July 2, 2014

“Whenever I hear the word ‘culture’…”



THE ACTUAL ORIGINAL QUOTE:

“When I hear ‘culture’...I unlock my Browning!.” [Also translated as “Whenever I hear the word ‘culture’...I release the safety on my pistol!.”]
(“Wenn ich Kultur höre...entsichere ich meinen Browning!”)
       Hanns Johst (1890-1978)
       German playwright and Nazi SS officer  
       The commonly misquoted, misattributed line from 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. The most common version is “Whenever 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. For some reason, most English translations and variations incorrectly use the word whenever in place of when and insert the word 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 of the saying.



AN ANTI-FOODIE APPLICATION:

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



A TECHIE’S VIEW OF FASHION:

“When I hear the word couture, I reach for my cyanide pill.”
       A quip posted
on the 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 comic genius
       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



A 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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