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Murphy's Laws Of Combat:

  1. If the enemy is in range, so are you.
  2. Incoming fire has the right-of-way.
  3. Don't look conspicuous, it draws fire.
  4. Never forget that your weapon is made by the lowest bidder.
  5. The easy way is always mined.
  6. Try to look unimportant, they may be low on ammo.
  7. Professionals are predictable, it's the amateurs that are dangerous.
  8. The enemy always attacks on two occasions:
    • When you are ready for them.
    • When you are not ready for them.
  9. Teamwork is essential, it gives them someone else to shoot at.
  10. If you can't remember, then the claymore is pointed at you.
  11. The enemy deversion you have been ignoring, will be the main attack.
  12. A sucking chest wound is nature's way of telling you to slow down.
  13. If your attack is going well, you have walked into an ambush.
  14. Never draw fire: it irritates everyone around you.
  15. Anything you do can get you shot, including nothing.
  16. Make it tough for the enemy to get in, and you won't be able to get out.
  17. Never share a foxhole with anyone braver than yourself.
  18. If you're short of everything, except the enemy, you're in a combat zone.
  19. When you have secured an area, don't forget to tell the enemy.
  20. When encountering friendly fire, it ain't.
  21. It's not the bullet with your name on it you have to worry about; it's the piece of shrapnel addressed to "Occupant".
  22. There is always a way.


"Si hoc legere scis, intra iactum armarum locor"
[If you can read this you are in cannon range.]


Sometimes the best defense is a skillful surrender.


The attacker must vanquish; the defender need only survive.


[A]s a military historian I've seen this same error [. . .] in practically every force for nearly every major war in the past 100-150 years: "The war will be short, our ammo stocks need not be large, the weapons will work as if on firing range, the troops will perform as if on parade, and the enemy is a bunch of incompetent cowards who can't tie their own shoelaces and will run at the first whiff of cordite. . ."


A masterly retreat is in itself a victory.


Military Intelligence: an oxymoron.


The Ministry of Defence are not worried abut a Russian invasion. This is not because they could repel it, but because they know they couldn't repel it, so they don't have to do any more thinking about it.

Sir Humphrey Appleby

The Ministry of Defence has an interesting approach to strategic locations. The Admiralty ships division needs a deep-water port, so it sites its headquarters in Bath, 30 miles inland. The Marines' job is to defend Norway, so we station them in Plymouth. And Armoured Vehicle Trials are held in Scotland, so we keep the military engineering establishment in Surrey.

Sir Humphrey Appleby

A school maths question asks "If nuclear defence costs 5 billion [pounds] a year and feeding a starving African child costs 75 [pounds] a year, how many children could be fed by abandoning nuclear weapons?" The answer is easy. None. The MOD would spend it all on conventional forces.

Sir Humphrey Appleby

There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today.
(At the Battle of Jutland, May 31, 1916)

Admiral David Beatty

Gunpowder (n): An agency employed by civilized nations for the settlement of disputes which might become troublesome if left unadjusted. By most writers the invention of gunpowder is ascribed to the Chinese, but not upon very convincing evidence. Milton says it was invented by the devil to dispel angels with, and this opinion seems to derive some support from the scarcity of angels.

Ambrose Bierce

War is God's way of teaching Americans geography.

Ambrose Bierce

Dragoon (n): A soldier who combines dash and steadiness in so equal measure that he makes his advances on foot and his retreats on horseback.

Ambrose Bierce

War (n): A by-product of the arts of peace. The most menacing political condition is a period of international amity. The student of history who has not been taught to expect the unexpected may justly boast himself inaccessible to the light. "In times of peace prepare for war" has a deeper meaning than is commonly discerned; it means, not merely that all things earthly have an end — that change is the one immutable and eternal law — but that the soil of peace is thickly sown with seeds of war and singularly suited to their germination and growth. Let us have a little less of "hands across the sea," and a little more of that elemental distrust that is the security of nations. War loves to come as a thief in the night; professions of eternal amity provide the night.

Ambrose Bierce

Rear (n): In American military matters, that exposed part of the army that is nearest to Congress.

Ambrose Bierce

Recruit (n): A person distinguished from a civilian by his uniform and from a soldier by his gait.

Ambrose Bierce

Mace (n): A staff of office signifying authority. Its form, that of a heavy club, indicates its original purpose and use in dissuading from dissent.

Ambrose Bierce

When you are occupying a position which the enemy threatens to surround, collect all your forces immediately, and menace him with an offensive movement.

Napoleon Bonaparte

Soldiers usually win the battles, and generals get the credit for them.

Napoleon Bonaparte

Soldiers are close students of tactics, but only rarely of strategy and practically never of war.

Bernard Brodie

War is not its own end, except in some catastrophic slide into absolute damnation. It's peace that's wanted. Some better peace than the one you started with.

Lois McMaster Bujold

The military planner who becomes lost in the fog of war rarely notices the onset of the fog. It comes on gradually, the sum total of many small uncertainties which hardly seemed worth a second thought. There is a patch of mist here, another patch over yonder, a slow thickening of the haze along the horizon, the sky turning gray and sagging lower over the woods, sunlight fading out imperceptibly. . . And then, suddenly, the horizon has vanished altogether, there is a fog everywhere, and the noises that come from the invisible landscape are unidentifiable, confusing, and full of menace; at which point it is mortally easy to give way to panic and do one's self great harm.

Bruce Catton

A man is not necessarily intelligent because he has plenty of ideas, any more than he is a good general because he has plenty of soldiers.

Antoine Chamfort

That all war is physically frightful is obvious; but if that were a moral verdict, there would be no difference between a torturer and a surgeon.

G.K. Chesterton

The pursuit of victory without slaughter is likely to lead to slaughter without victory.

John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough

Battles are won by slaughter and maneuver. The greater the general, the more he contributes in maneuver, the less he demands in slaughter.

Winston S. Churchill

The only security upon which sound military principles will rely is that you should be master of your own air.

Winston S. Churchill

There is only one thing worse than fighting with allies — and that is fighting without them.

Winston S. Churchill

War is the province of chance. In no other sphere of human activity must such a margin be left for this intruder. It increases the uncertainty of every circumstance and deranges the course of events.

Carl von Clauswitz

War is a series of catastrophes that results in a victory.

Georges Clemenceau

Warriors and despots are generally bad economists and they instinctively carry their ideas of force and violence into the civil politics of their governments. Free trade is a principle which recognizes the paramount importance of individual action.

Richard Cobden

[T]he Europeans concluded the most misbegotten "peace treaty" in all of recorded history, in a conference at Versailles. I can think of no other peace treaty whose terms were more certain to cause further war, and some historians have argued that what we call "World War II" was actually "World War I, part 2". (Or maybe "World War I, the Next Generation.")

Steven Den Beste

The army is like the boy scouts, except without the adult supervision.

John Dybala

I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

There is much to military training that seems childish, stultifying, and even brutal. But one essential part of breaking men into military life is the removal of misfits — and in the service a man is a misfit who cannot obey orders, any orders, and who cannot stand immense and searing mental and physical pressure.

For his own sake and for that of those around him, a man must be prepared for the awful, shrieking moment of truth when he realizes he is all alone on a hill ten thousand miles from, and that he may be killed in the next second.

The young men of America, from whatever strata, are raised in a permissive society. The increasing alienation of their education from the harsher realities of life makes their reorientation, once enlisted, doubly important.

T.R. Fehrenbach

There's no sight more inspiring or heart-warming than troops marching out to battle when you ain't going with them.

Harry P. Flashman

My left is yielding, my right is withdrawing; Situation excellent — I shall attack.

Marshal Ferdinand Foch

Study after study has found that Gulf vets are no sicker, no more likely to be dead, and no more likely to have miscarriages or birth defects in their children, than matched control vets than matched control vets (those of similar age, race, gender, and so on) who didn't deploy. The difference is that if you or I get arthritis, it's called arthritis. If a Gulf vet gets it, it's called (Gulf War Syndrome).

Michael Fumento

If we have to fight, I would like to do it all at once and then make friends.

Ulysses S. Grant

Those who live by the sword get shot by those who don't.

Eric Grenier

Our task — ordeal if you will — is that we must make war so godawfully terrible to our enemies, and the rewards of peace and reform so humanely sweet to our friends, that the vast middle in between will have no problem choosing sides.

Victor Davis Hanson

[T]his is a new era, and the striking thing is that we [the US] have proved to be a benign hegemon who does not seek treasure or exact tribute, not to mention does not annex land not our own. We have not seen previously such military power used in positive ways — which explains the angst of our critics who can't quite put the removal of Noriega, Milosevic, the Taliban or Saddam Hussein in the normal Marxist paradigm. How hard it must be for such doctrinaire and ossified ideologues to berate the United States for removing right-wing killers and promoting democracy, and so how pathetic the attempts are to portray us as imperial oppressors.

Victor Davis Hanson

Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.

Salvor Hardin

Regardless of T.O. [Table of Organization], all military bureaucracies consist of a Surprise Party Department, a Practical Joke Department, and a Fairy Godmother Department. The first two process most matters as the third is very small; the Fairy Godmother Department is one elderly female G-5 clerk usually out on sick-leave.

Robert A. Heinlein

No state has an inherent right to survive through conscript troops and, in the long run, no state ever has. Roman matrons used to say to their sons: "Come back with your shield, or on it." Later this custom declined. So did Rome.

Robert A. Heinlein

The indispensability of play-acting in the grim business of dying and killing is particularly evident in the case of armies. Their uniforms, flags, emblems, parades, music and elaborate etiquette and ritual are designed to separate the soldier from his flesh-and-blood self and mask the overwhelming reality of life and death. We speak of the theatre of war and battle scenes. In their battle orders, army leaders invariably remind their soldiers that the eyes of the world are on them, that their ancestors are watching them and that posterity shall hear of them. The great general knows how to conjure an audience out of the sands of the desert and the waves of the ocean.

Eric Hoffer

To move swiftly, strike vigorously, and secure all the fruits of victory is the secret of successful war.

Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson

It takes 16,000 dead to train a Major-General.

Marechal Joseph Joffre

Military history, accompanied by sound criticism, is indeed the true school of war.

Antoine Henri Jomini

Until the world comes to an end the ultimate decision will rest with the sword.

Kaiser Wilhelm II

The issue of the modern rifle, rather than the obsolete musket was crucially significant. The musket, like the uniform livery of the dynastic armies that used it was a mark of servitude. [. . .] The rifle, by contrast was a weapon of individual skill. It could kill a common soldier, without much discrimination by its user, at 500 yards; in the hands of a marksman it could kill a general at 1000 yards [. . .] A rifleman was as good as any man.

John Keegan

When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
   An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.

Rudyard Kipling

You can fight a porcupine and win, but if other folks get a look at you they may think it's a bad idea to mess with porcupines.

Neal Knox

Arms are instruments of ill omen. [. . .] When one is compelled to use them, it is best to do so without relish. There is no glory in victory, and to glorify it despite this is to exult in the killing of men. [. . .] When great numbers of people are killed, one should weep over them with sorrow. When victorious in war, one should observe mourning rites.


With 2000 years of examples behind us we have no excuse when fighting, for not fighting well.

T.E. Lawrence

Two fundamental lessons of war experience are — never to check momentum; never to resume mere pushing.

Basil H. Liddell Hart

All bombs are dirty bombs, by definition. Some are dirtier than others. I believe in the next war we will see a new generation of weapons code-named Yosemite Sam: they're not only dirty bombs, but dirty low-down lyin' yellabelly bombs. And they are loud.

James Lileks

The standard text of WW2 was set in stone early on. (People who complain today of a monolithic media would have experienced spontaneous personal combustion in the 40s and 50s.) It's different now. As long as there remains that hot iridescent strain of pissy anti-Western self-hatred, there'll be a warm spot in the historians' hearts for those who insisted that the Afghan campaign was really about killing brown-skinned folks to build a pipeline. And even if the pipeline was never built, well, the pipeline is a metaphor for Orientalism, for the imperialist urge, for the abominable consequences of the Exceptionist Fallacy.

What doesn't happen in the literal sense becomes proof that something really did happen in the figurative sense. The metaphor becomes the reality — and it's even better than reality itself. As a metaphor it's ever apt, ever immune to empirical refutation.

James Lileks

The prolongation of war caused by half measures kills many more people than the restricted collateral damage of precision bombing ever could.

Edward Luttwak

The essence of war is violence and moderation in war is imbecility

Thomas Babbington Macaulay

War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest thing: The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war is worse. A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing he cares about more than his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.

John Stuart Mill

You will usually find that the enemy has three courses open to him, and of these he will adopt the fourth.

Helmuth von Moltke

I can understand why mankind hasn't given up war. During a war you get to drive tanks through the sides of buildings and shoot foreigners — two things that are usually frowned on during peacetime.

P.J. O'Rourke

War is steroids and free weights for government.

P.J. O'Rourke

War will exist as long as there's a food chain.

P.J. O'Rourke

As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me. They do not feel any enmity against me as an individual, nor I against them. They are only "doing their duty," as the saying goes. Most of them, I have no doubt, are kind-hearted law abiding men who would never dream of committing murder in private life. On the other hand, if one of them succeeds in blowing me to pieces with a well-placed bomb, he will never sleep any the worse for it.

George Orwell

We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who whould do us harm.

George Orwell

War is the common harvest of all those who participate in the division and expenditure of public money, in all countries. It is the art of conquering at home; the object of it is an increase of revenue; and as revenue cannot be increased without taxes, a pretence must be made for expenditure. In reviewing the history of the English Government, its wars and its taxes, a bystander, not blinded by prejudice nor warped by interest, would declare that taxes were not raised to carry on wars, but that wars were raised to carry on taxes.

Thomas Paine

The object of war is not to die for your country, but to make the other bastard die for his.

General George S. Patton

Only the dead have seen the end of war.


What does it profit the reader to wade through wars and battles and sieges if he is not to penetrate the knowledge of the causes which made one party succeed and the other fail?


As near as I can tell, it's a parody of Stalin: one person killed by America is a tragedy. A hundred thousand killed by Saddam, or a million by Pol Pot, are a statistic.

Glenn Reynolds

I have a scheme for stopping war. It's this — no nation is allowed to enter a war till they have paid for the last one.

Will Rogers

The best tank terrain is that without anti-tank weapons.

Russian Military Doctrine

"They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist. . ."

General John Sedgewick

In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favored rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect.

William Shakespeare

Nothing is ever done in this world until men are prepared to kill each other if it is not done.

George Bernard Shaw

War is cruelty; you cannot refine it.

William Tecumseh Sherman

While the battles the British fight may differ in the widest possible ways, they have invariably two common characteristics — they are always fought uphill and always at the junction of two or more map sheets.

Field Marshal William Slim

That great thinker Sheryl Crow declared the other day: "War is based in greed and there are huge karmic retributions that will follow. I think war is never the answer to solving any problems. The best way to solve problems is to not have enemies."

In the Falklands, war solved a lot of problems. For 20 years, the islanders have lived in peace and freedom. So, in their own chaotic Latin fashion, have the liberated peoples of Argentina and most of the rest of the continent. If the best way to solve problems is not to have enemies, then the best way not to have enemies is to get rid of them. Thank you, Mrs. Thatcher. Rest in peace, General Galtieri, wherever you are.

Mark Steyn

Apparent confusion is product of good order; apparent weakness, of strength.

Sun Tzu

Appear at points that the enemy must hasten to defend; march swiftly to places where you are not expected.

Sun Tzu

Offer the enemy a bait or lure him; feign disorder and strike him.

Sun Tzu

The art of using troops is this:
When ten to the enemy's one, surround him;
When five times his strength, attack him;
If double his strength, divide him;
If equally matched, you may engage him;
If weaker numerically, be capable of withdrawing;
And if in all respects unequal, be capable of eluding him, for a small force is but booty for one more powerful.

Sun Tzu

The clever combatant looks to the effect of combined energy and does not require too much from individuals.

Sun Tzu

The musical notes are only five in number, but their melodies are so numerous that one cannot hear them all.

Sun Tzu

To fight and conquer in all our battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.

Sun Tzu

War is a matter of vital importance to the State; the province of life or death; the road to survival or ruin. It is mandatory that it be thoroughly studied.

Sun Tzu

You can be sure of succeeding in your attacks if you only attack places that are undefended.

Sun Tzu

Hard training easy combat, easy training hard combat.

Aleksandr Suvorov

The guerrilla fights the war of the flea, and his military enemy suffers the dog's disadvantages: too much to defend; too small, ubiquitous, and agile an enemy to come to grips with.

Robert Taber

[T]hose who have not swords can still die upon them.

J.R.R. Tolkien

I do not like wars. Their outcomes are never certain.

Elizabeth Tudor

We now know for certain that only three things in life are certain — death, taxes and the fact the military are lying bastards.

Max Uechtritz

All military action is intertwined with psychological forces and effects.

Karl von Clausewitz

Tactics is the art of using troops in battle; strategy is the art of using battles to win the war.

Karl von Clausewitz

The fact that slaughter is a horrifying spectacle must make us take war more seriously, but not provide an excuse for gradually blunting our swords in the name of humanity. Sooner or later someone will come along with a sharp sword and hack off our arms.

Karl von Clausewitz

War is merely the continuation of policy by other means.

Karl von Clausewitz

Remember, gentlemen, an order that can be misunderstood, will be misunderstood.

Count Helmut von Moltke

If one wishes to attack, then one must do so with resoluteness. Half measures are out of place. Only strength and confidence carry the units with them and produce success.

Count Helmut von Moltke

Tactical? TACTICAL!?!? Hey, buddy, we went from kilotons to megatons several minutes ago. We don't need no stinkin' tactical nukes. (By the way, do you have change for 10 million people?)

Larry Wall

To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.

George Washington

When things are going badly in battle the best tonic is to take one's mind off one's own trouble by considering what a rotten time one's opponent must be having.

Field Marshal A.P. Wavell

Take my word for it, if you had seen but one day of war, you would pray Almighty God that you might never see such a thing again.

Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington

Nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won.

Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington

The next dreadful thing to a battle lost is a battle won.

Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington

Before a war, military science seems as a real science, like Astronomy. After a war, it looks more like Astrology.

Rebecca West

The real war will never get into the books.

Walt Whitman

Someone once said that the whole wargaming phenomenon was one of the results of over-education. Imagine all the brainpower being used by wargamers around the world and how it might be put to more productive use!

Of course, the fact that it simply keeps some of us off the streets might be productive enough.

Tom Cmajdalka

You know you've played too many wargames if:
  1. . . .you refer to e-mails from your boss as "Hitler Directives".
  2. . . .you're not overweight, you're overstacked.
  3. . . .while outside, you move to keep your kids in command control.
  4. . . .someone stands next to you and you won't let them move away until they've fought you.
  5. . . .before each trip you insist your family enter Strategic Movement Mode.
  6. . . .you refer to an injury as a "step-loss".
  7. . . .you miss a meal and think of yourself as out of supply.
  8. . . .two missed meals means you're isolated.
  9. . . .you've ever used the word "contiguous" in conversation.
  10. . . .you refer to your kids as "replacement points".
  11. . . .your life feels like a series of rolls on a Random Events table.
  12. . . .you have an opinion about turret rings.

Stewart Newman

Wargaming has taught me that if I am in charge, we lose the war.

William Terdoslavich

Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons.

Woody Allen

Another advantage of being rich is that all your faults are called eccentricities.


If there's one thing better than marrying a millionaire, it's divorcing him.


Impunity (n): Wealth.

Ambrose Bierce

Rich (adj): Holding in trust and subject to an accounting the property of the indolent, the incompetent, the unthrifty, the envious, and the luckless. That is the view that prevails in the underworld, where the Brotherhood of Man finds its most logical development and candid advocacy. To denizens of the midworld, the word means good and wise.

Ambrose Bierce

Improvidence (n): Provision for the needs of today from the revenues of tomorrow.

Ambrose Bierce

Air (n): A nutritious substance supplied by a bountiful providence for the fattening of the poor.

Ambrose Bierce

Enough (pro): All there is in the world if you like it.

Ambrose Bierce

Distress (n): A disease incurred by exposure to the prosperity of a friend.

Ambrose Bierce

Distance (n): The only thing the rich are willing for the poor to call theirs, and keep.

Ambrose Bierce

The gratification of wealth is not found in mere possession or in lavish expenditure, but in its wise application.

Miguel de Cervantes

Affluenza: A psychiatric disturbance arising from an excess of money.

Gary Dunford

I am not rich. I am a poor man with money, which is not the same thing.

Gabriel Garcia-Marquez

Fortune is ever seen accompanying industry.

Oliver Goldsmith

In a society of mass affluence (and somehow the words "mass affluence" sound curiously apt when discussing the bathroom; they beg to be spoonerized) people fill their hours with pointless chores, such as color-coordinating buttpulp in their bathrooms. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. When the popular magazines of the day are filled with ads for color-coordinated bathroom tissue, it means the society is prospering. When the popular mags have grim ads for Family Shrouds ("buy in bulk and save") or Victory Coffee ("Now with 87% chicory") — then you're in trouble.

James Lileks

You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich. You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.

Abraham Lincoln

Wealth: Any income that is at least $100 more a year than the income of one's wife's sister's husband.

H.L. Mencken

If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.

Dorothy Parker

The wise know the value of riches, but the rich do not know the pleasures of wisdom.

Hebrew Proverb

He who can see three days ahead will be rich for three thousand years.

Japanese Proverb

What difference does it make how much is laid away in a man's safe or in his barns, how many head of stock he grazes or how much capital he puts out at interest, if he is always after what is another's and only counts what he has yet to get, never what he has already? You ask what is the proper limit to a person's wealth? First, having what is essential, and second, having what is enough.


Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.

Barry Switzer

He had so much money that he could afford to look poor.

Edgar Wallace

When I was young, I used to think that wealth and power would bring me happiness . . . I was right.

Gahan Wilson

A weapon is a tool for making the other guy change his mind.

Lois McMaster Bujold

"You can't hug a child with nuclear arms" was true, but it failed to note that you cannot counter the threat of Soviet ICBMs with day-care providers — unless they are submarine-launched day-care workers outfitted with multiple warheads, of course.

James Lileks

The supposed quietude of a good man allures the ruffian; while on the other hand, arms, like laws, discourage and keep the invader and the plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world, as well as property. The same balance would be preserved were all the world destitute of arms, for all would be alike; but since some will not, other dare not lay them aside . . . Horrid mischief would ensue were one-half the world deprived the use of them . . .

Thomas Paine

The people of the various provinces are strictly forbidden to have in their possession any swords, bows, spears, firearms, or other types of arms. The possession of these elements makes difficult the collection of taxes and dues, and tends to permit uprising. Therefore, the heads of provinces, official agents, and deputies are ordered to collect all the weapons mentioned above and turn them over to the government.
(Proclaimed August 29, 1558)

Toyotomi Hideyoshi

Bad weather reports are more often right than good ones.


Snow is the greatest equalizer in nature.

Frederick P. Grove

[M]y jokes tend to be bitter and personal and not even that funny, so I'm filling an overlooked market niche: the bitter, personal, unfunny blog. People were screaming out for this. Too many sites were entertaining and witty.

Tim Blair

Most of the sites I frequent were back up. As you may have read — not in newspapers, heaven forfend — a large portion of the blogworld has been crippled by attacks on the company that hosted a pro-Israel website, and the attacks are coming from servers that host Al Qaeda groups. This makes me uneasy; there's something else going on here, I think. It's like hearing reports from Alaska radar stations of peculiar blips on the screen. Someone's testing something.

What do we call these guys? Script Qiddies? Haqers? How about: Jew-Hating Gynophobic Devil Pawns, or JHGDPs for short? (Pronounced: Je-hig-dip.)

I've no reason to say this, but: my antennae are twitching. I have this feeling that 2004 is going to feel a lot like 1968. But it's just a feeling.

James Lileks

Twenty years ago, an economist named Sam Pelzman noticed that drivers who wore seatbelts, while suffering far fewer accidents than drivers who did not, inflicted far more. The safer the driver personally felt, the more carelessly he drove. The welfare state functions as a political safety belt, reducing the riskiness of all of our lives; and just as with real safety belts, there are what Pelzman called "feedback effects" from our new-found sense of personal security. [. . .]

Why be thrifty any longer when your old age and health care are provided for, no matter how profligately you act in your youth? Why be prudent when the state insures your bank deposits, replaces your flooded-out home, buys all the wheat you can grow, and rescues you when you stray into a foreign battle zone? [. . .]

We cannot rescind the emancipation of appetite; but we can make its indulgence riskier by canceling the welfare state's seductive invitation to misconduct.

David Frum

We should measure welfare's success by how many people leave welfare, not by how many are added.

Ronald Reagan

Social Security was a criminal hoax from the beginning, from which there can be no recovery. Just as it isn't the job of the cops to repay the victims of a con-artist, it isn't the job of a libertarian presidential candidate to look for ways to repay those who, however innocently, counted on Social Security to feed, house, and clothe them in their declining years.

The fact is, most Social Security recipients — or would-be recipients — like most "victims" of con-artists, are not really that innocent, anyway. The con-man relies on a certain degree of larceny in the heart of his "mark", an illicit desire for something unearned. The politician relies on the willingness of his elderly constituents to provide for their future by cutting themselves a nice, thick, steaming, bloody chunk of the quivering flesh of their own children and grandchildren.

L. Neil Smith

I am all for every reasonable, proven method to help the poor. Job training, educational grants — I'll pay for that. And I'm all for a safety net. It's the safety hammock I have a problem with.

L. Neil Smith

[Dr. Adrienne] Lehrer thinks the new generation of wine drinkers is trying to make wine talk less intimidating and more relevant by including pop culture references. Wine X magazine (or rather 'zine) aims to "provide a new voice for a new generation of wine consumers." Describing one California cabernet, it asks us to "imagine Naomi Campbell in latex." An Australian shiraz is a "Chippendales dancer in leather chaps — tight, full-bodied and ready for action." A New Zealand cabernet merlot is like "a Victoria's Secret fire sale: smoky charred wood, leather, spicy and very seductive."

Natalie Maclean

Even red zinfandel, though, is not hailed for its elegance: it's Caliban to burgundy's Ariel. With tooth-stripping alcohol levels of 17 per cent, many zins embody Ravenswood's motto: Nullum vinum flaccidum (No wimpy wines). The dense fruit and opulent texture of zin make syrup seem runny by comparison. As one vintner observed, aging zin in French oak is like putting perfume on John Wayne.

Natalie Maclean

[T]he first time I listened to two wine-loving friends discuss a merlot, I thought they were speaking an ancient tribal language. They reminded me of James Thurber's 1937 cartoon showing one drinker commenting to others: "It's a naïve domestic Burgundy without any breeding, but I think you'll be amused by its presumption."

Natalie Maclean

Wine writing continues to evolve into ever-more esoteric language that seems far removed from the actual experience of smelling and tasting wine. (I've never smelled lantana, the evergreen shrub one writer insisted he found in an Australian shiraz.) What could be prompting this proliferation of purple prose? The thousands of new wines coming onto the market that all require descriptive differentiation? Are wine critics looking to secure their niches through obscure comparisons that no one can question? Is this a way of getting more cash for vin ordinaire? Or could it be a renaissance of wine appreciation, demanding new ways of talking about one of civilization's oldest drinks?

Natalie Maclean

[Describing an Algerian wine:] Very soft and very round, like sheep's eyes with square pupils. The hint of promise got steeper and sparser yet, and it began to taste like dull pewter covered in dust and cobwebs stuck to the roof of my mouth.

Ralph Steadman

Winter makes us know new negatives: white darkness.

Douglas Barbour

March is the cruelest month, really. The temperature rises, the snow melts, the world leans into spring — and then 5 inches of snow falls and knocks your psyche back to December. The entire month is one long parole hearing.

James Lileks

It's cold where I live. When I start the car in the morning it makes a pained and alarmed sound of a hibernating bear awakened by a proctological exam. The car creaks in a way that suggests it will actually explode into small frozen car-shards if I hit a pothole. But we live for this sort of stuff up here. Nothing makes a Midwesterner appreciate summer more than the knowledge that the temperature will drop a hundred degrees before the year ends.

James Lileks

I just spent 2 hours shoveling 12 inches of "Partly Cloudy" out of my driveway.

Thor Poulsen

Let a fool hold his tongue and he will pass for a sage.


Wisdom consists of knowing when to avoid perfection.


He is truly wise who gains wisdom from another's mishap.


Be wiser than other people, if you can, but do not tell them so.

Lord Chesterfield

By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience, which is the bitterest.


To develop a complete mind: Study the science of art; study the art of science. Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.

Leonardo da Vinci

In much wisdom is grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.

Ecclesiastes I:18

It is unwise to be too sure of one's own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.

Mohandas K. Gandhi

Even as wisdom often comes from the mouths of babes, so does it often come from the mouths of old people. The golden rule is to test everything in the light of reason and experience, no matter from where it comes.

Mohandas K. Gandhi

Every man is a damn fool at least five minutes every day; wisdom consists in not exceeding the limit.

Elbert Hubbard

Wisdom is knowing what to do next. Virtue is doing it.

David Starr Jordan

With age comes wisdom — and cranky killjoy paranoia, which is frequently mistaken for wisdom. It's the dilemma of the modern adult — we're grateful for the freedom we had, and romanticize our carefree youth, yet we see blinding danger in the very things that made our childhood such a delight.

James Lileks

The older I get, the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.

H.L. Mencken

No matter how long he lives, no man ever becomes as wise as the average woman of forty-eight.

H.L. Mencken

Wisdom is one of the few things that look bigger the further away it is.

Terry Pratchett

He who is afraid of asking is ashamed of learning.

Danish Proverb

Gray hair is a sign of age, not wisdom.

Greek Proverb

Wisdom is knowing what to do with what you know.

J. Winter Smith

Wisdom outweighs any wealth.


Opportunity is rare, and a wise man will never let it go by him.

Bayard Taylor

He who knows does not speak. He who speaks does not know.

Lao Tzu

A quart cannot become a gallon.

Malaysian Proverb

"Aye, you're a born hag, right enough," said the kelda, holding her gaze. "Ye've got that little bitty bit inside o' you that holds on, right? The bitty bit that watches the rest o' ye. 'Tis the First Sight and Second Thoughts ye have, and 'tis a wee gift an' a big curse to ye. You see and hear what others canna', the world opens up its secrets to ye, but ye're always like the person at a party with the wee drink in the corner who cannae join in. There's a bitty bit inside ye that willnae melt and flow".

Terry Pratchett

Miss Tick did not look like a witch. Most witches don't, at least the ones who wander from place to place. Looking like a witch can be dangerous when you walk among the uneducated.

Terry Pratchett

Ordinary fortune tellers tell you what you want to happen; witches tell you what's going to happen whether you want it to or not. Strangely enough, witches tend to be more accurate but less popular.

Terry Pratchett

The thing about witchcraft is that it's not like school at all. First you get the test, and then afterwards you spend years findin' out how you passed it. It's a bit like life in that respect.

Terry Pratchett

Witches don't use magic unless they really have to. It's hard work and difficult to control. We do other things. A witch pays attention to everything that's going on. A witch uses her head. A witch is sure of herself. [. . .] A witch delights in small details. A witch sees through things and around things. A witch sees further than most. A witch sees things from the other side. A witch knows where she is, and when she is.

Terry Pratchett

Impregnable: A woman whose memory of labour is still vivid.


Amnesia: A condition that enables a woman who has gone through labour to have sex again.


By the time a man reads women like a book he's too old to collect a library.


A woman, especially if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can.

Jane Austen

In my ballets, woman is first. Men are consorts. God made men to sing the praises of women. They are not equal to men; they are better.

George Balanchine

Weaknesses (n. pl.): Certain primal powers of Tyrant Woman wherewith she holds dominion over the male of her species, binding him to the service of her will and paralyzing his rebellious energies.

Ambrose Bierce

Female (n): One of the opposing, or unfair, sex.

Ambrose Bierce

Women in love are less ashamed than men. They have less to be ashamed of.

Ambrose Bierce

Ah, that we could fall into women's arms without falling into their hands!

Ambrose Bierce

Maiden (n): A young person of the unfair sex addicted to clewless conduct and views that madden to crime. The genus has a wide geographical distribution, being found wherever sought and deplored wherever found. The maiden is not altogether unpleasing to the eye, nor (without her piano and her views) insupportable to the ear, though in most respects to comeliness distinctly inferior to the rainbow, and, with regard to the part of her that is audible, beaten out of the field by the canary which, also, is more portable.

Ambrose Bierce

Woman (n): An animal usually living in the vicinity of Man, and having a rudimentary susceptibility to domestication. It is credited by many of the elder zoologists with a certain vestigial docility acquired in a former state of seclusion, but naturalists of the postsusananthony period, having no knowledge of the seclusion, deny the virtue and declare that such as creation's dawn beheld, it roareth now. The species is the most widely distributed of all beasts of prey, infesting all habitable parts of the globe, from Greenland's spicy mountains, to India's moral strand. The popular name (wolf-man) is incorrect, for the creature is of the cat kind. The woman is lithe and graceful in its movements, especially the American variety (Felis pugnans), is omnivorous and can be taught not to talk.

Ambrose Bierce

Witch (n): (1) An ugly and repulsive old woman, in a wicked league with the devil. (2) A beautiful and attractive young woman, in wickedness a league beyond the devil.

Ambrose Bierce

The years that a woman subtracts from her age are not lost. They are added to other women's.

Diane De Poitiers

The average man is more interested in a woman who is interested in him than he is in a woman with beautiful legs.

Marlene Dietrich

[In the Yogic view, women] are considered beyond the possibility of redemption, for in the order of reincarnation they are placed seven stages below a man, three below a camel, and one below a pig.

Major General J.F.C. Fuller

I will far rather see the race of man extinct than that we should become less than beasts by making the noblest of God's creation, woman, the object of our lust.

Mohandas K. Gandhi

Woman is the companion of man, gifted with equal mental capacities. She has the right to participate in the minutest details in the activities of man, and she has an equal right of freedom and liberty with him.

Mohandas K. Gandhi

Man can never be a woman's equal in the spirit of selfless service with which nature has endowed her.

Mohandas K. Gandhi

Claudia used to have a habit of calling me every day during work to complain about her job and/or love life. I finally told her she had to quit, and being a woman, she took that to mean she was only allowed to do it when she was really bored or had some excellent dirt. In other words, down to three times a week, from five. So now I let her rattle into my answering machine, and that seems to make her happy. I think that with women, it's not really important that anyone listen to what they say. I think they get a beneficial release of neurotransmitters just from moving their lips.

Steve H.

I often wonder if romance and sex are good ideas at all. Women and men are just not compatible. Women are the Jaguars of romance. Nice to look at, but plagued by unpredictable problems that no one seems able to fix. And for some reason, God gave us no alternative.

When I die, I plan to ask Him about that. Right after I ask him why he gave the Jews a big pile of rocks and then handed all the oil to their worst enemies.

Strange guy, that God.

Steve H.

I'm sorry, but women are just TOO gullible. Why do you think there are ghettos full of single mothers? Because you believe us when we say we love you. I know, I know. You think WE'RE the ones who are gullible. If that were true, do you know what ghettos would be full of? Men with no idea they're all married to and supporting the same woman.

What do women always say to prove men are gullible? "I fake orgasms all the time, and my boyfriend/husband/tennis pro has no idea." Here's a little question you might want to ask yourself: what makes you think he cares? Oh, right. He TOLD you he cares. HAHAHAHAHA

Steve H.

I've never liked to dance, most likely because I'm male and not gay. I hate to tell you ladies this, but apart from Hispanics, virtually no straight men enjoy dancing. I know, they say they do. They also say they like you for your minds. You have to love the male sense of humor. You might as well grow up and face reality. We'll say anything to get you into bed, and dancing is one way to get there.

Steve H.

You cannot beat women. They will always figure out what you want and assume its appearance until the ring is on their finger, and then they pull off their latex masks and VOILA! You're married to a chocolate-fueled shopping machine that squirts out a baby every two years, or every time you have sex, which is about the same thing.

Steve H.

A woman is not property, and husbands who think otherwise are living in a dream world.

Robert A. Heinlein

Nursing does not diminish the beauty of a woman's breasts; it enhances their charm by making them look lived-in and happy.

Robert A. Heinlein

Whenever women have insisted on absolute equality with men, they have invariably wound up with the dirty end of the stick. What they are and what they can do makes them superior to men and their proper tactic is to demand special privileges, all the traffic will bear. They should never settle for equality. For women, "equality" is a disaster.

Robert A. Heinlein

What a wonderful world it is that has girls in it!

Robert A. Heinlein

Women prefer men who have something tender about them — especially the legal kind.

Kay Ingram

To promote a woman to bear rule, superiority, dominion or empire above any realm, nation, or city is repugnant to nature, contumely to God, and the subversion of good order, of all equity and justice.

John Knox

I'd like to say I'm surprised, but I'm not. I asked for acts of spousal subterfuge, little tricks you play on your spouse. Percentage of responses that came from wives: 100. Duplicity, thy name is woman. It even sounds like a woman's name. Here's my friend Felicity, and her best friend, Duplicity. (Simplicity is still at home, trying to back the car out of the garage while it's in neutral.)

James Lileks

I'm furious about the Women's Liberationists. They keep getting up on soapboxes and proclaiming that women are brighter than men. That's true, but it should be kept very quiet or it ruins the whole racket.

Anita Loos

But if God had wanted us to think with our wombs, why did he give us a brain?

Clare Boothe Luce

Misogynist: A man who hates women as much as women hate one another.

H.L. Mencken

The caveman is all muscles and mush. Without a woman to rule him and think for him, he is a truly lamentable spectacle: a baby with whiskers, . . .a feeble and preposterous caricature of God.

H.L. Mencken

"Human creatures," says ["the Franco-Englishman, W.L."] George, borrowing from Weininger, "are never entirely male or entirely female; there are no men, there are no women, but only sexual majorities." Find me an obviously intelligent man, a man free from sentimentality and illusion, a man hard to deceive, a man of the first class, and I'll show you a man with a wide streak of woman in him.

H.L. Mencken

The truth is that neither sex, without some fertilization by the complementary characters of the other, is capable of the highest reaches of human endeavor. Man, without a saving touch of woman in him, is too doltish, too naive and romantic, too easily deluded and lulled to sleep by his imagination to be anything above a cavalryman, a theologian or a stock-broker. And woman, without some trace of that divine innocence which is masculine, is too harshly the realist for those vast projections of the fancy which lie at the heart of what we call genius. Here, as elsewhere in the universe, the best effects are obtained by a mingling of elements.

H.L. Mencken

Women yield to the current fashions, however preposterous, because they are too realistic to try to conceal their natural human inclination to dress up, to strike the public eye with arresting gauds, to give a show of wealth and consequence, always impressive to people in general. Women know hom much such a display is admired and envied, and how much envy may be worth — in deference and respect.

H.L. Mencken

When women kiss it always reminds one of prizefighters shaking hands.

H.L. Mencken

There was a woman once who was satisfied with her husband, her dress allowance, and her complection. Her name has not been preserved. She died before writing was invented.

H.L. Mencken

Women in general seem to me to be appreciably more intelligent than men. A great many of them suffer in silence from the imbecilities of their husbands. I daresay that poor Sara occasionally shouldered her share of this burden.

H.L. Mencken

Women have simple tastes. They can get pleasure out of the conversation of children in arms and men in love.

H.L. Mencken

Women always excel men in that sort of wisdom which comes from experience. To be a woman is in itself a terrible experience.

H.L. Mencken

Women decide the larger questions of life correctly and quickly, not because they are lucky guessers, not because they practise a magic inherited from savagery, but simply and solely because they have sense. They see at a glance what most men could not see with searchlights and telescopes . . . They are the supreme realists of the race.

H.L. Mencken

What men, in their egoism, constantly mistake for a deficiency of intelligence in woman is merely an incapacity for mastering that mass of small intellectual tricks . . .which constitutes the chief mental equipment of the average male. A man thinks that he is more intelligent than his wife because he can add up a column of figures more accurately, and because he understands the imbecile jargon of the stock market, and because he is able to distinguish between the ideas of rival politicians, and because he is privy to the minutiae of some sordid and degrading business or profession, say soap-selling or the law.

H.L. Mencken

I don't mind living in a man's world as long as I can be a woman in it.

Marilyn Monroe

I hate being a thing.

Marilyn Monroe


Manifesto of the Hot BiPolar Babes

We are the Hot BiPolar Babes.
We are Mad, Sometimes Bad, and always Dangerous to your Assumptions.
And if the day ever comes when we all become hypomanic at the same time, we will take over the world.
Love us. Fear Us. Ask us about new breakthroughs in psychiatric medicines. Call us at 3am when the cutlery drawer starts playing your song.
Because We Rock. And We Are Everywhere.

Marna Nightingale

If women didn't exist, all the money in the world would have no meaning.

Aristotle Onassis

Women are successful in the business world because the business world was created by men. Men are babies. And women are . . . good with kids.

P.J. O'Rourke

If you live in rock and roll, as I do, you see the reality of sex, of male lust and women being aroused by male lust. It attracts women. It doesn't repel them.

Camille Paglia

Women should not be enlightened or educated in any way. They should, in fact, be segregated as they are the cause of hideous and involuntary erections in holy men.

St. Augustine

A successful man is one who makes more money than his wife can spend. A successful woman is one who can find such a man.

Lana Turner

If it's a woman, it's caustic; if it's a man, it's authoritative.

Barbara Walters

From my experience, women prefer hunks with bad habits and prison records. A normal guy who can keep a job, hold a door and abstain from swearing in a lady's presence gets thrown back like an unwanted fish.

Jim Werbaneth

Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good . . . luckily, it's not difficult.

Charlotte Whitton

Why are women so much more interesting to men than men are to women?

Virginia Woolf

Words must be weighed, not counted.


A synonym is a word you use when you can't spell the word you first thought of.

Burt Bacharach

When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Those of us with loaded toolbelts can only look on in dismay.

Karen E. Black

The meaning of a word cannot be found in a dictionary. Definitions are in dictionaries; meanings are in people. We don't transmit meaning; we transmit messages (words and behaviours) that represent and elicit meaning.

Sam Deep

Tenses, Gender and Number: For the purpose of the rules and regulations contained in this chapter, the present tense includes the past and future tenses, and the future, the present; the masculine gender includes the feminine, and the feminine, the masculine, and the singular includes the plural and the plural the singular. [Revised (1973) state code]

Department of Consumer Affairs, California

[W]ords mean whatever the various participants in a discussion decide they mean. Dictionaries are a guide to help the participants come to mutual agreement about terms, they don't provide Revealed Cosmic Wisdom about the One True Meaning of a word.

Scott R. Padgett

"Onomatopoeic", she'd discovered in the dictionary, meant words that sounded like the noise of the thing they were describing, like "cuckoo". But she thought there should be a word meaning "a word that sounds like the noise a thing would make if that thing made a noise even though, actually, it doesn't, but would if it did".

Terry Pratchett

Man does not live by words alone, despite the fact that sometimes he has to eat them.

Adlai Stevenson

We use words to label and help us comprehend the world around us. At the same time, many of the words we use are like distorting lenses: They make us misperceive and hence misjudge the object we look at.

Thomas Szasz

The difference between the right word and almost the right word is the difference between "lightning" and "lightning bug".

Mark Twain

Verbing weirds words.

Bill Watterson

Dilbert Principle: The most ineffective workers are systematically moved to the place where they can do the least damage — management.

Scott Adams

Recently I saw "The Count of Monte Cristo." I heartily recommend this movie to anyone who has spent time in a cubicle. You'll relate to being stabbed by co-workers, trapped in a tiny prison cell with no way out, tortured once a year during your annual review, and dreaming of revenge.

Scott Adams

Curriculum Vitae is French for bald faced lie.


Don't condescend to unskilled labour. Try it for half a day first.

Brooks Atkinson

Anybody can do any amount of work, providing it is not what they are supposed to be doing at the moment.

Robert Benchley

Overwork (n): A dangerous disorder affecting high public functionaries who want to go fishing.

Ambrose Bierce

Work is a grand cure of all the maladies that ever beset mankind.

Thomas Carlyle

When a man tells me either that he can't make himself valuable in the marketplace or that it doesn't matter to his profession whether he does so or not, I'm inclined to take his word for it.

Richard C. Combs

Work is not a curse; it is the prerogative of intelligence, the only means to manhood, and the measure of civilization.

Calvin Coolidge

God sells us all things at the price of labour.

Leonardo da Vinci

It is the privilege of any human work which is well done to invest the doer with a certain haughtiness.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you have a job without aggravations, you don't have a job.

Malcolm Forbes

Real compensation includes salary plus psychic income.

Eugene Fubini

There are two kinds of people, those who do the work and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group; there is less competition there.

Indira Gandhi

I like work: It fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours. I love to keep it by me: The idea of getting rid of it nearly breaks my heart.

Jerome K. Jerome

Any dropped part will move to the most inaccessible place under the table/bench/chair/whatever. This is an immutable law of physics which applies to any and all dropped parts, tools, etc. For instance, if you are working on your car on an inclined surface and drop a part, it will move toward the centre of the chassis, bouncing off your shoe if necessary *even if it is uphill*.

Guy LaFrance

Most of the clerks at this store are friendly; you don't see those simmering waves of hate shimmering off the employees like you do in, say, Burger King. But today on the way in to the store I saw a guy getting off work, pulling his jacket over his Target shirt, and he had an expression that would blow the flies off roadkill. Something about him said he was part of the percentage of employees the company expects to stay no more than a month. He had the look of a guy who always found a reason to quit a job because the bosses were jerks. (We've all had a friend like this — every job had the same sad trajectory. New start, low-level gripes, Statement of Principles, Dramatic Exit, a month at home with the bong. Repeat.)

James Lileks

There's something fun about being fired; it's like you won the Anti-Lottery. You're full of adrenalin, and when you talk to friends, they're outraged. Everyone is on your side! You're the Martyr of the Hour! And then it wears off, and you feel like slinging a rope over the rafters.

James Lileks

Why do men delight in work? Fundamentally, I suppose, because there is a sense of relief and pleasure in getting something done — a kind of satisfaction not unlike that which a hen enjoys on laying an egg. Also, work offers an escape from boredom — a curse not only to men, but also to most of the other higher animals. There is nothing harder to do than nothing.

H.L. Mencken

Easy and simple projects are neither.

Dan L. Merkel

When you're young you want to impress and make a name for yourself, so you work harder. Then as you get older and more weatherbeaten, you get sick of all the BS and just want to go home and get drunk and start a cult.

Andrew Plato

Nodding the head does not row the boat.

Irish Proverb

Nose-to-the-Grindstone Theory (aka Uncle George Theory): If you do nothing else but keep your nose to the grindstone and work hard, long hours, you're guaranteed to get only one thing in return: old.

Robert J. Ringer

Skilled work, of no matter what kind, is only done well by those who take a certain pleasure in it, quite apart from its utility, either to themselves in earning a living, or to the world through its outcome.

Bertrand Russell

Work is of two kinds: first, altering the position of matter at or near the earth's surface relative to other matter; second, telling other people to do so. The first is unpleasant and ill-paid; the second is pleasant and highly paid.

Bertrand Russell

It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?

Henry David Thoreau

Y'know, it's comments like this that make me think that we live on different continents. Maybe things really are different on the warm side of the 49th parallel. Up here in the frozen tundra, we've progressively made it more and more difficult for kids to earn money outside the home. Most newspaper deliveries nowadays are made by gruesomely fuzzy (and smelly) 20-30 year olds. Selling lemonade will get you a very quick visit from either the local health officer or the municipal enforcement types, demanding to see your permit.

Cutting grass? Dude, that like, uses dangerous equipment, y'know? Can't allow the risk of children being injured . . . the child welfare authorities would be all over you like corruption on a Liberal prime minister.

The child labour laws have been strengthened to the point that it's almost impossible to find anyone under the age of 16 who is legally employed. (Illegal employment, is, of course, still available . . . )

Nicholas Russon

If all the year were playing holidays,
To sport would be as tedious as to work.

William Shakespeare

If a man loves the labour of his trade, apart from any question of success or fame, the gods have called him.

Robert Louis Stevenson

The law of work does seem utterly unfair — but there it is and nothing can change it: The higher the pay in enjoyment the worker gets out of it, the higher shall be his pay in money also.

Mark Twain

Work is the curse of the drinking classes.

Oscar Wilde

Worry is the interest paid on trouble before it comes due.


[Clichés] are all things to all men. Many are beneath contempt, but some are all to the good; they lend a helping hand and add insult to injury.

New York Times Manual of Style

I love deadlines. I especially like the whooshing sound they make as they go flying by.

Douglas Adams

He listens well who takes notes.

Dante Alighieri

I am returning this otherwise good typing paper to you because someone has printed gibberish all over it and put your name at the top.


A conclusion is simply the place where you got tired of thinking.


You know how it is in the kid's book world: It's just bunny eat bunny.


Kishotenketsu: The Japanese art of skillful writing. "First, you have the subject, ki, then you raise it, sho, next roll it, ten, and then," sweeping her hands downward through the air, "you end it beautifully, ketsu."


The preamble to the Charter of the United Nations is known as the Unconditional Surrender of the English Language.

Sir Humphrey Appleby

Write down the thoughts of the moment. Those that come unsought for are commonly the most valuable.

Francis Bacon

If you take hyphens seriously you will surely go mad.

John Benbow

It took me fifteen years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I couldn't give it up because by that time I was too famous.

Robert Benchley

Scribbler (n): A professional writer whose views are antagonistic to one's own.

Ambrose Bierce

Platitude (n): The fundamental element and special glory of popular literature. A thought that snores in words that smoke. The wisdom of a million fools in the diction of a dullard. A fossil sentiment in artificial rock. A moral without the fable. All that is mortal of a departed truth. A demi-tasse of milk-and-morality. The Pope's-nose or a featherless peacock. A jellyfish withering on the shore of the sea of thought. The cackle surviving the egg. A desiccated epigram.

Ambrose Bierce

Novel (n): A short story padded. A species of composition bearing the same relation to literature that the panorama bears to art. As it is too long to be read at a sitting the impressions made by its successive parts are successively effaced, as in the panorama. Unity, totality of effort, is impossible; for besides the few pages last read all that is carried in mind is the mere plot of what has gone before. To the romance, the novel is what photography is to painting. Its distinguishing principal, probability, corresponds to the literal actuality of the photograph and puts it distinctly into the category of reporting: whereas the free wing of the romancer enables him to mount to such altitudes of imagination as he may be fitted to attain; and the first three essentials of the literary art are imagination, imagination, and imagination. The art of writing novels, such as it was, is long dead everywhere except in Russia, where it is new. Peace to its ashes some of which have a large sale.

Ambrose Bierce

Obsolete (adj): No longer used by the timid. Said chiefly of words. A word which some lexicographer has marked obsolete is ever thereafter an object of dread and loathing to the fool writer, but if it is a good word and has no exact modern equivalent equally good, it is good enough for the good writer. Indeed, a writer's attitude toward "obsolete" words is as true a measure of his literary ability as anything except the character of his work. A dictionary of obsolete and obsolescent words would not only be singularly rich in strong and sweet parts of speech; it would add large possessions to the vocabulary of every competent writer who might not happen to be a competent reader.

Ambrose Bierce

Diary (n): A daily record of that part of one's life which he can relate to himself without blushing.

Ambrose Bierce

Dictionary (n): A malevolent literary device for cramping the growth of a language and making it hard and inelastic.

Ambrose Bierce

Epigram (n): A short, sharp saying in prose or verse, frequently characterized by acidity or acerbity and sometimes by wisdom.

Ambrose Bierce

Envelope (n): The coffin of a document; the scabbard of a bill; the husk of a remittance; the bed-gown of a love-letter.

Ambrose Bierce

Goose (n): A bird that supplies quills for writing. These, by some occult process of nature are penetrated and suffused with various degrees of the bird's intellectual energies and emotional character, so that when inked and drawn mechanically across paper by a person called an "author," there results a very fair and accurate transcript of the fowl's thought and feeling. The difference in geese, as discovered by this ingenious method, is considerable: many are found to have only trivial and insignificant powers, but some are seen to be very great geese indeed.

Ambrose Bierce

Plow (n): An implement that cries aloud for hands accustomed to the pen.

Ambrose Bierce

Lickspittle (n): A useful functionary, not infrequently found editing a newspaper. In his character of editor he is closely allied to the blackmailer by the tie of occasional identity; for in truth the lickspittle is only the blackmailer under another aspect, though the latter is frequently found as an independent species.

Ambrose Bierce

Proof-reader (n): A malefactor who atones for making your writing nonsense by permitting the compositor to make it unintelligible.

Ambrose Bierce

Publish (v): In literary affairs, to become the fundamental element of a cone of critics.

Ambrose Bierce

Luminary (n): One who throws light upon a subject; as an editor by not writing about it.

Ambrose Bierce

Ink (n): A villainous compound of tanno-gallate of iron, gum-arabic and water, chiefly used to facilitate the infection of idiocy and promote intellectual crime. The properties of ink are peculiar and contradictory: it may be used to make reputations and unmake them; to blacken them and to make them white; but it is most generally and acceptably employed as a mortar to bind together the stones in an edifice of fame and as a whitewash to conceal afterward the rascal quality of the material. There are men called journalists who have established ink baths which some persons pay money to get into, others to get out of. Not infrequently it occurs that a person who has paid to get in pays twice as much to get out.

Ambrose Bierce

Quill (n): An implement of torture yielded by a goose and commonly wielded by an ass. This use of the quill is now obsolete, but its modern equivalent, the steel pen, is wielded by the same everlasting Presence.

Ambrose Bierce

About the most originality that any writer can hope to achieve honestly is to steal with good judgement.

Josh Billings

I'm spending more time paying attention to my prose, as well as what it describes, these days. This is harder for me than it sounds, as I was always one of those readers to whom the words were nearly invisible. When reading, rather than seeing the words on the page, I floated instead in what felt like a directly visualized experience of the tale being told, and when I finished reading a book, it wasn't the words I remembered, but the pictures they'd made in my head.

Lois McMaster Bujold

Be not the slave of words.

Thomas Carlyle

Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him out to the public.

Winston S. Churchill

Whatever you do, do NOT let your editorial decisions be made by the squiggly spell-checking lines in Word!

Keith Cronin

Man is a self-deceiving animal; I have bad faith, therefore I am, one might almost say. Since amateur writers outnumber professionals by 100 to 1 — at the very least — their productions are a better guide, statistically speaking, to the travails of the modern soul than the more readily accessible output of their professional confreres. Throughout every city you'll find writers' groups, where the disgruntled gather to express their rage in mimeographed print, aiming to disguise the source of unhappiness from themselves. Every dissatisfaction calls forth its own group, it seems: thus there is even a writers' group for socialist transvestites.

Theodore Dalrymple

Writing is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as the headlights, but you make the whole trip that way.

E.L. Doctorow

Some editors are failed writers, but so are most writers.

T.S. Eliot

People do not deserve to have good writing, they are so pleased with bad

Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is perfectly clear that this is very ambiguous.

Ralph Feldberg

Putting pen to paper lights more fire than matches ever will.

Malcolm Forbes

Writing is easy; all you do is stare at a blank piece of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead.

Gene Fowler

How are SF writers like technical writers? Well, we both write about the things we imagine will happen in the future!

Susan Gallagher

Ideas are cheap. Stories are hard. Anyone who has made a concerted effort to turn an idea into a story knows the wide gap between the two.

James Alan Gardner

I can't tell if I dislike Hemingway, Faulkner, and Steinbeck because they're bombastic American novelists, or because we had to read them in school.

Paul Graham

The cliché organizes life: it expropriates people's identity; it becomes ruler, defence lawyer, judge, and the law.

Vaclav Havel

I'm afraid of coaching, of writer's classes, of writer's magazines, of books on how to write. They give me centipede trouble — you know the yarn about the centipede who was asked how he managed all his feet? He tried to answer, stopped to think about it, and was never able to walk another step.

Robert A. Heinlein

Heinlein's Rules For Writing
  1. You must write.
  2. You must finish what you write.
  3. You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.
  4. You must put the work on the market.
  5. You must keep the work on the market until it is sold.

Robert A. Heinlein

Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of — but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.

Robert A. Heinlein

Doctors bury their mistakes; the architect can always urge his client to plant vines; but the writer publishes his mistakes.

Ernest Hemingway

No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.

Samuel Johnson

Your manuscript is both good and original; but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good.

Samuel Johnson

Personally I would sooner have written Alice in Wonderland than the whole Encyclopedia Britannica.

Stephen Leacock

Of course, what Shakespeare originally wrote was "Let's kill all the editors," but for some reason it didn't survive beyond the first draft.

David D. "Laserdave" Levine

For years I have considered cashing in on the lucrative genres. There's the serial killer genre, but I like women too much to spend a year describing their vivisection. The worst I could come up with is a serial esteem-wounder who walks around and tells strange women they've put on a few pounds. I could write a legal thriller, but years of watching lawyers has taught me that the phrase "legal thriller" is an oxymoron on par with "proctological comedy."

In short, I have a problem with plots. My books have all the plot of a want ads column. The editor of my first novel, a vigorously caffinated New Yorker, had one simple cure for plotlessness: kill someone. It was his holy rule. If he was writing instructions for a cake mix, Step One would not be "beat eggs" but "beat eggs to death."

James Lileks

Sometimes writing is like sucking on a stick of butter; sometimes it's like whittling steel. Tonight is the latter.

James Lileks

Don't loaf and invite inspiration; light out after it with a club, and if you don't get it you will nonetheless get something that looks remarkably like it.

Jack London

If you want to get rich from writing, write the sort of thing that's read by persons who move their lips when they're reading to themselves.

Don Marquis

No man, within twenty-four hours after eating a meal in a Pennsylvania Railroad dining-car, could conceivably write anything worth reading.

H.L. Mencken

Writing is like Prostitution. First you do it for the love of it, then you do it for a few friends, and finally, you do it for the money.


Isn't catharsis part of the purpose of fiction?

OTOH, people do identify with fictional characters, and that can make one person's catharsis another person's "getting run over by a fleet of angry trucks".

Marna Nightingale

Everywhere I go, I'm asked if the universities stifle writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them.

Flannery O'Connor

Political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible.

George Orwell

Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech that you are used to seeing in print.

George Orwell

[T]o be corrupted by totalitarianism one does not have to live in a totalitarian country. The mere prevalence of certain ideas can spread a kind of poison that makes one subject after another impossible for literary purposes. Wherever there is an enforced orthodoxy — or two orthodoxies, as often happens — good writing stops.

George Orwell

[At the bottom of a letter to a friend] I am sorry this is so long, I did not have time to make it shorter.

Blaise Pascal

A man's grammar, like Caesar's wife, must not only be pure, but above suspicion of impurity.

Edgar Allan Poe

For what I have published, I can only hope to be pardoned; but for what I have burned, I deserve to be praised.

Alexander Pope

I always tell wannabe writers not to read too much in the field where they work. Obviously you need to keep in touch, but a deep knowledge of the Old West or world history stands you in better stead than a shelf of other people's fantasy books. Import, don't recycle.

Terry Pratchett

I save about twenty drafts [. . .] and the last one contains all the final alterations. Once it has been printed out and received by the publishers, there's a cry here of 'Tough shit, literary researchers of the future, try getting a proper job!' and the rest are wiped.

Terry Pratchett

Masterpieces are no more than the shipwrecked flotsam of great minds.

Marcel Proust

Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it . . . and delete it before sending your manuscript to the press.

Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch

It has been said that a writer's idea of sound criticism is ten thousand words of closely reasoned adulation.

Nicholas Rosen

You should see some of the articles I've had submitted for my publication. Spell checkers? While they're a nice feature, they don't address the worst problems. Grammar checkers? They often make an already bad piece of writing totally incomprehensible. In both cases, the assumption is that the writer using the tool actually knows the rules and is merely using the checker to catch minor errors.

What I'd love to see would be tools like "Consistency Checkers", "Logical Organization Checkers", or even "Vague Approximation of Rational Thought Checkers". Perhaps other editors have had better experiences, but only half of the authors I've published have been "easy" to edit. The others, I've spent as much time rewriting, re-organizing, and (in some cases) attempting to fill huge gaps in the article by either psychic channelling or divination.

Nicholas Russon

Voguism: A word or phrase in fashion, used by writers who are with-it and then repeated endlessly by politicians and public intellectuals unable to assert their relevance without it.

William Safire

One reason the human race has such a low opinion of itself is that it gets so much of its wisdom from writers.

Wilfred Sheed

In composing, as a general rule, run your pen through every other word you have written; you have no idea what vigour it will give your style.

Sydney Smith

An author cannot, for the life of him, judge correctly of what he has just written; he has to wait until lapse of time enables him to read it as though it were a stranger's and he then discerns flaws where all had seemed perfect.

Herbert Spencer

If you are getting the worst of it in an argument with a literary man, always attack his style. That'll touch him if nothing else will.

J.A. Spender

[A] novel represents years of hard work distilled into a few hundred pages, with all (or at least most) of the bad ideas cut out and thrown away, and the good ideas polished and refined as much as possible. Interacting with an author in person is nothing like reading his novels. Just about everyone who gets an opportunity to meet with an author in person ends up feeling mildly let down, and in some cases, grievously disappointed.

Neal Stephenson

Writing novels is hard, and requires vast, unbroken slabs of time. Four quiet hours is a resource that I can put to good use. Two slabs of time, each two hours long, might add up to the same four hours, but are not nearly as productive as an unbroken four. If I know that I am going to be interrupted, I can't concentrate, and if I suspect that I might be interrupted, I can't do anything at all. Likewise, several consecutive days with four-hour time-slabs in them give me a stretch of time in which I can write a decent book chapter, but the same number of hours spread out across a few weeks, with interruptions in between them, are nearly useless.

Neal Stephenson

Anyone can write — anyone with an interest in words and an engagement with the world they live in. Writing isn't a profession like medicine or accountancy, and pretending it is — as North America's journalism-school culture does — is worse than a harmless affectation, it's actually an obstacle to good readable writing.

Mark Steyn

These days, a British novelist means a London novelist: you can't sit in the East Midlands writing gritty tales of decaying mining communities; no publisher would even return your call. You have to move to town, hang out with other novelists, go to dinner parties with novelists, book launches with novelists, restaurants with novelists, until you find your horizons have so shrunk that you're writing novels about a novelist who's having difficulties with his novel until he decides to make it a novel about a novelist friend of his who's having even worse difficulties with his novel. Thus, the sterile landscape of English letters.

Mark Steyn

Like most expert commentators, I haven't a clue what I'm talking about 90% of the time. Fortunately, it's usually pretty easy to fake it with a judiciously deployed metaphor.

Mark Steyn

The mind travels faster than the pen; consequently, writing becomes a question of learning to make occasional wing shots, bringing down the bird of thought as it flashes by. A writer is a gunner, sometimes waiting in his blind for something to come in, sometimes roaming the countryside hoping to scare something up.

William Strunk, Jr.

How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live!

Henry David Thoreau

It is harder to write a comedy character in a drawing-room scene than King Lear in a storm.

James Thurber

The writer who fails to see the humour inherent in love, sex and marriage misses half of what they mean.

James Thurber

Use the right word, not its second cousin.

Mark Twain

As to the Adjective: When in doubt, strike it out.

Mark Twain

Style — good style — [has] no barnacles on it in the way of unnecessary, retarding words.

Mark Twain

[D]isguise repetitiousness of fact under a variety of form: skin your fact each time and lay on a new cuticle of words. It deceives the eye: you think it is a new fact . . .

Mark Twain

The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. . .'tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.

Mark Twain

I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English — it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don't let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don't mean utterly, but kill most of them — then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice. (letter to D. W. Bowser, 3/20/1880)

Mark Twain

You need not expect to get your book right the first time. Go to work and revamp or rewrite it. God only exhibits his thunder and lightning at intervals, and so they always command attention. These are God's adjectives. You thunder and lightning too much; the reader ceases to get under the bed by and by.
(Letter to Orion Clemens, 1878-03-23)

Mark Twain

An author values a compliment even when it comes from a source of doubtful competency.

Mark Twain

Repetition may be bad, but surely inexactness is worse.

Mark Twain

This is what I find encouraging about the writing trades: They allow mediocre people who are patient and industrious to revise their stupidity, to edit themselves into something like intelligence.

Kurt Vonnegut

I used to hate writing assignments, but now I enjoy them. I realized that the purpose of writing is to inflate weak ideas, obscure poor reasoning, and inhibit clarity. With a little practice, writing can be an intimidating and impenetrable fog! Want to see my book report?

Bill Watterson

No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else's draft.

H.G. Wells

No one can write decently who is distrustful of the reader's intelligence, or whose attitude is patronizing.

E.B. White

You never hear about carpenter's block, doctor's block or engineer's block. Writers are the only people who have cooked up an elaborate system of diagnosis and treatment for their particular brand of creative impasse.

Danny Heitman

There is no such thing as writer's block — that's just an excuse.

W.P. Kinsella

When the tank runs dry you've only to leave it alone and it will fill up again in time.

Mark Twain

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