“Our American professors like their literature clear and cold and pure and very dead.”

In the 1920s, Sinclair Lewis became one of the most successful writers in America. During that decade he penned a series of five hugely popular novels: Main Street, Babbitt, Arrowsmith, Elmer Gantry and Dodsworth. In 1930, Lewis became the first American writer to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature by the Swedish Academy that … Read more

The genesis of “the Almighty Dollar” – from Genesis to Washington Irving…

The word almighty, used in connection with God, appears 57 times in the King James Version of the Bible. Starting in the Book of Genesis, God is variously referred to as “the Almighty God,” “God Almighty” and, most often, simply as “the Almighty.” The English idiom “the almighty dollar,” which is commonly used to mock … Read more

“At 50, everyone has the face he deserves.”

You may not recall the name Eric Blair, but you’re almost certainly aware of his pen name, George Orwell. His novels Animal Farm and 1984 have sold tens of millions of copies—more than any other two books by any other 20th century author. Those novels also embedded a number of famous quotations into our language. … Read more

“The rich are different”… The legendary “exchange” between F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway…

  If you’re a quotation buff, you’ve probably heard of a legendary exchange about “rich people” that supposedly took place between the American novelists F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) and Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961). Fitzgerald is usually quoted as saying either “The rich are different from you and me” or “The rich are different from us.” Hemingway … Read more

“The shot heard round the world”

The famous phrase “The shot heard round the world” was coined by American essayist, lecturer and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) in 1837. It’s the last line in the first verse of his poem “Hymn: Sung at the Completion of the Concord Monument,” generally referred to as “The Concord Hymn.” Emerson wrote the poem for … Read more

The awful origin of “The pen is mightier than the sword.”

On March 7, 1839 the play Richelieu: or, the Conspiracy, by the British politician and author, Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, premiered at the Covent Garden Theatre in London. Few people today have heard of this play. But everyone knows one of the lines in it: “The pen is mightier than the sword.” The basic meaning of … Read more

10 famous quotes and phrases linked to the date January 10

1. and 2. “The die is cast.” and “cross the Rubicon” “The die is cast” was Julius Caesar’s famous remark on January 10, 49 B.C. as he led his troops across the Rubicon River to start a civil war for control of the Roman Empire. This event also led to the idiom “to cross the … Read more

“Prose = words in their best order; — poetry = the best words in the best order.”

Most of the best-known quotes by the British poet and critic Samuel Taylor Coleridge come from his poems The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798) and Kubla Khan (1816). But one of his most famous quotations is not something he wrote. It’s a remark he made in a conversation that was jotted down by his … Read more

“England’s green and pleasant land”

If you’re not British, you may only be vaguely aware of the song “Jerusalem.” But the tune and lyrics are very familiar to the people of England. It is England’s unofficial national anthem, like “God Bless America” is in the United States. Some Brits have urged that “Jerusalem” be made the official national anthem of … Read more

The secret behind the famous phrase “the heart is a lonely hunter”…

On June 4, 1940, Houghton Mifflin published the first novel by the American writer Carson McCullers, a sensitive story about misfits and social outcasts in a Southern mill town titled The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. The success of McCullers’ book made its title a familiar and oft-quoted phrase. The novel was later adapted into … Read more