October 20, 2009

“Enquiring minds want to know.” No use in inquiring why.


There’s a tipping point at which a famous phrase becomes a cliché.

The well known ad slogan for The National Enquirer supermarket tabloid – “Enquiring minds want to know” – passed that point long ago.

The Enquirer trademarked the slogan in 1981.

According to the information filed in the U.S. trademark database, it was first used by the gossipy tabloid on October 20, 1981.

During the rest of the 1980s, the slogan was heavily used in print, radio and TV ads and soon became a pop culture catchphrase. (Check out this funny example of a vintage Enquirer TV ad on YouTube.) 

Interestingly, the word “tabloid” was originally a trademarked name for a type of pill made by Burroughs, Wellcome and Co., a British pharmaceutical company founded in 1880.

The company’s “tabloid” combined several different ingredients in one pill.

The editors of the Westminster Gazette liked the term and, in 1902, decided to use it as a name for their newspaper. Burroughs, Wellcome sued the Gazette for trademark infringement but lost – thus paving the way for the term to evolve into its current form.

The term is still applied in publishing parlance to newspapers printed in the tabloid format, rather than the  broadsheet style.

But in popular usage it now tends to be associated with sensationalistic, celebrity-obsessed publications like The National Enquirer and The Star.

Of course, in recent decades, the tabloid “rags” inspired the broader field of “tabloid journalism” in magazines and on TV and the internet. Online, the TMZ site is one of the best-known examples.

Apparently, enquiring minds do want to know, as much or more than ever.

And, people still remember and repeat The National Enquirer’s famed ad slogan – even though it is usually misquoted as “Inquiring minds want to know.”

Here are some of the other famous quotes and phrases linked to October 20:

“It is a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations.”  - Winston Churchill’s famous quotation about quotations, from his autobiographical book My Early Life, which was published on October 20, 1930.

“Big girls don't cry.” - The well known song title and lyric by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, released as a single on October 20, 1962

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Comments? Corrections? Questions? Email me or post them on my Famous Quotations Facebook page.

Related reading and listening…


October 17, 2009

OCTOBER 18 - Nigel Rees’s “Quote…Unquote” Newsletter will soon be available by email

I’m departing from my usual format in today’s post to mention a great quotation resource that’s being made available online to quote buffs.

The venerable “Quote…Unquote” Newsletter, which has been published in printed format for 18 years by the eminent British quotation expert Nigel Rees, is now available exclusively in electronic format.

Rees is Britain's most eminent and prolific quotation expert. He’s written over 50 books on quotations and related subjects, like clichés and epitaphs. He’s also the host of BBC’s long-running “Quote…Unquote” radio quiz show and has hosted and been a guest on many other British radio and TV shows.

Until recently, The “Quote…Unquote” Newsletter was available mainly by snail mail. It was distributed here in the United States thanks to another esteemed language maven, Robert Skovgard, creator of The Executive Speaker Newsletter and a nationally known speechwriting expert.

Recently, Skovgard sent out an email to American subscribers announcing that, with the next quarterly issue in January 2010, The “Quote…Unquote” Newsletter will become a free, electronic-only publication, delivered as an emailed PDF attachment.

You can view a sample issue and and sign up to get the newsletter via email by visiting the “Quote…Unquote” Newsletter website.

The only cost is a small, one-time $5 set-up fee. That incredibly reasonable payment can be made online or arranged by phone.

I’ve been a fan of Nigel Rees’ books and a subscriber to the “Quote…Unquote” Newsletter for years. It’s a terrific and entertaining source of information about quotations.

It’s also engagingly interactive. Subscribers can submit queries on quotes they’re curious about – and can submit facts they may know about the quotes Rees and his readers are trying to track down.

If you enjoy reading and learning about quotations, I have two words for you about the “Quote…Unquote” Newsletter email subscription option: GET IT!

Also, do yourself a favor and buy some of Nigel’s books. They’re all fun to read and full of interesting facts and trivia.

Here are some of the famous quotes and phrases linked to October 18:

“We must love one another or die.” - The well known line from the poem “September 1, 1939” by W.H. Auden (1907-1973). First published in October 18, 1939 issue of The New Republic. This quote was featured here in a recent post.

“If you've seen one city slum you've seen them all.” – One of the infamous quotes by Spiro T. Agnew (1918-1996), President Nixon’s ill-fated V.P. Spoken by Spiro in a campaign speech in Detroit, Michigan on October 18, 1968.

October 16, 2009

OCTOBER 16 - Castro said “History will absolve me,” but it doesn’t seem likely

On October 16, 1953, Fidel Castro made a four-hour speech, but it wasn’t one of his long stem-winders to his followers.

It was a speech he gave as a prisoner, while being tried in court for leading a small group of rebels in an attack on the Moncada military barracks in Cuba on July 26th.

The remarks Castro made during his trial included his famous quotation: “History will absolve me.” (“La historia me absolver.”)

The Moncada Barracks attack was an attempt to start an insurrection against the Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. It failed at the time and the men involved were either killed or captured by Batista’s soldiers. But it turned out to be the beginning of the “Cuban Revolution.”

The historical record makes it pretty clear why the revolution happened. Fulgencio Batista was a ruthless dictator. And, he got rich taking cuts and bribes from the U.S. corporations that ran most of Cuba’s major industries and from the American mobsters who ran most of the hotels and casinos in Havana. Meanwhile, most Cubans were poor, uneducated, ill-housed and disenfranchised.

In his remarks at his October 16, 1953 trial, Castro reviewed the many political crimes of Batista and his illegitimate presidency. The entire speech is famous among Marxists, but most books of quotations just give the “History will absolve me” line.

Batista made the mistake of not executing Castro after he was found guilty at the trial. Instead, Fidel was put in prison and then – in an even bigger blunder – Batista allowed him to be released in 1955, thinking he was no longer a serious threat.

The following year, Fidel, his brother Raul Castro, and Che Guevara began organizing disgruntled Cuban peasants into a growing revolutionary army. A few years later they succeeded in driving Batista out of the country (along with the American corporations and the mob).

For a brief time, it seemed like a victory for the Cuban people and potentially for democracy, since Castro had pledged to restore a democratic government.

Then, of course, Castro became a Communist, made himself the semi-godlike ruler of the country and brutally crushed any dissent.

History may absolve Castro for ousting the ruthless dictator Batista. But I doubt if any honest historical accounts absolve Castro for becoming a ruthless dictator himself.

Here are some of the other famous quotes and phrases linked to October 16:

“I shot an arrow into the air, It fell to earth, I knew not where.” - The well known and often parodied lines from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “The Arrow and the Song,” which he composed on October 16, 1845.

“Believe it or not.” - In 1918, artist and sportswriter Robert Ripley started publishing an illustrated feature about sports accomplishments and oddities in the New York Globe. He called it Champs & Chumps. After a while, he started including stories about non-sports-related oddities. Eventually, Ripley abandoned the sports angle entirely and, on October 16, 1919, his feature was retitled with the famed phrase we know today – Believe It or Not.

October 09, 2009

OCTOBER 9 - The Greeks had a phrase for it: “Know thyself.”

On October 9th in the year 28 B.C., the Temple of Apollo at Delphi was dedicated.

An inscription on the temple said: “Gnothi seauton.” In English, that’s the famous quotation “Know thyself.”

The quote is generally attributed to The Seven Sages of Greece,” a.k.a. the “Seven Wise Men,” though the words are sometimes attributed to the Greek philosopher Thales or the Greek statesman Solon.

Thales and Solon were two of the “Seven Sages,” a group of 6th century B.C. deep thinkers that also included Periander, Cleobulus, Chilon, Bias, and Pittacus.

In today’s This Day in Quotes post, I’m including the Know Thyself” video I made for my Quote Counterquote blog. Hope you like it... 

Here are some of the other famous quotes and phrases linked to October 9:

“Better living through chemistry.” - The well known and oft-parodied advertising slogan for the DuPont company, first made famous by its use on the DuPont-sponsored radio show Cavalcade of America, which debuted on October 9, 1935.

“The Iceman Cometh.” - Title of the play by American playwright Eugene O'Neill (1888-1953) that led to many other “[The something] Cometh” variations – such as "The Diceman Cometh," title of a 1989 performance video by comedian Andrew Dice Clay. O'Neill’s famous play premiered at the Martin Beck Theatre in New York City on October 9, 1946.

A&E Remembers Patrick Swayze 1952-2009

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