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April 28, 2016

“A week is a long time in politics.” (Especially for voters!)

Harold Wilson week in politics quote 1960s

THE MODERN POLITICAL PROVERB:

“A week is a long time in politics.”
       Harold Wilson
(1916-1995)
       British Labour Party politician; Prime Minister 1964-970 & 1974-1976
       A political saying widely credited to Wilson
       Like any savvy politician, Wilson was willing to take credit for this oft-cited and still oft-used saying when credit was given to him. However, it’s not clear whether he actually used the line before reporters and quotation researchers began asking him when he first used it.
       The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs says “no record of him using it can be found from earlier than 1968, and Wilson himself is on record saying he cannot remember when he first uttered it.” In his book Sayings of the Century, quote maven Nigel Rees speculates that “the phrase was probably first uttered at a meeting between Wilson and the Parliamentary lobby in the wake of the Sterling crisis shortly after he first took office as Prime Minister in 1964. However, Robert Carvel...recalled Wilson at a Labour Party conference in 1960 saying ‘Forty-eight hours is a long time in politics.’” At any rate, after people began attributing “A week is a long time in politics” to Wilson, he seems to have accepted the attribution and used the saying on a number of subsequent occasions.

       It has come to be used most frequently as a comment on the rapid changes that can occur in voter attitudes toward candidates during the course of political campaigns.


RENTOUL’S COUNTERQUOTE:

“A week is not a long time in politics; much more stays the same than changes. People do not vote for hope and vision, but for the lesser evil. And nobody really minds a divided party. Division, managed properly, can convey vitality while draining opponents of a reason to exist.” 
       John Rentoul 
      Chief Political Commentator for the UK newspaper The Independent 
      In his column in the October 20, 2015 issue of The Independent

Joseph Chamberlain

CHAMBERLAIN’S PRECURSOR:

“In politics, there is no use looking beyond the next fortnight.” 
       Joseph Chamberlain (1836-1914) 
      British Liberal politician 
      According to A.J. Balfour, the 3rd Marquess of Salisbury, Chamberlain made this remark to him in a conversation in 1886. 
      Cited in a letter Balfour wrote on March 24, 1886, reprinted in his book Chapters of Autobiography (published in 1930).

term limits button

ONE REASON FOR TERM LIMITS:

“The weak are a long time in politics.”
       Neil Shand
       British journalist and writer for BBC comedy shows 
       A quip Shand made that could apply to a long list of career politicians. 
       Shand said it about the long-serving British Conservative politician John Gummer. (Cited in the book Political Wit: Quips and Quotes from the Back Benches and Beyond.)

Kid addicted to TV

THE VANISHING CHILD’S PLAY VARIATION:

“Two hours is a long time in a child's day, and when you add the two to three hours that American children typically spend watching TV, you can see that at an ever younger age, children are losing the opportunity to experience the joys and benefits of traditional play.”
         Dr. Lawrence E. Shapiro
and Robin K. Sprague
       An observation in their book The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook for Kids

CBS News anchor Dan Rather got "scooped" on his second to last day as anchor of the CBS EVENING NEWS.  Ben and Jerry's created a new flavor called "A Farewell Scoop" as a tribute to the newsman's numerous news scoops during his 24-year career as anchor of the CBS EVENING NEWS.  The Vermont ice cream company sent their newest flavor to the Broadcast Center in NYC.  "We thought it fitting for a newsman whose fed us so much information over the years," Ben and Jerry wrote on the label.  "May your ice cream bowl always runneth over." Cr: John P. Filo/CBS copyright 2005 CBS Broadcasting Inc. all rights reserved

DAN RATHER’S UPDATE FOR THE 24-HOUR NEWS ERA:

“Overnight is a long time in politics; a week is forever.”
       Dan Rather
       American TV journalist
       According to a post on quotation expert Barry Popik’s “Big Apple” website, Rather began using this saying and variations of it in the 1980s and has repeated it many times since.

Trump Cagle cartoon - Full disclosure

MY 2016 UPDATE OF RATHER’S UPDATE:

“A week seems like an even longer long time in politics this year, thanks to the 24-hour news coverage, Facebook posting and Tweeting about every mind-numbing absurdity of the 2016 presidential campaign.”
       Robert Deis
       Editor of QuoteCounterquote.com and ThisDayinQuotes.com
       (Cartoon by R.J. Matson via Cagle.com)

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March 31, 2016

“I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

Brando as The Godfather with rose 700

THE ORIGINAL GODFATHER’S OFFER:

“I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.”
       Mario Puzo (1920-1999)
       American author and scriptwriter
       The catchphrase Puzo created for the Corleone family in his 1969 novel The Godfather
       This line gained worldwide fame after the 1972 movie adaptation of the novel became a blockbuster hit. It is first used in the novel by the Mafia “Godfather” Don Vito Corleone. When Italian singer and actor Johnny Fontane tells Don Corleone that a Hollywood movie executive had refused to give him a role he wanted in an upcoming film, Don Corleone tells Johnny he’ll convince the studio executive to change his mind. “He’s a businessman,” the Don explains. “I’ll make him an offer he can't refuse.”
       Corleone sends his consigliere, Tom Hagen, to visit the studio exec and make a seemingly polite request to have Johnny reconsidered for the movie role. The studio exec refuses. Soon after that, he finds the severed head of his prized stud racehorse in his bed—and quickly decides to give Johnny the part. Later in the novel, Vito’s son Michael Corleone also says “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.”
      In the movie adaptation, the famous “offer” line used by Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone is slightly different. Brando says “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.” Later in the film, Al Pacino, as Michael, says “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.”
       Of course, in the novel and film the “offer” is a veiled threat used with chilling effect. As part of our language, mentions of offers that can’t be refused are now typically used more for humorous effect.
       Mario Puzo wrote The Godfather in his spare time while working as a writer for men’s pulp adventure magazines in the 1960s. For more background on this famous quote, see the post about it on my ThisDayinQuotes.com site.

Obama as The Godfather with rose 700

PRESIDENT OBAMA’S SUPREME COURT OFFER:

“In the context of the Supreme Court vacancy, President Obama’s choice of Merrick Garland may be the hardest for Republicans to reject...Garland’s nomination comes the closest to making Senate Republicans an offer they can’t afford to refuse. On the merits — and this is no slight to the other finalists; Garland simply has the longevity — he is the best qualified. He is the most moderate nominee Republicans could reasonably expect. His downside, in the view of Democrats, his age, should be a confirmation plus in the eyes of Republicans.”
       Ruth Marcus
       American political columnist
       Commenting in her March 18, 2016 column in the Washington Post about the dilemma Republicans face if they refuse to hold hearings on or reject President Obama’s moderate nominee to replace the late Justice Scalia. If they don’t approve Judge Garland, they face the fact Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders could be elected president in November 2016, and their nominee could be more liberal and less palatable to Republican Conservatives.

Most Interesting Man Offer

THE MOST INTERESTING MAN IN THE WORLD (BEFORE HE RETIRED):

“I don’t always make an offer...But when I do, you can't refuse.” 
       A meme posted on MemeCrunch.com featuring the now retired “Most Interesting Man in the World.” (I miss him already.)

Weird-Al-Yankovic-Polka-Party

WEIRD AL’S POLKA PLEA:

“You can scratch up my records, you can drink my booze...
You can make me an offer I can't refuse
But darling, please don’t wear those shoes.”
       “Weird Al” Yankovic
       American musician, satirist and shoe critic
       Lyrics from his song “Don’t Wear Those Shoes” on his Polka Party album (1986)

BoJack_Horseman Rolling Stone

A CRITIC’S VIEW OF “BOJACK HORSEMAN”:

“This horse’s head is an offer you can refuse.”
       Brian Lowry
       TV critic for Variety magazine
       In his August 13, 2014 review of the Netflix animated comedy show Bojack Horseman. The main character is a talking horse (voiced by Will Arnett) who once appeared in a popular sitcom but is now forgotten, depressed and bitter. Although most critics seem to agree with Lowry’s assessment, the show has been popular enough with viewers to be continued by Netflix for three seasons.

The Godfather’s Revenge book

A CRITIC’S VIEW OF “THE GODFATHER’S REVENGE”:

“An offer you might want to refuse.”
       Carol Memmott
       American book critic and entertainment writer
       From her review of Mark Winegardner’s 2004 novel The Godfather’s Revenge, a sequel to Mario Puzo’s Godfather series. The book was a best seller, despite the opinion of Memmott.

Dominic Chianese Uncle Junior The Sopranos

THE POLITICALLY INCORRECT SOPRANOS JOKE:

“You hear about the Chinese Godfather?  He made them an offer they couldn’t understand.”
       The character Uncle Junior (played by Dominic Chianese) in The Sopranos TV series
       Uncle Junior told this lame joke to his buddies in Season 1, Episode 4 of the series
       Word and phrase maven Barry Popik has noted on his great site, The Big Apple, that there was an earlier version of this joke that poked fun at both gangsters and lawyers: “What do you get when you cross a gangster with an attorney? An offer you can’t understand.”

Junk Mail in mailbox

THE POSSIBLY CORRECT JUNK MAIL SOLUTION:

“Here’s what I do to them and every other asshole that sends me an offer I want to refuse. I take all the mail they sent, plus whatever crap is lying around the house (used rubbers, rat shit, gum, those insert cards from other magazines) and I stuff it all into the prepaid reply envelope and send the junk mail right back.”
         Josh Saitz

       Editor of the Negative Capability online zine
       In a post on the zine titled “How to Cope with Assholes”

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March 10, 2016

“One man’s meat is another man’s poison.”

 Trump steaks one man's meat is another's poison

LUCRETIUS’ ANCIENT LATIN VERSION:

“Quod ali cibus est aliis fuat acre venenum.”
(An early Latin version of the proverb “One man’s meat is another man’s poison.”)
       Lucretius (Titus Lucretius Carus; c. 99 B.C. - c. 55 B.C.)
       Roman poet and philosopher.
       These words from Book IV of Lucretius’ long poem explaining the Epicurean philosophy, De rerum natura (“On the Nature of Things”), are often credited as either the origin or earliest known use of the saying “One man’s meat is another man’s poison,” meaning that something that’s good for one person may be bad for another. It’s likely that Lucretius was repeating or riffing on an existing Latin proverb.
       The meat/poison version is a popularized English translation of what Lucretius wrote. A more literal translation, like that provided by William Ellery Leonard in his classic 1916 translation of De rerum natura is “...what is food to one to some becomes fierce poison.” The Latin word cibus is usually translated as food rather than as meat. The words caro and carnis are the more common Latin words for meat. Acre means sharp, intense or fierce. Venenum can be variously translated as venom, drug, bane, curse or poison.
       Thus, the English proverb could have taken many alternate forms. But it was the meat/poison version that became embedded in our language. The Oxford English Dictionary and Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs note that by 1604 the saying was already referred to as an “ould moth-eaten” English proverb. Over the centuries, the meat vs. poison template inspired countless others, including a few that have become equally proverbial, most notably “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
       Some of my own favorite adaptations are below.

Ralph Waldo Emerson 2

THE TRANSCENDENTALIST’S VIEWPOINT:

“One man's justice is another's injustice; one man's beauty another's ugliness; one man's wisdom another's folly as one beholds the same objects from a higher point.” 
         Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
 
       American essayist, poet and lecturer 
       A quote from his essay “Circles,” included in his book Essays, First Series (1841)


THE COMPUTER PROGRAMMER’S VIEWPOINT:

“One man’s constant is another man’s variable.”
         Alan J. Perlis (1922-1990)
       American computer programming pioneer and longtime Chair of Computer Science at Yale
       One of the most widely-quoted “Perlisms.” It’s included in his article
“Epigrams in Programming,” which was published in the September 1982 journal of the Association for Computing Machinery's SIGPLAN (“Special Interest Group on Programming Languages”).
       Constant and variable are terms used in computer programming. A constant is a code identifier that cannot be altered by the program during execution. A variable is an identifier for a value that can be changed as the program runs.

BODY DOUBLE Holly Does Hollywood poster

THE FIFTY SHADES OF GREY PRINCIPLE:

“One woman’s pornographic subjugation to male power is another woman’s erotic enthrallment.”
         Roberta Schreyer (1954-2001)

       Associate Professor of English at Potsdam State College killed in a tragic car accident in 2001
       From her essay about the controversial Brian De Palma film Body Double in the anthology Bodily Discursions: Genders, Representations, Technologies (1997).
       In Body Double, an actor (played by Craig Wasson), becomes involved in a murder mystery and a relationship with a female porn movie actress named “Holly Body” (Melanie Griffith), who stars in pornographic films like Holly Does Hollywood (a faux homage to the porn classic Debby Does Dallas).

9-11 attack story 09-12-01-NYT

THE IFFY SHADES OF P.C. PRINCIPLE:

“We all know that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter and that Reuters upholds the principle that we do not use the word terrorist.”
         Stephen Jukes

       Former Global News Editor for the Reuters news agency, now a professor at Bournemouth University in the UK
       An infamous quote from a memo Jukes sent to Reuters journalists shortly after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, telling them not to use terms like terrorist and terrorist attacks to describe what most of us would call terrorists and terrorist attacks. Jukes tried to explain the policy by adding: “We’re trying to treat everyone on a level playing field, however tragic it’s been and however awful and cataclysmic for the American people and people around the world.”
       The Reuters policy on “t” words has been widely criticized by some observers as an absurd example of political correctness and praised by others as an attempt at objective journalism. In reality, it did not turn out to be an actual ban on “t” words in Reuters articles. Many Reuters news stories use terms like terrorists, terrorist attack and acts of terrorism when they are based on things said or written by government officials or other people who are quoted or cited.

Time Enough for Love Robert Heinlein

THE LAZARUS LONG THEOLOGY PRINCIPLE:

“One man’s theology is another man’s belly laugh.”
         Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988)
 
       American writer best known for his science fiction stories and novels
       This is one of the many witty aphorisms of the main character in Heinlein’s novel Time Enough for Love: the Lives of Lazarus Long (1973). It’s included in the chapter titled: “INTERMISSION: Excerpts from the Notebooks of Lazarus Long,” just before the before the belly laugh-worthy observation: “Sex should be friendly. Otherwise stick to mechanical toys: it’s more sanitary.”

Gwen Davis book ROMANCE

THE FISH PUN VARIATION:

“One woman’s meat is another woman’s poisson.”
         Gwen Davis

       American novelist, playwright, screenwriter, songwriter, journalist and poet
       A quip in her novel Romance (1983), using the French word for word for fish

How to Kill Your Neighbor's Dog poster

THE DOG PUN VARIATION:

“One man’s pet is another man’s peeve.”
         Poster tagline for the comedy movie How to Kill Your Neighbor’s Dog (2000)
       In the movie, an L.A. playwright (played by Kenneth Branagh) is plagued by a series of annoyances, including a senile mother-in-law, a wife whose biological clock is ticking, impotency, writer’s block and a neighborhood dog that barks all night.

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February 20, 2016

“I don’t care what they say about me as long as they spell my name right.”

icohang001p1
GEORGE M. COHAN’S LEGENDARY NAME QUIP:

“I don’t care what you say about me, as long as you say something about me, and as long as you spell my name right.” (Usually paraphrased as “I don’t care what they say about me as long as they spell my name right.”)
       George M. Cohan (1878-1942)  
       American singer, dancer, actor, playwright, composer and producer 
       This old show business axiom is most closely associated with Cohan, though it has been attributed to many other celebrities, including P. T. Barnum, W. C. Fields, Will Rogers, Mae West, Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde, as well as to several prominent politicians, such as Harry Truman and Tammany Hall leader “Big Tim” Sullivan. 
       According to the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations and other quotation reference books, Cohan spoke the longer version shown above in 1912 when a reporter interviewed him about one of his upcoming musical shows. That quote is also noted in the definitive biography of Cohan written by John McCabe. Cohan may also have used the better-known, short version “I don’t care what they say about me as long as they spell my name right,” but there’s no clear documentation for it that I could find. The classic quip about name spelling seems to have been floating around in show business and politics in the late 1800s. It’s doubly humorous in Cohan’s case, since his last name was sometimes misspelled as “Cohen.” However, it’s uncertain whether Cohan coined the saying. On the other hand, no one seems to have been able to document an earlier use by P.T. Barnum or anyone else. There is documentation for an earlier variation of the line by Cohan himself. In a reminiscence he wrote for the Syracuse Post Standard newspaper in 1926, Cohan recalled telling his sister “I don't care what they say about me, so long as they keep mentioning my name” in a conversation he had with her in 1898.

Barbra Streisand, Color Me Barbra

THE FUNNY GIRL’S FUNNY NAME QUIP:

“I don’t care what they say about me as long as they spell my name wrong.”
       Barbra Streisand
       American singer and actress
       Remark accepting a 1970 award for “Best Female Singer of the Year” in an Ed Sullivan Show special
       In Streisand’s case it was doubly (or maybe triply) humorous because her first name was often misspelled as “Barbara,” while she used the “wrong” spelling Barbra.

Mark Twain

THE MARK TWAIN FORERUNNER QUOTE:

“I don’t mind what the opposition say of me, so long as they don’t tell the truth.”
       Mark Twain (1835-1910)
       American author and humorist 
       From a speech Twain gave in Hartford, Connecticut on October 26, 1880
       This quote is probably the reason why the show biz saying George M. Cohan made famous is wrongly attributed to Twain. It comes from the part of the speech in which Twain made some remarks about politics that still ring true. “[Y]ou don’t get anything out of the opposition but a noble, good supply of infamous episodes in your own private life which you hadn’t heard of before,” he said. “However, I don’t mind these things particularly. It is the only intelligent and patriotic way of conducting a campaign. I don’t mind what the opposition say of me, so long as they don’t tell the truth about me; but when they descend to telling the truth about me, I consider that that is taking an unfair advantage.”

Tallulah Bankhead-8x6

TALLULAH BANKHEAD’S VERSION:

“I don’t care what they say as long as they talk about me.” 
       Tallulah Bankhead (1902-1968) 
       American stage and film actress   
       Her personal version of the show business axiom
       Bankhead appears to have used this line more than once to deal with criticism of her notorious lifestyle, which included heavy drinking, various drugs, and affairs with both men and women. It became thought of as one of her catchphrases, along with her use of the word “Darling! at the beginning of sentences. (Spoken with her posh accent as “Dah-ling!”). The earliest use I found is noted in the 1999 biography of Bankhead written by Bryony Lavery. It recounts an anecdote that occurred around 1921. Tallulah's sister Eugenia overhead someone at a party say “Everyone knows her sister is a lesbian.” Eugenia responded by throwing an ice pick at the blabbermouth. Tallulah nonchalantly told her sister: “I don’t care what they say as long as they talk about me.” 

Dorothy Parker & Katherine Hepburn 
THE DOROTHY PARKER/KATHERINE HEPBURN VERSION:

“I don’t care what is written about me, so long as it isn’t true.”
       Attributed to both writer Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) and actress Katharine Hepburn (1907-2003)
       This line is widely credited to both of these great ladies by many websites and books, but without any specific citations of when either of them may have actually said it. If you know of any documented sources, please shoot me an email and let me know. In Hepburn’s case, it would have been another example of a doubly humorous twist, since her first name was sometimes misspelled as “Katherine.”

Dale Earnhardt 
DALE EARNHARDT’S VARIATION:

“I don’t care what they call me as long as I get to the bank on Monday.” 
       Dale Earnhardt (1951-2001)
       American race car driver, team owner and NASCAR star 
       Commenting on the fact that other race car drivers complained about his aggressive driving style and used a number of negative-sounding nicknames for him, such as “The Intimidator” (and worse). Quoted in the book The Sporting World of the Modern South (2002), by Patrick B. Miller.

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February 9, 2016

“Truth is stranger than fiction…”

Lord Byron truth is stranger than fiction quote WM
BYRON’S FAMOUS LINES:

“‘Tis strange – but true; for truth is always strange; 
  Stranger than fiction.”
 
      Lord Byron
(George Gordon Byron; (1788-1824) 
        British poet
        In his epic poem Don Juan (1819-1824)  
        The phrase “strange but true” dates back as least as far back as around 1599, when it was used by William Shakespeare in Act III, Scene IV of his play Macbeth. But Lord Byron’s poem Don Juan is credited as the origin of the proverbial saying “truth is stranger than fiction” and it has spawned many uses and variations since then.

Wasserman 2016 election cartoon

THE TOP UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE 2016 PRIMARY CAMPAIGN:

“This year’s election has a certain stranger than fiction quality to it.”
       Anna Silman
       American writer and poltiical journalist
       In an article about the 2016 Presidential Primary campaign in the online magazine Salon
       (Cartoon by Dan Wasserman.)

Trump, Bush, Bernie, Hillary debating

THE POLITICS AS USUAL QUOTE:

“In politics, truce is stranger than friction.” 
       Evan Esar (1899–1995)
       American humorist and author
       In his book 20,000 Quips & Quotes (1995)

Mark Twain-8x6

TWAIN’S “PUDD’NHEAD” VARIATIONS:

Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.”
“Truth is stranger than fiction—to some people, but I am measurably familiar with it.”
      
Mark Twain (1835-1910)
       American humorist, journalist and novelist
 
       Two of the “Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar” epigrams used at the beginning of chapters in Twain's 1897 travelogue Following the Equator (also known as More Tramps Abroad). 
Mark Twain's grave headstone

TWAIN’S POSTHUMOUS VARIATION:

“Truth is more of a stranger than fiction.” 
       Another one of the many quips Mark Twain wrote about the subject of “truth”
       This line was recorded by Twain in a notebook in 1898. It’s included in the posthumously-published collection of excerpts from his notebooks and journals, Mark Twain’s Notebook (1935).

Truth is Stranger on Public access TV-8x6[1]

THE PORTLANDIA PUBLIC ACCESS CHANNEL VERSION:

“Public broadcasting is stranger than fiction.” 
       Description of a video posted on YouTube.com by “sryokan” that shows funny excerpts from Channel 11, the local public access channel in Portlandia, er, I mean Portland, Oregon.

Micael Jackson's brain secrets-8x6

THE CNN “SHOWBIZ TONIGHT” SCHTICK:

“Tonight!…Are they really saving Michael Jackson’s brain? Did Jackson really try to rescue Lisa Ling’s sister from North Korea? The truth behind the Jackson stories that are stranger than fiction.”
       A.J. Hammer 
       Former host of the CNN channel’s “Showbiz Tonight” segment
       In a “news” piece about Michael Jackson aired on CNN, July 10, 2009. (I saw the piece and wrote down the quote, figuring that I’d eventually need another gonzo quote for this blog.)


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