What were the “top quotes” of 2013?

I recently looked through a couple dozen lists of “top” and “best” quotes of 2013 and came to a disappointing conclusion. In terms of truly memorable quotations that generated new idiomatic expressions and catchphrases or that will show up in future books of quotations, the year 2013 was pretty much a bust. Browse through some … Read more

How the 1965 Watts riots led to a new holiday – and added a new word to our language…

Kwanzaa is a Swahili word that entered the American lexicon in 1966. It’s the name of the African-American holiday celebration that starts on December 26 and lasts for seven days. Kwanzaa was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga, a professor and Chairman of the Department of Africana Studies at California State University at Long Beach. After … Read more

The American Christmas classic by a Russian-born Jewish songwriter that ended the Vietnam War…

I like odd facts and there are a number of them about the song “White Christmas.” First off, this American Christmas classic was written by the Russian-born Jewish songwriter Irving Berlin (who also wrote the classic American anthem “God Bless America”). Berlin’s original name was Israel Baline. His family emigrated to America in 1893 to … Read more

Before Marilyn Monroe, “the seven year itch” was an annoying skin condition…

On November 20, 1952, the play The Seven Year Itch by George Axelrod debuted on Broadway at the Fulton Theatre. It starred Tom Ewell, as a married man attracted to a gorgeous young neighbor, played by Vanessa Brown. Ewell was also in the famous 1955 movie version of The Seven Year Itch, directed by Billy … Read more

“Serutan spelled backwards spells Nature’s.”

On October 23, 1934 the company Healthaids, Inc. filed a trademark application for an advertising slogan it was using to promote its laxative product, Serutan. Early cans of Serutan (and later bottles) featured the words “Read It Backwards” under the product’s name. The trademarked ad slogan, which quickly became famous, made the point more directly: … Read more

First they came for the Communists – or was it the Industrialists?

On October 14, 1968, Congressman Henry S. Reuss of Wisconsin made some remarks on the floor of Congress that included what became a very famous quotation – or, more accurately, a very famous misquotation. The “quote” Reuss read was recorded in the Congressional Record as follows: “When Hitler attacked the Jews, I was not a … Read more

“Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”

In 1950, Bette Davis was a highly-regarded actress. But she was starting to be viewed as an “aging” actress and her career seemed to be fading. That year, the multitalented writer, producer and director Joseph L. Mankiewicz gave Bette a plum role in a film that helped revive her popularity with critics and audiences. Ironically, … Read more

Dan Quayle is no Jack Kennedy – and Lloyd Bentsen is no Michael Sheehan…

It’s not often that debates between candidates for Vice President of the United States generate a famous quotation – or even much attention. But there are some notable exceptions. One is the October 13, 1992 vice-presidential debate, in which Independent Ross Perot’s V.P. pick, James Stockdale, said “Who am I? Why am I here?” (It … Read more

Kerouac’s “mad ones” continue to “burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles…”

On September 5, 1957, the first edition of Jack Kerouac’s seminal book On the Road was published by Viking Press. This semi-autobiographical novel, written in a loose, stream-of-consciousness (and sometimes probably semi-conscious) manner, had a profound and lasting effect on American literature and culture. It’s not one of those books that generated a lot of … Read more

“No pasarán!” – They shall not pass!

During the long siege of Verdun in World War I, French military leaders urged their troops to fight the invading German army with the rallying cry “Ils ne passeront pas!” (“They shall not pass!”) Some books of quotations attribute this to General Robert Nivelle (1856-1924), some to Henri Phillipe Pétain (1856-1951). Others say it’s a … Read more