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|Genre/Form:||Criticism, interpretation, etc|
|Additional Physical Format:||Online version:
"Nice guys finish seventh".
New York, NY : HarperCollinsPublishers, ©1992
|All Authors / Contributors:||
|Description:||xii, 273 pages ; 25 cm|
Inaccurate, misattributed, or both. During two decades of research, he discovered that: "Any man who hates dogs and children can't be all bad" was said about W.C. Fields, not by him; "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing" was the slogan of UCLA coach Red Sanders, not Vince Lombardi; "The opera ain't over 'til the fat lady sings" was adapted from an old saying: "Church ain't out 'til the fat lady sings"; and Winston Churchill did not originate the phrase "iron.
Curtain," and never said, "blood, sweat and tears." Hundreds of such examples illustrate Keyes's Immutable Law of Misquotation: Misquotes drive out real quotes. "Certain things demand to be said," he writes, "said in a certain way, and by the right person. Whether such comments are accurate is beside the point." Keyes confirms that William Tecumseh Sherman didn't say, "War is hell." Nor did he vow, "If nominated, I will not run. If elected, I will not serve." According.
To Keyes, such words voice observations we want made. Freud may never have said, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar," for example, but we certainly wish he had. For a misquote to become familiar it must come from a well-known mouth. Take "You can't trust anyone over thirty." Abbie Hoffman, right? Or was it Jerry Rubin? Mario Salvo? Mark Rudd? All have been given credit for this sixties catchphrase. Keyes discovered that its real originator was a student named Jack.
Weinberg. Remember him? Few do. That's why Weinberg's words were assigned to better-known mouths. Keyes calls this "the flypaper effect." Orphan quotes or comments by unknowns routinely stick to a Churchill, a Lincoln, or a Twain. Other syndromes Keyes discusses include bumper-stickering (condensing a long comment to make it more quotable), lip-syncing (mouthing someone else's words as if they were your own), and retroquoting (putting words in the mouths of famous dead.
People). Separate chapters focus on misquotes in history, politics, show business, sports, literature, and academia. "Nice Guys Finish Seventh" is a pleasure to read. It's also a first-rate argument-settler. By exhaustively researching the true origins of famous sayings, Ralph Keyes has produced a provocative, authoritative guide to who actually said what.