[Ads-l] quote of the year candidate

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Dec 22 14:52:25 EST 2017


Interesting pattern.  Until this one (did Hoover fess up about a cherry tree too?) it always kicks off with Washington.  Then we move to the putative liar (who hails from the party detested by the quipper):  FDR, Nixon.  Then’s there’s the putative dolt and/or bullshitter (also not favored by the quipper): Truman, Eisenhower, Carter, Clinton (I’ve seen the Washington/Nixon/Clinton triad in print), Trump.  But the categories can be fluid; I predict that one day, if the country survives, we will have a wag remarking re President Whosis:

"Washington couldn’t tell a lie, Trump couldn’t tell the truth, and Whosis couldn't tell the difference.”

As for Washington and his incessant truthfulness, there’s this take from Oscar Wilde (The decay of lying, 1891):

=================
The crude commercialism of America, its materialising spirit, its indifference to the poetical side of things, and its lack of imagination and of high unattainable ideals, are entirely due to that country having adopted for its national hero a man, who according to his own confession, was incapable of telling a lie, and it is not too much to say that the story of George Washington and the cherrytree has done more harm, and in a shorter space of time, than any other moral tale in the whole of literature.
=================                                                   

We’ve come a long way, baby.

LH

> On Dec 22, 2017, at 2:36 PM, ADSGarson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> 
> Date: March 10, 1948
> Newspaper: Northwest Arkansas Times
> Newspaper Location: Fayetteville, Arkansas
> Quote Page 4
> Database: Newspapers.com
> 
> [Begin excerpt]
> A Sprinkle of Salt Our Presidents
> 
> "Hoover couldn't tell a lie.
> Roosevelt couldn't tell the truth.
> Truman couldn't tell the difference.
> Which do you prefer?"
> [End excerpt]
> 
> Garson
> 
> On Fri, Dec 22, 2017 at 2:23 PM, ADSGarson O'Toole
> <adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:
>> Year: GB 1961
>> Periodical: American Capsule News
>> Issue 301; Issue 450
>> Database: Google Books snippet; must be verified with hardcopy
>> (Search probe with "1961" shows a header indicating that the volume
>> contaisn 1961 issues)
>> 
>> [Begin near-raw OCR text]
>> The farce of Eisenhower being President prompted a well-known wagster
>> to coin this wisecrack, which has all the truth and no poetry in it:
>> 
>> "George Washington couldn't tell a lie; Franklin Roosevelt couldn't
>> tell the truth; and Ike Eisenhower couldn't tell the difference."
>> 
>> Mr. Nixon could have been President had he not lacked the intestinal
>> fortitude of a common ant. When it was found the "Democrats" had
>> stolen 200,000 votes in Chicago alone, the Illinois electoral votes
>> (27) tried to fall into ...
>> [End near-raw OCR text]
>> 
>> Garson
>> 
>> On Fri, Dec 22, 2017 at 2:12 PM, Parish, James <jparish at siue.edu> wrote:
>>> I remember it from a Tom Toles cartoon, with the third party being Jimmy Carter. (I have it in a collection at home, but that's 2000 miles away just now.)
>>> 
>>> 
>>> Jim Parish
>>> 
>>> ________________________________
>>> From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
>>> Sent: Friday, December 22, 2017 12:35:08 PM
>>> To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU
>>> Subject: Re: quote of the year candidate
>>> 
>>>> On Dec 22, 2017, at 1:08 PM, James A. Landau <JJJRLandau at NETSCAPE.COM> wrote:
>>>> 
>>>> Not a strong candidate, I'm afraid.  If anyone be interested, I will contact the person who sent the graphic to me and "try and" find its origin.
>>>> 
>>>> George Washington:  I cannot tell a lie.
>>>> Richard Nixon:  I cannot tell the truth.
>>>> Donald Trump:   I cannot tell the difference.
>>>> 
>>>> graphic is at https://www.facebook.com/groups/ATSCC/permalink/1392060604253183/
>>>> 
>>> 
>>> The original (as far as I know) is Mort Sahl’s line, from 1987 (same year Trump’s ghostwritten _Art of the Deal_ came out):
>>> 
>>> “Washington couldn’t tell a lie, Nixon couldn't tell the truth, and Reagan couldn’t tell the difference."
>>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>>> 
>>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
> 
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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


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