[Ads-l] lies and statistics; Dilke or Darnell or...?

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Wed May 18 12:27:59 EDT 2016

Based on Stephen's request I looked in the British Newspaper Archive.
Here is an instance of "a fib, a lie, and statistics" that was spoken
by Sir Charles Dilke and printed October 15, 1891. There are
additional pertinent citations I will share soon.

Date: October 15, 1891
Newspaper: The Nottingham Evening Post
Newspaper Location: Nottinghamshire, England
Article: Sir Charles Dilke and the Bishops
Quote Page 2, Column 6
Database: The British Newspaper Archive

[Begin excerpt]

A mass meeting of the slate quarrymen of Festiniog was held last night
to protest against certain dismissals from one of the quarries. Sir
Charles Dilke, who was present, was received with cheers, mingled with
hisses. He alluded incidentally to the Church Congress, and observed
that the speeches of the Bishops on the disestablishment question
reminded him that there were three degrees of untruth —a fib, a lie,
and statistics.  (Laughter.) As to Welsh questions generally, he
contended that Parliament must settle them according to the wishes of
Wales, or else give Wales power to settle them herself.
[End excerpt]


On Wed, May 18, 2016 at 7:14 AM, Stephen Goranson <goranson at duke.edu> wrote:
> We know a great deal about the history and pre-history of "lies, damned lies and statistics." An apparently earlier variant was popularized in many newspapers in 1891, e.g.:
> "Sir Charles Dilke was saying the other day that false statements might be arranged according to their degree under three heads, fibs, lies, and statistics." The Bristol Mercury and Daily Post, Monday, October 19, 1891. Cf. The Derby Mercury, Wednesday, October 21, 1891 and several other newspapers also mentioning Charles Wentworth Dilke (1843-1911). Earlier that year two writers, Thomas Mackay (June 8) and "St. Swithin" (Mrs. Eliza Gutch; Oct. 10) recorded similar versions. E.R.L. Gould attributed the saying to Dilke in Nov. 1894. So Dilke may have been the first, as well as a popularizer.
> But here is another early (1891) attribution (from an unconfirmed snippet):
> "...two masses. Thus real information would be afforded as the relative numbers of worshippers, and Mr. Darnell's dictum respecting fibs, lies, and statistics, might--in one instance at [least?]..." The discussion seems to be in the context of proposed Disestablishment and Disendowment, as was the case in reports about Dilke. The quote is from Wed. 28 Oct. 1891, Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer page 3 via British Newspaper Archive (any subscriber willing to check?). Apparently this Darnell was a solicitor, A. J. Darnell (sometime of Messrs. Darnell and Price, Northampton), and a founder of the Northampton Football Club. Perhaps Darnell got it from the earlier Dilke reports and the reporter didn't know. Or vice versa?
> Stephen Goranson
> http://people.duke.edu/~goranson/
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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