Nice Guys Finish Seventh: False Phrases, Spurious Sayings and Familiar Misquotations

Nice Guys Finish Seventh: False Phrases, Spurious Sayings and Familiar Misquotations

by Ralph Keyes
     
 

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Leo Durocher is best remembered for saying, "Nice guys finish last." 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." Durocher's words lacked pop. Sportswriters perked them up, and gave America one of its most familiar misquotations. Ralph Keyes points…  See more details below

Overview

Leo Durocher is best remembered for saying, "Nice guys finish last." 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." Durocher's words lacked pop. Sportswriters perked them up, and gave America one of its most familiar misquotations. Ralph Keyes points out in "Nice Guys Finish Seventh" that many of our best-known sayings, phrases, and quotations are inaccurate, misattributed, or both. During two decades of research, he discovered 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 the slogan of UCLA coach Red Sanders, not Vince Lombardi; "The opera ain't over 'til the fat lady sings" was adapted from an old saying: "Church ain't out 'til the fat lady sings"; and Winston Churchill did not originate the phrase "iron curtain," and never said, "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 say, "War is hell." Nor did he vow, "If nominated, I will not run. If elected, I will not serve." According to Keyes, such words voice observations we want made. Freud may never have said, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar," for example, but we certainly wish he had. For a misquote to become familiar it must come from a well-known mouth. Take "You can't trust anyone over thirty." Abbie Hoffman, right? Or was it Jerry Rubin? Mario Salvo? Mark Rudd? All have been given credit for this sixties catchphrase. Keyes discovered that its real originator was a student named Jack Weinberg. Remember him? Few do. That's why Weinberg's words were assigned to better-known mouths. Keyes calls

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
A lot more fun than just another book of quotations is this collection of famous sayings, phrases, and quotations that are inaccurate, misattributed, or both. Separate chapters focus on misquotes in history, politics, show business, sports, literature, and academia. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Mary Carroll
The public ear, Keyes suggests, listens with blue pencil poised. This "editing" (otherwise known as misquotation) is governed by two axioms: "Any quotation that can be altered will be" and "Famous quotes need famous mouths." Most recently author of "Timelock" and editor of "Sons on Fathers" , Keyes "take[s] a fresh, skeptical look at familiar phrases, sayings, and quotations." He outlines "The Rules of Misquotation" (corollaries of the axioms cited above) and then considers categories of misstated and misattributed quotations by source and/or subject: frequently quoted speakers and writers, recent trends, Europeans, Founding Fathers, war, politics, U.S. presidents, entertainment, sports, writers, and academics. Keyes' 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062700209
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
10/01/1992
Edition description:
1st ed
Pages:
288

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