The quoted word speaks volumes

Published on June 2, 2014


"By necessity, by proclivity, and by delight, we all quote."

Quotation and Originality 1876 Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

American poet and essayist


Our daily lives are enriched with quotations. Some quotes become catchphrases; some capture the essence of an event, an experience, a feeling, preserving it in our memory bank. Quotes are so versatile that they can be used to comfort, entertain, motivate, inspire, summarize, to add authority to what we say; they often express a sentiment that we would find difficult to express.

Quotations are everywhere! They pop up in our daily conversations, media exposure, reading. Sometimes our family and friends delight in quoting things we have said. Politicians know all too well that past quotes can return to haunt them. In a 2010 interview on a French-language program, Justin Trudeau, the current leader of the Liberal Party, said Canada wasn’t doing well because "It’s Albertans who control our community and socio-democratic agenda."

You probably will not be surprised that the most quoted author is William Shakespeare and the most quoted book is the Bible. It appears that "to be or not to be" from Hamlet is the bard’s most popular quote and John 3:16 from the Bible is the most quoted passage.

Do you remember these quotes?

The Guinness Book of Film claims this is the most famous movie quote:

Dr. No (1962) James Bond: …Bond. James Bond!

Some of the gems from our television legacy include:

And that's the way it is. (Walter Cronkite, CBS Evening News)

Baby, you're the greatest. (Ralph Kramden, The Honeymooners)

Book ’em, Danno. (Steve McGarrett, Hawaii Five-O)

Come on down! (Johnny Olson, et al, The Price is Right)

De plane! De plane! (Tattoo, Fantasy Island)

Gee, Mrs. Cleaver... (Eddie Haskell, Leave it to Beaver)

Good grief. (Charlie Brown, Peanuts Specials)

Good night, John Boy. (The Waltons)


A list of the 25 most memorable quotes of the last 25 years by the editors of USA TODAY included the following:

"You've got mail!" America Online, 1989. The voice, which still greets users, is El Edwards, the husband of an AOL customer service representative.

"You can't handle the truth!" Actor Jack Nicholson as Col. Nathan Jessup in the 1992 film A Few Good Men.

"Just say no." Nancy Reagan's anti-drug campaign slogan, 1983.

What quotations do the famous treasure? In 1980, my senior high school English students wrote to well-known personalities at the local, provincial, national and international levels to see what quotations they cherished. Here are some of the results.

From authors:

Margaret Atwood: "Never retract, never explain, never apologize:

Get the thing done and let them howl" A speech by Nellie McClung

Robertson Davies: "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine:

But a broken spirit drieth the bones." Proverbs 17:22

Stephen King: "It is possible for a man to stand, cringe, or crawl. In your lifetime you will do some of each. When possible, I hope you will stand." Stephen King’s mom

Hugh MacLennan: "Human beings go clumsily cursing their troubles. They are so impatient of whatever is pressing them that they seek only to get rid of it, reckless of the price. God does not necessarily follow on the removal of a particular evil. Another evil may ensue, and a worse one." Montaigne

Farley Mowat: "Chase nature out the door … and she will fly through the window." The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky


From politicians:

Senator Edward Kennedy: "God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission… I shall do good. I shall do His work." Cardinal Newman

Premier Peter Lougheed: "Let them look to the past, but let them still more look to the future. Let them look to the land of their ancestors, but let them also look to the land of their children." Sir Wilfrid Laurier, September 1, 1905

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher:

"So when the world is asleep, and there seems to be no hope of waking,

Out of some long, bad dream that makes her mutter and moan,

Suddenly, all men arise to the noise of fetters breaking,

And everyone smiles at his neighbour and tells him his soul is his own." Rudyard Kipling


The student collection of quotations also included gems from our community. Some of those who shared their favourite quotations are no longer with us. The quotations are a reflection of whom and what they valued.

John Brother MacDonald: "We can’t all be good athletes but we can all be good sports. If you can’t take part in a sport, well be one anyway."

Mayor Walter Duggan: "Find out what you want to do, then do it! It is boredom that wears a man down, not the fatigue of sustained effort he enjoys." Bits & Pieces by F. Alexander Magoun

Johnny Miles: "Let’s never forget the Great Clock of life is wound but once;

No man or woman has ever been able to tell just when those hands will stop… So let’s live, love, toil at will, for tomorrow those hands might be still." George E. Dawson, Westville historian

Jack G. Lees: "A swift walker, if he happens to be walking with a child, gives him his hand and shortens his stride and does not go too fast for his small companion." Quintilian (35-95)

Let us give George Bernard Shaw the last word: "I often quote myself; it adds spice to my conversation."


George R. Henaut is a resident of New Glasgow; an author/playwright, a retired educator involved in local theatre and church/community groups.