Quote: Military Intelligence to him is a contradiction in terms (John Charteris 1931)

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jun 20 16:35:53 UTC 2012

Charteris (1877-1946) is apparently quoting from his WW1 diary.  My SWAG is
that the original year is 1916.


On Tue, Jun 19, 2012 at 4:39 PM, Garson O'Toole
<adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com>wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Garson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Quote: Military Intelligence to him is a contradiction in
> terms
>              (John Charteris 1931)
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Military Intelligence is a contradiction in terms
> This quip has been attributed to Groucho Marx and George Carlin. There
> is some support indicating that they both used versions of this joke.
> For example, The Yale Book of Quotations has the earliest Groucho
> attribution in 1971. The form of the quip varies: the phrase "military
> intelligence" is described as a contradiction in terms, a
> contradiction in adjecto, an oxymoron, and mutually exclusive.
> The earliest evidence I have located is in a non-fiction book in 1931
> by a British Brigadier-General named John Charteris.
> Cite: 1931, At G.H.Q. by John Charteris, Quote Page 136, Cassell and
> Company, Ltd., London. (Verified with scans; Thanks to the librarians
> at Denison University)
> [Begin excerpt]
> Curzon did not give much time to Intelligence work. I fancy Military
> Intelligence to him is a contradiction in terms.
> [End excerpt]
> This joke was memorable enough that a reviewer in the satirical
> periodical Punch magazine retold a version within the book review of
> "At G.H.Q".
> Cite: 1931 October 21, Punch, Or The London Charivari, [Short book
> review of: At G.H.Q by John Charteris], Page 448, Column 2, Punch
> Publications Ltd., London. (Verified on paper)
> [Begin excerpt]
> From his daily jottings the writer kept back nothing. The Generals who
> thought all politicians crooked are there, and so are the statesmen to
> whom Military Intelligence was a contradiction in terms; while all his
> pages are alive with his hatred of intrigue, his scorn of grandiosity,
> his loyalty to his heroes and his faith in final victory.
> [End excerpt]
> Here are some additional selected citations.
> Cite: 1963, The Need to be Loved by Theodor Reik, Page 86, The Noonday
> Press, Division of Farrar, Straus and Company, New York. (Verified on
> paper)
> [Begin excerpt]
> There is even an institution called Military Intelligence, which is
> the perfect example of a contradiction in adjecto.
> [End excerpt]
> Cite: 1966 March 26, The New Yorker, Nothing in Excess by Shirley
> Hazzard, Start Page 48, Quote Page 49, The New Yorker Magazine, Inc.,
> New York. (The New Yorker online archive)
> [Begin excerpt]
> Algie was collecting contradictions in terms: To a nucleus of
> "military intelligence" and "competent authorities," he had added such
> discoveries as "the soul of efficiency," "easy virtue," "Bankers
> Trust," and "Christian Scientist."
> [End excerpt]
> Cite: 1967 September 29, Time, "Cinema: Festival Attraction, Side-Show
> Action". Time Inc. (Time magazine online archive)
> [Begin excerpt]
> Hardly has he buttoned up his tunic when he begins to sense that
> military intelligence is a contradiction in terms. His professors are
> interested in order, not in knowledge; most of his fellow students are
> toadies and bullies who pervert the authority over them by victimizing
> those under them.
> [End excerpt]
> Cite: 1967, Quotemanship: the use and abuse of quotations for
> polemical and other purposes by Paul F. Boller, Page 9, Southern
> Methodist University Press, Dallas, Texas. (Verified on paper)
> [Begin excerpt]
> But the handiest source for the latest words of wisdom emanating from
> the world's notables and quotables is Quote, the Weekly Digest,
> published in Richmond, Indiana, whose motto, taken from Charles Haddon
> Spurgeon, is: "He who never quotes, is never quoted." ...
> ... on the back page of each issue, a department called "Quote-ettes"
> consisting of brief bits of wisdom from around the world ("'State
> intelligence,' like 'military intelligence' and 'woman friend,' is a
> contradiction in terms" - Niall MacDermot, Financial Secretary to
> British Treasury).
> [End excerpt]
> Garson
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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