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Quotes of the day: Stephen Leacock

Published Monday, December 29, 2014 @ 7:50 PM EST
Dec 29 2014

Stephen P. H Butler Leacock, FRSC (December 30, 1869 – March 28, 1944) was a Canadian teacher, political scientist, writer, and humorist. Between the years 1910 and 1925, he was the most widely read English-speaking author in the world. He was known for his light humor and criticisms of human follies. (Click here for full Wikipedia article)


A friend is a man who has the same enemies you have.

A sportsman is a man who, every now and then, simply has to go out and kill something.

Advertising may be described as the science of arresting the human intelligence long enough to get money from it.

Anybody can start a movement by beginning with himself.

Anybody who has listened to certain kinds of music, or read certain kinds of poetry, or heard certain kinds of performances on the concertina, will admit that even suicide has its brighter aspects.

By conscientious smoking and drinking they had kept themselves from the horror of thinking.

Death, you know, to the clergy, is a different thing from what it is to us.

Each of us in life is a prisoner. The past offers us, as it were a door of escape. We are set and bound in our confined lot. Outside, somewhere, is eternity; outside, somewhere, is infinity. We seek to reach into it and the pictured past seems to afford to us an outlet of escape.

Eternal punishment should be reserved for the mortgagees and bondholders.

Golf may be played on Sunday, not being a game within the view of the law, but being a form of moral effort.

Good jests ought to bite like lambs, not dogs: they should cut, not wound.

He had grasped as but few men have done the great truth that nothing really matters very much.

Higher education in America flourished chiefly as a qualification for entrance into a moneymaking profession, and not as a thing in itself.

Humor in a world of waning beliefs remains like Hope still left at the bottom of Pandora's box when all the evils of the Gods flew out from it upon the world.

Humor may be defined as the kindly contemplation of the incongruities of life, and the artistic expression thereof.

I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.

I detest life-insurance agents: they always argue that I shall some day die, which is not so.

I have always found that the only kind of statement worth making is an overstatement. A half truth, like half a brick, is always more forcible as an argument than a whole one. It carries better.

I would sooner have written 'Alice in Wonderland' than the whole Encyclopaedia Britannica.

If I were founding a university I would begin with a smoking room; next a dormitory; and then a decent reading room and a library. After that, if I still had more money that I couldn't use, I would hire a professor and get some text books.

In art one must judge a man by his best, never by his worst; by his highest reach, not by his lowest fall.

In earlier times they had no statistics and so they had to fall back on lies. Hence the huge exaggerations of primitive literature, giants, miracles, wonders! It's the size that counts. They did it with lies and we do it with statistics: but it's all the same.

It is the times that have changed, not the man. He is there still, just as greedy and rapacious as ever, but no greedier: and we have just the same social need of his greed as a motive power in industry as we ever had, and indeed a worse need than before.

It is the wishes and likings of the mass which largely dictate what the rest of us shall see and hear.

It is to be observed that 'angling' is the name given to fishing by people who can't fish.

It may be those who do most, dream most.

Laughter is the last refuge of sorrow.

Life, we learn too late, is in the living, the tissue of every day and hour.

Many a man in love with a dimple makes the mistake of marrying the whole girl.

Men are able to trust one another, knowing the exact degree of dishonesty they are entitled to expect.

One-sided love lasts best.

People who have never married have not really lived. People who have married and had no children have only half-lived. People who have one child only are a long way from the crown of human life.

Scholars who love minutiae deny everything.

Silence, if deliberate, is artificial and irritating; but silence that is unconscious gives human companionship without human boredom.

The chief immediate direction of social effort should be towards the attempt to give to every human being in childhood adequate food, clothing, education, and an opportunity in life. This will prove to be the beginning of many things.

The landlady of a boarding-house is a parallelogram- that is, an oblong figure, which cannot be described, but which is equal to anything.

The Lord said 'Let there be wheat' and Saskatchewan was born.

The minute a man is convinced that he is interesting, he isn't.

The obligation to die must carry with it the right to live. If every citizen owes it to society that he must fight for it in case of need, then society owes to every citizen the opportunity of a livelihood. 'Unemployment,' in the case of the willing and able becomes henceforth a social crime. Every democratic Government must henceforth take as the starting point of its industrial policy, that there shall be no such thing as able bodied men and women 'out of work,' looking for occupation and unable to find it.

The real thing for the student is the life and environment that surrounds him. All that he really learns he learns, in a sense, by the active operation of his own intellect and not as the passive recipient of lectures.

The world's humor, in its best and greatest sense, is perhaps the highest product of our civilization.

There are two things in ordinary conversation which ordinary people dislike- information and wit.

There is no man living who can overcome the ingrained prejudice of social disadvantages.

To few it has been given to see things as they are, to know that no opinion is altogether right, no purpose altogether laudable, and no calamity altogether deplorable.

Try to buy happiness, by the quart or by the yard, and you never find it. Motion it away from you while you turn to Duty and you will find it waiting beside your chair.

We're so much alike that we can't discuss. We can only fight.

When we in touch with heathens come
We send them first a case of rum
Next, to rebuke their native sin
We send a missionary in.

With perfect citizens any Government is good.

With the thermometer at 30 below zero and the wind behind him, a man walking on Main Street in Winnipeg knows which side of him is which.

Work must either be found or must be provided by the State itself. It grows upon what it feeds on. Each time a worker is thrown out of employment, there is a loss of purchasing power; with each loss of purchasing power, another man is thrown out of work. There is no end, no stop.

You can never have international peace as long as you have national poverty.

You know, many a man realizes late in life that if when he was a boy he had known what he knows now, instead of being what he is he might be what he won't; but how few boys stop to think that if they knew what they don't know instead of being what they will be, they wouldn't be?


(December 30 is also the birthday of Rudyard Kipling )

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