January 24, 2015

“The customer is always right” … or maybe not.


“The customer is always right.”  
Harry Gordon Selfridge (1857-1947)
       US-born British businessman and founder of the Selfridges store chain 
       This famous business motto
is traditionally attributed to Selfridge and was popularized by him. However, as noted by the great Phrase Finder site and other sources, Selfridge may have shoplifted the saying from American department store magnate Marshall Field, who Selfridge worked for as a young man.


“Peter’s Salesmanship Rule: The customer is always ripe.”
       Laurence J. Peter (1919-1990)

       Canadian educator and author best known as the creator of
“The Peter Principle” 
       His wry version of the famed business motto, in his book
Peter's Almanac (1982)


“There are two essential rules of management.
  One: the customer is always right.
  Two: they must be punished for their arrogance.”

       A variation once posited by the hilariously evil canine cartoon character in Scott Adams’
Dilbert comic strips.


“France...a country where shop-owners seem to be guided by the credo that the customer is always, incontrovertibly wrong.” 
       Ruadhán Mac Cormaic
       Irish journalist
In his column in The Irish Times, March 1, 2010


"Whoever said 'the customer is always right' clearly never worked with the public a day in their life."
       A "Rottenecard" that most current and former employees of any type of retail outlet can relate to.

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Related reading and viewing…

December 28, 2014

“Ring out the old, ring in the new.”


“Ring out the old, ring in the new.”
Alfred Tennyson (a.k.a. Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson; 1809-1892)
       English poet 
       Famous line from Tennyson’s
In Memoriam A.H.H. (1850)
Many websites and books say these familiar words linked to New Year’s Eve are from a Tennyson poem titled “Ring Out, Wild Bells.” Technically, that’s incorrect. 
       The verses that go by that name come from Tennyson’s epic work, In Memoriam A.H.H., his elegiac musings on the death his friend
Arthur Henry Hallam (the “A.H.H.” in the title).
       In Memoriam A.H.H. is essentially a very long poem comprised of 131 short ones that are referred to as cantos.
       These cantos were not given individual names by Tennyson. The popular title “Ring Out, Wild Bells” are the first four words of the canto that includes the line “Ring out the old, ring in the new.” (
Canto CVI, or 106 in Roman numerals).

       The tradition of tolling bells to “ring out” the year that is ending and “ring in” the new one predates Tennyson.
It’s actually an old custom in England and many countries around the world.  
However, Tennyson is generally credited for cementing “Ring out the old, ring in the new” into the English language and making it a linguistic tradition associated with New Year’s celebrations.


“Bring out the old, bring in the new
A midnight wish to share with you
Your lips are warm, my head is light
Were we alive before tonight?
I don't need a crowded ballroom
Everything I want is here
If you're with me, next year will be
The perfect year.”

Don Black
       English lyricist
       Lyrics from
“The Perfect Year,” one of the songs in the musical Sunset Boulevard, with lyrics by Black and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber. (First performed in London in 1993.)


“Yesterday, today was tomorrow
And tomorrow, today will be yesterday
So, ring out the old, ring in the new
Ring out the old, ring in the new
Ring out the false, ring in the true.”

George Harrison (1943-2001)
       English rock musician
       From the lyrics of his 1974 song
“Ding Dong, Ding Dong” (included on the Dark Horse album)


“If Congress doesn’t act, America will ring in the new year with $110 billion in spending cuts and a $500-billion tax increase, leaving the average household with a nearly $3,500 hangover.”
CBS News report, December 3, 2012 
      Referring to the stalemate between Democrats and Republicans on how to reach a budget deal and prevent the US from going over the so-called
“fiscal cliff” in 2013. Happy New Year from the politicians in Washington!


“Wring out the Old; Bring in the New...
The Old: Sponges can be sanitized in the microwave.
The True: Using the microwave can be risky...there is the possibility of starting a fire.”
The American Cleaning Institute (formerly the Soap and Detergent Association)
       In the
January/February 2009 edition of the organization’s newsletter, "Cleaning Matters"

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Related reading and listening…

December 19, 2014

“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas” – or maybe a Jewish, gay, green, brown or red one...


“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know.
Where the treetops glisten and children listen
To hear sleigh bells in the snow.
I’m dreaming of a white Christmas
With every Christmas card I write.
May your days be merry and bright
And may all your Christmases be white.”
Irving Berlin (1888-1989)
       American songwriter 
       Lyrics of Berlin’s song
“White Christmas”
       “White Christmas” was publicly introduced and made famous by the 1942 film Holiday Inn, in which it is
sung by Bing Crosby. The fact that it became one of the most popular Christmas songs of all time may seem a bit ironic, since Berlin was Jewish. However, as noted by journalist Nate Bloom in a post on the InterfaithFamily.com website, 12 of the 25 most popular Christmas holiday songs were written by Jews.


“I’m dreaming of a gay Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know.
Where the treetops shimmer with rainbow glitter
And ev-ry fella had a beau.
Oh, I’m dreaming of a gay Christmas
With Every Streisand song I play.
And no matter which way you sway
I hope all your Christmases are gay.”
       The “Gay Christmas” song, from
the “Last Christmas” musical show, first performed in 2007 by the California-based gay and lesbian theatre group, 

Theatre Out.


“I’m dreaming of a green Christmas
Not like the ones I used to know.
With presents handmade or re-gifted
To prevent the climate being shifted
And leaving Christmas trees to grow.” 
Nancy Hiler, the “Go Green Gal” 
       In a blog post titled
“I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas (with apologies to Irving Berlin)” 


“I’m dreaming of a brown Christmas,
Just like the one in Mexico.
Where bunuelos glisten,
Posadas at the mission,
And yes, we don’t need no snow.”
El Vez (stage name of Robert Lopez)
       Mexican-American rock and roll artist
       From his song
“Brown Christmas”


“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas
But if the white runs out
I’ll drink the red.” 
popular variation I first saw as the caption of this cartoon from the now defunct website YourFunnyStuff.com

       Cheers and Happy Holidays from QuoteCounterquote.com!

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More Christmas music parodies…

October 27, 2014

“Every nation has the government it deserves” – and the criminals, drugs and donuts…


“Every nation has the government it deserves.”
(“Toute nation a le gouvernement qu’elle mérite.”)
Joseph de Maistre (1753-1821)
       French-speaking Savoyard philosopher, writer, lawyer and diplomat
       Comment in a letter he wrote in August 1811, later published in Lettres et Opuscules Inedits (1851)
       Whenever Election Day draws near, I am reminded of this famous quote by Joseph de Maistre. He wrote this aphorism in 1811 when he was serving as the King of Piedmont-Sardinia’s envoy to Russian Czar Alexander I. At that time, Alexander was introducing reforms that were moving Russia toward a European-style constitutional government. It’s ironic that Maistre’s quote is now commonly used to suggest that citizens should get more involved in politics, actively push for more democratic governments and rebel against tyrants. Maistre disliked democracy and believed that hereditary monarchies were a divinely-sanctioned, superior form of government. For example, he opposed the French Revolution and supported restoration of the French monarchy. And, in his 1811 letter, Maistre was actually expressing his negative views of Alexander’s reform policies in Russia. He said a European-style constitutional system would be “over the heads” of the Russian people.
One early translation of Maistre’s aphorism in that letter was: “Every nation has the government which it is fit for.” This paternalistic translation may best capture what Maistre really meant. The more familiar translation — “Every nation [or ‘country’] has the government it deserves” — is often wrongly attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville and Abraham Lincoln. They never said it. Maistre did, but what he meant by it is probably different than what most people think.


“Society has the criminals it deserves.”
(“La société a les criminels qu’elle mérite.)
       Alexandre Lacassagne (1843-1924)
       French physician and criminologist
       In “L’homme criminel comparé a l’homme primitif,”  Bulletin du Lyon médical (1882)
       This is often translated as “Every society has the criminals it deserves,” to parallel Maistre’s quotation. It comes from a longer comment Lacassagne made about the justice system: "Justice shrivels up, prison corrupts and society has the criminals it deserves." (“La justice flétrit, la prison corrompt et la société a les criminels qu’elle mérite.”)


“Every society gets the kind of criminal it deserves. What is equally true is that every community gets the kind of law enforcement it insists on.”
Robert F. Kennedy (1925-1968)
       U.S. Attorney General and Democratic politician
       In his book
The Pursuit of Justice (1964)


“At 50, everyone has the face he deserves.”
George Orwell (1903-1950)
       Last words in his notebook, April 17, 1949
       Published posthumously in
The Collected Essays, Journalism, and Letters of George Orwell (1968)


“Everybody gets the drugs they deserve. Everyone gets the god they deserve. Everyone gets the electrons they deserve. Go for it all.”   
Dr. Timothy Leary (1920-1996)  
       American psychologist, writer and psychedelic drug guru 
       In the spoken word piece “Fifty Million Years,” on his posthumously released CD
Beyond Life (1996)


“Not every generation gets the politics it deserves. When baby boomer journalists and politicians talk about engaging with youth politics, what they generally mean is engaging with a caucus of energetic, compliant under-25s who are willing to give their time for free to causes led by grown-ups...We need to being to formulate an agenda of our own.”
Laurie Penny 
       British journalist and social activist
       In a chapter she contributed to the multi-author book
Fight Back! (2010)


“Every nation gets the pornography it deserves…and if we forbid the writing of erotica to all but those willing to break the law, we have no complaint if the results are mean and inartistic.”
Ralph Ginzburg (1929-2006)
       Pioneering American author, editor, publisher and free speech advocate
       In his book An Unhurried View of Erotica (1958)


“A godless people will chose a godless leader. A democratic people gets the kind of government it deserves!”
Father Charles E. Coughlin (1891-1979)
       Controversial American radio evangelist
       Comment made on
his radio show on January 7, 1940, in one of his rants attacking President Franklin D. Roosevelt


“Every era gets the psychos it deserves, at least in art. Our own violent culture has splattered us with real-life assassins and serial killers who have pervaded our consciousness through television and newspapers and left a disturbing, revealing, often entertaining legacy of fictional lunatics.” 
       Caryn James
       American film critic
an article about recent psychokiller movies, published in The New York Times, March 10, 1991


“Every civilization gets the theatre it deserves.”
Michael Feingold 
       Theatre critic for The Village Voice
       Quoted in
Directors and the New Musical Drama (2008)


“Was it Alexis de Tocqueville or Jonathan Gold who said, ‘Every city gets the donuts it deserves’? Either way, you have to wonder what Houston did to deserve Shipley Do-Nuts. The Shipleys may be lovely people, and the corporation gets much respect for being active in the community and maintaining its Houston roots. But their donuts are consistently mediocre.”
Matthew Dresden   
       Food critic and journalist
an article posted on HoustonPress.com, February 10, 2011

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Comments? Questions? Corrections? Post them on the Famous Quotations Facebook page.

Further reading: books of quotations about government and politics….

September 29, 2014

A man’s (and a girl’s) best friends...


“The best friend a man has...is his dog.”
       George Graham Vest (1830-1904)
       American lawyer and politician
       These words are from Vest’s summation in the trial of a sheep farmer who shot and killed his neighbor’s dog, Old Drum. The trial was held at the Johnson County Courthouse in Warrensburg, Missouri on September 23, 1870. Vest’s client, the broken-hearted owner of Old Drum, had sued the farmer for compensation. Vest brought the jury to tears when he said:
      “The best friend a man has in this world may turn against him and become his enemy. His son or daughter that he has reared with loving care may prove ungrateful. Those who are nearest and dearest to us, those whom we trust with our happiness and our good name, may become traitors to their faith…The people who are prone to fall on their knees to do us honor when success is with us may be the first to throw the stone of malice when failure settles its cloud upon our heads. The one absolutely unselfish friend that a man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him and the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous is his dog.”
       The first six words of that paragraph, combined with the last three — “The best friend a man has...is his dog” — is traditionally credited as the origin of the dog-lovers’ saying we know today: “A dog is a man’s best friend.” (Sometimes given as “A man’s best friend is his dog.”)  You can read more about the Old Drum case in this post on my This Day In Quotes site.


“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”
      Groucho Marx (1890-1977)
       Legendary American comedian
       This quip has been credited to Groucho since the 1970s. However, as noted in a post on the great Quote Investigator site, it doesn’t appear in his movies or written works and a similar joke was published in the February 1954 issue of Boys’ Life magazine, so he probably didn’t coin it.


“A boy’s best friend is his mother.”
       Actor Anthony Perkins, as the character Norman Bates, in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film Psycho (1960)


“Whoever said, ‘A dog is man’s best friend’ must have been a single fellow. As helpful and useful as all of God's creation would be to man, none of these animals were socially, intellectually, or sexually compatible to man.”
       From “At The Beginning: A Study of Marriage” 
       An article posted on the Christian “electronic magazine” called “The Expository Files.” (Which are not related to The X Files…Or are they?)


“A kiss on the hand may be quite continental,
But diamonds are a girl’s best friend.”

       From the song “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,” written by songwriters Jule Styne and Leo Robin
       This great song comes from the 1949 Broadway musical Gentleman Prefer Blondes, which was adapted from the 1925 book Gentleman Prefer Blondes, written by Anita Loos. It was introduced by Carol Channing in the original Broadway production. But for many people, the most remembered and iconic version was performed by Marilyn Monroe in the 1953 film version of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.


“Whoever said diamonds are a girl’s best friend never had a dog.”
       A dog-lovers’ quote of anonymous origin that has reached meme level status in the Internet.

       (The girls in the photo are my wife BJ and our dog Barbie Boo.)

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Related reading and viewing…

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