[Ads-l] Quote: Truth is the first casualty in war

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Sun Apr 12 05:09:12 UTC 2020

The adage in the subject line was discussed on this mailing list
within a thread initiated by Jonathan Lighter back in March 2011.


After a brief interval of nine years the QI website now has an article
on this topic:


[Begin excerpt]
Great thanks to Christopher Field, Mark Schulman, Peter Gainsford,
Peter Olausson (faktoids), and DarksideJohnny whose inquiries led QI
to formulate this question and perform this exploration.

Special thanks to researchers Barry Popik, Jonathan Lighter, Charles
Clay Doyle, Wolfgang Mieder, Fred R. Shapiro, Stephen Goranson, and
Nigel Rees and others who have explored this topic.
[End excerpt]

The earliest close match, I believe, was located by Barry Popik back
in January 2011. It is listed on his website and also within "The
Dictionary of Modern Proverbs" (2012) of Charles Clay Doyle, Wolfgang
Mieder, and Fred R. Shapiro.

The QI article contains some new information.

(1) U.S. Senator Hiram Johnson has often received credit for the adage
based on a speech he supposedly delivered in 1917 or 1918.
Unfortunately, a precise citation for this elusive oration has never
been located.

Now, the QI article reveals that Johnson did employ the line, but he
was speaking in 1929 about Kellogg–Briand Anti-War Pact. "The
Baltimore Sun" on January 16, 1929 reported that Johnson said, "The
first casualty when war comes is truth". The 1948 reference "The
Macmillan Book Of Proverbs" shifted the date of the Johnson
attribution to 1918 for unclear reasons.

(2) Aeschylus often receives credit although the attribution is
currently unsupported.

The QI article presents evidence regarding the earliest
misattribution; historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.'s  biographical
work "A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House" states that
JFK credited Aeschylus with "In war, truth is the first casualty" in a
loose-leaf notebook that he kept for recording bon mots circa 1945-46.

The QI article also presents a hypothetical mechanism for the
Aeschylus misattribution. See the 1950 citation.


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

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