Yogi Berra, a member of baseball’s Hall of Fame, also has had a stellar career as the sport’s most frequently quoted player. He has a special way with words, illustrated in the subtitle of “The Yogi Book,” published in 1998.
Yogi Berra, a member of baseball’s Hall of Fame, also has had a stellar career as the sport’s most frequently quoted player. He has a special way with words, illustrated in the subtitle of “The Yogi Book,” published in 1998:
“I Really Didn’t Say Everything I Said.”
As Yogi has learned, people are prone to misquoting and misattributing, too. Three fairly common examples involve passages from the Bible.
We often hear that “money is the root of all evil.” But the actual passage (Timothy 6:10) is, “The love of money is the root of all evil.” Big difference: Money is not inherently bad; it’s our slavish devotion to it that is.
Similarly, there’s “Pride goes before a fall,” which should have an ellipsis between “goes” and “before.” The actual passage (King James version) is in Proverbs 16:18:
“Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”
Also, in the Garden of Eden, the forbidden fruit did not grow on a “tree of knowledge.” The warning in Genesis 2:17 is: “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it.” Adam and Eve were not being encouraged to be ignorant. They were advised not to make moral judgments.
Mark Twain was one of the most quotable people of his time. One saying often attributed to him is, “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.”
Twain had a number of memorable things to say about writing, but that isn’t one of them.
He did write, “The difference between the almost-right word and the right word is really a large matter — it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”
However, the typewriter quote is of more recent vintage, attributed to famed sports columnist Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith (1905-1982).
A variation on the theme is attributed by “Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations” to Gene Fowler, an American journalist, author and dramatist (1890-1960):
“Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your paper.”
Twain actually did experiment with an early version of the typewriter, and was apparently the first author to submit a typed manuscript to a publisher. But he wrote it longhand and someone else typed it.
And contrary to the claim in his autobiography, the book wasn’t “Tom Sawyer” but “Life on the Mississippi,” published in 1883.
One saying that has been making frequent appearances in recent years is: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
It is most often attributed to Albert Einstein, but occasionally to Benjamin Franklin. But as far as I can tell, there is no definitive proof that either man ever said or wrote it.
My online research indicates that there is consensus on the first published use of this sentence, in the 1983 book “Sudden Death” by Rita Mae Brown. It was preceded by at least a year by a similar statement in the “Basic Text of Narcotics Anonymous”:
“Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.”
Something along these lines that Einstein did say is:
“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
Finally, one of my favorites associated with the legendary scientist:
“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.”
The Associated Press advises using an apostrophe in the plurals of single letters: “She got straight A’s; mind your p’s and q’s.”
The reason is that in some instances, omitting the apostrophe produces a different word: “as,” “is,” “us.”
But for plurals of multiple letters (ABCs, VIPs) or numerals (7s, 747s), omit the apostrophe.
Unfortunately for all of us, this is about as easy as apostrophes get.
Contact Barry Wood at email@example.com or read his blog at blogs.e-rockford.com/woodonwords/.