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It's no wonder English is such a difficult language to learn. Why should "I don't have a clue" mean "I don't know," but "You haven't a clue" mean "You're a fool"?

The Economist

Lexicographer (n): A pestilent fellow who, under the pretense of recording some particular stage in the development of a language, does what he can to arrest its growth, stifle its flexibility and mechanize its methods. For your lexicographer, having written his dictionary, comes to be considered "as one having authority," whereas his function is only to make a record, not to give a law. The natural servility of the human understanding having invested him with judicial power, surrenders its right of reason and submits itself to a chronicle as if it were a statute. Let the dictionary (for example) mark a good word as "obsolete" or "obsolescent" and few men thereafter venture to use it, whatever their need of it and however desirable its restoration to favour whereby the process of impoverishment is accelerated and speech decays. On the contrary, the bold and discerning writer who, recognizing the truth that language must grow by innovation if it grow at all, makes new words and uses the old in an unfamiliar sense, has no following and is tartly reminded that "it isn't in the dictionary" although down to the time of the first lexicographer (Heaven forgive him!) no author ever had used a word that was in the dictionary. In the golden prime and high noon of English speech; when from the lips of the great Elizabethans fell words that made their own meaning and carried it in their very sound; when a Shakespeare and a Bacon were possible, and the language now rapidly perishing at one end and slowly renewed at the other was in vigorous growth and hardy preservation sweeter than honey and stronger than a lion the lexicographer was a person unknown, the dictionary a creation which his Creator had not created him to create.

Ambrose Bierce

Our vocabulary is defective: we give the same name to woman's lack of temptation and man's lack of opportunity.

Ambrose Bierce

Language (n): The music with which we charm the serpents guarding another's treasure.

Ambrose Bierce

Slang is the speech of him who robs the literary garbage cans on their way to the dump.

Ambrose Bierce

First they came for the verbs, and I said nothing because verbing weirds language. Then they arrival for the nouns and I speech nothing because I no verbs.

Peter Ellis

Perhaps most accurate metaphor for this war occurs whenever the news runs a feed from an Arabic language station. Our crawl runs in one direction; theirs runs in the other. You almost expect the crawls to twine like DNA and start fighting — and in that case, the English language would lose. Arabic is so spiky. However lovely the poetic sentiments might be, it still looks like knives and swords to me.

James Lileks

The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.

James D. Nicoll

Modern American is to language what diesels are to railroads. Efficient and powerful, but lacking in grace or human spirit.

Tim O'Connor

Translation is like a mistress: beautiful and unfaithful, or faithful and ugly.

Russian Proverb

Mend your speech a little, lest it mar your fortunes

William Shakespeare

There is no such thing as "the Queen's English". The property has become a joint stock company and we own the bulk of the shares.

Mark Twain

A knowledge of Sanskrit is of little use to a man trapped in a sewer.

Tom Weller

[T]he Dutch language is a conspiracy to sell throat tablets.

Walter Zaagman

He who laughs last probably didn't get the joke.


He who laughs, lasts.


Smile — it makes people wonder what you're thinking.


Keep laughing at death, and eventually at least you may die laughing.


He laughs best who laughs least.

Ambrose Bierce

It is not only [the juror's] right, but his duty . . . to find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgment, and conscience, though in direct opposition to the direction of the court.

John Adams

Majority: That quality that distinguishes a crime from a law.


Where the law is not supreme there is no constitution.


Every dollar spent to punish a drug user or seller is a dollar that cannot be spent collecting restitution from a robber. Every hour spent investigating a drug user or seller is an hour that could have been used to find a missing child. Every trial held to prosecute a drug user or seller is court time that could be used to prosecute a rapist in a case that might otherwise have been plea bargained.

Randy E. Barnett

[This bill] recently emerged from the legislative process very much the way a steaming wad of processed vegetation emerges from the digestive tract of a cow.

Dave Barry

Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.

Frederic Bastiat

No society can exist unless the laws are respected to a certain degree. The safest way to make laws respected is to make them respectable. When law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law.

Frederic Bastiat

What, then is law? It is the collective organization of the individual right to lawful defence.

Frederic Bastiat

Miscreant (n): A person of the highest degree of unworth. Etymologically, the word means unbeliever, and its present signification may be regarded as theology's noblest contribution to the development of our language.

Ambrose Bierce

Justice (n): A commodity which in a more or less adulterated condition the State sells to the citizen as a reward for his allegiance, taxes and personal service.

Ambrose Bierce

Litigation (n): A machine which you go into as a pig and come out of as a sausage.

Ambrose Bierce

Hangman (n): An officer of the law charged with duties of the highest dignity and utmost gravity, and held in hereditary disesteem by a populace having a criminal ancestry. In some of the American States his functions are now performed by an electrician, as in New Jersey, where executions by electricity have recently been ordered the first instance known to this lexicographer of anybody questioning the expediency of hanging Jerseymen.

Ambrose Bierce

Habeus Corpus (n): A writ by which a man may be taken out of jail when confined for the wrong crime.

Ambrose Bierce

Forma Pauperis (Lat): In the character of a poor person a method by which a litigant without money for lawyers is considerately permitted to lose his case.

Ambrose Bierce

Court Fool (n): The plaintiff.

Ambrose Bierce

Capital Punishment (n): A penalty regarding the justice and expediency of which many worthy persons including all the assassins entertain grave misgivings.

Ambrose Bierce

Appeal (vt): In law, to put the dice into the box for another throw.

Ambrose Bierce

Litigant (n): A person about to give up his skin for the hope of retaining his bones.

Ambrose Bierce

Oath (n): In law, a solemn appeal to the Deity, made binding upon the conscience by a penalty for perjury.

Ambrose Bierce

Lawful (adj): Compatible with the will of a judge having jurisdiction.

Ambrose Bierce

Misdemeanor (n): An infraction of the law having less dignity than a felony and constituting no claim to admittance into the best criminal society.

Ambrose Bierce

Inadmissible (adj): Not competent to be considered. Said of certain kinds of testimony which juries are supposed to be unfit to be entrusted with, and which judges, therefore, rule out, even of proceedings before themselves alone. Hearsay evidence is inadmissible because the person quoted was unsworn and is not before the court for examination; yet most momentous actions, military, political, commercial and of every other kind, are daily undertaken on hearsay evidence. There is no religion in the world that has any other basis than hearsay evidence. Revelation is hearsay evidence; that the Scriptures are the word of God we have only the testimony of men long dead whose identity is not clearly established and who are not known to have been sworn in any sense. Under the rules of evidence as they now exist in this country, no single assertion in the Bible has in its support any evidence admissible in a court of law. It cannot be proved that the battle of Blenheim ever was fought, that there was such a person as Julius Caesar, such an empire as Assyria.But as records of courts of justice are admissible, it can easily be proved that powerful and malevolent magicians once existed and were a scourge to mankind. The evidence (including confession) upon which certain women were convicted of witchcraft and executed was without a flaw; it is still unimpeachable. The judges' decisions based on it were sound in logic and in law. Nothing in any existing court was ever more thoroughly proved than the charges of witchcraft and sorcery for which so many suffered death. If there were no witches, human testimony and human reason are alike destitute of value.

Ambrose Bierce

Retaliation (n): The natural rock upon which is reared the Temple of Law.

Ambrose Bierce

Proof (n): Evidence having a shade more of plausibility than of unlikelihood. The testimony of two credible witnesses as opposed to that of only one.

Ambrose Bierce

Precedent (n): In Law, a previous decision, rule or practice which, in the absence of a definite statute, has whatever force and authority a Judge may choose to give it, thereby greatly simplifying his task of doing as he pleases. As there are precedents for everything, he has only to ignore those that make against his interest and accentuate those in line of his desire.

Ambrose Bierce

Amnesty (n): The state's magnanimity to those offenders whom it would be too expensive to punish.

Ambrose Bierce

We should measure progress not by how many laws can be passed but by how little governing people need.

Jeff Chan

The jury has the right to determine both the law and the facts.

Samuel Chase

If you have ten thousand regulations, you destroy all respect for the law.

Winston S. Churchill

It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood.

Federalist Papers

The Law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich, as well as the poor, to sleep under the bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.

Anatole France

Jurors should acquit even against the judges' instruction . . . If exercising their judgment with discretion and honesty they have a clear conviction that the charge of the court is wrong.

Alexander Hamilton

I often wonder whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon laws and upon courts. These are false hopes; believe me, these are false hopes. Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it . . .

Learned Hand

The jury has the power to bring a verdict in the teeth of both the law and facts.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

The young man knows the rules; the old man knows the exceptions.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.

Thomas Jefferson

In any civilized society, it is every citizen's responsibility to obey just laws. But at the same time, it is every citizen's responsibility to disobey unjust laws.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

[T]o my simple and only semi-legally-trained mind, the law should reflect and represent, first and foremost, the general wishes and morality of the society that is governed (wishes to govern itself) by those laws. Not the machinations of the legal system. Sometimes, popular dissent and mass public lawbreaking are the only way for society to get the notion across to its lawmakers that they are servants of society and not vice versa.

John Kula

The penalty for laughing in a courtroom is six months in jail; if it were not for this penalty, the jury would never hear the evidence.

H.L. Mencken

No one ever heard of the truth being enforced by law. Whenever the secular arm is called in to sustain an idea, whether new or old, it is always a bad idea, and not infrequently it is downright idiotic.

H.L. Mencken

Courtroom: A place where Jesus Christ and Judas Iscariot would be equals, with the betting odds in favour of Judas.

H.L. Mencken

Jury: A group of twelve men who, having lied to the judge about their hearing, health, and business engagements, have failed to fool him.

H.L. Mencken

Laws are made for us; we are not made for the laws.

William Milonoff

We are creating the kind of society where the criminal is out of jail before his victim is out of hospital.

Richard J. Needham

There is one point worth making about (reparations lawsuits), which is this: everyone stood by while statutes of limitation were shredded and law was made up retroactively in order to nail other defendants, such as tobacco companies and some of the European companies facing World War II reparations claims. Having paid so little heed to the time-honored protections of the rule of law in those earlier cases, we now act as if we are surprised that reparations activists have drawn the obvious conclusion, which is that it's now up for grabs in American courts whether other categories of behavior, even farther in the past but equally lawful in their day, will be redefined retroactively as legally wrongful.

Walter Olson


[Ferris:] . . . "We've waited a long time to get something on you. You honest men are such a problem and such a headache. But we knew you'd slip sooner or later--and this is just what we wanted."

[Rearden:] "You seem to be pleased about it."

"Don't I have good reason to be?"

"But, after all, I did break one of your laws."

"Well, what do you think they're for?"

Dr. Ferris did not notice the sudden look on Rearden's face, the look of a man hit by the first vision of that which he had sought to see. Dr. Ferris was past the stage of seeing; he was intent upon delivering the last blows to an animal caught in a trap.

"Did you really think that we want those laws to be observed?" said Dr. Ferris. "We want them broken. You'd better get it straight that it's not a bunch of boy scouts you're up against--then you'll know that this is not the age for beautiful gestures. We're after power and we mean it. You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick, and you'd better get wise to it. There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted--and you create a nation of law-breakers--and then you cash in on guilt. Now that's the system, Mr. Rearden, that's the game, and once you understand it, you'll be much easier to deal with."

Ayn Rand

Law, in a democracy, means the protection of the rights and liberties of the minority.

Alfred E. Smith

All laws which can be violated without doing anyone any injury are laughed at.


It is not only the right and duty of juries to judge what are the facts, what is the law, and what is the moral intent of the accused; but it is also their right and their primary and paramount duty, to judge of the justice of the law, and to hold all laws invalid, that are in their opinion, unjust or oppressive, and all persons guiltless in violating, or resisting the execution of, such laws.

Lysander Spooner

The law itself is on trial quite as much as the cause which is to be decided.

Harlan F. Stone

Voir Dire (n): A French phrase which means "Jury tampering".

Vin Suprynowicz

Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through.

Jonathan Swift

Laws are sand, customs are rock. Laws can be evaded and punishment escaped, but an openly transgressed custom brings sure punishment.

Mark Twain

The reason there's a penalty for laughing in court is that otherwise the jury would never be able to hear the evidence.

Mark Twain

Laws are sand, customs are rock. Laws can be evaded and punishment escaped, but an openly transgressed custom brings sure punishment.

Mark Twain

Constitutional rights may not be infringed simply because the majority of the people choose that they be.

US Supreme Court

There can be no sanction or penalty imposed upon one because of his exercise of Constitutional rights.

US Supreme Court

The State cannot diminish rights of the people.

US Supreme Court

Where rights secured by the Constitution are involved, there can be no rule-making or legislation which would abrogate them.

US Supreme Court

All laws which are repugnant to the Constitution are null and void.

US Supreme Court

If written correctly, legalese is perfectly incomprehensible.


What the large print giveth, the small print taketh away.


"Lawyer" is just "liar" mispronounced.


It's no good threatening lawyers with legal action. Getting round the law is what they're paid for.

Sir Humphrey Appleby

Lawyer (n): One skilled in circumvention of the law.

Ambrose Bierce

L.L.D.: Letters indicating the degree Legumptionorum Doctor, one learned in laws, gifted with legal gumption. Some suspicion is cast upon this derivation by the fact that the title was formerly .d., and conferred only upon gentlemen distinguished for their wealth. At the date of this writing Columbia University is considering the expediency of making another degree for clergymen, in place of the old D.D. Damnator Diaboli. The new honour will be known as Sanctorum Custus, and written $$c.

Ambrose Bierce

When you have no basis for an argument, abuse the plaintiff.

Marcus Tullius Cicero

Lawsuits are too important a matter to be left in the hands of mere lawyers.

Georges Clemenceau

There are only two kinds of lawyers who are happy on the bench. First, the lazy fellows who enjoy hearing other lawyers battle, and are quite willing to let them do all the hard work, and second, the eager pushers with a frenzy to run things.

J. Harry Covington

A countryman between two lawyers is like a fish between two cats.

Benjamin Franklin

There is no better way of exercising the imagination than the study of law. No poet ever interpreted nature as freely as a lawyer interprets the truth.

Jean Giraudoux

At one point, I was fired from an internship with the public defender for writing things like, "My glorious mission is to make the world a safer place for fine citizens who enjoy hobbies like aggravated battery, raping the dead, and sexually gratifying themselves on Metrorail platforms." You think you've been reamed out by your boss? Wait until you publicly accuse his customers of raping the dead.

Steve H.

I haven't found out what got the people who excitable reporters are claiming were killed by [Hurricane] Isabel, but I have heard this much: one guy died while canoeing. Look, do I even have to complete the paragraph? CANOEING? God forgive me, but this is the kind of person that drowns in bowls of soup. Thanks to people like this — and lawyers like me — one day EVERYTHING will have a warning label. If civilization lasts long enough, I swear to you, eventually we will see things like packages of socks with labels reading "Not to be taken internally."

Steve H.

[T]he awful truth is that a lot of the time, a lawyer will have no idea whether he's avenging the innocent or holding them down so the guilty can screw them some more. So it's easy to get burned out.

Steve H.

She's a lawyer. Getting around the law is what she get's paid to do!

James Hacker

Every invasion of the plain rights of the citizen has a lawyer behind it. If all lawyers were hanged tomorrow, and their bones sold to a mah jong factory, we'd all be freer and safer, and our taxes would be reduced by almost a half.

H.L. Mencken

Lawyer: One who protects us against robbers by taking away the temptation.

H.L. Mencken

Judge: A law student who marks his own examination papers.

H.L. Mencken

During the mid-1980s dairy farmers decided there was too much cheap milk at the supermarket. So the government bought and slaughtered 1.6 million dairy cows. How come the government never does anything like this with lawyers?

P.J. O'Rourke

[N]ot all lawyers are bad, but 98% of them give the rest a bad name.

Ken Wiebe

Laziness (n): Unwarranted repose of manner in a person of low degree.

Ambrose Bierce

Idleness (n): A model farm where the devil experiments with seeds of new sins and promotes the growth of staple vices.

Ambrose Bierce

Whenever there is a hard job to be done I assign it to a lazy man; he is sure to find an easy way of doing it. [paraphrased]

Walter P. Chrysler

He does not seem to me to be a free man who does not sometimes do nothing.

Marcus Tullius Cicero

It takes a lot of thinking and hard work to avoid working.

Bill Cosby

Too many people itch for what they want without scratching for it.

Malcolm Forbes

Even if you are on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there.

Will Rogers

Do you know what the chain of command is? It's the chain I'll BEAT YOU WITH until you realize who's in command.


When you're being kicked from the rear, it means you're in front.


When trouble arises and things look bad, there is always one individual who perceives a solution and is willing to take command. Very often, that individual is crazy.

Dave Barry

Indecision (n): The chief element of success; "for whereas," said Sir Thomas Brewbold, "there is but one way to do nothing and divers ways to do something, whereof, to a surety, only one is the right way, it followeth that he who from indecision standeth still hath not so many chances of going astray as he who pusheth forwards" a most clear and satisfactory exposition of the matter.

Ambrose Bierce

Monarch (n): A person engaged in reigning. Formerly the monarch ruled, as the derivation of the word attests, and as many subjects had occasion to learn. In Russia and the Orient the monarch has still a considerable influence in public affairs and in the disposition of human heads, but in western Europe political administration is mostly entrusted to his ministers, he being somewhat preoccupied with reflections relating to the status of his own head.

Ambrose Bierce

Interregnum (n): The period during which a monarchical country is governed by a warm spot on the cushion of a throne. The experiment of letting the spot grow cold has commonly been attended by most unhappy results from the zeal of many worthy persons to make it warm again.

Ambrose Bierce

A leader is a dealer in hope.

Napoleon Bonaparte

A leader should give at least as much loyalty to his followers as he demands from them. This is not personal loyalty, but rather loyalty to the party, to its continuing strength, best interest and well-being. This must be shared by leaders and followers alike, if unity and harmony are to be enjoyed by both. While it is natural that a leader will gather about him a number of like-minded men and women, if their like-mindedness is chiefly that of loyalty to the leader, then the party system ceases to function and politics becomes a matter of subservience rather than service, and of personality rather than purpose.

Dalton Camp

A king is a animal that lives on human flesh.

Cato the Elder

I have never promised anything but blood, tears, toil, and sweat . . .

Winston S. Churchill

It is a great advantage to a President, and a major source of safety to the country, for him to know that he is not a great man.

Calvin Coolidge

Nothing great will ever be achieved without great men, and men are great only if they are determined to be so.

Charles de Gaulle

I must follow the people. Am I not their leader?

Benjamin Disraeli

A great man is one who can have power and not abuse it.

Henry L. Doherty

Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

When you succeed, give all the credit to others; when you fail, take all the blame yourself.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

You do not lead by hitting people over the head--that's assault, not leadership.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Nothing is more becoming a ruler than to despise no one, nor be insolent, but to preside over all impartially.


If you command wisely, you'll be obeyed cheerfully.

Thomas Fuller

No one ever managed men into battle.

Admiral Grace Hopper

The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and the will to carry on.

Walter Lippmann

The true measure of leadership is influence — nothing more, nothing less.

John Maxwell

A leader who keeps his ear to the ground allows his rear end to become a target.

Angie Papadakis

Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.

General George S. Patton

In the country of the blind, the one-eyed king can still goof up.

Lawrence J. Peter

If you knew with how little expenditure of sense the world is governed, you would wonder.

Pope Julius III


Arthur: I am your king!

Woman: Well I didn't vote for you!

Arthur: You don't vote for kings.

Woman: Well how'd you become king then?

[Angelic music plays...]

Arthur: The Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water, signifying by divine providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur. THAT is why I am your king!

Dennis interrupting: Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government! Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony! You can't expect to wield supreme executive power just because some watery tart threw a sword at you!

Monty Python

If human progress had been merely a matter of leadership, we should be in Utopia today.

Thomas B. Reed

It's a terrible thing to look over your shoulder when you are trying to lead--and find no one there.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

One of the most valuable qualities of a commander is a flair for putting himself in the right place at the vital time.

Field Marshal William Slim

What you cannot enforce, do not command.


Liberals, it has been said, are generous with other peoples' money, except when it comes to questions of national survival when they prefer to be generous with other people's freedom and security.

William F. Buckley

I can never really accept or argue for a moral equivalency between (which is to say, the equal contemptibility of) modern "liberals" and conservatives. I know that the conservatives say the same damnfool things about pornography and drugs that the "left" [. . .] is saying about the Whopper. Based on my very extensive experience of working and talking with conservatives, I believe the difference is that the conservatives are, basically, hypocrites: they at least have elaborate philosophical excuses for considering something like marijuana an exception to a general rule that human behaviour should be unfettered by the State. No self-proclaimed liberal believes in such a rule: they aren't even slightly embarrassed about resorting to coercion.

Colby Cosh

The only way to create wealth is to raise taxes.

Mario Cuomo

In the psychotherapeutic worldview to which all good liberals subscribe, there is no evil, only victimhood. The robber and the robbed, the murderer and the murdered, are alike the victims of circumstance, united by the events that overtook them. Future generations (I hope) will find it curious how, in the century of Stalin and Hitler, we have been so eager to deny man's capacity for evil.

Theodore Dalrymple

Greedy capitalists get money by trade. Good Liberals steal it.

David Friedman

Liberals have many tails and chase them all.

H.L. Mencken

A liberal is a man who's more shocked by alleged brutality on the part of police than by real brutality on the part of criminals.

Richard J. Needham

Fretting about overpopulation, is a perfect guilt-free — indeed, sanctimonious — way for "progressives" to be racists.

P.J. O'Rourke

Not being a liberal, I have very little grasp of things that I know nothing about.

P.J. O'Rourke

The most potent challenge to markets today, and to liberal ideals more generally, is not about fairness. It is about stability and control — not as choice in our lives as individuals, but as a policy for society as a whole. It is the argument that markets are disruptive and chaotic, that they make the future unpredictable, and that they serve too many diverse values rather than "one best way". The most important challenge to markets today is not the ideology of socialism, but the ideology of stasis, the notion that the good society is one of stability, predictability, and control.

Virginia Postrel

The second major source of modern liberalism is narcissism, the unhealthy preoccupation with oneself and one's feelings. We live in the Age of Narcissism. As a result of unprecedented affluence and luxury, preoccupation with one's psychological state, and a hedonistic culture, much of the West, America included, has become almost entirely feelings-directed.

That is one reason "feelings" and "compassion" are two of the most often used liberal terms. "Character" is no longer a liberal word because it implies self-restraint. "Good and evil" are not liberal words either as they imply a moral standard beyond one's feelings. In assessing what position to take on moral or social questions, the liberal asks him or herself, "How do I feel about it?" or "How do I show the most compassion?" not "What is right?" or "What is wrong?" For the liberal, right and wrong are dismissed as unknowable, and every person chooses his or her own morality.

Dennis Prager

A liberal is just a conservative who's been arrested. Or laid.

Andrew Ross

Liberals are often wrong, but never in doubt.

Thomas Sowell

[O]ne of the greatest menaces [is] people with intelligence deciding that the point is to become grimly grey and intense and unhappy, and tiresome because the world and many of its people are in a bad way.

James Thurber

Almost all modern liberal thought begins with the bedrock assumption that humans are basically good. Within this moral horizon something such as terrorism cannot really exist, except as a manifestation of injustice, or unfairness, or lack of decent social services.

Adam Wolfson

Liberal, shmiberal. That should be a new word. Shmiberal: one who is assumed liberal, just because he's a professional whiner in the newspaper. If you'll read the subtext for many of those old strips, you'll find the heart of an old-fashioned Libertarian. And I'd be a Libertarian, if they weren't all a bunch of tax-dodging professional whiners.

Berke Breathed

Being an elected Libertarian is like being a designated driver in a bar.

Michael Emerling

If God had been a libertarian, we'd have gotten the Ten Suggestions.

James P. Hogan

You're a libertarian when lane markers on the highway represent too much government interference in your life.

Don Martin

One danger of arguing for or against a position is that everyone thinks you are saying, "there ought to be a law." Take the issue of discrimination on the basis of sex or gender as an example. If you argue against it, people assume you want to prohibit discrimination. If you argue for the right to discriminate, they assume you want to return to Jim Crow laws and force women back to the kitchen.

Wendy McElroy

Politically speaking, we're compelled by circumstances to resign ourselves to the unpleasant fact that 1996 isn't going to be a very good year for the cause of individual liberty. Not with the Democratic Fascist Party being led by a terrorist mass-murderer and his crooked wife, Lady Macbeth, the Socialist Republican Party opting to run a retarded zombie for President, and the Drool-chinned Stumblebum Party (oops, make that 'we' Libertarians) giving a spastic nod and a belch to an electoral cross between Werner 'EST' Erhard and Immanuel Velikovsky.

L. Neil Smith

A libertarian is a person who believes that no one has the right, under any circumstances, to initiate force against another human being, or to advocate or delegate its initiation. Those who act consistently with this principle are libertarians, whether they realize it or not. Those who fail to act consistently with it are not libertarians, regardless of what they may claim.

L. Neil Smith

. . . shave my head and call me Jean-Luc . . . we're the wave of the future and we're going where no political party has gone before!

L. Neil Smith

You'll notice, incidentally, that I haven't used the word "liberal" to describe the left. "Conservative" has been carelessly appropriated by the media to mean no more than the side you're not meant to like. John Ashcroft is a hardline conservative, but so, according to the press, is the Taliban and half the Chinese politburo and the crankier Ayatollahs. So I think we conservatives ought to make an attempt to reclaim the word "liberal." We believe in liberty, and in liberating human potential. I don't know what you'd call a political culture that reduces voters to dependents, that tells religious institutions whom they can hire, that instructs printers on what printing jobs they're obliged to accept, that bans squeegee kids unless they're undercover policemen checking on whether you're wearing your seatbelt, etc., etc. But "liberal" no longer seems to cover it.

Mark Steyn

[Former Senator George] McGovern's brand of left-wing statism believes that everyone is a little bit stupid and needs government to control them for their own good. One may contrast this with the right-wing statists' position that everyone is a little bit evil and needs government to control them for their own good.

William Stone III

Liberty is not a means to a higher political end. It is itself the highest political end.

John, Lord Acton

Liberty is the condition which makes it easy for conscience to govern.

John, Lord Acton

They know how to think. From the Arabs I have learned one thing: if you are led by Authority, that means you are led by a halter.


Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can work in freedom.

Albert Einstein

What, Sir, is the use of a militia? It is to prevent the establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty . . . Whenever Governments mean to invade the rights and liberties of the people, they always attempt to destroy the militia, in order to raise an army upon their ruins.

Elbridge Gerry

The principles of a free constitution are irrevocably lost, when the legislative power is nominated by the executive.

Edward Gibbon

Indeed, the mere fact that so many Americans — on the left and the right — are so susceptible to paranoia about a tyrannical monster lurking behind every tree is the best evidence it is not in our nature to easily condone tyrants, let alone totalitarians.

Jonah Goldberg

[B]ut if circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people while there is a large body of citizens, little if at all inferior to them in discipline and the use of arms, who stand ready to defend their own rights and those of their fellow citizens.

Alexander Hamilton

I am opposed to all attempts to license or restrict the arming of individuals . . . I consider such laws a violation of civil liberty, subversive of democratic political institutions, and self-defeating in their purpose.

Robert A. Heinlein

Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined.

Patrick Henry

Liberty of thought is a mockery if liberty of speech and action is denied.

Rev. Sidney Holmes

It is seldom that liberty is lost all at once.

David Hume

And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms . . . The tree of liberty must be refreshed, from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants.

Thomas Jefferson

What has destroyed liberty and the rights of man in every government which has ever existed under the sun? The generalizing and concentrating all cares and powers into one body, no matter whether of the autocrats of Russia or France, or of the aristocrats of a Venetian Senate.

Thomas Jefferson

I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.

Thomas Jefferson

[T]he idea is quite unfounded that on entering into society we give up any natural right.

Thomas Jefferson

Of liberty then I would say that in the whole plenitude of its extent, it is unobstructed action according to our will, but rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others.

Thomas Jefferson

It is the pernicious hand of government alone which can reduce a whole people to despair.


Every man has a property in his own person. This nobody has any right to but himself. The labor of his body and the work of his hands are properly his.

John Locke

It is dangerous to free people who prefer to be slaves.

Niccolo Machiavelli

Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an element without which it instantly expires. But it could not be a less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency.

James Madison

He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.

Thomas Paine

To avoid domestic tyranny, the people must be armed to stand upon [their] own Defence; which if [they] are enabled to do, [they] shall never be put upon it, but [their] swords may grow rusty in [their] hands; for that Nation is surest to live in Peace, that is most capable of making War; and a Man that hath a Sword by his side, shall have least occasion to make use of it.

John Trenchard

God grants liberty only to those who live it, and are always ready to guard and defend it.

Daniel Webster

Liberty is the only thing you cannot have unless you are willing to give it to others.

William Allen White

Disraeli was pretty close: actually, there are Lies, Damn lies, Statistics, Benchmarks, and Delivery dates.


Flattery is the sincerest form of lying.


Some people lie not because it is in their interest but because it is in their nature.

Sir Humphrey Appleby

Fib (n): A lie that has not cut its teeth. An habitual liar's nearest approach to the truth: the perigee of his eccentric orbit.

Ambrose Bierce

Prevaricator (n): A liar in the caterpillar state.

Ambrose Bierce

Recollect (v): To recall with additions something not previously known.

Ambrose Bierce

Untruths: Terminological inexactitudes.

Winston S. Churchill

I had learned that those who are lying or trying to cover up something generally make a common mistake — they tend to overact, to overstate their case.

Richard Milhous Nixon

A continual circulation of lies among those who are not much in the way of hearing them contradicted, will in time pass for truth; and the crime lies not in the believer but the inventor.

Thomas Paine

Little-White-Lie Theory: The danger in telling little white lies, which wouldn't cause too many problems of and by themselves, is that they tend to lead to big black lies, which cause a lot of problems. Morally and pragmatically, a lie is a lie!

Robert J. Ringer

Lie: A fault in a boy, an art in a lover, an accomplishment in a bachelor, and second nature in a married woman.

Helen Rowland

The truth shall set us free, said Jesus. But it is lies that unite us.

Thomas Szasz

The principal difference between a cat and a lie is that a cat has only nine lives.

Mark Twain

Life is so non-linear.


Family Planning: The art of spacing your children the proper distance apart to keep you on the edge of financial disaster.


Adolescence is when children start bringing up their parents.


Almost everything in life is easier to get into than out of.


Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.


Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you.


It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.


It's not a matter of life and death — it's much more important than that.


Most people don't care what happens so long as it doesn't happen to them.


Suicide is confession and confession is suicide.


One seventh of our lives is spent on Mondays.


Life, n.: A whim of several billion cells to be you for a while.


Two can live as cheaply as one . . . for half as long.


The world is full of surprises, very few of which are pleasant.


That which we resist the most is what we become.


To overlook the little things in life is to miss the biggest part of life itself.


If I had my life to live again, I'd make the same mistakes, only sooner.

Tallulah Bankhead

Life (n): A spiritual pickle preserving the body from decay. We live in daily apprehension of its loss; yet when lost it is not missed.

Ambrose Bierce

Life is to be enjoyed and if it is not, it makes people ill in one way or another.

Louise Bogan

But pain . . . seems to me an insufficient reason not to embrace life. Being dead is quite painless. Pain, like time, is going to come on regardless. Question is, what glorious moments can you win from life in addition to the pain?

Lois McMaster Bujold

Experience suggests it doesn't matter so much how you got here, as what you do after you arrive.

Lois McMaster Bujold

This is life. People stumble and grope blindly hither and thither, wondering if they did the right thing, occasionally knocking something over and hoping no-one noticed, striving for illusory goals, addled with guilt and insecurity.

John Derbyshire

Most people are quiet in the world, and live in it tentatively, as if it were not their own.

E.L. Doctorow

Now's the time to be alive to see it all happen, to be a part of it. That makes the blood race, and each breath is an adventure.

David Eddings

There are only two ways to live your life. One as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.

Albert Einstein

If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing.

Benjamin Franklin

In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on.

Robert Frost

I don't think God put me here on this planet to be judgmental. I think God put me here on this planet to collect specimens to take back to my home planet.

Jack Handey

God will not look you over for medals, degrees, or diplomas, but for scars.

Elbert Hubbard

Most of us spend our lives as if we had another one in the bank.

Ben Irwin

Don't take life too seriously . . . it's not like anyone gets out of it alive.

Jeffrey Kane

If you lived today as if it were your last, you'd buy up a box of rockets and fire them all off, wouldn't you?

Garrison Keillor

Life is what happens when you are making other plans.

John Lennon


On a day like this, when everything goes wrong, and nothing seems worth doing anymore, it's important to remember what counts: namely, the ability to squeeze off six shots in short succession and keep a nice tight pattern.

Just a merry thought from our house to your house.

James Lileks

I don't judge other people's pastimes; I just roll my eyes theatrically when their backs are turned.

James Lileks

Of all escape mechanisms, death is the most efficient.

H.L. Mencken

Human life is basically a comedy. Even its tragedies often seem comic to the spectator, and not infrequently they actually have comic touches to the victim. Happiness probably consists largely in the capacity to detect and relish them. A man who can laugh, if only at himself, is never really miserable.

H.L. Mencken

Life is a dead-end street.

H.L. Mencken

Life has been defined as irritability, which is to say, the capacity to suffer. It is impossible to imagine a living creature that cannot be hurt. Even an amoeba quickly spits out distasteful particles, and makes tracks when he sees more coming along.

H.L. Mencken

Life is like a game of cards. The hand that is dealt you represents determinism. The way you play it is free will.

Jawaharlal Nehru

The world's a stage and most of us are desperately unrehearsed.

Sean O'Casey

Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
a medley of extemporanea;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong,
and I am Marie of Roumania.

Dorothy Parker

Life is like riding a bicycle. You don't fall off unless you stop pedalling.

Claude Pepper

We all blow our money somewhere — be that now on big cars or later on prescriptions of Viagramonoxodil . . . in the end, you're worm food. Life is too short and brutish to not enjoy what it offers.

Andrew Plato

Life's a bitch, and life's got lots of sisters.

Ross Presser

Life-Complication Theory: Given a choice between an easy solution and a complicated one, the loser will usually opt to travel the complicated path. Don't ignore a solution just because it's simple!

Robert J. Ringer

Life is complex. It has real and imaginary parts.

Rich Rosen

You can understand and relate to most people better if you look at them — no matter how old or impressive they may be — as if they are children. For most of us never really grow up or mature all that much — we simply grow taller. O, to be sure, we laugh less and play less and wear uncomfortable disguises like adults, but beneath the costume is the child we always are, whose needs are simple, whose daily life is still best described by fairy tales.

Leo Rosten

I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. Life is no brief candle for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for a moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it to future generations.

George Bernard Shaw

There are two tragedies in life. One is not to get your heart's desire. The other is to get it.

George Bernard Shaw

For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin . . . But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.

Alfred Souza

I tried Flintstones vitamins. I didn't feel any better, but I could stop the car with my feet.

Joan St. Onge

Gentlemen, do you want to know the secret of living? Have deep principles and then improvise.

Leopold Stokowski

Eternity is a terrible thought. I mean when is it going to end?

Tom Stoppard

Life is a joke God plays on us. Some take the joke too seriously: they are likely to become fanatics or madmen. Others don't take it seriously enough: they are likely to become humorists or libertarians. Most people, of course, take it just the right way: they are likely to become normal people.

Thomas Szasz

Let us endeavour so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.

Mark Twain

This world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel.

Horace Walpole

It seems like once people grow up, they have no idea what's cool.

Bill Watterson

To regain my youth I would do anything in the world, except exercise, get up early, or become respectable.

Oscar Wilde

Logical methods, at best, rearrange the way in which personal bias is to be introduced into the problem.


Effect (n): The second of two phenomena which always occur together in the same order. The first, called a Cause, is said to generate the other which is no more sensible than it would be for one who has never seen a dog except in pursuit of a rabbit to declare the rabbit the cause of the dog.

Ambrose Bierce

Logic (n): The art of thinking and reasoning in strict accordance with the limitations and incapacities of the human misunderstanding. The basic of logic is the syllogism, consisting of a major and a minor premise and a conclusion thus: Major Premise: Sixty men can do a piece of work sixty times as quickly as one man. Minor Premise: One man can dig a post-hole in sixty seconds; therefore Conclusion: Sixty men can dig a post hole in one second.This may be called the syllogism arithmetical, in which, by combining logic and mathematics, we obtain a double certainty and are twice blessed.

Ambrose Bierce

Logic is an organized way of going wrong with confidence.

Charles Kettering

The New Logic: It would be nice if it worked. Ergo, it will work.

H.L. Mencken

Where there's smoke, there's smoke.

Marvin Minsky

A witty phrase proves nothing.

Francois-Marie Arouet Voltaire

Symbolic Logic has been disowned by many logicians on the plea that its interest is mathematical, and by many mathematicians on the plea that its interest is logical.

Alfred North Whitehead

"It was half way to Rivendell when the drugs began to take hold" — Hunter S. Tolkien's Fear and Loathing in Barad-Dur

Iain Bowen

Anyway, the ring movie had two major shark-jumping moments in it. First, during a battle scene, Viggo "No Blood for Oil" Mortensen tossed Gimli the dwarf, a character played by actor John Rhys-Davies, who looks like he probably starts the day by eating several dwarves. Now, nobody loves throwing midgets around more than I do, but dwarf-tossing is a fairly modern concept, and if Tolkien had heard that a reference to it was going to be in his movie, he would have crapped himself. In cold blood, after considerable deliberation.

Second, there was a scene where Legolas the elf rode a shield, skateboard-style, down a flight of stone steps, shooting arrows as he went. Note to screenwriter: look up "suspension of disbelief." I felt like I was watching Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future 39, tailing Biff on his anti-gravity skateboard.

Really stupid. Makes you wonder what Viggo and his pals are really smoking in those long elfy pipes. Well, I guess we knew that already, didn't we?

Steve H.

I hated Hobbits. I hated all that elvish crap. From an early age I had come to associate hobbits with dorkhood; Middle Earth was the dream realm of the friends with retainers and pasty skin, high-water pants, Dorito-stained fingers, private languages made up entirely of references to a small shared body of sci-fi books and fantasy epics. Picture, if you will, a tribe of dorks who existed before computers, before the Internet. Before US distribution of Monty Python.

I remember watching the [Bakshi Lord of the Rings] movie and sensing the dismay roll off my comrades in hot brackish waves. I'm ashamed to say I felt some grim pleasure at their discomfort.

James Lileks

Aragorn placed his hand on the cool, ivory hilt of his 6.38 Anduril sword, half-holding it in as casual manner as possible. His eyes swept the room of the Prancing Pony, eying up the potential threats. He took out his pipe, made from the warmed heartwood of a mature oak. In the palm of his left hand, he unwrapped his leather tobacco pouch filled, as he preferred, with Gondorian Silk Cut. Aragorn preferred it to the harsher, stronger Numenorian blend. . . Lord of the Rings, by Ian Fleming

James A. Wolf

One of the cult novels of the 1970s turned out to be Lord of the Rings. Written by one of the unlikeliest of best-selling authors, it affected a large number of people, not least of them being those people now in their teens saddled with names like Galadriel.

James A. Wolf


"God save Rohan, will ye look at all those orcies," said Sergeant Eomer, looking down the slope near Helm's Deep. "Thousands upon thousands of them, and not a single guard."

Aragorn looked down at the multitude. He was a professional soldier, born and bred in a hedgerow, good only for war and fighting. Unlike the other officers, he didn't come from the nobility, and was looked down upon by most. 'Nosey' Gandalf had given him his comission, and his sword, for saving his life in battle. "You're right, Sergeant Eomer. Let's see what we can do with these Numenorian bows."
Lord of the Rings, by Bernard Cornwell

James A. Wolf

I went round to an elven inn, to buy a glass o' beer
The owner looked at me long-nosed, "We don't serve your kind here"
The elf maids giggled fit to die, pointing out my height
But I swim in booze whenever there is Evil in the Night

Yes, it's Gimli this and Gimli that
And go away you brute
But it's "To the front, our faithful friend"
When the bows begin to shoot.

Lord of the Rings, by Rudyard Kipling

James A. Wolf

Loss (n): Privation of that which we had, or had not. Thus, in the latter sense, it is said of a defeated candidate that he "lost his election"; and of that eminent man, the poet Gilder, that he has "lost his mind."

Ambrose Bierce

Love is a matter of chemistry; sex is a matter of physics.


Love: The thing you say you're in to get sex.


Of all the forms of caution, caution in love is the most fatal.


By the time you realize what love can do, the damage has already been done.


One may hide all else . . . But not these two things . . . that he is drinking wine and that he has fallen in love.

Athenaeus of Naucratis

Love (n): A temporary insanity curable by marriage or by removal of the patient from the influences under which he incurred the disorder.

Ambrose Bierce

Many a man has fallen in love with a girl in a light so dim he would not have chosen a suit by it.

Maurice Chevalier

If you love something, you've to suffer for it. That's what my mother-in-law says.

Pal Di Ulio

Gravitation cannot be blamed for two people falling in love.

Albert Einstein

The more you love, the more you can love and the more intensely you love. Nor is there any limit on how many you can love. If a person had time enough, he could love all of that majority who are decent and just.

Robert A. Heinlein

Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse — and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness —
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.

Omar Khayyam

Humans spend a lifetime defining and redefining love, building up edifices that can be demolished with a selfish sin; humans hover over love like a flower bed, weeding and pruning, worrying about frost and drought, mistaking the brilliance of the petals for the depth of the root.

James Lileks

No matter how much a woman loved a man, it would still give her a glow to see him commit suicide for her.

H.L. Mencken

A man always remembers his first love with special tenderness. But after that he begins to bunch them.

H.L. Mencken

Love is the delusion that one woman differs from another.

H.L. Mencken

Infatuation is only a piece of love, and it brings with it its own kind of selective vision . . .

Marna Nightingale

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
  If this be error and upon me proved,
  I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

William Shakespeare

Kissing is the means of getting two people so close together that they can't see anything wrong with each other.

Gene Yasenak

It's better to be lucky than smart.

John Bassett III

If you wait for luck to help you, you'll often have an empty stomach.

Ignas Bernstein

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.

Ray Berry

Providential (adj): Unexpectedly and conspicuously beneficial to the person so describing it.

Ambrose Bierce

Luck is largely a matter of paying attention.

Susan M. Dodd

Luck, that's when preparation and opportunity meet.

Pierre Elliot Trudeau

Adjusted for inflation, per capita spending on recreation nearly quadrupled in the last three decades. Leisure and recreation are even important enough to have become an academic subject: 350 colleges and universities offer degree programs in it.

W. Michael Cox

Take care of the luxuries and the necessities will take care of themselves.

Dorothy Parker

Materialism does not crowd out spiritualism; spiritualism is more likely a substitute when objects are scarce. When we have few things, we make the next world luxurious. When we have plenty, we enchant the objects around us.

James B. Twitchell

Religious fanatics invariably rank highest on happiness scales, irrespective of culture or religion. Let's give happiness a rest. Consumption of the new luxury is about far more interesting sensations.

James B. Twitchell

In our postmodern world we have, it seems, exchanged knowledge of history and science for knowledge of products and how such products interlock to form coherent social patterns.

James B. Twitchell

The rich have only two genuine luxury items left: time and philanthropy. The rest of us are having a go at all their stuff, albeit for a knockoff to be held for only a short time. I can't own a limo, but I can rent one.

James B. Twitchell

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