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Monday, August 24, 2009

Mark Twain quotes

Mark Twain, famous as the author of Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, is another writer whose sayings have become so common that we don't even realize they're his. His curmudgeonly personality is probably better illustrated by these lines then by his novels. A sampling from (italics mine):

A man is never more truthful than when he acknowledges himself a liar.

A man's character may be learned from the adjectives which he habitually uses in conversation.

(So true; if someone consistently describes others as "lazy," you can be sure that he is the same way.)

A person who won't read has no advantage over one who can't read.

A person with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds.

Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.

(Not quite true, but I wish it were.)

All generalizations are false, including this one.

Any emotion, if it is sincere, is involuntary.

Buy land, they're not making it anymore.

(How many realtors realize they're paraphrasing Twain?)

"Classic." A book which people praise and don't read.

Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get.

(I'm afraid I've committed the realtors' sin there.)

Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.

(Does that statement have any relevance to today's politics?)

Don't let schooling interfere with your education.

Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I've done it thousands of times.

(I've seen that on countless curio shop plaques, but never had any idea it was Twain who came up with it first.)

Good breeding consists of concealing how much we think of ourselves and how little we think of the other person.

Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.

I can live for two months on a good compliment.

(I've had to go a lot longer than that.)

I have been complimented many times and they always embarrass me; I always feel that they have not said enough.

There is no distinctly native criminal class except Congress.

It is better to deserve honors and not have them than to have them and not deserve them.

It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.

(I've heard that so many times that I can't help but think, it is better to keep your mouth closed and have people think you a plagiarist than to open it, quote this expression, not give its provenance, and remove all doubt.)

It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.

It is not the size of the dog in the fight, it is the size of the fight in the dog.

(There are so many coaches who use this one I'd always figured one of them had originally come up with it.)

Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.

(Hmm, never heard that one from a coach.)

Life would be infinitely happier if we could only be born at the age of eighty and gradually approach eighteen.

Loyalty to the country always. Loyalty to the government when it deserves it.

(A useful expression for both political parties, in turn.)

Man is the only animal that blushes -- or needs to.

Man was made at the end of the week's work when God was tired.

My books are like water; those of the great geniuses are wine. Fortunately, everybody drinks water.

Never put off till tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.

Nothing so needs reforming as other people's habits.

Principles have no real force except when one is well fed.

Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.

Such is the human race, often it seems a pity that....Noah didn't miss the boat.

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.

The lack of money is the root of all evil.

(The perceived lack, anyway.)

The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.

(I want to scream whenever I hear this, but it's not Twain's fault so many morons repeat it ad nauseum. And it's not even one of his better lines.)

The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.

When your friends begin to flatter you on how young you look, it's a sure sign you're getting old.

Oscar Wilde has the reputation as being the supreme coiner of epigrams, but Twain was better. (And Tolstoy better still.)


Anonymous said...

Hi John
A lot of wisdom in the Twain and Tolstoy quotes - nice choices.

(Where did it all get lost?)

You might enjoy these:

John Craig said...

Hi Anonymous --
Thank you very much. I think it all got lost somewhere between the invention of the television and the internet, but I'm not sure.

Took a look at the Pooh quotes. Couldn't really relate, but they're cute.

pelicanmarsh68 said...

There is no distinctly native criminal class except Congress.

Twain musta been some kinda it possible he saw Congress of 2008/2009?

Paul said...

On the subject of compliments, and living off of one for two months, someone (I'm not sure who) came up with this great line: "Give a man a compliment and he's happy for a day. Teach him how to fish for compliments and he's happy for a lifetime."