1 ohm."

Kenneth Appel and Wolfgang Haken, who presented a computer-aided proof of the Four Color Theorem:

"When proofs are long and highly computational, it may be argued that even when hand checking is possible, the probability of human error is considerably higher than that of machine error."

The chef at G's, (or is it Charlie's?) in Oakland, Pittsburgh:

"With enough cayenne pepper, anybody can make a hot sauce, just like anybody can punch you in the face. But with my hot sauce, you're going to ask me to punch you in the face again."

Cynthia Van Ness, of Buffalo, New York, in a letter appearing in the May-June 1998 issue of 'The Utne Reader':

"Why do carnivores always bring up Hitler when they talk about vegetarians? What are the moral implications of their rhetorical dependence on someone they profess to despise?"

Eugene Wigner, asked to confirm an anecdote about him, in which he got into a fight with a taxi driver over a tip, and then told him 'Oh, go to hell, please!', responded:

"Of course the story is true. But you must understand: That driver was very impolite!"

On a T-shirt:

"If a man speaks in a forest, and there's no woman to hear him, is he still wrong?"

An anonymous senior official of the National Security Agency:

"The NSA is a self-licking ice cream cone."

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Last revised on 05 October 2016.