May 17, 2013

“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”


“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
       Attributed to Mark Twain (1835-1910)
       American humorist, journalist, novelist and social critic
       According to a widely-repeated legend, Twain made this quip when he heard there were rumors he had died and that one newspaper had printed his obituary. Another common variation of the line uses the words “…have been greatly exaggerated.” Sometimes the quip is given as “Reports of my death are grossly exaggerated.”
       However, all of the commonly-heard versions using “greatly exaggerated” or “grossly exaggerated” are misquotes.
       As noted in many scholarly books of quotations and explained in a post on my This Day in Quotes blog, what Twain actually said was “The report of my death was an exaggeration.”
       The origin of the more familiar misquote versions of Twain’s response seems to be an embellished anecdote in Chapter 197 of Albert Bigelow Paine’s biography of Twain, which was published in 1912, two years after Twain’s death.


“As Mark Twain said, you know, rumors of my demise may be a little exaggerated at this point.”
       President Barack Obama
       His response during a White House press conference on April 30, 2013, when a reporter asked if he still had the political “juice” needed to get his legislative proposals passed by Congress, in light of his recent high profile failures to get gun control and budget legislation approved.


“The rumors that Cheney is alive are somewhat exaggerated. It’s Mark Twain in reverse.”
       Hans Blix
       Swedish diplomat and politician
       His answer in a 2004 interview in the New York Times when asked if US Vice President Dick Cheney had seemed more “wooden” than President George W. Bush during a meeting Blix had with them prior to the Second Gulf War (a.k.a. the 2003 invasion of Iraq).
       Blix led the international weapons inspection teams charged with determining if Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, a claim Bush and Cheney pushed as the main reason to invade the country. As Blix pointed out, no WMDs were found. Of course, this fact was was dismissed by Bush and Cheney.


“Rumors of my chastity have been greatly exaggerated.”
       Donna Martin, a character played by actress Tori Spelling in the TV series Beverly Hills, 90210
       One of her wisecracks in the “Reunion” episode (Season 8, Ep. 27, first aired April 15, 1998)


“Reports of my assimilation have been greatly exaggerated.”
       Captain Jean-Luc Picard, played by actor Patrick Stewart
       A quip Picard makes in the movie Star Trek: First Contact (1996), in which some crew members of the USS Enterprise are “assimilated” by the part-machine, part-organic, hive-like life form(s) called the Borg.

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May 3, 2013

“Art for art’s sake.” (“L’art pour l’art.”)


“Art for art’s sake.” (“L’art pour l’art”)
Victor Cousin (1792-1867)
       French philosopher 
       Famous phrase first used by Cousin in a lecture at the Sorbonne (University of Paris) in 1818
is widely credited with either coining or uttering the first notable public use of the phrase “l’art pour l’art,” during his lecture on aesthetics titled “Du Vrai, du Beau, et du Bien” (“Truth, Beauty and Goodness”). In his hifalutin’ remarks on those topics, Cousin said:  
“We must have religion for religion’s sake, morality for morality’s sake, as with art for art’s sake...the beautiful cannot be the way to what is useful, or to what is good, or to what is holy; it leads only to itself.”  
       Cousin’s use gave the concept of “art for art’s sake” it’s initial notoriety. However, credit for popularizing and promoting it to encourage the creation of art that is not limited by realism or social usefulness is generally given to the French writer and art critic
Théophile Gautier, who began using it in the mid-1830s. It became a philosophical basis of the so-called Aesthetic Movement in art and literature that developed in the 19th Century.


“Art for art’s sake exists in nature more than is believed.” 
Victor Hugo (1802-1885) 
       French novelist, playwright and poet

       From his novel
L’Homme Qui Rit (The Man Who Laughs), first published in 1869


“Art for art’s sake is a philosophy of the well-fed.” 
       Cao Yu (1910-1996)
       Chinese playwright
in the London Observer, April 13, 1980


“Art for art’s sake is an empty phrase. Art for the sake of the true, art for the sake of the good and the beautiful, that is the faith I am searching for.” 
       George Sand (pseudonym of Baroness Amandine Aurore Lucile Dupin; 1804-1876)
       French writer
in a letter to her friend Alexandre Saint-Jean in 1872


“ARS GRATIA PECUNIAE.” (“Art for the sake of money.”)
Stan Freberg (b. 1926)
       American comic genius and occasional ad man
       Motto on the “The Great Seal of Freberg,” which features a a seal with sunglasses. Devised for his advertising agency “Freberg Ltd. (But Not Very).”


“Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.”
Edward Abbey (1927-1989)
       American writer and environmental activist
       In his article “Grow and Die,”
published in Penthouse magazine, September 1979


       The famed motto of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios
       Around 1916, Hollywood publicist Howard Dietz was asked to develop a motto for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios. He came up with “Ars gratia artis,” a Latin version of the phrase “art for art’s sake.”
       Through most of the decades since then, the motto has appeared over the image of a roaring lion at the beginning of films produced by MGM.

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