The Top Quotes of the Year in 2009

Below, in chronological order, are my picks for the top quotations of 2009 — the quotes that seemed to get the most attention during the past year in the news and elsewhere. There were more than would fit into a top 10 list. So, I’ll call them The Top 10 Quotes of 2009 – Plus … Read more

“Wise Latina” and “Too big to fail” – two top quotes of 2009 that were actually uttered years ago

Every year, a number of “quotes of the year” lists are published. My favorite is the annual list issued by Fred R. Shapiro, editor of the excellent Yale Book of Quotations. But my own picks for the top quotes of 2009 include some that are not on Fred’s list. Two of them share an unusual … Read more

Yes, Ivory Soap is “99 44/100% pure.” And, yes – Marilyn really was an Ivory Snow Mom.

One of the most famous and long-lasting advertising slogans in history is the Ivory Soap slogan “99 44/100% Pure.” As recorded in the U.S. Trademark Database, it was first used in commerce on December 21, 1882. Ivory Soap was created by Proctor & Gamble in 1878. Previously, P&G sold a hard, dense yellow soap made … Read more

Did Alan Greenspan’s “irrational exuberance” refer to the economy or his sex life?

Is it just me, or do profound statements by economic pundits seem a lot like predictions made by the Delphic Oracle or Nostradamus? Their statements are murky enough to be interpreted in different ways and — eventually — something will happen that at least appears to confirm some part of what they said. For example, … Read more

The “pearl of great price”: an allegory for people who don’t want to win the lottery

Every once in a while, there’s a news story about somebody who won millions in a lottery and ended up being miserable as a result. I remember one from a few years ago that sounded like a Shakespearean tragedy. It was about a Pennsylvania man, William “Bud” Post, who won $16 million in the state … Read more

Lee Atwater and the Republican Party’s “big tent.”

In November of 1989, the first year of George H. W. Bush’s presidency, there were two closely watched gubernatorial elections — one in Virginia, the other in New Jersey. The Democratic candidates won both races. And, in both campaigns, the candidates’ positions on abortion played a role. The winning Democrats, Douglas Wilder in Virginia and … Read more

Jefferson’s bloody “Tree of Liberty” quote still fertilizes freedom and fanaticism

One of the signs held by a gun-toting protester against the Democratic health care proposal earlier this year said “IT IS TIME TO WATER THE TREE OF LIBERTY!” This is a shorthand reference to an oft-used and abused quotation by Thomas Jefferson: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the … Read more

Is Nixon’s November 7, 1962 rant a “teachable moment”?

Long before dogged news coverage of the Watergate scandal helped force Richard M. Nixon to resign as President in 1974, he disliked the press. In fact, throughout his long political career, Nixon felt the media generally had a liberal bias and an unfairly negative attitude toward him. He disliked the way the press failed to … Read more

“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 … Read more

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 … Read more