Memorable lines are those that provoke the response, “I wish I had said that!” Often, they’re tremendously profound and we feel envious of the author’s intellect, or they may be such amusing lines that we find ourselves wishing that we had the comedic ability to produce such hilarity ourselves.
Let’s ponder a few examples:
• “It’s useless to hold a person to anything they say while they are madly in love, drunk, or running for office.” — B. Birdsong
• “Getting an award from TV is like being kissed by someone with bad breath.” — Mason Williams
• “A classic is something that everybody wants to have read, but nobody wants to read.” — Mark Twain in The Disappearance of Literature
• “Love is an exploding cigar we all willingly smoke.” — Lynda Barry
• A college football coach explaining why his team had not won a championship since 1924, “Patience is our biggest problem.”
• “So much of what we call ‘management’ consists of making it difficult for people to work.” — Peter Drucker
• “Inflation is a lot like overeating: it makes you feel really good, right up to the moment when it’s too late to correct it.” — Leo Aikman
• “Authors are easy to get along with — if you like children.” — Michael Joseph
• A book review by Ambrose Bierce: “The covers of this book are too far apart.”
• “Everything is funny as long as it’s happening to somebody else.”— Will Rogers in The Illiterate Digest
• “People help each other through a crisis by each assuming that the other can handle it better than he himself can.” — Frank A. Clark
• “A lie may take care of the present, but it has no future.” — Mark Twain
• “I wish there was something left these days that could be truly called -- unmentionable.” — Lark Bragg
• “The best combination of parents consists of a father who is gentle beneath his firmness, and a mother who is firm beneath her gentleness.” — Sydney J. Harris
• “Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died.” — Erma Bombeck
We all know the origin of the following quotes. Or, do we?
• “An iron curtain has descended across the continent.”
This is easy. It’s the memorable words coined by Winston Churchill. Or are they? In actual fact, the words “iron curtain” were used by many people prior to Churchill, including Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propagandist. Goebbels wrote in his weekly newspaper Das Reich of a Soviet-formed “iron curtain” that would arise because of agreements made by Stalin, Roosevelt and Winston Churchill at the Yalta Conference: “An iron curtain would fall over this enormous territory controlled by the Soviet Union, behind which nations would be slaughtered.”
• “Go west, young man.”
That famous phrase was not used first by Horace Greeley, as most of us have always thought, nor was it used by journalist John Soule writing in the Terre Haute Express in 1851 as some claim. Fred R. Shapiro in the article, Quote Detective Debunks Myths, published on December 24, 2007, did, however, uncover the following quote cited in a recent biography of Greeley: “If any young man is about to commence the world, we say to him, publicly and privately, Go to the West,” from the August 25, 1838, issue of the newspaper New Yorker. “Go West, young man” may well have been a paraphrase of this and other advice given by Greeley.
Greeley even publicly denied being the author of the words, but nobody listened.
• “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
Easy, eh? It was U.S. President John Kennedy who thought that one up, right? No, it was actually Cicero, the great Roman orator, who first uttered the words to the Roman Senate in 63 B.C. One of JFK’s speechwriters simply borrowed the line for Kennedy’s inaugural address.