March 19, 2015

Fortune favors the brave, the bold – and the prepared, the well-armed and the well-endowed...


“Fortune favors the brave.”
       Latin proverb traditionally attributed to
Terence (c. 190-159 B.C.)
Many sources say that the first recorded use of this ancient proverb was in the play Phormio (161 B.C.), written by Publius Terentius Afer, the Roman playwright known as Terence for short. It’s a common translation of the Latin phrase “fortis fortuna adiuvat,” which is spoken by a character in Act 1 of Phormio. However, like “Charity begins at home,” another saying traditionally credited to Terence, “fortune favors the brave” is not quite a literal translation of what he wrote in Latin and it may have been a proverbial saying before Terence used it. 
       The Latin word fortis (sometimes misspelled as fortes) does mean brave and fortuna means fortune. Fortuna with a capital F, used in some versions of the classical quote, refers to the Goddess Fortuna (Fortune). However, adiuvat is more literally translated as helps or aids, rather than favors (in the sense of liking or preferring someone). In the Aeneid (c. 19 B.C.), the Roman poet Virgil used another well known variation of the saying: “Audentis Fortuna iuvat.” Both Latin versions have also been translated as
“Fortune favors the bold.” (Audentis, sometimes given as audentes, comes from the Latin verb audeo, which means to dare or to be bold. Iuvat, sometimes spelled juvat, means to help or aid.)
       Regardless of the version or translation, the basic meaning of the saying is clear. Succeeding or being a winner is usually not just a matter of random luck. A person who takes action, acts boldly, takes some risks and strives hard to achieve a goal is more likely to succeed, win or be rewarded than someone who doesn’t.


“Fortune favors the prepared mind.”
       Attributed to Louis Pasteur
       French chemist and microbiologist
       This saying, widely attributed to Pasteur, appears to be a simplified, popularized translation of a remark he made during a lecture at the University of Lille on December 7, 1854. What he actually said, in French, was “Dans les champs de l'observation le hasard ne favorise que les esprits préparés.” A more literal and accurate translation of this line in English is: “In the fields of observation, chance favors only the prepared mind


“The great soldier of our century said, ‘Fortune favors the heavy battalions.’”
Jefferson Davis (1808-1889)
       American politician and statesman, best known for serving as the President of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War
       An observation Davis made
in his book The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government (1881). It obviously reflected first-hand experience showing that — regardless of how brave and bold one’s soldiers may be — the side equipped with bigger, better weaponry tends to have the advantage in a battle or a war. Davis didn’t say who he meant by “the great soldier of our century.”


“Fortune does not favor the quitter, but neither does it favor the man who insists in hanging on long after he has been proved wrong and advised to change.”
       The Retail Clerks International Association (forerunner of the
The Retail Clerks International Union)
       Advice given
in a 1925 edition of the group’s Advocate magazine


“An unregulated market is not a market, but simply a lottery in which fortune favors the most cynical.”
Nicolas Sarkozy
       President of France
Remark at the conference of the G-20 agriculture ministers in Paris, June 2011


“Fortune favors the large-testicled.”
Chuck Sudo 
       American journalist, Former Editor-in-Chief of the Chicagoist
       Advice for fans of Fantasy Football and manly terminology
in a post on the Chicagoist

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March 7, 2015

“None so blind as those that will not see.”


“None so blind as those that will not see.”
Matthew Henry (1662-1714)
       English Presbyterian minister and writer
       A saying
popularized by Henry’s use in his Commentary on the Whole Bible (1708)
       Contrary to common belief, this is not a quote from the Bible. It’s
a proverbial English saying with no clear origin. Matthew Henry helped popularize it by using it several times in his widely-read book of explanatory comments about the Bible. The saying was probably inspired by Bible verses, possibly Matthew 13:13 (“Therefore I speak to them in parables: because they seeing see not…”) or Jeremiah 5:21 (“Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not…”).


“There are none so lame as those who will not walk.”
Sir James Marchant (1867-1956)
       British philanthropist and author
       In the book If I Had Only One Sermon to Preach (1928)


“There are none so positive as those who are but half right.”
William McDonnell (1814-1900)
       Canadian writer
       In his novel Family Creeds (1879)


“There are none so tender as those who have been skinned themselves.” 
Rev. C.H. Spurgeon (1834-1892)
       British Baptist preacher
       From a sermon included in his book Sermons: Volume 6 (1859)


“There are none so bitterly disappointed as those who have got what they wanted, because human nature is so sadly prone to want such things as are unworthy.”
       Ellen Thorneycroft Fowler
       British poet and novelist
       In her novel Place and Power (1903)


“None so empty as those who are full of themselves.”
Benjamin Whichcote (1609–1683)
       British Puritan divine and scholar
in the book Moral and Religious Aphorisms Collected from the Manuscript Papers of the Reverend and Learned Doctor Whichcote (1753)


“There’s none so bland as can’t see.”
       Editorial comment in
a 1994 issue of the Theatre Record
       Regarding a critic’s negative review of an avant-garde adaptation of Shakespeare’s Richard III

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March 2, 2015

“Government of the people, by the people, for the people.”


We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) 
       The closing words of his Gettysburg Address, delivered on November 19, 1863 (as recorded in
the “Hay Copy” of the speech stored at the Library of Congress, one of five written versions)
       As noted in The Quote Verifier and other sources, Lincoln’s phrase “government of the people, by the people, for the people” is the best known use of the of/by/for the people formula, but Lincoln probably adapted his version from a similar phrase used in the 1850s by abolitionist preacher
Theodore Parker. During the early months of the Civil War, Lincoln’s law partner William Herndon gave the president a book of Parker’s sermons and speeches. It included a sermon titled “The Effect of Slavery on the American People,” which Parker delivered at the Music Hall in Boston, Massachusetts on July 4, 1858. In that sermon, Parker said: “Democracy is direct self-government over all the people, for all the people, by all the people.” According to Herndon, Lincoln marked those words in his copy before he wrote the Gettysburg Address. Parker had used a similar line in earlier sermons and speeches. For example, in a speech he gave in Boston on May 29, 1850, Parker defined democracy as “a government of all the people, by all the people, and for all the people.” However, the of/for/by the people formulation was not coined by Parker. Some older uses — and some later variations — are shown below.


“It is, Sir, the people’s government, made for the people, made by the people, and answerable to the people. The people of the United States have declared that this Constitution shall be the supreme law.”
Daniel Webster (1782-1852)
       American lawyer, politician, orator and statesman
       Discussing the limitations of state’s rights and the supremacy of federal law in his
“Second Speech on Foote’s Resolution” in the U.S. Senate, on January 26, 1830.


“In my opinion this government of ours is founded on the white basis. It was made by the white man, for the benefit of the white man, to be administered by white men, in such a manner as they should determine.”
Stephen A. Douglas (1813-1861)
       American Democratic politician; Congressman for Illinois from 1843 to 1847
       A line used, ironically, in one of his famed debates with Lincoln, on
July 9, 1858 in Chicago


“All modes of government are failures. Despotism is unjust to everybody...Oligarchies are unjust to the many, and ochlocracies are unjust to the few. High hopes were once formed of democracy; but democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people.”
Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
       Irish writer, poet and wit
       In his essay
“The Soul of Man under Socialism,” first published in the Fortnightly Review, February 1891


“America is still a government of the naive, for the naive, and by the naive. He who does not know this, nor relish it, has no inkling of the nature of his country.”
Christopher Morley (1890-1957)
       American journalist, novelist, essayist and poet
       In his book
Inward Ho! (1923)


“We here want it stuck up straight for all to dig that these departed studs shall not have split in vain; that this nation, under the great swingin’ Nazz, shall ring up a whopper of endless Mardi Gras, and that the Big Law of you straights, by you studs, and for you kitties, shall not be scratched from the big race.”
Lord Buckley (1906-1960)
       American entertainer known for telling stories using the hipster slang of black jazz musicians and beatniks 
       The quote above is from
Lord Buckley’s “hipster version” of the Gettysburg Address


“The last time I checked, the Constitution said ‘of the people, by the people and for the people.’  That’s what the Declaration of Independence says.” 
Bill Clinton 
       42nd President of the United States
       Comment made in remarks attacking conservative Republicans for being unreasonably anti-government, after his Second Presidential Debate with Sen. Robert Dole in October 1996. The statement generated news and snickers in the following weeks because Clinton was astoundingly wrong about the source. It comes from the Gettysburg Address and does not appear in either the U.S. Constitution or Declaration of Independence. Time magazine listed this Clinton quote as one of the
“most embarrassing historical gaffes” of 1996.

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March 1, 2015

What “life is like” – from Forrest Gump and Leonard Nimoy to Tom Lehrer and Jawaharlal Nehru…


“My mama always said, life was like a box a chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
       Forrest Gump (actor Tom Hanks)
In the 1994 film Forrest Gump
       These lines are not in
the 1986 novel by Winston Groom that the film is based on. They are a more politically correct version of the opening lines of the novel, which are: Let me say this: bein a idiot is no box of chocolates. People laugh, lose patience, treat you shabby. Now they says folks sposed to be kind to the afflicted, but let me tell you — it ain’t always that way. Even so, I got no complaints, cause I reckon I done live a pretty interestin life, so to speak.”


“A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory.”   
       Leonard Nimoy
       American actor and author, especially known for his portrayal of the Vulcan character Spock in the Star Trek TV series and movies
       Nimoy posted these moving words on his popular Twitter feed the night of February 22, 2015. It was his last tweet. Early that morning he was rushed to the hospital. A few days later he died, at age 83, from end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
The letters “LLAP” at the end of the tweet were his shorthand initials for “Live long and prosper,” the popular catchphrase he used in many Star Trek episodes and films. Nimoy first spoke the line in the “Amok Time” episode of the original Star Trek series, aired on September 15, 1967, as Episode 1 of Season 2.


“Life is not like a box of chocolates. A box of chocolates is all good. I mean, it would be like a box of chocolates if there was a occasional turd.”  
       Bill Maher 
       American comedian and talk show host 
       A comment Maher made on an episode of his first major TV show
Politically Incorrect. (I watched that ep and wrote down the quip, but I forgot to note the date. The show originally aired from 1997 to 2002.)


“Forrest Gump’s mother had a lot of catchy sayings. I never really understood any of them. Life is not like a box of chocolates. Life is more like a wad of gum stuck to the bottom of your favorite pair of shoes. The more you try to clean up the mess, the stickier it becomes.”  
Ronda Thompson (1955-2007) 
American novelist
       In her novel Confessions of a Werewolf Supermodel (2007)


“Life is like a box of chocolates. A cheap, thoughtless, perfunctory gift that nobody ever asks for. Unreturnable, because all you get back is another box of chocolates. So you’re stuck with this undefinable whipped mint crap that you mindlessly wolf down when there’s nothing else left to eat. Sure, once in a while there’s a peanut butter cup, or an English Toffee. But they’re gone too fast. The taste is fleeting. So you end up with nothing but broken bits filled with hardened jelly and teeth-shattering nuts. If you’re desperate enough to eat those, all you’ve got left is a — is an empty box, filled with useless brown paper wrappers.”
       The “Cigarette Smoking Man”
       The X-Files character played by actor William B. Davis
In a 1996 episode of the The X-Files TV series


Life is like a sewer. What you get out of it depends on what you put into it.”  
       Tom Lehrer
American songwriter and satirist 
       Part of his spoken introduction to the song “We Will All Go Together When We Go,” on the album An Evening Wasted With Tom Lehrer (1953). The lyrics of the song include the line:
Life is like a sewer / And I'm trying to wade through her.”


“Life is like a game of cards. The hand that is dealt you represents determinism. The way you play it is free will.”
Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964)
       Prime Minister of India from 1947 to 1964
       This popular quote appears to have first been attributed to Nehru by Norman Cousins, editor of the Saturday Review, in a 1967 issue of that venerable periodical.

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February 25, 2015

“I dream things that never were and say, why not?”


“You see things; and you say ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say ‘Why not?’”
George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
lines from Part I of Shaw’s otherwise forgotten play Back to Methuselah (1921)
       These lines are said by The Serpent to Eve in the Garden of Eden in the play, which is an amazingly odd science fiction fantasy that spans the ages from Adam and Eve to 31,000 A.D. and took three nights to perform in its entirety. Back to Methuselah was published in 1921 and first performed in 1922 at the Garrick Theatre in New York City.


“Some people see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say, why not?”
Robert F. Kennedy (1925-1968)
       American lawyer, politician and US Attorney General
       Lines frequently used by Kennedy at the close of his speeches
       Bobby Kennedy recited his version of what Shaw wrote in Back to Methuselah so often that
many sources credit the words to him with no mention of Shaw, as if Kennedy coined the saying. Kennedy himself noted that he was quoting Shaw in his speeches, although his version was actually a paraphrase of Shaw, rather than an exact quote. (See, for example, Kennedy’s speech at the University of Kansas on March 18, 1968.)


“Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others see things that might be and ask: How much?” 
Carl Hiaasen
       American journalist and novelist
       From his
April 13, 1990 column in the Miami Herald, included in the book Kick Ass: Selected Columns of Carl Hiaasen (2001). This was Hiaasen’s commentary on revelations that the Mayor of Miami Beach had received payments from a corporation that wanted approval for a local beachfront construction project.


“Some people see things as they are and ask why? Others see things as they never were and claim mad cow [disease].”
James Spader, as the character Alan Shore on the TV series Boston Legal
       A comment about our litigious society said to William Shatner (playing Shore’s law partner Denny Crane), in the
“Stick It” episode of Boston Legal (Season 2, Ep. 19; first aired on March 14, 2006)


“Some people see things that are and ask, Why? Some people dream of things that never were and ask, Why not? Some people have to go to work and don’t have time for all that shit.”
George Carlin (1937-2008)
       American comic genius
       Carlin used these lines in performances in the 1990s and included it in his book
Brain Droppings (1998). Contrary to what George would have wanted, it’s often quoted in censored form, without the word “shit.”

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