Curious Quotations


  • "In his lifetime the great French impressionist painter Corot painted 2000 canvases. Of that number, 3000 are in the United States."
    - Morley Safer (Canadian-American journalist 1931- ), introducing an interview with the art forger David Stein entitled "The Gentle Art of Forgery" on the television programme "60 Minutes", broadcast on August 8, 1976.
  • "The greatest cunning is to have none at all."
    - Carl Sandburg (US poet and biographer. 1878–1967)
  • "The sea is always the same: and yet the sea always changes."
    - Carl Sandburg, Smoke and Steel, VII, Passports 4. North Atlantic, 1922.
  • "Tim Harford asks: “Is it wise to stay with your first instincts, or better to switch?” ("Our first instinct is far too often wrong", May 11.) My first instinct was to switch. Now I’m stuck in a self-referential paradox.
    - Robert Saunders, Letter in the Financial Times, 2019.
  • "I am attracted only to music which I consider to be better than it can be performed. Therefore I feel (rightly or wrongly) that unless a piece of music presents a problem to me, a never-ending problem, it doesn't interest me too much."
    - Artur Schnabel (Austrian pianist anc composer. 1882-1951), My Life and Music (1961).
  • The chief cause of problems is solutions.
    - Eric Serareid (US journalist. 1912–1992)
  • "Age cannot wither her, not custom stale
    Her infinite variety. Other women cloy
    The appetites they feed, but she makes hungry
    Where most she satisfies."
    - William Shakespeare (Playwrite and poet. 1564–1616), Antony and Cleopatra 2 ii.
  • "Is it not strange that desire should so many years outlive performance?"
    - William Shakespeare, Henry the Fourth - Part Two 2 iv.
  • "The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool."
    - William Shakespeare, As You Like It. Act v. Sc. 1.
  • "Suit the action to the word, the word to the action; with this special observance, that you o’erstep not the modesty of nature."
    - William Shakespeare, Hamlet. Act iii. Sc. 2.
  • "And worse I may be yet. The worst is not So long as we can say 'This is the worst'."
    - William Shakespeare, King Lear. Act iv. Sc. 1.
  • "My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
    My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
    The more I have, for both are infinite"
    - William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet 2 ii.
  • "A man who never missed an occasion to let slip an opportunity"
    - George Bernard Shaw (Irish Playwrite, essayist and pamphleteer. 1856–1950), on Lord Rosebery.
  • "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man."
    - George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman (1903) 'Maxims: Virtues and Vice'.
  • "But a lifetime of happiness! No man alive could bear it: it would be hell on earth."
    - George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman (1903) act I.
  • "When you live outside the law, you have to eliminate dishonesty"
    - Stirling Silliphant (US screenwriter and producer. 1918–1996), The Lineup (1958).

    Bob Dylan later used a similar phrase, without attribution, in his song Absolutely Sweet Marie: "To live outside the law you must be honest".

  • "To alcohol! The cause of – and solution to – all of life's problems!"
    - Homer Simpson, Cartoon creation of Matt Greoning.
  • "Marge, it takes two to lie. One to lie and one to listen."
    - Homer Simpson
  • "Facts are meaningless. You could use facts to prove anything that's even remotely true!"
    - Homer Simpson
  • "Well kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try."
    - Homer Simpson

    Click here to hear this quote.

  • Mr. Chacterson: I wonder-if I might just put a supplementary question, Dr. Whinby-I wonder whether you would mind telling me-simply for the record-if there is any question you think might possibly come up in the foreseeable future to which you would reply unhesitatingly in the negative?
    James Whinby (without hesitation): Quite definitely not!
    - N.F.Simpson, The Form
  • "The real question in not whether machines think but whether men do."
    - B. F. Skinner (Psychologist and author. 1904–90), Contingencies of Reinforcement (1969).
  • “Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten.”
    - B. F. Skinner, New Scientist, (21 May, 1964).
  • "By pursuing his own interest [every individual] frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good."
    - Adam Smith (Scotish economist. 1723–1790), The Wealth of Nations, Book IV (1776).
  • "Oscar Browning once said: 'I never read books before reviewing them; it prejudices one so.' This is the only interesting thing Browning ever said, although I confess I have never read anything else he has written and until recently had never heard of him. "
    - Arthur Smith Writing in The Guardian.
  • "Life is short, and the Tour de France long."
    - Giles Smith (Journalist), writing in the Daily Telegraph (28/07/2003) in defence of David Duffield's rambling, six hour commentary on Eurosport.
  • "I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance."
    - Socrates (Greek Philosopher. 469–399 BC)
    See also Milton
  • The danger with Margret Thatcher is that when she speaks without thinking she says what she thinks.
    - Norman St John-Stevas (Baron St John of Fawsley, British politician. 1929–2012)
  • "A single death is a tragedy; a million is a statistic."
    - Joseph Stalin
  • A few days after Stalin lost his pipe...
    Stalin's aid: "Have you found your pipe?"
    Stalin: "Yes, I found it under the sofa."
    Stalin's aid: "Impossible. Three people have already confessed to this crime."
    - Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar.
  • "Eternity's a terrible thought. I mean, where's is it all going to end?"
    - Tom Stoppard (British dramatist. 1937– ), Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (1967) act 2.
  • "A Chinaman of the T'ang Dynasty-- and, by which definition, a philosopher-- dreamed he was a butterfly, and from that moment he was never quite sure that he was not a butterfly dreaming it was a Chinese philosopher."
    - Tom Stoppard
    See Chuang-tzu
  • "En ma Fin gît mon Commencement..."
    [In my End is my Beginning...]
    - Mary Stuart (Monarch, also known as Mary Queen of Scots. 1542–1587) Motto embroidered on her cloth of state.
    See T.S. Eliot.
  • "Great fleas have little fleas
    Upon their backs to bite 'em,
    And little fleas have lesser fleas,
    And so ad infinitum."
    - Jonathan Swift (Anglo-Irish poet, clergyman and satirist. 1667–745), On Poetry, a Rhapsody (1733).
  • "There is nothing in this world constant but inconstancy."
    - Jonathan Swift

To read more curious quotations, please select a letter from the alphabet below.

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