Posts tagged ‘Quote’

October 8, 2019

Hoist With His Own Petard

Petard

‘Hoist with his own petard’ is a phrase from a speech in William Shakespeare’s play ‘Hamlet’ that has become proverbial.

The phrase’s meaning is literally that the bomb-maker (a “petard” is a small explosive device) is blown up (‘hoisted’ off the ground) by his own bomb, and indicates an ironic reversal, or poetic justice.

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November 16, 2016

May You Live In Interesting Times

interesting times

crisis

‘May you live in interesting times’ is an English expression purported to be a translation of a traditional Chinese curse. While seemingly a blessing, the expression is always used ironically, with the clear implication that ‘uninteresting times,’ of peace and tranquillity, are more life-enhancing than interesting ones, which from historical perspective usually include disorder and conflict.

Despite being so common in English as to be known as ‘the Chinese curse,’ the saying is apocryphal, and no actual Chinese source has ever been produced. The nearest related Chinese expression is usually translated as ‘Better to be a dog in a peaceful time, than to be a human in a chaotic (warring) period.’ The expression originates from a 1627 short story collection, ‘Stories to Awaken the World.’

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November 11, 2016

Don’t Mourn, Organize!

joe hill

Don’t mourn, organize!‘ is an expression often incorrectly supposed to be the last words spoken by labor activist and songwriter Joe Hill, who was charged with murder and executed in Utah in 1915. In truth, the expression is part of a telegram sent to Bill Haywood, the founding member and leader of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), in which Joe wrote, ‘Goodbye, Bill, I die like a true blue rebel. Don’t waste any time mourning. Organize!’ It wasn’t Joe’s last telegram; he sent another in which he implored Haywood, ‘Could you arrange to have my body hauled to the state line to be buried? I don’t want to be found dead in Utah.’

Since the death of Hill, the phrase has been used in association with other labor leaders’ deaths. The phrase has also been used in conjunction with a severe defeat and not the death of an individual.

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October 23, 2014

There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch

tanstaafl

‘There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch’ (TANSTAAFL) is a popular adage communicating the idea that it is impossible to get something for nothing. The phrase dates to the 1930s and 1940s, but its first appearance is unknown. The ‘free lunch’ in the saying refers to the nineteenth-century practice in American bars of offering a ‘free lunch’ in order to entice drinking customers.

The phrase and the acronym are central to Robert Heinlein’s 1966 science-fiction novel ‘The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress,’ about the revolt of a lunar colony and the installation of a libertarian regime. Free-market economist Milton Friedman used it as the title of a 1975 book, and it is often mentioned in economics literature to describe opportunity cost (the value of the next best thing you give up whenever you make a decision). Macroeconomist Campbell McConnell writes that the idea is ‘at the core of economics.’

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September 11, 2013

The empire on which the sun never sets

british empire

The phrase “the empire on which the sun never sets” has been used with variations to describe certain global empires that were so extensive that there was always at least one part of their territory in daylight.

It was originally used for the Spanish Empire in the 16th and 17th centuries, and for the British Empire in the 19th and early 20th centuries. German historian of language Georg Büchmann traces the idea to a speech in Herodotus’ Histories, made by Xerxes I of Persia before invading Greece.

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August 20, 2013

The dose makes the poison

The dose makes the poison, a principle of toxicology, was first expressed by German-Swiss Renaissance physician Paracelsus. It means that a substance can produce the harmful effect associated with its toxic properties only if it reaches a susceptible biological system within the body in a high enough concentration (dose).

The principle relies on the finding that all chemicals—even water and oxygen—can be toxic if too much is eaten, drunk, or absorbed. ‘The toxicity of any particular chemical depends on many factors, including the extent to which it enters an individual’s body.’ This finding provides also the basis for public health standards, which specify maximum acceptable concentrations of various contaminants in food, public drinking water, and the environment.

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August 17, 2013

Just watch me

Pierre Trudeau

Just watch me‘ is a phrase made famous by Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau on October 13, 1970, during the October Crisis (two kidnappings of government officials by Québécois separatists). The term is still regularly used in Canadian political discussion. Trudeau, who had in previous years been a strong proponent of civil liberties, spoke of the need for drastic action to restore order in Quebec.

When questioned by CBC reporter Tim Ralfe on how far he would go in the suspension of civil liberties to maintain order, Trudeau replied ‘Well, just watch me.’ Three days later he invoked the ‘War Measures Act,’ which led to police action against many Quebec dissidents and great public controversy.

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May 21, 2013

Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition

Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition‘ is an American patriotic song written by Frank Loesser and published as sheet music in 1942 by Famous Music Corp. The song was a response to the attack on Pearl Harbor that marked United States involvement in World War II.

The song describes a chaplain (‘sky pilot’) being with some fighting men who are under attack from an enemy. He is asked to say a prayer for the men who were engaged in firing at the oncoming planes. The chaplain puts down his Bible, mans one of the ship’s gun turrets and begins firing back, saying, ‘Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.’

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May 8, 2013

Colorless green ideas sleep furiously

Colorless green ideas sleep furiously‘ is a sentence composed by linguist Noam Chomsky in his 1957 book ‘Syntactic Structures’ as an example of a sentence that is grammatically correct, but semantically nonsensical. The term was originally used in his 1955 thesis ‘Logical Structures of Linguistic Theory.’

Although the sentence is grammatically correct, no obvious understandable meaning can be derived from it, and thus it demonstrates the distinction between syntax (linguistic rules) and semantics (symbolic meaning). As an example of a category mistake (a property is ascribed to a thing that could not possibly have that property), it was used to show inadequacy of the then-popular probabilistic models of grammar, and the need for more structured models.

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March 9, 2013

Shaken, Not Stirred

shaken not stirred

Shaken, not stirred‘ is a catchphrase of Ian Fleming’s fictional British Secret Service agent James Bond, and his preference for how he wished his martini prepared. The phrase first appears in the novel ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ (1956), though Bond does not actually say the line until ‘Dr. No’ (1958) but says it ‘shaken and not stirred’ instead of ‘shaken, not stirred.’ It was first uttered in the films by Sean Connery in Goldfinger in 1964 (though the villain Dr. Julius No offers this drink and utters those words in the first film, Dr. No, in 1962).

It was used in numerous Bond films thereafter with the notable exceptions of ‘You Only Live Twice,’ in which the drink is offered stirred, not shaken (Bond, ever the gentleman, ignores his host’s gaffe, telling him the drink is perfect), and ‘Casino Royale,’ in which Bond, after losing millions of dollars in a game of poker, is asked if he wants his martini shaken or stirred, and snaps, ‘Do I look like I give a damn?’

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December 4, 2012

Too big to fail

Lehman Brothers

Too big to fail‘ describes financial institutions that are so large and so interconnected that their failure is widely held to be disastrous to the economy, and which therefore must be supported by government when they face difficulty. The term was popularized by Congressman Stewart McKinney in a 1984 hearing discussing the FDIC’s intervention with a failing bank, Continental Illinois.

Proponents of this theory believe that the importance of some institutions means they should become recipients of beneficial financial and economic policies from governments or central banks. One of the problems that arises is moral hazard (where costs that could incur will not be felt by the party taking the risk), in this case companies insulated by protective policies will seek to profit by it, and take positions that are high-risk high-return, as they are able to leverage these risks based on the policy preference they receive.

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September 10, 2012

I would rather cry in a BMW

If You Are the One

I would rather cry in a BMW‘ is a quotation that became an online sensation in China in 2010. It originated from Ma Nuo, a 20-year-old female contestant on the television show ‘Fei Cheng Wu Rao’ (also known in English as ‘If you are the One’).

The line was in response to a question by an unemployed suitor who asked if Ma would ‘ride a bicycle with him’ on a date. The series of events have been summed up in the media with the quip ‘I would rather cry in a BMW than laugh on a bicycle.’

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