Smart Words of the English Language

Most quotes and sayings are very effective in transferring their meaning thanks to their shortness and directness. They use a simple and vivid language, often based on everyday situations, making them easy to understand and remember.
This selection presents the very best quotes, after more than a decade of collecting them. The selection is based on personal opinion, and your mileage may vary. These intelligent quotes have no particular topic and range from thought-provoking to enlighten to just plain funny.

Smart Quotes

Works fills the time allowed for its completion. [Parkinson's law — Cyril Northcote Parkinson as part of the first sentence of a humorous essay published in The Economist in 1955]

Contradictory statements: Not Necessarily Lying

"The streets are safe in Philadelphia. It's only the people who make them unsafe."

Frank Rizzo, ex-police chief and mayor of Philadelphia

"After finding no qualified candidates for the position of principal, the school board is extremely pleased to announce the appointment of David Steele to the post."

Philip Streifer, Superintendent of Schools, Barrington, Rhode Island.

"I haven't committed a crime. What I did was fail to comply with the law."

David Dinkins, New York City Mayor, answering accusations that he failed to pay his taxes.

"It depends on your definition of asleep. They were not stretched out. They had their eyes closed. They were seated at their desks with their heads in a nodding position."

John Hogan, Common-wealth Edison Supervisor of News Information, responding to a charge by a Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspector that two Dresden Nuclear Plant operators were sleeping on the job.

"I was a pilot flying an airplane and it just so happened that, where I was flying, made what I was doing spying."

Francis Gary Powers, U-2 reconnaissance pilot held by the Soviets for spying, in an interview after he was returned to the US.

"I didn't accept it. I received it."

Richard Allen, National Security Advisor to President Reagan, explaining the $1000 in cash and two watches he was given by two Japanese journalists after he helped arrange a private interview for them with First Lady Nancy Reagan.

"He didn't say that. He was reading what was given to him in a speech."

Richard Darman, director of OMB, explaining why President Bush wasn't following up on his campaign pledge that there would be no loss of wetlands.

"I do exactly as my father did. He did not imitate and I do not imitate."

After Rabbi Noah succeeded his father Rabbi Mordechai as Rav of Lechovitz, his hasidic followers soon noted that he did many things quite differently. The reponse above was the answer, when Rabbi Mordechai was asked about this. [Eugene Borowitz, Frances Weinman Schwartz]

"They gave me a book of checks. They didn't ask for any deposits."

Congressman Joe Early (D-Mass) at a press conference to answer questions about the House Bank scandal.

"I was under medication when I made the decision not to burn the tapes."

President Richard Nixon.

Witty Quotes: with words, about words

Our Bible reveals to us the character of our God with minute and remorseless exactness ... It is perhaps the most damnatory biography that exists in print anywhere. It makes Nero an angel of light and leading by contrast. [Mark Twain]

Falling in love is not at all the most stupid thing that people do but gravitation can not be held responsible for it. [Albert Einstein]

Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future. [Niels Bohr]

Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful. [George E. P. Box]

The best material model of a cat is another, or preferably the same, cat. [Norbert Wiener]

As a child, I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene. [Albert Einstein]

I support your right to free speech.
Respect my right not to be forced to listen to it.

One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I'll never know. » [Groucho Marx]

A MIT linguistic professor was lecturing his class. "In English," he said, "a double negative forms a positive. However, in some languages, such as Russian, a double negative remains a negative. But there isn't a single language, not one, in which a double positive can express a negative."
A voice from the back of the room piped up, "Yeah, right."

Time flies like an arrow;
fruit flies like a banana.

THE COURT: Now, as we begin, I must ask you to banish all present information and prejudice from your minds, if you have any.

Attorney: Doctor, what treatment did you give this man?
Doctor: I cleansed the wound, sutured it, and put him to bed with a nurse.

The governor of the Bank of England began an address to an assembly of bankers with these words:
"There are three kinds of economists, those who can count and those who can't."

Quotes - Insight, advice and practical wisdom

Organic life, we are told, has developed gradually from the protozoon to the philosopher, and this development, we are assured, is indubitably an advance. Unfortunately it is the philosopher, not the protozoon, who gives us this assurance. » [Bertrand Russell]

Gorbachev's stance contrasts admirably with the policy of the sainted Abraham Lincoln, who used massive force and mass murder to force the seceding Southern states to remain in the Union. » [Murray Newton Rothbard]

The only man who behaved sensibly was my tailor; he took my measurement anew every time he saw me, while all the rest went on with their old measurements and expected them to fit me. » [George Bernard Shaw]

I have been reading the Old Testament, a most bloodthirsty and perilous book for the young. Jehovah is beyond doubt the worst character in fiction. » [Edwin Arlington Robinson]

In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. [...] I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902 - 1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. [...] Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. » [Smedley Butler] (General of the U.S. Marine Corps, author of the book "War is a Racket", one of the first works describing the military-industrial complex)

If you marry a man who cheats on his wife, you'll be married to a man who cheats on his wife. » [Ann Landers]

You're basically killing each other to see who's got the better imaginary friend. [Rich Jeni on war vs. religion]

I am not sure how many "sins" I would recognize in the world. Some would surely be defused by changed circumstances. But I can imagine none that is more irredeemably sinful than the betrayal, the exploitation, of the young by those who should care for them. » [Elizabeth Janeway, Captain of the starship Voyager]

Family . . . the home of all social evil, a charitable institution for comfortable women, an anchorage for house-fathers, and a hell for children. [August Strindberg]

You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete. » [Richard Buckminster Fuller]

For two thousand years Christianity has been telling us: life is death, death is life; it is high time to consult the dictionary. » [Remy de Gourmont]

Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.[George Santayana]