July 22, 2015

“Half the world…” (vs. the other half)


THE OLD PROVERBIAL SAYING:

“Half the world doesn’t know how the other half lives.”
(“La moitié du monde ne sait comment l’autre vit.”) 
      
François Rabelais (c. 1494-c. 1553)
       French satirist
       Many sources attribute the origin of this saying to its use by Rabelais in his novel Pantagruel (the first of his five Gargantua and Pantagruel novels). In the novel it is cited by the character Alcofribas as something that “is said,” clearly indicating it was already proverbial in French.
       It was also a proverbial in English by the mid-1600s. In 1640, it was recorded by the Anglican priest, poet and collector of proverbs George Herbert in his book Outlandish Proverbs (later reprinted as Jacula Prudentum) in the form: “Half the world knows not how the other half lives.”
       Initially, and throughout the centuries, the saying has generally been used to mean that people who were rich or financially secure could not understand the how hard life was for people who were poor. Photographer and journalist Jacob Riis helped embed that meaning into American culture with the publication of his classic “muckraking” book How the Other Half Lives (1890), which helped raise awareness of the deplorable living and working conditions of poor people in the slums of New York City.


THE OFT-MISCONTRUED JANE AUSTEN QUOTE:

“One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.” 
      
Jane Austen (1775-1817)
       British novelist 
       A famous line from Austen’s novel Emma (1815)
       It is often assumed and even asserted that Austen intended this quote to mean that men can’t understand how women feel or how they think about matters related to sex, love, relationships and other things that make women different from men. But in the context of its use in the novel, it seems to be a much broader generalization that is not about (or at least not just about) sexism or the differences between the sexes.
       In Volume 1, Chapter 9, Emma’s father remarks that he can’t understand why some young children enjoy having an adult toss them “up to the ceiling in a very frightful way!”
       Emma responds: “That is the case with us all, papa. One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.”


SIR DAVY’S COUNTERQUOTE:

“Half the world doesn’t care how the other half lives.”
      
Sir Humphry Davy (1778-1829)
       British chemist and inventor
       A pithy quote by Davy included in The Collected Works of Sir Humphry Davy (1839)


A MUSICAL VARIATION:

“Half the world hates
What half the world does every day”
       Lyrics from the song “Half the World” by the rock band Rush
       (Band member and drummer Neil Peart wrote the lyrics.)
       On the band’s Test For Echo album (1996)


E.W. HOWE’S THEORY:

“Half the world does not know how the other half lives, but is trying to find out.”
      
Edgar Watson Howe (1853-1937)
       American journalist and novelist
       A quote cited in his book Country Town Sayings (1911)


MR. MOTO’S VARIATION:

“Half the world spends its time laughing at the other half, and both are fools.” 
      
Mr. Moto (played by a
ctor Peter Lorre)
       In the 1937 film Think Fast, Mr. Moto. (Based on the novel of the same name by Mr. Moto’s creator John P. Marquand.)

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July 5, 2015

“Man’s inhumanity to man…”


THE WORDS BURNS BURNT INTO OUR LANGUAGE:

“Man’s inhumanity to man
Makes countless thousands mourn!”

      
Robert Burns (1759-1796)
       Scottish poet and lyricist
      
“Man Was Made to Mourn: A Dirge” (1784), stanza 7
       The phrase “man’s inhumanity to man” was coined in this poem, written by Burns in 1784. It was included in his first book of poetry, Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, also known as
the Kilmarnock edition. That volume, published in 1786, made Burns famous and contains several poems that gave us immortal phrases, including: “man’s inhumanity to man,” “the best laid schemes of mice and men” (from “To a Mouse”) and “to see ourselves as others see us” (from “To a Louse” ).
       “Man Was Made to Mourn” reflects Burns’ antipathy toward the social and economic caste system that had been imposed on Scotland by Great Britain, which created a huge, poor, disenfranchised underclass and benefited a relatively small number of wealthy landowners and businessmen. The poem also seems to subtly reflect Burns’ support for Scottish independence —
a radical position at the time.


A MODERATE MUSLIM'S VIEW OF ISIS:

“The story of ISIS is not about Islam, it is about the universal human story of cruelty and man’s inhumanity to man, whether it be ISIS, Nazism, fascism or pure hatred of others. Intolerance and arrogance mixed with power and politics has caused most wars.”
       Alia Hogben
       Executive Director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women
       In an op-ed published by The Kingston Whig-Standard, October 8, 2014
       (Cartoon by artist Steve Greenberg)


THE ANTI-APARTHEID ACTIVIST’S ANTIDOTE:

“There is only one way in which one can endure man’s inhumanity to man and that is to try, in one’s own life, to exemplify man’s humanity to man.”
      
Alan Paton (1903-1988)
       South African writer and anti-apartheid activist
      
From his essay “The Challenge of Fear,” originally published in the Saturday Review, September 9, 1967


THE ANARCHIST’S ANTIDOTE:

“Revolution is the negation of the existing, a violent protest against man’s inhumanity to man with all the thousand and one slaveries it involves. It is the destroyer of dominant values upon which a complex system of injustice, oppression, and wrong has been built up by ignorance and brutality.” 
      
Emma Goldman (1869-1940)
       Russian-born social activist and anarchist
      
In her book My Disillusionment in Russia (1925)


A FEMINIST’S PERSPECTIVE:

“Given the reality of female oppression, how women treat each other matters more, not less...I am not saying that woman’s inhumanity to woman is on the same level as man’s inhumanity to woman; it is not. But women have enormous influence over each other; we have the power to encourage each other to either resist or to collaborate with tyranny.”
      
Phyllis Chesler
       Pioneering feminist and Professor of Psychology and Women’s Studies at City University of New York
      
In the introduction of her book Woman’s Inhumanity to Woman (2009)


THE ANIMALS’ PERSPECTIVE:

“Man’s inhumanity to man has received a lot of press, but man’s inhumanity to animals is worse, by far, if such a thing can be imagined. It is remarkable that animals will have anything whatever to do with us.”
       D. V. Barrett 
      
In the book Little Thoughts, Big Oughts (2001)

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July 2, 2015

Of all sad words of tongue or pen – which are the saddest?


FAMOUS LINES OF REGRET:

“Of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: ‘It might have been!’” 
       John Greenleaf Whittier
(1807-1892) 
       American poet and anti-slavery activist
       The oft-quoted lines from his poem
“Maud Muller” (1856) 
       Whittier’s “Maud Muller” tells the story of a poor farm maid and a wealthy judge who saw each other in passing when they were young. Maud thinks it would be nice to be married to a rich, high-society man like the judge. The judge thinks it would be nice to be married to a beautiful farm girl like Maud and lead the pastoral life of a farmer. But, because of the class-based social conventions of the time, neither one acts on their mutual attraction. They simply pass each other by. Later in life, when they are both stuck in unfulfilling marriages, they think sadly about the life they might have had together. The final lines of the poem note that many people have such regrets, saying:      
      “God pity them both! and pity us all,

       Who vainly the dreams of youth recall;   
       For of all sad words of tongue or pen, 
       The saddest are these: ‘It might have been!’ 
       Ah, well! for us all some sweet hope lies 
       Deeply buried from human eyes;   
       And, in the hereafter, angels may 
       Roll the stone from its grave away!”
 


THE FORMER FRIEND’S LAMENT:

“Of all cold words of tongue or pen
The worst are these: ‘I knew him when – ’”
      Arthur Guiterman (1871-1943)
       American writer best known for
his humorous poems
       From a poem in his book Prophets in Their Own Country (1927)


THE STUDENT’S LAMENT:

“Of all sad words of lip or pen
The worst are these, ‘I’ve flunked again.’” 
       Parody poem published in the University of Michigan’s Chronicle magazine in 1883


THE GARDENER’S LAMENT:

“The Moral is that gardeners pine
Whene’er no pods adorn the vine.
Of all sad words experience gleans
The saddest are: ‘It might have beans.’” 
       Guy Wetmore Carryl (1873-1904)
       American humorist and poet.
       From his book
Grimm Tales Made Gay (1902)


THE GOLFER’S LAMENT:

“Of all sad words that I've ever seen.
The saddest are ‘Three putts to the green.’” 
       Poem published in
The American Golfer magazine in 1910 (p. 153)


THE WIFE’S LAMENT:

“Of all sad words asked married men
The saddest are these: Where have you been?” 
       Letter to the editor of Time Magazine, April 25, 1960


THE FILM CRITIC'S LAMENT:

“Of all the sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, Michael Bay is making another ‘Transformers’ movie.”
       Cody Clark 
       Film critic
       In one of his reviews published in the Provo, Utah Daily Herald

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June 19, 2015

“What the world needs now...”


THE FAMOUS SONG LYRIC THAT STILL RESONATES:

“What the world needs now is love, sweet love.”
      
Hal David (1921-2012)
       American song lyricist; frequent songwriting partner of Burt Bacharach 
       The well-known line from the song
“What the World Needs Now Is Love,” one of many with lyrics by David and music by Bacharach. 
       The song was first recorded and popularized by Jackie DeShannon in 1965 and has since recorded by hundreds of other singers and bands.


AN EARLIER, LESS SUCCINCT (BUT EQUALLY ADMIRABLE) VERSION:

“What the world needs now, and is ready for, is a patriot’s love for neighbor, fellow-citizen, and native land, based on sympathy and charity for all humanity.”
       P.M. Magnusson (fl. late 1800s)
       Minnesota educator and writer
       Comment in an article published in the School Education Journal, January 1896


PROCHNOW’S VARIATION:

“What the world needs is six months of peace so we can catch up on our worrying.”
      
Herbert V. Prochnow (1897-1998) 
       American toastmaster, author and bank executive
       A quip included in his book 1000 Stories and Illustrations for All Occasions (1994)
       (Cartoon by
Mike Keefe)



THURMAN'S VARIATION:

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
       Howard Thurman 
       American author, theologian, educator and civil rights leader
       A popular quote of Thurman’s cited by many books and websites. It appears to have been originally quoted by theologian Gil Bailie as something Thurman said to him (recorded in Bailie’s book Violence Unveiled).


THE SEO/WEINER SIZE VARIATION:

“I used to charge for access to my blog. But now it’s free, because I’ve realized what the world needs now is not love and peace and other boring turds, but raw unauthorized lists of things that YOU need to do to improve your SEO, PageRank and weiner size.”
       Noah Stokes
          
       American product design and development consultant 
       A quip on
his old website explaining why he is “the best choice for all your front end development needs”

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June 8, 2015

“Don’t trust anyone over 30” – or under 30 (or over 40)…


THE FAMOUS SIXTIES SLOGAN:

“Don’t trust anyone over 30.” 
       Jack Weinberg
       American political activist  
       A saying based on a comment Weinberg made to a reporter in 1964
       This famed Sixties slogan has been attributed to various people, most frequently to Yippie leader Jerry Rubin. Rubin and his Yippie pals did use and help popularize the catchphrase to appeal to young supporters (and because they enjoyed annoying older mainstream Americans). However, most sources agree that the real credit for the saying belongs to Jack Weinberg.
       In November 1964, Weinberg was an organizer of “Free Speech Movement” protests at the Berkeley campus of the University of California. At one event, a San Francisco Chronicle reporter asked him if the actions of students were being directed behind the scenes by Communists (a common claim at the time). Weinberg responded: “We have a saying in the movement that we don’t trust anybody over 30.”
       The line was picked up by other news reports and then by other activists, usually in the form “Don’t trust anyone over 30” or “Never trust anyone over 30.” Weinberg later said his remark to the reporter was an off-the-cuff quip he made as “a way of telling the guy to back off, that nobody was pulling our strings.” It’s not clear if the saying actually existed before Weinberg made his remark, but he has since been given (and takes) credit for coining it.


AN IRONIC RECENT USE:

“I’m going to make something entertaining. I grew up in the era of don’t trust anyone over 30. I still believe that.”
      
George Lucas
       American film director
       A consciously ironic comment made by the 70-year-old director at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival 
       The photo at left is Lucas as a teenager. Given his Star Wars and Indiana Jones movie series, I suspect he’s still a teenager at heart in terms of his taste in movies. (Like me. And I’m 65.)


THE BLACK PANTHER’S COUNTERQUOTE:

“There are people over 30 I trust. I’m over 30, and I trust me.”
      
Eldridge Cleaver (1935-1998)
       American writer, 1960s Black Panther Party leader  
       Remark in an interview in Playboy, December 1968 in response to the question by interviewer Nat Hentoff: “Do you agree with those who feel that this generation of youth is going to ‘sell out’ to the status quo as it moves into middle age?”
       Cleaver’s full response to the question was: “I expect all of us will become somewhat less resilient as we get into our 40s and 50s—if we live that long—and I'm sure that those who come after us will look back on us as being conservative. Even us Panthers. But I don’t think this generation will become as rigid as the ones before; and, for that matter, I don’t write off all older people right now. There are a lot of older whites and blacks who keep working for change. So there are people over 30 I trust. I’m over 30, and I trust me.”


THE QUOTE MAVEN’S TWEAK:

“Never trust anyone over-dirty.”
      
Robert Byrne 
       American writer and novelist best known for as the editor of five popular collections of humorous quotations 
       Quoting himself in his book 1,911 Best Things Anybody Ever Said


THE AGING BOOMER UPDATE:

“Some aging Boomers are now more likely to mutter under their breath, ‘Don’t trust anyone under thirty.’ So it goes.”
      
Mary Ann Wynkoop
       Professor of History Emerita at the University of Missouri-Kansas City
       In her book Dissent in the Heartland: The Sixties


AN EARLY PRECURSOR:

“Every man over forty is a scoundrel.”
      
George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
       Irish playwright and social critic 
       In “Maxims for Revolutionists,” part of the written appendix of his play Man and Superman (1903) 
       (At left is a photo of Shaw at age 43, looking a bit, er, scoundrelish.)

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