Herb Stein's Unfamiliar Quotations

May 16 1997 3:30 AM

Herb Stein's Unfamiliar Quotations

On money, madness, and making mistakes.

(Continued from Page 1)

I love this in part because I am proud that I translated it from the French, which, in turn, was translated from the Czech. But I love it even more because it has saved me so much trouble. In the past when I encountered some outlandish inanity--often about taxes--I would sit down at my keyboard and write an answer. I am still tempted to do that, but since I encountered that quotation, I have resisted.

Advertisement

You may ask: How will I know if he is a madman? The answer is: Don't worry, you'll know. And if you are in doubt, assume he is mad and leave the refutation to others. You have plenty to do in the world without having to worry about debating people who may be mad.

42000_42817_asterisks

Never waste any time you can spend sleeping.

--Professor Frank H. Knight, in class at the University of Chicago, 1936

Clear enough, aside from these questions: What qualifies as wasting time, and what should you do if you can't sleep? I recently encountered a somewhat different quotation from the poet Baudelaire:

To kill that particular monster [time] is the most ordinary and legitimate occupation of each person.

It is interesting that Knight should have used the word "waste," which is the gangland term for "kill." Perhaps the reconciliation here is that sleep is the best way of killing time.

42000_42817_asterisks

Honesty may not be the best policy, but it is worth trying once in a while.

--Richard Nixon, in a meeting, 1970

42000_42818_frenkel_nixon

This may seem the ultimate in cynicism, but the second half of the quotation (about trying honesty once in a while) seems foreign to many politicians, among others.

42000_42817_asterisks

Surely there is something unlovely, to modern as against medieval minds, about marked inequality of either kind [income or power].

TODAY IN SLATE

The World

The Budget Disaster that Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

Are the Attacks in Canada a Sign of ISIS on the Rise in the West?

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

Is It Offensive When Kids Use Bad Words for Good Causes?

Fascinating Maps Based on Reddit, Craigslist, and OkCupid Data

Culturebox

The Real Secret of Serial

What reporter Sarah Koenig actually believes.

Culturebox

The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

In Praise of 13th Grade: Why a Fifth Year of High School Is a Great Idea

Can Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu Pull Off One More Louisiana Miracle?

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 23 2014 1:51 PM Is This the ISIS Backlash We've Been Waiting For?
  Business
Business Insider
Oct. 23 2014 2:36 PM Take a Rare Peek Inside the Massive Data Centers That Power Google
  Life
Atlas Obscura
Oct. 23 2014 1:34 PM Leave Me Be Beneath a Tree: Trunyan Cemetery in Bali
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 11:33 AM Watch Little Princesses Curse for the Feminist Cause
  Slate Plus
Working
Oct. 23 2014 11:28 AM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 2 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked Dr. Meri Kolbrener about her workday.
  Arts
Culturebox
Oct. 23 2014 1:46 PM The Real Secret of Serial Has Sarah Koenig made up her mind yet? 
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 23 2014 11:45 AM The United States of Reddit  How social media is redrawing our borders. 
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 23 2014 7:30 AM Our Solar System and Galaxy … Seen by an Astronaut
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.