The Last Word

An eclectic collection that made us pause for thought.

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What does the Canadian girl say when you ask her if she’d like sex?
“Only if you’re having some yourself.”

— Margaret Atwood in The Guardian

Definition of a Jury:
“12 persons summoned at random to decide which party has the better lawyer.”

— Hilaire Belloc, With thanks to Leo Robson, FT

Some say we need a miracle to save the Eurozone and the banks. We need a far bigger one to save the planet.

— Peter Wilby, The Guardian

Everybody does have a book in them, but in most cases that’s where it should stay.

— Christopher Hitchens

Work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed.

— Vaclav Havel

Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.

— Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract

Marriage isn’t a thing to be romantic about – it lasts too long.

— John Hankin, from his play ‘The Charity that Began at Home’

He roamed while his fiddle burned.

— Anon. This was said of a musician (Vaughan Williams?) who was known to have had a number of affairs.

You can always tell a Yorkshireman – but you can’t tell him much!

— Anon

When the captain of the ill fated Costa Concordia was asked if he knew where he was going he replied “off course.”

Die, my dear doctor? That is the last thing I shall do.

— Lord Palmerston

A committee is a cul-de-sac down which ideas are lured and then quietly strangled.

— Sir Barnett Cocks, With thanks to Robert Rogers for his book Order! Order!

Points of order on points of order that are not points of order are not points of order.

— The Speaker of the House of Commons, With thanks to Robert Rogers, from his book Order! Order!

Softly attractive, wearing the kind of smile that kicks the Manhattan winter into the Hudson.

— Simon Schama on meeting Cindy Sherman, FT Magazine

The world is run by monsters and you have to deal with them. Some of them run countries, some of them run banks and some of them run news corporations.

— Ken Livingstone

A Spaniard will live for eight days on a German’s dinner.

— Rousseau, from The Social Contract

She was fine when she left here.

— Comment from Belfast shipyard on the Titanic

A pleasure shared is a pleasure halved!

— Anon

To win an election you need addition and multiplication, to lose you need subtraction and division.

— Comment on the US presidential election, BBC Radio 4

Those who can do. Those who can do more volunteer.

— Anon. This is a tribute to the volunteer Guides at Kew’s Royal Botanic Gardens who celebrate their 20th anniversary

I would rather cry in the back of a BMW than laugh on the back of a bicycle.

— Girl on Chinese tv dating show, With thanks to Jonathan Fenby, The Guardian

There is no such thing as waste: only stuff in the wrong place.

— With thanks to architect Duncan Baker-Brown

You get more horrified by politicians as you get older, it’s a constant series of disappointments and let-downs.

— Roger McGough, Interview in the FT Weekend Magazine

I don’t believe in heroes or saviours but I do believe in fighting for rights…no-one has the right to reduce a proud people to such a state of wretchedness and indignity.

— Alexis Tsipras, leader of the Syriza party in Greece, Guardian interview with Helena Smith

A dripping June keeps everything in tune.

— Anon

The difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion is the thickness of a prison wall.

— Denis Healey, former Chancellor of the Exchequer

The English nation thinks it is free, but it is greatly mistaken, for it is only during the election of members of parliament; as soon as they are elected it is enslaved and counts for nothing.

— Rousseau, The Social Contract

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.

— Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, With thanks to Lucy Kellaway, FT

Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.

— Stephen Covey, management guru, With thanks to Lucy Kellaway, FT

Confidence is the prize given to the mediocre.

— Robert Hughes, art critic

Good girls go to Heaven. Bad girls go everywhere.

— Helen Gurley Brown, author of Sex & the Single Girl

To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; to steal from many is research.

— Robert Hughes, Attributed to Wilson Mizner, American playwrigh

We live at a time “when democracy has become the catspaw of plutocrats”

— Simon Schama writing on the Olympics in the Financial Times

Profit without purpose is a recipe for disaster…. the absence of purpose – or of a moral language – within government, media or business, could become one of the most dangerous own goals for capitalism and for freedom.

— Elizabeth Murdoch, MacTaggart lecture

When I started gardening I knew everything there was to know about very little; as I grew older I found I knew less and less about more and more, and now I know nothing about everything.

— Alwyn, Allotments-UK forum

80 percent of success is showing up.

— Woody Allen

I’ve been influenced by everyone, the past is the compost in which we grow.

— Frank Auerbach, Interview with Jackie Wullschlager in the FT

Q:How long should a man’s legs be?
A:Long enough to touch the ground.

— J.D. Salinger

The universe is merely a fleeting idea in God’s mind – a pretty uncomfortable thought, particularly if you’ve just made a downpayment on a house.

— Woody Allen

Technology companies begin to die when salespeople and bean counters start making the decisions.

— Steve Jobs

Dialogue is the strategy of the brave.

— Jonas Gahr Store, Norwegian Foreign Minister, With thanks to Patrick Seale, The Guardian

Sushi must have been created by two Jews thinking, ‘How can we open a restaurant without a kitchen?’

— Jackie Mason

Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads, which sew people together through the years.

— Simone Signoret

Madness is a relative state. Who can say which of us is truly insane?

— Woody Allen

In victory, you deserve champagne, in defeat you need it.

— Napoleon

The enduring metaphor of regulatory policy is the noise of stable doors being firmly shut behind the horse.

— John Kay in the Financial Times

When the white missionaries came to Africa, they had the Bible and we had the land.
They said, ‘Let us pray.’ We closed our eyes. When we opened them, we had the Bible and they had the land.

— Desmond Tutu

Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

— George Orwell

Kill one man and you’re a murderer, kill a million and you’re a conqueror.

— Jean Rostand

Passengers are reminded that they are here to wait for the train. The train is not here to wait for them.

— A London Underground train driver., With thanks to Simon Hoggart, The Guardian
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