“Whatever is worth doing…

LORD CHESTERFIELD’S MAXIM: “Whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well.”        Lord Chesterfield (Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield; 1694-1773)        British statesman and diplomat        One of the many bits of fatherly advice Chesterfield imparted in letters to his illegitimate son, Philip Stanhope. This one is from a letter dated … Read more

“Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”

In 1897, two of the most famous residents of Hartford, Connecticut were Mark Twain and his friend and fellow writer Charles Dudley Warner, who was then editor of the local newspaper, the Hartford Courant. They had been close friends for decades. Back in 1873, they had even written a satirical novel together, titled The Gilded … Read more

“Everybody loves a lover” (as Shakespeare never said)…

On July 21, 1958, a week after being released, Doris Day’s recording of the song “Everybody Loves a Lover” entered the Billboard Top 40. The 45 RPM single, issued by Columbia Records, eventually reached #6 on both the CashBox and Billboard charts. It was a last big charting hit in the US for Day and … Read more

“No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”

In many books of quotations and on thousands of websites H.L. Mencken is credited with the famous quote “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.” Most sources fail to mention that this “quote” by “The Sage of Baltimore” is actually the traditional paraphrase of what Mencken actually wrote — not … Read more

“No man is a hero to his valet” – the backstory on a famous proverb and misquote…

  Charlotte Aïssé (1693-1733) was quite a celebrity in France in the early 18th Century — part heroine, part sex symbol, part intellectual. As a child, her father’s palace was raided by the Turks. They took her captive but soon sold her to Count Charles de Ferriol, the French ambassador at Constantinople. She was raised … Read more

“A little learning is a dangerous thing.” (A little knowledge, too, but that’s a misquote.)

Most people have heard the old line of poetry: “A little learning is a dangerous thing.” It became a proverbial saying that has been — and is still is — used and repurposed in many ways. The common variation is “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” However, that’s an misquote of the original line … Read more

“Spare the rod and spoil the child”

It’s not surprising that many people think the quote “Spare the rod and spoil the child” comes from the Bible. There are at least five verses in the Bible’s Book of Proverbs that talk about using a rod to beat a child — for his own good, of course. The most famous is Proverbs 13:24: … Read more

The backstory on “Snug as a bug in a rug.” (Spoiler Alert: Ben Franklin didn’t actually coin it.)

In 1771, Ben Franklin’s common-law wife, Deborah Read Franklin shipped a live gift to young Georgiana Shipley, the daughter of British friends in London. It was an American gray squirrel that Deborah thought would make a nice pet for the girl. Georgiana named it Mungo. Mungo was also referred to as “Skugg.” That was a … Read more

The day Leo Durocher said “Nice guys finish last.” (Or something like that.)

The famous sports quote “Nice guys finish last” has long been attributed to legendary baseball player and manager Leo Durocher. But for decades there has been a debate about whether he actually said it. Most sources agree that the basis for the attribution comes from remarks “Leo the Lip” made on July 6, 1946, when … Read more

“Nothing is certain except death and taxes.”

One of the most famous quotations by Benjamin Franklin is: “Nothing is certain except death and taxes.” (Commonly heard as “Nothing is certain but death and taxes.”) The source of this oft-cited quip is a letter Franklin wrote to French scientist Jean-Baptiste Leroy on November 13, 1789. But there are some interesting things about the … Read more