May 16, 2019

“No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”


THE FAMOUS MISQUOTED MENCKEN QUIP:

“No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”
        H.L. Mencken (1880-1956)
        American journalist, essayist, satirist and scholar of American English
        The famous “quote” above is the commonly-used paraphrase of what Mencken wrote in his column in the September 19, 1926 edition of the Chicago Daily Tribune. In that column, he was remarking on the recent trend toward “tabloid newspapers” that were geared toward uneducated readers, which Mencken described as “near-illiterates.”
        What Mencken actually wrote was in that column was:
        “No one in this world, so far as I know — and I have searched the records for years, and employed agents to help me — has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.”
        For more background on this traditionally misquoted quotation, see the post on my This Day in Quotes site at this link.


POLITICAL APPLICATION #1:

“No one ever went broke underestimating the ability of Congress to do its job.”
        Tanya Snyder
        Columnist for Politico.com
        In a column about the government shutdown caused by Congress’ inability to agree on federal budget legislation, published by Politico.com on January 22, 2018.


POLITICAL APPLICATION #2:

“Maybe no one ever did go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people, and perhaps there is a sucker born every minute, but don’t we want a president who at least thinks those are open-ended questions?”
        Joyce Kulhawik
        American arts and entertainment critic and blogger
        Commenting in an April 28th, 2011 post on her blog on rumors that Donald Trump might run for president.


POLITICAL APPLICATION #3:

“Nobody ever went broke underestimating the nincompoopery of New York’s city council. Now along comes Upper West Side member Helen Rosenthal to crank up the stupid, declaring her appreciation of the vandalism last week of a statue depicting the globally famous photo of a U.S. sailor kissing a dental technician in Times Square to mark the end of the Second World War. ‘I appreciate someone recognizing that a random man grabbing a random woman is completely inappropriate,’ said Rosenthal—having a #MeToo moment as she prepares to run for city comptroller.”
        Bob McManus
        Former editorial page editor of the New York Post now working as a freelance editor, columnist, and writer
        In a February 28, 2019 editorial posted on the website of the City Journal, a quarterly magazine of urban affairs published by the Manhattan Institute. McManus was referring to the statue based on the famed photo of a nurse kissing a sailor who had just returned home after serving in World War II. In February 19 some overly woke idiot spray-painted the anti-sexual harassment hashtag #METOO on the statue.


THE IMMATURE MALE VARIATION:

“Nobody ever went broke underestimating the maturity of the American male. On the contrary, as the films of Judd Apatow and magazines like Maxim make clear, immaturity among 20- and 30-something guys is a reliable cash source.”
        Kate Tuttle
        American journalist, critic and author
        In her review of the book Manning Up by Kay S. Hymowit, published in the Boston Globe on March 18, 2011.


THE REALITY SHOW VERSION:

“No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the average American television viewer.”
        The Editors of the motorcycle news site Rideapart.com
        An editorial comment in a review of the Discovery Channel TV series American Chopper.


THE THREESOME APP VERSION:

“No one ever went broke underestimating the willingness of the public to bump uglies in unlikely combinations.”
        The Editors of The Guardian newspaper
        In a short news story about the 3nder online app, which connects people who want arrange “threesome” sexual encounters with other people.


THE SHOPAHOLICS VERSION:

“No one ever went broke underestimating the American public’s hunger to buy, buy, buy. How else can you explain things like Etsy, subscription boxes and the Apple Watch? Often the product seemed like such a good idea at the time...Generally, though, such things get used once or twice and then end up at Goodwill.”
        Donna Freedman
        American freelancer writer and book author
        In an article published on January 20, 2019 on the MoneyTalkesNews.com website.

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April 30, 2019

“Whenever I hear the word ‘culture’…”


THE ACTUAL ORIGINAL QUOTE:

“When I hear ‘culture’...I unlock my Browning!.” (“Wenn ich Kultur höre...entsichere ich meinen Browning!”)                  
       Hanns Johst (1890-1978)
       German playwright and Nazi SS officer  
       The commonly misquoted, misattributed line from Johst’s 1933 play Schlageter
       This line from Schlageter, Johst’s patriotic homage to the German World War I “martyr”
Albert Leo Schlageter, is most widely-known in misquoted paraphrase form, as “When [or Whenever] ever I hear the word ‘culture’ I reach for my gun.” The literal translation of the German words “Wenn ich Kultur höre...entsichere ich meinen Browning” is: “When I hear culture...I unlock my Browning.” The ellipsis in the sentence (...) is a pause written into the text by Johst, not an indication of missing text. Most English translations incorrectly use the word whenever in place of when and insert word before culture. In German, Wenn actually means when and wann immer means whenever. Since a Browning is a pistol and the word entsichere (unlock) refers to a gun’s safety catch, the line has also been translated as: “Whenever I hear the word ‘culture’ I release the safety on my pistol!” Sometimes the word revolver is used in place of Browning or pistol. Versions of Johst’s original line have been attributed to Nazi leader Hermann Göring and occasionally to other Nazi officials, such as Heinrich Himmler and Joseph Goebbels. These and other top Nazis were indeed fans of the play Schlageter and apparently did quote Johst’s line. But Johst deserves the real credit — or blame — for the origin.


AN ANTI-FOODIE APPLICATION:
              

“When I hear the words ‘healthy eating,’ I reach for my pork chop.”
       Dick Stein                
       Jazz show host on Seattle radio station KNKX/KPLU
       In a comment on the KPLU website in June 2014



A TECH NERD’S VIEW OF FASHION:

“When I hear the word couture, I reach for my cyanide pill.”
       A quip posted
on the now defunct TechEye.com site



HENRY MILLER’S GENIUS VARIATION:

“When I hear the word Culture I reach for my revolver. Remember that? So, too, when I hear the word Genius.”
       Henry Miller (1891-1980)
       American novelist and painter
       In Henry Miller on Writing (1964)



GROUCHO’S VERSION:

“When I hear the word culture I reach for my wallet!”
       Attributed to Groucho Marx
       American comedian, writer, stage, film, radio, and television performer
       Attributed to Groucho in Urban History: Volume 22 (1995), published by Cambridge University Press



THE POSTMODERN VARIATION:

“When I hear the word ‘postmodern’ I reach for the remote control. I want to change channels immediately, before I get instantaneously and totally bored.”
       McKenzie Wark
       Professor of Media and Cultural Studies at The New School in New York City
       In his book Virtual Geography: Living with Global Media Events (1994)



THE PUKE BOWL VARIATION:

“When I hear the word nobility I reach for the puke bowl.”
       Maeve Kelly 
       Irish novelist, short-story writer and poet
       Said by a character in Kelly’s novel Necessary Treasons (1985)



A WINE LOVER’S VERSION:

“When I hear the word culture I don’t reach for an Uzi, I reach for a corkscrew and a bottle of venerable and well chilled sauterne. Viniculture. Noble rot, mutating nobler by the minute.”
       Glenn O’Brien
       American journalist
       In an article included in his book Soapbox: Essays, Diatribes, Homilies and Screeds (1997)



A PRODUCER’S VIEW OF GOVERNMENT:

“It is unlikely that the government reaches for a revolver when it hears the word culture. The more likely response is to search for a dictionary.” 
      
David Glencross (1936-2007)
       Television executive and producer for Britain’s ITV
       Comment at the Royal Television Society conference on the future of television in November 1988
       Quoted in the Oxford Essential Quotations Dictionary (1998)



A LOVE HATER’S VERSION:

“When I hear the word love, I reach for my revolver.”
       Gore Vidal (1925-2012)
       American-born novelist, screenwriter and playwright
       Quoted in the book S and M, Studies in Sadomasochism (1983), edited by Thomas S. Weinberg and G. W. Levi Kamel



QUIRKY, EDGY, INDEPENDENT FILMMAKER’S QUOTE:

“‘Independent.’ I’m so sick of that word. I reach for my revolver when I hear the word ‘quirky.’ Or ‘edgy.’ Those words are now becoming labels that are slapped on products to sell them. Anyone who makes a film that is the film they want to make, and it is not defined by marketing analysis or a commercial enterprise, is independent.”
       Jim Jarmusch
       American movie director, producer, screenwriter and actor
       Quoted in the
“Personal Quotes” section of his bio on IMDB.com



STEPHEN HAWKING’S CAT QUIP:

“When I hear of Schrödinger’s cat, I reach for my pistol.”
       Stephen Hawking
       British theoretical physicist and cosmologist
       A favorite Hawking quip that’s
often mentioned in articles about him. It refers to Erwin Schrödinger’s famed “thought experiment” about a cat that is simultaneous dead and alive. The “Schrödinger’s cat” paradox highlights a problem inherent in certain aspects of quantum theory.

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April 8, 2019

“A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”



THE FAMOUS UNCF SLOGAN:

“A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”
        Advertising tagline used by the United Negro College Fund since 1972
        The slogan was coined in 1971 by Forest Long, an executive with the Young & Rubicam ad agency. The campaign using the slogan was launched in earnest in 1972. It has helped raise more than $2.2 billion and helped more than 350,000 minority students graduate from college.
        Over the decades, it has also sparked many serious and humorous variations. Some of my faves are shown below.



ROMER’S OFT-RECYCLED CRISIS QUIP:

“A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.”
        Paul Romer
        American economist
        Romer is credited with coining this saying in a 2004 venture capital meeting in California.
        It was picked by and recycled in various ways by other economic and political observers. The best-known political use was by Rahm Emanuel, when he was Chief of Staff for President Barack Obama. In a soon widely-quoted interview at a Wall Street Journal CEO Council forum on November 19, 2008, Emanuel said: “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. What I mean by that is an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.” Rahm was speaking about the 2008 bank crisis in particular, but said the principle should also be applied to other areas facing serious problems, such as health care, energy, and education.



THE CLASSIC MEL BROOKS MOVIE QUIP:

The Sheriff of Rottingham (actor Roger Rees) “Kill him!” [Referring to a mime who tried to entertain him and Prince John at a banquet.]
Prince John (actor Richard Lewis): “You know, a mime is a terrible thing to waste.”
The Sheriff: “ Let him go.”
        In the movie Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993), directed by Mel Brooks and co-written by him, Evan Chandler and J. David Shapiro.



THE CLASSIC SHIRLEY MACLAINE MOVIE QUIP:

Ouiser Boudreaux (actress Shirley MacLaine): “A dirty mind is a terrible thing to waste.”
        In the movie Steel Magnolias (1989)



THE AVID COMPOSTER’S RULE:

“Compost...Because a Rind is a Terrible Thing to Waste!”
        Title of a composting manual by Jean Bonhotal and Karen Rollo, published by the Cornell Waste Management Institute (1996)



THE HAIRY UPPER LIP RULE:

“A Mustache Is A Terrible Thing To Shave”
        A humorous slogan used by the American Mustache Institute



STERN’S DICKISH VARIATION:

“A penis is a terrible thing to waste.”
        Howard Stern
        American radio and TV show host
        Stern used this line for a controversial fundraising effort on behalf of John Bobbit (whose penis had been cut off by his wife Lorena) as part of Stern’s New Year’s Rotten Eve Pageant in 1994. Stern was indeed supportive of John at the time, though many observers now view him as an abusive husband who pushed Lorena to her breaking point. (Portrait of Stern by the great Drew Friedman.)



THE INFAMOUS QUAYLE BLOOPER:

“When you take the UNCF model that, what a waste it is to lose one’s mind, or not to have a mind is being very wasteful, how true that is.”
        Dan Quayle
        Republican politician who served as Vice President of the United States under George Bush (1989-1993)
        Quayle became notorious for his malapropisms. He uttered this mangled version of the UNCF slogan at a United Negro College Fund event on May 9, 1989. It quickly became one of the most-cited “Quaylisms” and, among other things, inspired the title of the unauthorized “autobiography” of Quayle, What a Waste It Is to Lose One’s Mind.

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February 25, 2019

Thorstein Veblen’s “conspicuous consumption” updated…

   


ORIGIN OF THE FAMOUS TERM:

“Conspicuous consumption of valuable goods is a means of reputability to the gentleman of leisure...In other words, the conspicuous consumer spends money to impress other people and to ensure that others are well aware of the spender’s socioeconomic status.”
        Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929)
        Norwegian-American economist and sociologist
        In his book The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899), Chapter 4
        Veblen coined the term “conspicuous consumption” to refer to the way some people use obviously lavish spending to demonstrate their wealth (often regardless of whether they are actually wealthy).


THE NEVER TOO RICH OR THIN VERSION:
 
“Being thin is a kind of inconspicuous consumption that distinguishes the rich at a time when most poor people can more easily afford to be fat than thin. Since idealized sex objects are modeled partly on class-associated images, this is surely a factor. For a man to have a thin woman in his arm is a sign of his own worth, and a woman increases her market value by being slender. Fat women are either accorded a nonsexual status in this system, or else (and less publicly) are granted a degraded 'lower class' kind of animal sexuality.”
        Marcia Millman
        Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Santa Cruz
        In her book Such a Pretty Face: Being Fat in America (1980), Chapter 6


EUGENE’S VERSION:

“Conspicuous waste beyond the imagination of Thorstein Veblen has become the mark of American life.  As a nation we find ourselves overbuilt, if not overhoused; overfed, although millions of poor people are undernourished; overtransported in overpowered cars; and also . . . overdefended or overdefensed.” 
        Eugene McCarthy (1916-2005)
        U.S. Democratic politician and author
        In his book America Revisited (1978)


A TESLA CRITIC’S OPINION:

“The Tesla (Nasdaq: TSLA) roadster has a 1,000 pound battery that needs to be replaced every 7 years at a cost of about $36,000...It’s conspicuous consumption for wealthy liberals — in much the same way that huge SUVs were the vehicle of choice for rich conservatives a few years ago.”
        Kevin McElroy
        American investment analyst
        In a post on his blog on the Wyatt Investment website
        The base price of the newest model of the Tesla Roadster is $200,000.


A WEALTH TAX CRITIC’S OPINION:

“Many...rich Americans aren’t just rich; they are responsibly rich. They made their money the new fashioned way: They worked for it. But they know that luck, not sweat, graced their paths. Their focus is on giving back, not taking more. They pay their taxes, found real charities, endow universities, support hospitals, fund medical research and gamble on products that can help us all. Their lives are lives of conspicuous philanthropy, not conspicuous consumption.”
        Laurence Kotlikoff
        Professor of Economics at Boston University and columnist for The Hill political website
        In an opinion piece arguing against imposing huge taxes on wealthy Americans


THE EXTRAVAGANT SITCOM APPLICATION:

“Sex and the City 2" (R) Sarah Jessica Parker and her gal pals are back in a bloated commercial for conspicuous consumption. It amounts to a long shopping trip through Manhattan followed by a long shopping trip through a resort hotel in Abu Dhabi.”
        Michael Giuliano
        Film critic and Professor of Film/Interdisciplinary Arts at Howard University
        In a “capsule review” of Sex and the City 2 in the Fort Meade, Maryland newspaper in 2010



THE EXTRAVAGANT IPHONE APPLICATION:

“The new champion of conspicuous consumption – iPhone division, the Kings Button iPhone mod, in which Austrian jeweler Peter Aloisson will encrust your device in three kinds of 18-carat gold (white, yellow and rose) and 6.6 carats of diamonds, for the ‘What Financial Crisis?’ sum of $2.5 million.”
        Lonnie Lazar
        American technology writer, musician, web designer and attorney
        In his column on the Cult of Mac website


THE WALMART SHOPPERS APPLICATION:

“Veblen argues that no class, not even the poorest, forgoes all conspicuous consumption. This is even truer of inconspicuous consumption. Even the poorest of the poor can afford a T-shirt with a Caesar’s Palace logo from the half-price rack at Wal-Mart or a hamburger in a bag sporting McDonald’s golden arches. Even the street person can fish things out of the local trash can. Many of the poor spend inordinate amounts on such inconspicuous consumption and, in the process, may ignore essential needs and purchases. This tends to support Veblen’s view that people will endure a quite shabby private life to have the public symbols they deem desirable.”
        George Ritzer
        American sociologist
        In his book Enchanting a Disenchanted World: Revolutionizing the Means of Consumption (2005), Chapter 10

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February 3, 2019

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” (And recount some of the countless variations)


THE ORIGIN OF THE IMMORTAL LOVE QUOTE:

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”
      
Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)
       English poet
       The famous opening words of Sonnet 43, from her Sonnets from the Portuguese
(written 1845-46, published 1850)
       Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett fell deeply in love after meeting at her father’s home in 1845. Elizabeth soon began writing a series of poems expressing her love for Robert. Robert was soon calling her by the pet name
“my little Portuguese,” a reference to her dark hair and complexion. In 1846, they eloped. Four years later, the love poems Elizabeth had written for Robert before they married were published in an anthology of her poetry, under the collective title Sonnets from the Portuguese. Sonnet 43 is the best known. Its ten opening words are among the most famous — and most parodied — bits of poetry in the English language.


THE GRUMPY CAT MEME:

“How do I love thee?
Let me count the ways...
1. Don’t”

        One of the countless Grumpy Cat memes


A PRESIDENTIAL HEADSCRATCHER:

“How are Donald Trump and Abraham Lincoln similar? Let us count the ways.”
        Gene Weingarten
        Acerbic American columnist
        Headline of his October 11, 2018 column about the “meme spreading earnestly across the right aisle of the Internet contending that Donald Trump is such a great president that the only predecessor he can be fairly compared to is … Abraham Lincoln.”
        How do those two presidents compare? Refer to Grumpy Cat's answer above.


A FOOTBALL QUIZ:

“Why Do People Hate The Patriots? Let Me Count The Ways...
1. People are tired of them winning...
2. People hate when you don’t care that you're hated...
3. The most legitimate reason is probably the Deflategate investigation...
4. Another reason is because of Brady and Donald Trump’s friendship...
5. People really do not like the Patriots.”

        Yasaman Khorsandi
        American freelance journalist
        In her column in the Elite Daily website, January 30, 2018. Flash forward to 2019. I suspect there are even more reasons.


THE GLEE HATER’S VERSION:          

“How do I hate GLEE? Let me count the ways. For starters, this is a saccharine snorefest. And don’t even get me started on gleeks, autotune, the characters…”
      
Daniel Bettridge
       British TV and film critic
      
In a review posted on The Guardian’s TV & Radio Blog on March 15, 2010


THE MITT ROMNEY VARIATION:

“Is Mitt Romney, well-coiffed automobile heir and consulting savant, weird? Let us count the ways.”
      
Juli Weiner             
       American writer now on the staff of Last Week Tonight With John Oliver             
      
In a post on Vanity Fair’s “VF Daily” blog, August 9, 2011


THE NANCY PELOSI VARIATION:

“Ah, Nancy how do I love thee, let me count the ways. You stimulate me to no end. My heart flutters when I think about your passing Obamacare. And of course we all know you come from that wonderful city of San Francisco that so embraces our core American values like a collective hate of the McDonald’s Happy Meal.”
      
Dr. Richard Swier
       Conservative blogger and host of the Dr. Rich Show, a Florida-based radio talk show
       In
a November 14, 2010 post bashing Nancy Pelosi, on the now defunct “Red County” website


AN HOMAGE TO RYAN GOSLING’S ARMS:

“How Much Do I Love Ryan Gosling’s Arms? Let Me Count The Ways.
1. They’re huge.
2. They can envelop a pack of wild animals.
3. They were in Young Hercules. (LOL)
4. He can probably crush a can of spinach with the contents flying directly into his mouth Popeye-style.
5. He could probably grill paninis in between his hands.
6. He can hoist Al Roker up over his head, Dirty Dancing style.” 
       Michelle Collins
 
       American comedian and talk show host who was Managing Editor of VH1’s now defunct Bestweekever.tv site
       Gushing about Gosling in
a post on Bestweekever.tv, after seeing him in an appearance on the Today Show.

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