see: "MONEY" for related links

The man who dies [...] rich, dies disgraced.
--Andrew Carnegie (1835—1919)
American businessman and philanthropist of Scottish birth.
In "North American Review" [June 1889], "Wealth".

He who is frugal is the richest of
men, and the miser is the poorest.
--Sιbastien-Roch Nicolas Chamfort (1741—1794)
French playwright and conversationalist.
_Maxims and Thoughts_ [1796], tr. W.S. Merwin [1984].

Diligence is the basis of wealth, and thrift the source of riches.
--Chinese proverb

They must be especially envious when they
see the rich making fools of themselves,
squandering big sums on trivialities. [...]
What they do not understand is that folly
is to a great extent a question of opportunity,
and that fools, rich or poor, are always as
foolish as they can manage.
--Robertson Davies (1913—1995)
Canadian author and playwright.
_The Manticore_ [1972]

Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you
and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to
them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where
we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is
very difficult to understand. They think, deep in their hearts,
that they are better than we are because we had to discover
the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves. Even
when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they
still think that they are better than we are. They are different.
--F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896—1940)
American novelist.
_The Rich Boy_ [1926]


He who multiplies Riches, multiplies Cares.
--Benjamin Franklin (1706—1790)
American politician, inventor, and scientist.
_Poor Richard's Almanack_ [1744]

Who is wise? He that learns from everyone.
Who is powerful? He that governs his Passions.
Who is rich? He that is content.
Who is that? Nobody.
--Benjamin Franklin (1706—1790)
American politician, inventor, and scientist.
_Poor Richard's Almanack_ [July 1755]


I am indeed rich, since my income is superior
to my expense, and my expense is equal to
my wishes.
--Edward Gibbon (1737—1794)
English historian.
_Memories of My Life and Writings_ [Hunt & Clarke, London, 1827].

I know that a man who shows me his wealth is like the beggar who
shows me his poverty; they are both looking for alms from me, the
rich man for the alms of my envy, the poor man for the alms of my
--Ben Hecht (1893—1964)
American novelist, playwright, and screenwriter.
_A Child of the Century_ [1954]

One of the reasons that so many people who achieve
fame and fortune don't find happiness is because,
almost by definition, if you reach that high estate
you are going to find yourself surrounded by the
lowest hangers-on in the world. It is not that you
get cut off from the real people; you just get cut
off from the good people. And pretty soon, if you
don't watch out, you can start to turn into a creep
--Billie Jean King (b. 1943)
American professional tennis player.
_Billie Jean_ [1982]

If a man would guide his life by true philosophy,
he will find ample riches in a modest livelihood
enjoyed with a tranquil mind.
--Lucretius [Titus Lucretius Carus] (99—55 B.C.)
Latin poet and philosopher.
"De rerum natura" (On the Nature of Things)

When riches and virtue are placed together in the
scales of the balance, the one always rises while
the other falls.
--Plato (427?—347 B.C.)
Greek philosopher.
_The Republic_ [c. 380 B.C.]

Rich men without convictions are more dangerous in
modern society than poor women without chastity.
--George Bernard Shaw (1856—1950)
Irish dramatist and critic.
Quoted in Charles Ralph Mabee _Nature Suffrage_, p. 489 [1917].

The wretchedness of being rich is that you live with
rich people. [...] To suppose, as we all suppose, that
we could be rich and not behave as the rich behave,
is like supposing that we could drink all day and
stay sober.
--Logan Pearsall Smith (1865—1946)
American-born man of letters.
_Afterthoughts_ [1931], "In the World"


A man is rich in proportion to the number
of things which he can afford to let alone.
--Henry David Thoreau (1817—1862)
American essayist, poet, and practical philosopher.
_Walden_ [1854], "Where I Lived, and What I Lived For"

That man is the richest whose pleasures are the cheapest.
--Henry David Thoreau (1817—1862)
American essayist, poet, and practical philosopher.
_Journal_ [11 March 1856]




see: "MONEY" for related links

In every society where property exists, there will ever be
a struggle between rich and poor. Mixed in one assembly,
equal laws can never be expected. They will either be
made by numbers, to plunder the few who are rich, or
by influence, to fleece the many who are poor.
--John Adams (1735—1826)
First VP and second President of the United States.
_A Defense of the Constitutions of Government
of the United States of America_ [1787-88]

Politics is gentle art of getting votes from the poor
and campaign funds from the rich by promising to
protect each from the other.
--Oscar Ameringer (1870—1943)
German-born American socialist.
Quoted in Ferdinand Lundberg _Scoundrels All_ [1968].

No man can tell whether he is rich or poor by
turning to his ledger. It is the heart that makes
a man rich. He is rich or poor according to
what he is, not according to what he has.
--Henry Ward Beecher (1813—1887)
American Congregational minister; brother of
Harriet Beecher Stowe, son of Lyman Beecher.
_Life Thoughts: Gathered from the Extemporaneous
Discourses of Henry Ward Beecher_ [1858]

The rich ruleth over the poor, and the
borrower is servant to the lender.
"Proverbs" 22:7

You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
You cannot help small men by tearing down big men.
You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.
You cannot help the poor man by destroying the rich.
You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income.
You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.
You cannot establish security on borrowed money.
You cannot build character and courage by taking away men's initiative
and independence.
You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could
and should do for themselves.
--Rev. William John Henry Boetcker (1873—1962)
German-born American minister and author.
"The Industrial Decalogue" [1916]

A poor man, served by thee, shall make thee rich.
--Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806—1861)
English poet.
"Adam's Prophecy of Woman"


There are those who believe that if you will only
legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous,
their prosperity will leak through on those below.
The Democratic idea, however, has been that if
you make the masses prosperous, their prosperity
will find its way up through every class which
rests upon them.
--William Jennings Bryan (1860—1925)
American Democratic and Populist politician who
ran for the presidency three times without success.
In his "Cross of Gold" speech at the Democratic
Party National Convention, Chicago [8 July 1896].

& see:

If we are brought face to face with the naked
issue of either keeping or totally destroying a
prosperity in which the majority share, but in
which some share improperly, why, as sensible
men, we must decide that it is a great deal
better that some people should prosper too
much than that no one should prosper enough.
--Theodore Roosevelt (1858—1919)
American Republican statesman and President [1901-09].
In a speech in Fitchburg, Massachusetts [2 September 1902].

& see:

The first theory is that if we make the rich richer,
somehow they will let a part of their prosperity
trickle down to the rest of us. The second theory
... was the theory that if we make the average of
mankind comfortable and secure, their prosperity
will rise upward ... through the ranks.
--Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882—1945)
American Democratic statesman and President [1933-45].
[2 October 1932] in _Public Papers_ v. 1, p. 772 [1938].


Back in the thirties we were told we must collectivize the
nation because the people were so poor. Now we are told
we must collectivize the nation because the people are
so rich.
--William F. Buckley Jr. (1925—2008)
American author and journalist.
_Up From Liberalism_ [1959]

There are only two families in the world,
the Haves and the Have-Nots.
--Miguel de Cervantes (1547—1616)
Spanish novelist.
"Don Quixote de la Mancha", pt. 2, ch. 20 [1615]

You don't make the poor richer by making the rich poorer.
--Winston Churchill (1874—1965)
British Conservative statesman and Prime Minister [1940-45, 1951-55].
Quoted in _Point International_ [1 November 1976].

If rich, it is easy enough to conceal our wealth; but, if poor,
it is not quite so easy to conceal our poverty. We shall find
that it is less difficult to hide a thousand guineas, than one
hole in our coat.
--C.C. Colton (1780—1832)
English clergyman and writer.
_Lacon: or, Many Things in Few Words_, CCXXXIII [1823 ed.]

They must be especially envious when they
see the rich making fools of themselves,
squandering big sums on trivialities. [...]
What they do not understand is that folly
is to a great extent a question of opportunity,
and that fools, rich or poor, are always as
foolish as they can manage.
--Robertson Davies (1913—1995)
Canadian author and playwright.
_The Manticore_ [1972]

It is often said that New York is a city for only the
very rich and the very poor. It is less often said
that New York is also, at least for those of us who
came there from somewhere else, a city only for
the very young.
--Joan Didion (b. 1934)
American journalist and novelist.
"Farewell to the Enchanted City" first pub.
1967 in _The Saturday Evening Post_.

They hang the man and flog the woman
That steal the goose from off the common,
But let the greater villain loose
That steals the common from the goose.
--English folk poem [c. 1764]

If you live according to nature, you will never be
poor; if you live according to (public) opinion,
you will never be rich.
--Epicurus (341—270 B.C.)
Greek philosopher.
In Seneca the Younger (5? B.C.—65 A.D.)
"On Philosophy, the Guide of Life", tr. Richard M. Gummere [1918].

Youth is the best time to be rich
and the best time to be poor.
--attributed to Euripides (485?—406 B.C.)
Greek dramatist.

The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well
as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets,
and to steal bread.
--Anatole France [Jacques Anatole Thibault] (1844—1924)
French novelist, man of letters, and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1921.
_Le Lys rouge_ (The Red Lily) [1894]

What has destroyed every previous civilization has been the
tendency to the unequal distribution of wealth and power.
This same tendency, operating with increasing force, is
observable in our civilization to-day, showing itself in every
progressive community, and with greater intensity the more
progressive the community. Wages and interest tend constantly
to fall, rent to rise, the rich to become very much richer, the
poor to become more helpless and hopeless, and the middle
class to be swept away.
--Henry George (1839—1897)
American writer and politician.
_Progress and Poverty_ [1879], "How Modern Civilization May Decline"

I believe and I say it is true Democratic feeling, that all the
measures of the Government are directed to the purpose
of making the rich richer and the poor poorer.
--William Henry Harrison (1773—1841)
American army officer and 9th President of the United States [1841].
Speech [1 October 1840].

I know that a man who shows me his wealth is like the beggar who
shows me his poverty; they are both looking for alms from me, the
rich man for the alms of my envy, the poor man for the alms of my
--Ben Hecht (1893—1964)
American novelist, playwright, and screenwriter.
_A Child of the Century_ [1954]

[T]hree months ago I got into bad company.
There are two times in a man's life when he
does this — when he's dead broke, and
when he's rich.
--O. Henry [William Sydney Porter] (1862—1910)
American short-story writer.
"The Man Higher Up" [1908]

Now the folksinger came from America
To sing at the Albert Hall,
He sang his songs of protest
And fairer shares for all.
He sang how the poor were much too poor
And the rich too rich by far,
Then he drove back to his penthouse
In his brand new Rolls Royce car.
--Benny Hill [Alfred Hawthorne Hill] (1924—1992)
British comedian.
"What a World" (song) [1965]

A rich man cannot enjoy a sound mind nor a sound body
without exercise and abstinence; and yet these are truly
the worst ingredients of poverty.
--Henry Home, Lord Kames (1696—1782)
Scottish lawyer, agriculturalist, and philosopher.
_Introduction to the Art of Thinking_ [1761]

I don't see why, when it comes to falling in love, a
man shouldn't fall in love with a rich girl as easily
as a poor one.
--William Dean Howells (1837—1920)
American novelist and critic.
_The Rise of Silas Lapham_, ch. 5 [1885]

A propensity to hope and joy is real riches;
one to fear and sorrow, real poverty.
--David Hume (1711—1776)
Scottish philosopher.
"The Sceptic" (essay) [c. 1750] in _Essays Moral,
Political, and Literary_, vol 1 [2 vols., 1875].

There's nothing surer,
The rich get rich and the poor get poorer,
In the meantime, in between time,
Ain't we got fun.
--Gus Kahn (1886—1941)
German-born American songwriter,
& Raymond B. Egan (1890—1952)
Canadian-born American lyricist.
"Ain't We Got Fun" [1921 song]

I've been poor and I've been rich. Rich is better!
--Beatrice Kaufman (1895—1945)
American writer.
Quoted in _Washington Post_ [12 May 1937].

If a free society cannot help the many who
are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.
--John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917—1963)
American Democratic statesman, President of the U.S. [1961-63].
Inaugural Address [20 January 1961].

He is rich whose income is more than his expenses;
and he is poor whose expenses exceed his income.
--Jean de La Bruyθre (1645—1696)
French essayist and moralist.
Attributed in "The London Magazine" [December 1827].

Oh, the poor folks hate the rich folks,
And the rich folks hate the poor folks,
All of my folks hate all of your folks,
It's American as apple pie.
--Tom Lehrer (b. 1928)
American songwriter and satirist.
"National Brotherhood Week" [1965 song]

Hazard not your wealth on a poor man's advice.
--Don Juan Manuel (1282—1349)
Spanish author & nobleman.
_El Conde Lucanor_ [1335]

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
--"N.Y. Times" [11 March 1908]

We ought to change the sign on the Statue of Liberty
to make it read, 'This time around send us your rich.'
--Felix Rohatyn (b. 1928)
Austrian-born American businessman.
Felix Rohatyn was a governor of the New York Stock Exchange, Chairman
of the New York Municipal Authority, and US Ambassador to France.
Quoted in Celeste MacLeod _Horatio Alger, Farewell:
The End of the American Dream_ [1980].

Rich men without convictions are more dangerous in
modern society than poor women without chastity.
--George Bernard Shaw (1856—1950)
Irish dramatist and critic.
Quoted in Charles Ralph Mabee _Nature Suffrage_, p. 489 [1917].

A miser grows rich by seeming poor; an extravagant
man grows poor by seeming rich.
--William Shenstone (1714—1763)
English poet.
_Essays on Men and Manners_ [1804]

A rich man's war and a poor man's fight.
--Slogan of the protesters against conscription in New York, [13 July 1863].
In M.J. Cohan and John Major (eds.) _History in Quotations_ [2004].
Cohan & Major explain:
The phrase originated in the South in 1861. $300 bought exemption
from the draft, introduced by Lincoln in the summer to replenish the
Union Army.

I am weary seeing our laboring classes so
wretchedly housed, fed, and clothed, while
thousands of dollars are wasted every year
over unsightly statues. If these great men
must have outdoor memorials let them be
in the form of handsome blocks of buildings
for the poor.
--Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815—1902)
Leading figure of the Women's Rights movement.
Diary entry [1886], in Theodore Stanton and Harriot
Stanton Blatch _Elizabeth Cady Stanton_ [1922].

The only way for a rich man to be healthy
is by exercise and abstinence, to live as if
he were poor.
--Sir William Temple (1628—1699)
English statesman and diplomat.
Attributed in John Timbs _Laconics: Or, The Best
Words of the Best Authors_, p. 169 [1829]

Remember, it's as easy to marry
a rich woman as a poor woman.
--William Makepeace Thackeray (1811—1863)
English novelist.
_Pendennis_, ch. XXVIII [1848-50]

Economy, the poor man's mint—
extravagance, the rich man's pitfall.
--Martin Farquhar Tupper (1810—1889)
English writer.
In _The Complete Poetical Works of Martin Farquhar_, p. 222 [1850].

Mr. Beecher's farm is not a triumph. It would be easier if he
worked it on shares with some one; but he cannot find any
body who is willing to stand half the expense, and not many
that are able. Still, persistence in any cause is bound to
succeed. He was a very inferior farmer when he first began,
but a prolonged and unflinching assault upon his agricultural
difficulties has had its effect at last, and he is now rising
fast from affluence to poverty.
--Mark Twain [Samuel Langhorne Clemens] (1835—1910)
American humorist, novelist, journalist, and river pilot.
"Rev. Henry Ward Beecher's Farm" [1885]

There is only one class in the community that thinks
more about money than the rich, and that is the poor.
The poor can think of nothing else.
--Oscar Wilde (1854—1900)
Anglo-Irish dramatist and poet.
_The Soul of Man Under Socialism_ [1891 essay]



I heard an author on C-SPAN-2 Saturday [in 2003] afternoon
talking about [...]: "the rich get richer and the poor
get poorer." His general point:

It isn't actually true, you know. The poor also get richer. Consider:
A century or so ago, the rich man had a horsedrawn carriage, the
poor man walked. Big difference in how far and how fast one
traveled. Today, the rich man may drive a Rolls, while the poor
man drives a Ford. Not as much difference, they both get where
they need to go just as fast. A century ago, the rich man lived to
65 or so, the poor man died at 45. Today, the rich man lives to
80, the poor man to 75. Not such a big difference. A century ago,
the rich man had servants running to bring him hot and cold water,
and remove his thundermug, while the poor man went to the well
himself, and the outhouse. Today, the only difference is in the cost
of the fixtures at the end of the plumbing, and the kind of decor in
the room around the plumbing. Not such a difference. Then, a rich
man was patron to professionals who entertained him when he
wished, while the poor either stood outside and listened, or
entertained themselves. Today, we all listen to the same professional
entertainment over the same electronic media, and if the rich have
a bigger room with more powerful speakers and a bigger screen,
it is still not such a big difference.

This was much paraphrased from memory, since I couldn't transcribe
his talk, and I didn't write down his name....This comparison could
be extended many other places, the exercise is left to the student.
Yes, there are differences in income between people. There always
will be. Get over it! If you really want it bad enough to do
WHATEVER IS NECESSARY, you can place yourself anywhere
you wish along that line. Those people at the upper end of that
line did so. Whether you are so willing, or not, stop asking me
to contribute part of my effort to reduce your effort. My effort
is directed at placing myself where I want on that line.

--David C. Kiefer, alt.quotations



One of the most surprising results to emerge from the accumulating
official data — surprising, given the breathless media accounts of
successes of the boom in the closing years of the Nineties — is the
almost startling disparity in incomes that has been developing. By
the end of 1999, according to data compiled by the Congressional
Budget Office, four out of five American households, or about 217
million people, were taking home a thinner slice of the economic
pie than in 1977. At the same time, more than 90 percent of the
increase in national family income was going to the richest 1
percent of households. Incomes of the richest Americans were
rising twice as fast as those of the middle class.

Even more startling are the figures for the rewards gained by
business leaders. In 1980, heads of American corporations were
earning over forty times more than their workers. By the early
Nineties, just as the boom was getting under way, they were
earning more than ninety times more than their workers. By
the end of the Nineties, the gap between top and bottom had
widened even more astoundingly. Then, heads of American
corporations were earning 419 times as much as industrial
workers! This figure prompted the Economist to call it the
greatest peacetime transfer of wealth in history, a sober
assessment given the dimensions of the extraordinary shift
in economic wealth and power.

--Haynes Johnson (b. 1931)
American journalist; winner of the 1966 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting.
_The Best of Times: America in the Clinton Years_ [2001]




see: "HURTING (SOMEONE)" for related links


Ridicule is generally made use of to laugh men out
of virtue and good sense, by attacking every thing
*praiseworthy* in human life.
--Joseph Addison (1672—1719)
English essayist, poet, and dramatist.
Attributed in George Crabb _English Synonymes Explained ..._, p. 590 [1816].

The talent of turning men into ridicule, and exposing to
laughter those one converses with, is the gratification of
little minds and ungenerous tempers.
--Joseph Addison (1672—1719)
English essayist, poet, and dramatist.
Attributed in _Pennsylvania School Journal_, vol. III, no. 1 [July 1854].


RIDICULE, n. Words designed to show
that the person of whom they are uttered
is devoid of the dignity of character
distinguishing him who utters them.
--Ambrose Bierce (1842—1914)
American newspaperman, wit, and satirist.
_The Cynic's Word Book_ [1906]
(Retitled in 1911 as _The Devil's Dictionary_.)

Neither will I make myself anybody's laughing-stock.
--Miguel de Cervantes (1547—1616)
Spanish novelist.
_Don Quixote de la Mancha_, pt. 2 [1615], bk. 3, ch. 5.

What the fool cannot learn he laughs at, thinking
that by his laughter he shows superiority instead
of latent idiocy.
--Marie Corelli (1855—1924)
British author.
_The Life Everlasting_ [1911]

Acquaintance: They deride thee, O Diogenes!
Diogenes: But I am not derided.
--Diogenes (404—323 B.C.)
Greek Cynic philosopher.
Format adapted.
In Ralph Waldo Emerson, journal [1870], undated.

I prefer to be true to myself, even at the
hazard of incurring the ridicule of others,
rather than to be false, and to incur my
own abhorrence.
--Frederick Douglass [Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey] (c. 1818—1895)
American abolitionist, reformer, and writer.
_Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave_ [6th ed., 1851]

A wise man may look ridiculous in the company of fools.
--Thomas Fuller (1654—1734)
English writer and physician.
Comp., _Gnomologia: Adages and Proverbs_ [1732]

We grow tired of everything but turning others
into ridicule, and congratulating ourselves on
their defects.
--William Hazlitt (1778—1830)
English essayist.
"On the Pleasure of Hating"


Of all the griefs that harass the distress'd,
Sure the most bitter is a scornful jest.
--Samuel Johnson (1709—1784)
English poet, critic, and lexicographer.
"London: A Poem" [1738]

Nothing has more retarded the advancement
of learning than the disposition of vulgar
minds to ridicule and vilify what they cannot
--Samuel Johnson (1709—1784)
English poet, critic, and lexicographer.
In _The Rambler_ (English twice-weekly journal 1750—1752) # 117 [30 April 1751].

Every great movement must experience three
stages: ridicule, discussion, adoption.
--attributed to John Stuart Mill (1806—1873)
English philosopher and social reformer.

Humor distorts nothing, and only false gods
are laughed off their earthly pedestals.
--Agnes Repplier (1855—1950)
American author.
"A Plea for Humor" in _The Atlantic Monthly_ [February 1889].

Ridicule is the best test of truth.
--Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury (1621—1683)
British statesman.
In Lord Chesterfield, _Letter to his son_ [6 February 1752].

He's truly valiant that can wisely suffer
The worst that man can breathe, and make his wrongs
His outsides, to wear them like his raiment, carelessly,
And ne'er prefer his injuries to his heart,
To bring it into danger.
--William Shakespeare (1564—1616)
English dramatist.
_The Life of Timon of Athens_, III, v [1623]

No God and no religion can survive ridicule. No
political church, no nobility, no royalty or other
fraud, can face ridicule in a fair field, and live.
--Mark Twain [Samuel Langhorne Clemens] (1835—1910)
American humorist, novelist, journalist, and river pilot.
_Mark Twain's Notebook_ [1935]

The greatest height of heroism to which
an individual, like a people, can attain is
to know how to face ridicule.
--Miguel de Unamuno (1864—1936)
Spanish author, philosopher, and educator.
_Tragic Sense of Life_ [1913], "Don Quixote Today"

Caricature is the tribute that mediocrity pays to genius.
--attributed to Oscar Wilde (1854—1900)
Anglo-Irish dramatist and poet.


pasquinade [pζs-kwκn-'neyd], noun:
A piece of writing that ridicules a specific person
and is posted in a public place; a public lampoon
of a particular person.

pillory [PIL-uh-ree], verb:
1. To expose to public derision, ridicule, or abuse.
2. To set in the pillory.




Nihil tam absurde dici potest, quod non dicatur ab aliquo pilosophorum.
(There is nothing so ridiculous but some philosopher has said it.)
--Marcus Tullius Cicero (106—43 BC)
Roman orator and statesman.
_De Divinatione_, bk. II, sec. 58 [44 B.C.]

Great vices are the proper objects of our detestation, smaller
faults of our pity, but affectation appears to me the only true
source of the Ridiculous.
--Henry Fielding (1707—1754)
English novelist and dramatist.
_The Adventures of Joseph Andrews_ [1742], "Author's Preface"

The intelligent man finds almost everything
ridiculous, the sensible man hardly anything.
--Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749—1832)
German poet, novelist, and playwright.
Quoted in Stephen Spender (ed.) _Great Writings of Goethe_ [1958].


The sublime and the ridiculous are often so nearly related, that
it is difficult to class them separately. One step above the sublime,
makes the ridiculous; and one step above the ridiculous, makes
the sublime again.
--Thomas Paine (1737—1809)
English-American writer and political pamphleteer.
_Age of Reason_, pt. 2 [1794]

& see:

[To the Abbe du Pradt, of the 1812 retreat from Moscow:]
From the sublime to the ridiculous is but a step.
--Napoleon I (1769—1821)
Emperor of France [1804-15].

& see:

Aunt Jane observed, the second time
She tumbled off a bus,
'The step is short from the Sublime
To the ridiculous.'
--Harry Graham (1874—1936)
British writer and journalist.
_Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes_ [1899]


Look for the ridiculous in everything and you will find it.
--Jules Renard (1864—1910)
French novelist and dramatist.
"Journal" [February 1890]

I have never made but one prayer to God, a very
short one: 'O Lord, make my enemies ridiculous.'
And God granted it.
--Voltaire (Franηois Marie Arouet) (1694—1778)
French writer and philosopher.
Letter to M. Damilaville [16 May 1767].


cockamamie (adjective) ['kok-κ-mey-mee]
(Slang) Ridiculous, outlandish, implausible, not worthy of note.
Usage: "Cockamamie" was in general use between 1930 and
1970, but which has been in decline ever since.



see: "WRONG"
see: "RIGHT & WRONG" (below)
see: "CHARACTER" for other related links

[T]he greatest menace to our civilization today is the conflict between
giant organized systems of self-righteousness — each system only too
delighted to find that the other is wicked — each only too glad that
the sins give it the pretext for still deeper hatred and animosity. The
effect of the whole situation is barbarizing.
--Herbert Butterfield (1900—1979)
British historian and religious thinker.
_Christianity, Diplomacy and War_, p. 43 [1953]

Of all the horrid, hideous notes of woe,
Sadder than owl songs or the midnight blast,
Is that portentous phrase, "I told you so."
--Lord Byron [George Gordon Byron] (1788—1824)
English Romantic poet and satirist.
_Don Juan_, canto XIV, st. 50 [1823]


Girolamo Cardano (1501—1576)
Italian mathematician and astrologer.

Cardano was renowned throughout Europe
as an astrologer, even visiting England to
cast a horoscope of the young king, Edward
VI. A steadfast believer in the accuracy of
his so-called science, Cardano constructed
a horoscope predicting the hour of his own
death. When the day dawned, it found him
in good health and safe from harm. Rather
than have his prediction falsified, Cardano
killed himself.

--_Bartlett's Book of Anecdotes_
edited by Clifton Fadiman and Andrι Bernard [2000 ed.]


As for me, I'd rather be right than be President.
--Henry Clay (1777—1852)
American politician.
[14 February 1850] Regarding the Compromise of 1850;
quoted in M.J. Cohan and John Major (eds.) _History in
Quotations_, p. 577 [2004].
Cohan & Major add:
When in 1890 Representative William M. Springer invoked
the by then classic words of Clay, he was told by the speaker
of the House, Thomas Brackett Reed: 'Well, the gentleman
need not be disturbed. He will never be either.'

A fool must now and then be right, by chance.
--William Cowper (1731—1800)
English poet and hymnodist.
"Conversation", l. 96 [1782]

It is much easier to be critical than to be correct.
--Benjamin Disraeli (1804—1881)
British Tory statesman, novelist, and Prime Minister [1868, 1874-80].
Speech [24 January 1860].

Whenever two good people argue
over principles, they are both right.
--attributed to Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach (1830—1916)
Austrian writer.

A going clock may be always wrong, but
a stopped clock is right twice a day.
--Henry Harland (1861—1905)
American novelist and editor.
_My Friend Prospero_, pt. 6 [1904]; first published in "McClure's Magazine" in 1903.

Those who believe they are exclusively in the right
are generally those who achieve something.
--Aldous Huxley (1894—1963)
English novelist (Grandson of T.H. Huxley.)
_Proper Studies_ [1927], "Note on Dogma"

On some positions, cowardice asks the question, 'Is it safe?'
Expediency asks the question, 'Is it politic?' And vanity comes
along and asks the question, 'Is it popular?' But conscience
asks the question, 'Is it right?' and there comes a time when
one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor
popular, but he must do it because conscience tells him it is
--Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929—1968)
American civil rights leader.
Address at SCLC Ministers Leadership Training Program, Miami, FL [23 February 1968].

In a state of anarchy power is the measure of right.
--Lucan [Marcus Annaeus Lucanus] (39—65)
Roman poet and republican patriot.
Attributed in _Life_ [26 May 1887].

A man who is good for anything ought not to
calculate the chance of living or dying; he ought
only to consider whether in doing anything he
is doing right or wrong — acting the part of a
good man or of a bad.
--Socrates (470?—399 B.C.)
Greek philosopher.
In Plato _Apology_ tr. Benjamin Jowett [1894].

Standing for right when it is unpopular
is a true test of moral character.
--Margaret Chase Smith (1897—1995)
American politician; Senator from Maine [1949-73].
Speech at Westbrook Junior College, Portland, Maine [7 June 1953].

Any man more right than his neighbors
constitutes a majority of one.
--Henry David Thoreau (1817—1862)
American essayist, poet, and practical philosopher.
_Civil Disobedience_ (essay) [1849]

I shall continue to do what I think is
right whether anybody likes it or not.
--Harry S. Truman (1884—1972)
American Democratic statesman, President of the U.S. [1945-53].
Quoted in William Hillman, _Mr. President_ [1952].

Always do right. This will gratify
some people, and astonish the rest.
--Mark Twain [Samuel Langhorne Clemens] (1835—1910)
American humorist, novelist, journalist, and river pilot.
Note to the Young People's Society, Greenpoint Presbyterian
Church, Brooklyn, N.Y. [16 February 1901].

Human beings are perhaps never more frightening than
when they are convinced beyond doubt that they are right.
--Laurens van der Post (1906—1996)
South African explorer and writer.
_The Lost World of the Kalahari_, ch. 3 [1958]


prerogative (noun) [prκ-'rah-gκ-tiv]
An exclusive or special right emanating from
an office, organization, or social class.



see: "ETHICS"
see: "CHARACTER" for other related links

People will always forgive you for being wrong.
What they won't forgive you for is being right.
--attributed to Robert L. Bartley (1937—2003)
American journalist and editor of the Wall Street Journal.
Winner of the 1980 Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing.

That you may retain your self-respect, it is better
to displease the people by doing what you know
is right, than to temporarily please them by doing
what you know is wrong.
--Rev. William John Henry Boetcker (1873—1962)
German-born American minister and author.
Quoted in "Forbes" [1948].

To know what is right and not do it is the worst cowardice.
--Confucius (551-479 B.C.)
K'ung Ch'iu, Chinese philosopher.
_Analects_, [c. 500 B.C.]


John Foster Dulles (1888—1959)
American statesman.

Asked whether he had ever been wrong,
Dulles considered the question for some
time before replying. 'Yes,' he finally
admitted, 'once — many, many years ago.
I thought I had made a wrong decision.
Of course, it turned out that I had been
right all along. But I was wrong to have
*thought* that I was wrong.'

--_Bartlett's Book of Anecdotes_
edited by Clifton Fadiman and Andrι Bernard [2000 ed.]


I hate to see a thing done by halves; if it be right,
do it boldly; if it be wrong, leave it undone.
--Bernard Gilpin (1517—1583)
English theologian.
Attributed in _The Saturday Magazine_ [15 September 1832].

The difference between the vanity of a Frenchman
and an Englishman seems to be this: the one thinks
everything right that is French, the other thinks
everything wrong that is not English.
--William Hazlitt (1778—1830)
English essayist.
_Characteristics in the Manner of Rochefoucault's Maxims_, CCCXXXIV [1823]

Two wrongs don't make a right.
--Jacob Kerr
_Several Trials of David Barclay_ [1814]

We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany
was "legal" and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in
Hungary was "illegal." It was "illegal" to aid and comfort a Jew in
Hitler's Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany
at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers.
If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles
dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate
disobeying that country's antireligious laws.
--Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929—1968)
American civil rights leader.
"Letter from a Birmingham Jail" [16 April 1963]

Some say that the age of chivalry is past, that the spirit
of romance is dead. The age of chivalry is never past, so
long as there is a wrong left unredressed on earth, or a
man or a woman left to say, I will redress that wrong, or
spend my life in the attempt.
--Charles Kingsley (1819—1875)
English writer and clergyman.
In Frances Eliza Grenfell Kingsley (ed.) _From Charles Kingsley:
His Letters and Memories of His Life_ [1879], vol. II, ch. 28

Stand with anybody that stands *right*. Stand with
him while he is right and *part* with him when he
goes wrong.
--Abraham Lincoln (1809—1865)
American Republican statesman, President [1861-65].
Speech on the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Peoria, Illinois [16 October 1854].

If it is not right, do not do it;
if it is not true, do not say it.
--Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (121—180)
Roman emperor [161—180] and Stoic philosopher.
_Meditations_, Book XII, Number 17

Lord, where we are wrong, make us willing to
change; where we are right, make us easy to
live with.
--Peter Marshall (1902—1949)
Scottish-American preacher, author, and Senate chaplain.
Quoted in Catherine Marshall _A Man Called
Peter: The Story of Peter Marshall_ [1951].

Moral certainty is always a sign of cultural
inferiority. The more uncivilized the man,
the surer he is that he knows precisely
what is right and what is wrong.
--H.L. (Henry Louis) Mencken (1880—1956)
American journalist and literary critic.
_Minority Report: H.L. Mencken's Notebooks_ [1956]

Those who follow the wrong have generally first
taken care to be voluntarily ignorant of the right.
--John Stuart Mill (1806—1873)
English philosopher and social reformer.
"On Education," inaugural address on being installed as rector,
University of St. Andrews (Scotland) [1 February 1867].

I will not do that which my conscience tells me
is wrong to gain the huzzahs of thousands, or the
daily praise of all the papers which come from
the press; I will not avoid doing what I think is
right, though it should draw on me the whole
artillery that falsehood and malice can invent,
or the credulity a deluded population can swallow.
--William Murray (Lord Mansfield) (1705—1793)
Scottish barrister and judge.
_Credo for Judges_, quoted in "The European Magazine" [June 1793].

To keep your marriage brimming,
With love in the loving cup,
Whenever you're wrong, admit it;
Whenever you're right, shut up.
--Ogden Nash (1902—1971)
American writer of humorous poetry.
"A Word to Husbands" in _Marriage Lines_ [1964].

The point is that we are all capable of believing things
which we *know* to be untrue, and then, when we are
finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so
as to show that we were right.
--George Orwell [Eric Blair] (1903—1950)
English novelist.
"In Front of Your Nose", essay printed in _Tribune_ [22 March 1946];
reprinted in _The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George
Orwell_ ed. Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus, vol. 4 [4 vols., 1968].

It was such a relief to be right, even though
you knew you'd only got there by trying
every possible way to be wrong.
--Terry Pratchett (1948—2015)
English science fiction writer.
_Feet of Clay_ [1996]

The American Elite [...] is almost beyond redemption.
Moral relativism has set in so deeply that the gilded
classes have become incapable of discerning right
from wrong. Everything can be explained away,
especially by journalists. Life is one great moral
mush — sophistry washed down with Chardonnay.
--Ambrose Evans-Pritchard (b. 1957)
British journalist.
_The Secret Life of Bill Clinton_ [1997]

There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.
--William Shakespeare (1564—1616)
English dramatist.
_Hamlet_, II, ii [1601]

'That was excellently observed,' say I, when I read a passage in
an author where his opinion agrees with mine. When we differ,
there I pronounce him to be mistaken.
--Jonathan Swift (1667—1745)
Anglo-Irish poet and satirist.
_Thoughts on Various Subjects_ [1706]


The fact that man knows right from wrong
proves his *intellectual* superiority to the
other creatures; but the fact that he can
*do* wrong proves his *moral* inferiority
to any creatures that *cannot*.
--Mark Twain [Samuel Langhorne Clemens] (1835—1910)
American humorist, novelist, journalist, and river pilot.
"What is Man?" [1906]

Each must for himself alone decide what is right
and what is wrong, and which course is patriotic
and which isn't. You cannot shirk this and be a
man. To decide it against your convictions is to
be an unqualified and inexcusable traitor, both
to yourself and to your country, let men label
you as they may.
--Mark Twain [Samuel Langhorne Clemens] (1835—1910)
American humorist, novelist, journalist, and river pilot.
_Letters from the Earth_, ed. Bernard DeVoto [1962]


The ultimate decision about what is accepted as
right and wrong will be made not by individual
human wisdom but by the disappearance of the
groups that have adhered to the 'wrong' beliefs.
--Friedrich A. von Hayek (1899—1992)
Austrian-born British economist; co-winner of the
1974 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics.
"The Creative Powers of a Free Civilization" (essay)

By the time a man realizes that maybe his father was
right, he usually has a son who thinks he's wrong.
--Charles Wadsworth (1814—1882)
American clergyman.
Attributed in "The Rotarian" [November 1990].

To be one's self, and unafraid whether right or wrong, is more
admirable than the easy cowardice of surrender to conformity.
--Irving Wallace (1916—1990)
American author and screenwriter.
_Square Pegs: Some Americans Who Dared to Be Different_ [1958]

[Lady Lou (Mae West) speaking:]
When women go wrong, men go right after them.
--Mae West (1893—1980)
American stage and film actress.
"She Done Him Wrong" [1933 film]
Script adapted by Harvey F. Thew and John Bright
from the Broadway play "Diamond Lil" by Mae West.


It takes less time to do a thing right than
it does to explain why you did it wrong.
"The American Gas Light Journal" [24 July 1911]



see: "RIGHT & WRONG" (above)

The humblest citizen of all the land, when clad in
the armor of a righteous cause, is stronger than all
the hosts of Error.
--William Jennings Bryan (1860—1925)
American Democratic and Populist politician who
ran for the presidency three times without success.
Speech at the National Democratic Convention, Chicago, Illinois [1896].

It is not the murderers, the criminals, the
delinquents and the wildly nonconformist who
have embarked on the really significant rampages
of killing, torture and mayhem. Rather it is the
conformist, virtuous citizens, acting in the name
of righteous causes and intensely held beliefs,
who throughout history have perpetrated the fiery
holocausts of war, the religious persecutions,
the sacks of cities, the wholesale rape of women,
the dismemberment of the old and the young and
the other unspeakable horrors. [...] The crimes of
violence committed for selfish, personal motives
are historically insignificant compared to those
committed 'ad majorem gloriam Dei', out of a self-
sacrificing devotion to a flag, a leader, a religious
faith, a political conviction.
--Arthur Koestler (1905—1983)
Hungarian-born British novelist, journalist, and critic.
_The Ghost in the Machine_ [1967]

Human beings are perhaps never more frightening
than when they are convinced beyond a shadow
of a doubt that they are right.
--Laurens van der Post (1906—1996)
South African explorer and writer.
_The Lost World of the Kalahari_, ch. 3 [1958]

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