"Nice Guys Finish Seventh": False Phrases, Spurious Sayings, and Familiar Misquotations [NOOK Book]


Leo Durocher is best remembered for saying, “Nice guys finish last.” Except he never said it. What the Brooklyn Dodgers’ manager did say, before a 1946 game with the New York Giants, was: “The nice guys are all over there. In seventh place.”

Like Durocher’s, many of our best known quotations are inaccurate, misattributed, or both. This is ...
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Leo Durocher is best remembered for saying, “Nice guys finish last.” Except he never said it. What the Brooklyn Dodgers’ manager did say, before a 1946 game with the New York Giants, was: “The nice guys are all over there. In seventh place.”

Like Durocher’s, many of our best known quotations are inaccurate, misattributed, or both. This is theme of “Nice Guys Finish Seventh”. Ralph Keyes’s book reveals that:

• “Any man who hates dogs and children can’t be all bad,” was said about W.C. Fields, not by him.
• “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing,” was coined by UCLA coach Red Sanders, not Vince Lombardi.
• “The opera ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings,” came from an older saying: “Church ain’t out ’til the fat lady sings.”
• Winston Churchill didn’t originate the phrase “iron curtain,” and did not say, “blood, sweat and tears.”

Hundreds of such examples illustrate Keyes’s Immutable Law of Misquotation: Misquotes drive out real quotes. “Certain things demand to be said,” he writes, “said in a certain way, and by the right person. Whether such comments are accurate is beside the point.”

Keyes confirms that William Tecumseh Sherman didn’t vow, “If nominated, I will not run. If elected I will not serve.” Nor did P. T. Barnum say “There’s a sucker born every minute.” According to Keyes such words voice observations we want made whether they actually were or not. Freud may never have said “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar,” but we certainly wish he had, and put the words in his mouth.

For a misquote to become familiar it must come from a well-known mouth. Take “You can’t trust anyone over 30.” Keyes discovered that the real originator of this famous student revolt slogan was an activist named Jack Weinberg. Remember him? Few do. That’s why Weinberg’s words were so often attributed to better known figures.

Keyes calls this “the flypaper effect.” Orphan quotes or comments by unknowns routinely gravitate to a Churchill, a Lincoln, or a Twain. Other syndromes Keyes discusses include “bumper stickering” (condensing a long comment to make it more quotable), “lip syncing” (mouthing someone else’s words as if they were your own), and “retro-quoting” (putting words in the mouths of famous dead people). Separate chapters focus on misquotes in history, politics, show business, sports, literature and academia.

“Nice Guys Finish Seventh” is a fascinating, eye-opening book. It’s both fun to read and a reliable work of reference. Ralph Keyes’s book was

• featured in PARADE
• the subject of an author interview on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered”
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Editorial Reviews

New York Times - Edmund Morris
I am indebted to Ralph Keyes's new quotation corrector.
Seattle Times - Alan Moores
Lively, informed ... Reading this is great fun.
Booklist - Mary Carroll
Keyes’s research unearths interesting, often surprising facts about who said what when — as well as enough errors in standard references to suggest his volume deserves a place in most quotation collections.
Louisville Courier-Journal - Michael Gartner
If you want to know more of who didn’t say what — including a whole list of things that Mark Twain never said — get the book.
Minneapolis Star Tribune - Robert Armstrong
You can tell what Keyes is up to from the title: He takes quotations we’re all familiar with and shows how and why they are really misquotes, and searches out the origin of phrases that have become almost part of the language without our thinking about it.
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Product Details

  • BN ID: 2940016126531
  • Publisher: Ralph Keyes
  • Publication date: 12/22/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 273
  • Sales rank: 1,144,410
  • File size: 713 KB

Meet the Author

Ralph Keyes is the author of sixteen books. His bestseller IS THERE LIFE AFTER HIGH SCHOOL? was made into a Broadway musical that is still produced in this country and abroad. CHANCING IT was a NEW YORK TIMES “Notable Book.” THE COURAGE TO WRITE – which John Jakes called “one of the two or three best books on writing I’ve ever read.” – has been in print for nearly two decades. Keyes’s most recent book is EUPHEMANIA: Our Love Affair With Euphemisms.

On television Keyes has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Today Show, The Tonight Show, and 20/20. On NPR he’s been interviewed by Susan Stamberg, Robert Siegel, Noah Adams, Brooke Gladstone, Neal Conan, and Terry Gross (on Fresh Air, All Things Considered, On the Media, and Talk of the Nation). PEOPLE MAGAZINE has featured him twice. His own articles have been published by magazines ranging from GQ through GOOD HOUSEKEEPING to the HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW where an article he co-authored won the McKinsey Award for Best Article of the Year.
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 1, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Where do memorable quotes really come from?

    This is an entertaining guide through the tortured path of memorable quotes. The author acquaints the reader with famous quotes and then tracks down the history. Who really said what and what got put in the mouth of whom...This book gives quite an insight into collective memory and meaning. Who knows, maybe you can get some pointers on how to pass on your won memorable quotes!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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