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They never said it (2006-11-25)

Circus magnate P.T. Barnum never said “There’s a sucker born every minute,” says Fred R. Shapiro, a librarian at Yale University and the editor of the new The Yale Book of Quotations (soon to be available at

Civil War Admiral David Farragut never said “Damn the Torpedoes! Full Speed Ahead” either.

During his famous ride Paul Revere likely didn’t say “The British are coming” but rather “The Redcoats are coming.” Yet all of those sayings are part of the American lexicon and cultural heritage.

Shapiro just wants to set the record straight, correcting generations of historical wordsmithing.

“War is hell,” he says, was not coined by U.S. Civil war Gen. William T. Sherman, but rather Napoleon. Sherman adapted it to “There is many a boy here today who looks on war as all glory, but boys it is all hell,” which is why no one can remember it.

And by the way, Freud never said “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar,” Shapiro says. Close, but no cigar.


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