[Ads-l] Update about the saying: History does not repeat itself, but it rhymes

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Wed Mar 16 14:18:58 UTC 2022

The saying in the subject line is often attributed to Mark Twain. It
has been discussed on this mailing list in the past.

Many researchers have explored its provenance including Barry Popik,
Charlie Doyle, Wolfgang Mieder, and Fred Shapiro. The saying is listed
in “The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs” and “The New Yale Book of

In the past, the earliest known citation appeared in 1970.

Yesterday, I was contacted via twitter by historian Yoni Appelbaum, an
editor at The Atlantic. He told me that psychoanalyst Theodor Reik
employed a slightly longer version of the saying in 1965. Here is the

[ref] 1965, Curiosities of the Self: Illusions We Have about Ourselves
by Theodor Reik, Essay 3: The Unreachables: The Repetition Compulsion
in Jewish History, Quote Page 133, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York.
(Verified with scans) [/ref]

[Begin excerpt]
There are recurring cycles, ups and downs, but the course of events is
essentially the same, with small variations. It has been said that
history repeats itself. This is perhaps not quite correct; it merely
[End excerpt]

The Quote Investigator article on this topic has now been updated, but
it may take 48 hours for the changes to become visible.


Garson O'Toole

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

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