[Ads-l] Quote: When you have to fool the world, tell the truth. Otto von Bismarck

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Tue Jun 25 05:12:11 UTC 2019

I was asked to explore the saying in the subject line which has a few
close variants.

1)   When you have to fool the world, tell the truth.
2)   To fool the world tell the truth.
3)   The way to fool the people is to tell the truth.
4)   When you want to fool the world, tell the truth.

The Quote Investigator article is here.

The earliest match I found appeared in 1885 within an article about a
confusing financial move executed by a partner of powerful speculator
Jay Gould:

[ref] 1885 February 16, Democrat and Chronicle, Mystifying Wall
Street: Selling Out Western Union, Quote Page 1, Column 3, Rochester,
New York. (Newspapers_com) [/ref]

[Begin excerpt]
Others held that Gould was simply acting on Bismarck's principle:
"When you have to fool the world, tell the truth."
[End excerpt]

In 1885 Bismarck was still a powerful figure in European politics; he
lived until 1898. I haven't found a contemporary German version of
this quotation ascribed to the statesman. The newspaper referred to
the adage as "Bismarck's principle"; hence, it remains possible that
he never said it; instead, observers synthesized the statement to
describe the behavior of Bismarck.

By 1887 the saying was already listed in a reference titled "Proverbs,
Maxims and Phrases of All Ages" compiled by Robert Christy:

[ref] 1887, Proverbs, Maxims and Phrases of All Ages: Classified
Subjectively and Arranged Alphabetically, Compiled by Robert Christy,
Volume Two of Two Volumes Combined, Topic: Truth, Quote Page 389, G.
P. Putnam's Sons, New York. (Internet Archive at archive.org) link

[Begin excerpt]
130. When you have to fool the world, tell the truth. Bismarck.
[End excerpt]

Help would be appreciated
Garson O'Toole

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

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