Notable Quotables


New Quote August 30, 2020          Links


For a long time this page has stared off with this: "A person may be revealed not only by his or her own words, but also by the words of others that make an impression on him. This section presents some of my favorite quotes." --Dick Estel

And then I found a better opening quote for this page, in a New York Times article by Erin McKean: "We share a quotation because it reflects upon ourselves, and not because we necessarily want to amplify the voice of the original author."

[Her father] had said to her once, long ago, "When I die, remember that what you knew of me is with you always. What is buried is only the shell of what was. Do not regret the shell, but remember the man. Remember the father."

--Louis L’Amour in Last of the Breed, copyright 1986


"Success and the opportunity it affords rarely comes without personal sacrifice. This decision is only one of many you’ll be making throughout your long career. It’s a delicate balance - personal desires set against professional needs. Commitments to the heart; commitments to the mind, balanced on scales which only you can measure. Freedom can often be a heavy burden. With it goes the need for courage to stand by a decision which will alter and shape your entire life. The years have taught me that in weighing the consequences of such a decision - it will take a whole lifetime of retrospection to know if you charted the right course. Today at 80 I have the luxury of an eventful past to bolster my judgments. But yours is a lonely vantage point from which to survey the infinite possibilities of your future. For the counsel you are seeking, you can only look to yourself."

--Charles Kingsfield (John Houseman) in The Paper Chase TV show (of course, the actual author of these words is the unknown script writer, but Houseman made them real.)


"It is only people with a sense of personal responsibility who can help others. It is only people with a sense of personal responsibility who can be helped in a lasting way."

--Eric Sevareid


"There are always going to be reasons to do the wrong thing. And the smarter the person, the better the reasons. That doesn’t make it right."

--Marion Ross as Sophie Burger in Brooklyn Bridge (same disclaimer as the Kingsfield quote)


"We are all sprung from woman, although we are unlike in many things...We are just as we were made by the Great Spirit, and you cannot change us; then why should children of one mother and one father quarrel? Why should one try to cheat the other? I do not believe that the Great Spirit Chief gave one kind of men the right to tell another kind of men what they must do."

--Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce


"Cable and video disc are NOT novelties...the proliferation of cable will be amazing...the networks will remain financing organizations, but there will be enormous fragmentation in terms of viewing audiences. With fifty or more stations to choose from, a certain segment of the public will be able to tune into a certain horticulture show, and other very esoteric programming will be possible and profitable.

"We’re going to see an expanded popular use of videotape...I think that the videotape camera will soon compete commercially with the home Super-8 movie camera."

--Lorne Michaels, television producer, circa 1982


"In 1938 President Roosevelt assembled the brightest scientists in help him envisage the things he might have to adjust to in the future. ‘I want you to tell me what to expect,’ he said, and after three days of intense speculation these men, whose job it was to anticipate the future and who commanded more keys to that future than any other group, failed to predict atomic power, radar, rockets, jet aircraft, computers, xerography and penicillin, all of which were to burst upon the world within the next few years. They knew about the exploratory research, of course, but they could not believe it would produce functional products so soon."

--James Michener in the novel Space


In December, 1993, astronaut Story Musgrave walked in space to help repair the sadly malfunctioning Hubble Telescope. Television newsman Ted Koppel asked him whether the effort was worth all the trouble, expense and danger.

"We had no choice, sir," Musgrave replied. "It’s the nature of humans to be exploratory and push on. There is a risk. There is a penalty...but exploring and frontiering is the essence of what human beings are."


"I’d rather set my hair on fire and put it out with a ball peen hammer than be city manager of Fresno."

--Dan Fitzpatrick, former Chief Administrative Officer of Fresno County


"I will say this about being an optimist--even when things don’t turn out well, you are certain they will get better."

--Frank Hughes (quoted in Reader’s Digest)


"Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see."

--John W. Whitehead, The Stealing of America (Crossway Books), via Reader’s Digest


"To obtain maximum attention, it’s hard to beat a good, big mistake."

--David D. Hewitt


"I was born silly and had a relapse."

--Roger Miller, Singer and Writer of Songs


"I’m going to start water skiing soon as I can separate it from being dragged by a boat."

--Rita Rudner on David Letterman Show


"If it is true that God created man, by now he surely has laughed himself to death."

--Henry Morgan, Impudent Humorist


"[Pam Tillis has] a voice so powerful and incisive you could harvest wheat with it."

--Bob Millard (Country Music magazine)


"We used to laugh together, and dance to any old song;
You know, she still laughs with me, but she waits just a little too long."

--John Prine, "Far From Me"


"You must learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t possibly live long enough to make them all yourself."

--Sam Levinson, American Humorist


"The human story does not always unfold like a mathematical calculation on the principle that two and two make four. Sometimes in life they make five or minus three; sometimes the blackboard topples down...and leaves the class in disorder and the pedagogue with a black eye."

--Winston Churchill, famous English person


"If you can’t take people’s money and screw ‘em, then you don’t have any business being in (politics)."

--Willie Brown, Politician, Mayor, Assemblyman


A lifelong Democrat, Larry Flynt ran for president as a Republican in 1984 because "I was wealthy, white and pornographic, and, like Ronald Reagan, I’d been shot for what I believe in."


"I trust those who are seeking the truth; I don’t trust those who have found it."

--Andre Gide


"This page is printed on recycled electrons."

--from the REM home page by Jason Zimberoff


"‘The Ten Commandments’--a three hour blockbuster based on a list."

--Stephen Wright as Sid the editor on Mad About You; Phil Leeds as Irv the agent on Dave's World


"The risk of being a dry wit--there’s always someone waiting to throw cold water on your wisdom."

--Dick Estel


"The Philadelphia Flyers with their condor-like wing spread..."

--Barry Melrose


"The youth gets together his materials to build a bridge to the moon...and at length the middle-aged man concludes to build a woodshed with them."

--Henry David Thoreau


"Mick Jagger sang the bowdlerized version of ‘Let’s Spend the Night Together’ as ‘Let’s Spend Some Time Together’ on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show,’ but even Ed had to know that Mick Jagger could sing the instructions for assembling a tricycle and they’d sound lewd."

--Patt Morrison, "Rate That Tune: Taking Note of Any References to Sex, Violence, Drugs or Bigotry", in the Los Angeles Times


"Anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn’t the work he is supposed to be doing."

--Humorist Robert Benchley, quoted in The Algonquin Wits, 1968


"I had a Huck Finn childhood, a John Lennon adolescence, a Jack Nicholson adulthood, and now I’m looking forward to a Timothy Leary old age."

--Fender Tucker, editor of LOADSTAR magazine


"When it comes to mood-altering substances, you can’t beat hot fudge brownies and a glass of milk!"

--Ernest of the comic strip Frank and Ernest, by Thaves


Bakersfield fire chief (about 1964), explaining why they do not answer calls about cats stuck up in trees: "The cat will manage to get down. You don’t see many cat skeletons up in trees."


"There is a price we pay for having everything we ever wanted to know at our fingertips--and that price is that we have everything we ever wanted to know at our fingertips."

--Fender Tucker, Grand Exalted Mojo, LOADSTAR magazine


"If you're going to get old, you might as well get as old as you can get."

--Novelist-historian-teacher Wallace Stegner


"[in the doctor's waiting room] thinking about my crumbling innards,...perusing tattered issues of People, thinking, I am spending some of my precious last hours on earth learning more about Tammy Wynette."

--Garrison Keillor, "Wobegon Boy" (1997, Viking Press)


"These companies, such as Microsoft, Intel, Apple, and America Online, are in a peculiar relationship with each other. That comes out clearly in the testimony. They are at the same time each other's suppliers, customers, and competitors. One of these executives said that they all live in the same ecology, and they have to get along with each other. That is an interesting metaphor. The grass, the gazelle, and the lion all live in the same ecology. The gazelle eats the grass and the lion eats the gazelle. That is a way of getting along together. And, you can say that there will always be grass, gazelles, and lions. But individual gazelles may not be so happy with the balanced equilibrium of this ecosystem."

--Herbert Stein, reporting on the Microsoft Trial in Slate Magazine, 11/10/98


"It's too bad he lives in the city--he's depriving some village of an idiot."

--Mike Milsbury, Head Coach of the New York Islanders, referring to the agent for holdout player Ziggy Palfy


"I can't think of a more potent combination than God and a good lawyer."

--Abigail Van Buren


"I love having ten times as much stuff to do as I can possibly find time to do. That way, I can pick the one-tenth that I want to do most. But if I only have enough to just occupy all my time, I’m stuck doing all of whatever stuff it happens to be."

--Marilyn Vos Savant


"Scientists believe that the universe is made of hydrogen because they claim it's the most plentiful ingredient. I claim that the most plentiful ingredient is stupidity."

--Frank Zappa


"Picking the best vegan soy burger is like picking the best way to get your arm mangled in a corn thresher."

--Eliza Truitt in Slate (on-line magazine)

"There is no escalator to success - only steps."

--Glen Sather, National Hockey League coach and general manager

"A handy breakfast tip: Always check your Grape Nuts for squirrels." 


In response to a question about a friend who acts a little nutty: "There are always going to be people who do whatever their Rice Krispies tell them to do."

--Dear Prudence in Slate Magazine

"Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will buy a funny hat."

--Dogbert, in Scott Adams' "Dilbert" comic strip


"America - love it or give it back."

--Bumper sticker on vehicle identified as "Indian Van"


"The public arts are created for a mass audience and for a profit; that is their essential nature. But they can at times achieve truth and beauty, and given freedom they will achieve it more and more often."

--Roy Huggins, creator of Maverick, The Fugitive, Rockford Files and other successful TV shows


"Today is the first day of the rest of your life, but so was yesterday, and look how you  messed that up!"

--Thaves, Frank & Ernest cartoon

"Cell phones have gotten so small, you can't tell who's a cell phone user and who's a schizophrenic."

--Bob Newhart

"The secret of managing is to keep the guys who hate you away from the guys who are undecided."

--Casey Stengel

"There are those who believe and either ignore, reject or distort any finding that disfavors the beliefs. Others use evidence and fact to build belief, subject to change in the face of contrary evidence. The latter is the defining hallmark of science."

--Richard Haas, retired biology professor

"Cats are Indians; dogs are cowboys."

--Kinky Friedman

"People who are religious must make clear that religion does not have a monopoly on morality."

--Jim Wallis (author of God's Politics)

"Townes Van Zandt is the best songwriter in the world and I'll stand on Bob Dylan's coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that."

--Steve Earle

"I've met Bob Dylan's bodyguards, and if Steve thinks he can stand on Bob Dylan's coffee table, he's sadly mistaken."

--Townes Van Zandt

"This is by the greatest songwriter in the world."

--Bob Dylan, introducing Townes' Poncho & Lefty

"It was my favorite thing forever. When I was born I didn't have it, but right after that I did. At first, I didn't know how to ride it. My feet didn't touch the pedals or the ground. But now I've been riding it for my whole life all over the world."

--Atticus Boone, 4-year-old whose tricycle was inadvertently sold during a trip to a thrift store (PS: The buyer read about the boy's plea in the paper and returned the bike.)


“Feeling unrelenting anger or hatred is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies.”

--Mary Doub


(Q&A to/from Marilyn vos Savant in Parade magazine):

Q. Why do our high school experiences occupy such a prominent place in our memories?

A. During high school, we develop the most vigorous adult bodies we will ever have. At the same time, we possess the least amount of sense we will ever have. This combination produces many memorable moments!

"Most rattlesnake bites in the United States are caused by young, drunken men handling snakes."

--Dan Vierria in an article on rattlesnakes in The Sacramento Bee


"I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.”

--Susan B Anthony

"When you're single, you're exactly as happy as you are. When you're married, you can only be as happy as the least happy person in the relationship."

--Opening of TV series Rules of Engagement


"Winning isn't everything - but wanting to win is."

--Vince Lombardi

"I haven't the slightest idea how to change people, but I keep a long list of prospective candidates just in case I should ever figure it out."

--David Sedaris

"I had to take a sick day, I'm so sick of these people."

--Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Elaine on Seinfeld, talking about her co-workers

"The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish."

--Albert Einstein  

Ninety percent of the politicians give the other ten percent a bad name.

-- Henry Kissinger

"PRACTICAL HOMEMAKER TIP -- Keep an open box of baking soda in your refrigerator. That way, when people come to visit, you can say: 'Would you care for some cold baking soda?' Then they will leave."

--Dave Barry

"Unaccompanied children will be given an espresso and a free puppy."

--Sign on an antique store in Clovis, CA

"All publicity is good, except an obituary notice."

-- Brendan Behan, Irish playwright

"The best number is seventy-three! You’re probably wondering why. 73 is the 21st prime number. Its mirror 37 is the 12th and its mirror 21 is the product of multiplying, hold on to your hats, 7 and 3. In binary, 73 is a palindrome, 1, 0, 0 1, 0, 0, 1 which backwards is 1, 0, 0 1, 0, 0, 1

--Jim Parsons as Sheldon Cooper in The Big Bang Theory

"If this is it, if this is the only life there is, I may as well enjoy it. And if it's not...then I may as well enjoy it as well."

--Anthony Hopkins

"I've never really understood the expression 'It's important to live each day as if it were your last.' What—drunk, six cigarettes in my mouth, sobbing down the phone at all the relatives I haven't called in years?"

--Tom Shone

“I would rather be ashes than dust. I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.”

--Jack London

"The practice of putting women on pedestals began to die out when it was discovered that they could give orders better from there."

--Betty Grable

"The face of a child can say it all - especially the mouth part of the face."

--Jack Handey

"When you are dead, you don't know that you are dead. It is difficult only for the others. It is the same when you are stupid."


"The whole problem with the world is that the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.”

--Bertrand Russell

“Always carry a flagon of whiskey in case of snakebite and furthermore, always carry a small snake.”

--W. C. Fields

"In the end we all preach our own funeral by what we do and say."

--John Curtis Goad

"Our glorious diversity - our diversities of faiths, and colors, and creeds - that is not a threat to who we are; it makes us who we are."

--Michelle Obama

"A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn no other way."

--Mark Twain 

“You can think of death bitterly or with resignation, as a tragic interruption of your life, and take every possible measure to postpone it. Or, more realistically, you can think of life as an interruption of an eternity of personal nonexistence, and seize it as a brief opportunity to observe and interact with the living, ever-surprising world around us.”

--Barbara Ehrenreich 

"Having a two year old around the house is like running a blender with no lid on it."

--Blake Williams

"Smores - A marshmallow sandwich that combines two things children LOVE: Fire and being sticky.

--Georgia Dunn, Breaking Cat News comic strip

Got a favorite quote of your own? Send it in and we’ll add it to this section.

Click here for a searchable data base with thousands of quotes.




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Updated August 30, 2020