April 17, 2013

“Nothing is certain except death and taxes.” (Or, as Franklin actually said: “Il n’y a rien d’assure que la mort et les impôts.”


THE FAMOUS WORDS FRANKLIN DIDN’T SAY (IN ENGLISH):

“Nothing is certain except death and taxes.”
      
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) 
       American “founding father,” publisher, diplomat and scientist 
       This is the usual English translation of a comment Franklin made
in a letter he wrote to French scientist Jean-Baptiste Leroy, dated November 13, 1789.
       Franklin wrote his letter to Leroy in French. His “death and taxes” remark was related to the Constitution of the United States of America, which had been adopted two years earlier. What he actually wrote was:
       “Notre constitution nouvelle est actuellement établie, tout paraît nous promettre qu’elle sera durable; mais, dans ce monde, il n’y a rien d’assure que la mort et les impôts.”
       The common English translation of this sentence is: “Our new Constitution is now established, everything seems to promise it will be durable; but, in this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes.”  (Sometimes the last part is translated as “
Nothing is certain but death and taxes.”)
       As noted by the invaluable
Phrase Finder site and other reference sources, similar quotations about death and taxes pre-date Franklin’s letter. But the English translation of Franklin’s version is certainly the most famous. (For more background see this post on my ThisDayinQuotes.com blog.)


THE UNCERTAIN WILL ROGERS QUOTE:  

“The difference between death and taxes is that death doesn’t get worse every time Congress meets.”
       Attrib. to
Will Rogers (1879-1935)
       American humorist
       A quip
widely attributed to Rogers, but without any specific source
       There’s no contemporary record of Rogers uttering or writing this old joke. However,
quote maven Barry Popik has noted that a similar line was used by another humorist Rogers had a connection with, the witty newspaper columnist Robert Quillen (1887-1948).
       In several of the humorous columns Quillen wrote in the early 1930s, he said the “difference between death and taxes is that death doesn’t get worse every time the legislature meets.” In a 1934 column, Quillen added Congress, saying: “The main difference between death and taxes is that death doesn’t get any worse every time congress or the state legislature meets.” That same year, movie producer George Marshall and screenwriter Lamar Trotti visited Quillen and purportedly used him as the model for the newspaper editor Will Rogers played in the film Life Begins at Forty. The film’s credits credit Quillen for “contributing dialogue.” My guess is that, if Rogers ever did use the line about Congress, he may have borrowed it from Quillen.


SCARLET O’HARA’S BABY BIRTHIN’ VERSION:

“Death and taxes and childbirth! There's never any convenient time for any of them!”
      
Margaret Mitchell (1900-1949)
       American novelist, journalist and philanthropist  
       This is what the character
Scarlett O’Hara says about the “untimeliness” of her pregnancy, in Chapter 38 of Mitchell’s 1936 novel Gone with the Wind
       The line was not used in the classic 1939 movie adaptation, in which actress Vivien Leigh played Scarlet. But if it had been, I imagine her adding “Fiddle-dee-dee!”


SOMETHING YOU DON’T WANT YOUR DOCTOR TO SAY:

“In life only one thing is certain, besides death and taxes...No matter how hard we try, No matter how good our intentions, we are going to make mistakes.”
      
Dr. Meredith Grey (played by Ellen Pompeo)
       In the
“Heart of the Matter” episode of the TV show Grey’s Anatomy (Season 4, Episode 4, first aired Oct. 18, 2007)


A GOLF ADDICT’S COUNTERQUOTE:

“Ben Franklin was wrong. There is more certainty in life than just death and taxes. There is also the very reliable need for ‘just one more’ piece of golf equipment.”
      
Dorothy Langley
       American author and golfer
      
In her book A View from the Red Tees: The Truth About Women and Golf (1997)


THE 20TH CENTURY OUTLOOK:

“To the typical American on the eve of the twentieth century it appeared a unique country, a land of promise where one person's gain was another person’s opportunity, and the inevitable was not just death and taxes but improvement and growth.”
      
Richard M. Abrams
       Historian and Professor Emeritus, University of California at Berkeley
       An observation
in his book The Burdens of Progress, 1900-1929 (1978)


THE 21ST CENTURY OUTLOOK:

“Besides death and  taxes, this too is certain: The American economy will never return to its  maximum prosperity until it completes a very broad-based tax reform.” 
       Economists
Glenn Hubbard and Peter Navarro
      
In their book Seeds of Destruction: Why the Path to Economic Ruin Runs Through Washington, and How to Reclaim American Prosperity (2010)

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

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

Related reading and viewing…

Copyrights, Disclaimers & Privacy Policy


Creative Commons License
Copyright © Subtropic Productions LLC

The Quote/Counterquote blog is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License. Any duplicative or remixed use of the original text written for this blog and any exact duplications the specific sets of quotations collected for the posts shown here must include an attribution to QuoteCounterquote.com and, if online, a link to http://www.quotecounterquote.com/

To the best of our knowledge, the non-original content posted here is used in a way that is allowed under the fair use doctrine. If you own the copyright to something we've posted and think we may have violated fair use standards, please let me know.

Subtropic Productions LLC and QuoteCounterquote.com are committed to protecting your privacy. We will not sell your email address, etc. For more details, read this blog's full Privacy Policy.