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

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jun 20 18:39:58 UTC 2012

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

Thanks for your valuable response, Jon. The book does have multiple
dated diary entries. The page scan containing the quotation (page 136)
shows that the succeeding diary entry is dated February 8. The page
header says the year is 1916. I do not yet know the date of the entry
containing the quote because I do not have a scan of the previous

I would guess that the diary date is February 5. HathiTrust indicates
a match for "February 5" on the preceding page, page 135. "February 6"
and "February 7" have no matches on page 135.

The Wikipedia entry for John Charteris suggests that there might be
controversy regarding the veracity some of the dates provided by
Charteris in "At G.H.Q."


>> 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]

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