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“I have no other restriction as regards smoking.” Likewise, although there is no evidence Twain ever said, “History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme,” he did write (in an unpublished manuscript that Bernard De Voto highlighted in a 1940 collection, “Mark Twain in Eruption”), “It is not worthwhile to try to keep history from repeating itself, for man’s character will always make the preventing of the repetitions impossible.” In other words, it is folly trying to improve on Mark Twain, and rarely possible. 15, 1890, letter to George Bainton, “The difference between the So, too, is it with right quotes. “Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. It was here first.” [Not Twain; Robert Jones Burdette.] 2. If you don't mind, it doesn’t matter.” [Not Twain; Satchel Paige] 4.“I have a higher and grander standard of principle than George Washington. “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” [This is Twain, but slightly garbled.] 5.“This list goes beyond even the usual level of Twain misattributions,” Shapiro told me.
These range from one established by a conscientious amateur Twain aficionada named Barbara Schmidt to Winston Churchill.org, which is run by the Churchill Centre and Museum in London.
The latter site even has a section called “Quotes Falsely Attributed.” In his anthology, Shapiro goes the extra mile in tracking down the origin of erroneous quotes.
“Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. It was first applied to smoking, and to Twain, by the Journal of the American Medical Association and Reader’s Digest in the 1940s.] 10. The “Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs” traces similar lines to the 14th century.] 13.
I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.” [Not Twain; this is a variation on an old joke -- told by W. “Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.” [True] 11. “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” [Not Twain.
(He often mentioned death, but not as something to be dreaded. 15, 1871, letter to his wife, Olivia, he described death as “a great leveler . Receiving such missives, even if they are only 140 characters long, presents an ethical dilemma.
Although no one likes being branded a scold, does a failure to correct them connote acquiescence? What is a journalist covering the 2012 election supposed to do when iconoclastic presidential candidate Buddy Roemer tweets (as he did last March), “Let the people know the facts, and the country will be safe – Abraham Lincoln.” And is it best to keep silent when Cory Booker, Newark’s charismatic mayor, tweets out inspiring quotes on a daily basis -- even if they are of equally dubious provenance?
I’ll go through the entire Huff Po list at the end of this piece, but first let’s look a bit more closely at one of its entries: the folk wisdom that it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.
This thought has also been attributed to Abraham Lincoln, without proof, although it’s the kind of thing Lincoln might have said -- because the sentiment is found in the Old Testament book of Proverbs.
But Arianna kept tweeting out “Twain” quotes -- it seemed she was touting a slideshow on the Huffington Post -- so I clicked on it with a sense of trepidation. What awaited the reader were 27 quotes, most of which were not Twain, starting with the first one: “Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The rest were purloined from other writers, fabricated out of whole cloth, or of unknown derivation, but not traceable to Mark Twain. There is no evidence, for instance, that Twain ever deadpanned that quitting smoking was easy because “I’ve done it thousands of times.” Others were comically wrong.
It was a 20th century baseball player, not Mark Twain, who quipped that age was a question of mind over matter (“If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter”).