"two reasons for doing anything"

Shapiro, Fred fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Tue Feb 11 01:38:01 UTC 2014

The Yale Book of Quotations has the following:

A man always has two reasons for what he does -- a good one, and the real one.
J. P. Morgan, Quoted in Owen Wister, Roosevelt: The Story of a Friendship (1930)

Fred Shapiro

From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] on behalf of Laurence Horn [laurence.horn at YALE.EDU]
Sent: Monday, February 10, 2014 8:27 PM
Subject: Re: "two reasons for doing anything"

On Feb 10, 2014, at 8:23 PM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:

> I don't see this in the archives, though I've been thinking about it for a
> long time.
> Many years ago I was told that Sigmund Freud had once said, "There are
> always two reasons for doing anything: a good reason and the real reason."
> Sounds like Freud in principle, but not in style.
> Google Books wants to attribute it to J. P. Morgan, but Morgan died in 1913
> and the "reported" quote doesn't show up till 1940.
> A few minutes ago I was watching a short film on TCM called "Teddy the
> Rough Rider" (1947). It shows Theodore Roosevelt insisting, "A man always
> has two reasons for whatever he does: a good one and the real one."
> This attribution is presumably bogus as well, but evidently the quote
> gained traction in the 1940s.
Or three reasons for doing anything--the right reason, the wrong reason, and the Army reason?


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