Wikiquote:Reference desk/Archive/1

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Translate proverbs


My Serbian friend delights in giving me phrases (proverbs) that I don't understand. Can you translate this for me?

Thank you ,


Sve se moze kad se hoce --02:25, 12 Feb 2004 hehe, i am from Serbia too :) Sve se moze kad se hoce = You can do everything just when u want to do it cheers

But what does it do?


I, along with many others, have been seeking the source of this quote: " 'But what does it do?' 'It doesn't DO anything. That's the beauty of it!' " If somebody could find a validated source of that quote, we would be very happy. Thanks. This quotation has also been referred to as the "Rargh!!" quotation.

And here's the answer at last. The exact quote comes from the 1987 play "Apocalyptic Butterflies" by Wendy Macleod. It made it to Broadway on 1989, and has been performed regularly in colleges and high schools across the country since then; excerpts may also have shown up in literature text-books or test prep materials. see here [1] . The exact quote as appearing in the script is:

HANK: "What is it?"
DICK: "It's a butterfly."
HANK: "What does it DO?"
DICK: "Doesn't do anything. That's the beauty of it. You nail em' to your house, your mailbox, makes it distinctive"


Snopes indicates this exchange occurs in the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy: The Movie (2005 release) between Arther Dent and Slartibartfast. --steve-- i know for a fact that that is a quote from Abe Lincoln. We studied his life in great detail in AP history.


Well, my initial Internet review suggests you're asking one of the great mysteries of quote-ology. I think this'll take quite some time to track down, if it can be. But I'll give it a shot. — Jeff Q (talk) 08:47, 30 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Question asked at the Internet Movie Database Message Boards

Help with quote: 'It doesn't DO anything. That's the beauty of it'

ssywakThu Apr 10 2003

Message . . .1,500 replies Oct 15 2005

I am trying to track down the movie which contains the dialogue: "What does it do?" "It doesn't DO anything. That's the beauty of it."

'It doesn't DO anything' Quote...What It's NOT FROM

EllenRipley112 Thu Feb 17 2005

Message. . . 114 replies May 22 2005

This is in regards to the quote most IMDb'ers have been trying for literally YEARS to figure out: "What does it do?" "It doesn't DO anything. That's the beauty of it!"

Blog On the IMDb "I Need To Know" message board appeared this Original Post

The Snopes message boards have an extensive thread on this, without any clear resolution, at That's the beauty of it — it doesn't do anything!

Exchange from TV series "Burke's Law," episode "Who Killed 711?"

Det. Tim Tilson (Gary Conway): What is it?
Harold Harold (Burgess Meredith): Well, it's my. . . my therapy. I'm still perfecting it.
Tilson: What does it do?
Harold: Do?
Tilson: Yeah, what's it for?
Harold: Well, nothing. . . nothing. That's the beauty of it.

—The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) 01:07, 27 March 2007 (UTC)

Could you explain where you got this dialog segment from (a book, a website, an old videorecording, your memory, etc.)? I cannot find any reliable source for this information, and I would dearly love to close the book on this long-standing question. Thanks. ~ Jeff Q (talk) 02:29, 27 March 2007 (UTC)[reply]
Here's a clip for you. 01:07, 4 June 2008 (UTC) Pete

Ends justifying the means


I'm looking for a quote saying in essence that it's ok to do immoral things in support of moral goals. It doesn't really matter who says it; I'm using it for a character sheet for a game. I will check this page in 2 or 3 days. Thanks. w:User:Moink 07:54, 5 May 2005 (UTC)[reply]

Hi, Moink, how about this
  • The end may justify the means as long as there is something that justifies the end. --Leon Trotsky
I hope it is what you seek. --Aphaia 08:01, 5 May 2005 (UTC)[reply]
Thanks, that's pretty good. The character I'm writing is pretty anti-communist, but I may use it anyway. Moink 08:13, 8 May 2005 (UTC)[reply]
There is a French proverb La fin justifie les moyens. - literally meaning "end justifies the means". Does it match to what you seek, I suppose ... --Aphaia 12:50, 24 May 2005 (UTC)[reply]
Mark Prior's poem "Hans Carvel" from early 1700's
What if to Spells I had Recourse?
'Tis but to hinder something Worse.
The End must justifie the Means:
He only Sins who Ill intends:
Since therefore 'tis to Combat Evil;
'Tis lawful to employ the Devil.
-- December 18, 2005

Where do I put my questions up for discussion?

First question: Where did the phrase, "Cut to the quick" come from and what was its original context.

Second question: The French phrase, "Fait Accomple" is the original of "Done Deal" or so I believe. Was this not uttered on the battlefield to the loser. Do you know of the historical context? Does it go back any further in history?


Michael L. Poe

The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations cites "fait accompli" occurring in L'Art poétique (1674), by Nicholas Boileau (French poet and critic):
Qu'en un lieu, qu'en un jour, un seul fait accompli
Tienne jusqu'à la fin le théâtre rempli.
Translation: "Let a single completed action, all in one place, all in one day, keep the theatre packed to the end of your play."
Jeff Q (talk) 09:17, 25 August 2005 (UTC)[reply]

"Cut to the quick" - refers to the act of cutting your fingernails. As long as you only cut the dead part of the nail, it is painless; but if you make a cut too deeply into the quick ( = living) part of the nail, it hurts like hell.

                        - from hutch48

From talk:

Did Dryden ever write "To save the effusion of my people's blood"?. It's attributed to him everywhere on the 'net without a specific source. (, from history)
The closest thing I've found so far (in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations) is from William Laud, apparently at his beheading (1645), as quoted by Peter Heylin in Cyprianus Anglicus (1668):
… the Lord receive my soul, and have mercy upon me, and bless this kingdom with peace and plenty, and with brotherly love and charity, that there may not be this effusion of Christian blood amongst them…
It's just close enough to seem possible, but not very compelling. I found quite a trove of Dryden quotes in Oxford and Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, but neither included anything resembling the requested phrase. ~ Jeff Q (talk) 09:39, 25 August 2005 (UTC)[reply]
Some more not-very near misses:
  • An honorable Peace is and always was my first wish! I can take no delight in the effusion of human Blood; but, if this War should continue, I wish to have the most active part in it.
    • John Paul Jones, letter to Gouverneur Morris, 1782-09-02; from Robert Morris Letter Book, Rosenbach Collection No. 33, Manuscript Collection, U.S. Naval Academy Museum, Annapolis, Maryland
    • quoted in Lincoln Lorenz, John Paul Jones: Fighter for Freedom and Glory, p. xiv (1943). [according to Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989)]
  • Liberty is a blessing so inestimable, that, wherever there appears any probability of recovering it, a nation may willingly run many hazards, and ought not even to repine at the greatest effusion of blood or dissipation of treasure.
    • David Hume, Essays Moral, Political, and Literary, "Of the Coalition of Parties", part II, essay XIV, p. 494; 1987; ISBN 0865970556 [according to The Columbia World of Quotations (1996)]
~ Jeff Q (talk) 22:55, 8 April 2006 (UTC)[reply]
I love her well; and well her merits claim, / To stand preferred before my Grecian dame: / Nor Clytemnestra's self in beauty's bloom / More charmed, or better plied the various loom: / Mine is the maid, and brought in happy hour / With every household-grace adorned, to bless my nuptial bow'r. / Yet shall she be restored, since public good / For private int'rest ought not be withstood, / To save the effusion of my people's blood.
The First Book of Homer's Iliad translated by John Dryden, lines 167-175. Antiquary 21:16, 1 September 2006 (UTC)[reply]

From Talk:Hitch

Does anybody remember in the end, when hitch says why not live life together in response to sarah's comment that maybe they should "let life take its course"? TY! (, from history)

philippe grimaldi/book project by laura jane coats


philippe grimaldi is listed under acknowledgements for corsican proverbs and i would like to reach him regarding a book project under development - can you please provide contact information to help me reach him. thank you, laura jane coats-- 16:49, 12 July 2005 (UTC)[reply]

The acknowledgements in which Philippe Grimaldi was mentioned were added by anonymous user nearly two years ago. It is highly unlikely that that IP address is being used by the same person after all this time, but you could try to post your question to its talk page. We don't have any contact information on non-users, and anonymous users don't have any contact mechanism other than IP talk pages, which they rarely use. Considering the possibility that this person may be famous, I found that "Philippe Grimaldi" doesn't show up in the English, French, or Italian Wikipedias. You might post your question in Italian or simple English on it:Wikipedia's Reference desk (I don't know what it's called, or if they even have one) or their Village pump. ~ Jeff Q (talk) 03:36, 14 July 2005 (UTC)[reply]

Asked by User: Coleridge is widely blamed for the following doggerel "Swans sing before they die 'twere no bad thing should certain people die before they sing!". Was he really responsible? Some sites also attribute it to Pope. It seems bathetic for both

I found nothing in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (1999) or Bartlett's Famous Quotations, 16th ed. (1992). It sounds more like Alexander Pope than Coleridge, but even more like the skewering mockery of Dorothy Parker or the silliness of Ogden Nash (though I'm not suggesting that it is from either). Whoever said it, it seems possible it is either an allusion to the following passage from Plato's Dialogues ("Phaedo"):
Will you not allow that I have as much of the spirit of prophecy in me as the swans? For they, when they perceive that they must die, having sung all their life long, do then sing more lustily than ever, rejoicing in the thought that they are going to the god they serve.
or by whatever folklore Plato's assertion is based on. ~ Jeff Q (talk) 10:38, 25 August 2005 (UTC)[reply]
It's Coleridge all right. S T Coleridge (ed. John Beer) Poems (Everyman's Library, 1993) prints it under the title 'On a Volunteer Singer' as 'Swans sing before they die - 'twere no bad thing / Should certain persons die before they sing'. Antiquary 21:15, 1 September 2006 (UTC)[reply]

Speak Truth To Power Reference..?


ZachsMind 17:06, 13 July 2005 (UTC) I originally posted this question over at Robert F. Kennedy's wikiquote page, but MosheZadka mentioned this place. Hopefully this time I'm putting it in the right place. I apologize ahead of time to anyone who gets upset that I've done something wrong.[reply]

Does anyone know who first said the phrase "Speak Truth To Power" and in what context? I heard Janeane Garofalo say it, and my research led to an indirect inference that it was first said by RFK, but I can't find anything definitive. Thanks. Further research indicates referral to the Quakers and something called Eighteenth Century Friends. There were some resolutions Ben Franklin made to himself, one of which speaks about honesty and truth, but still yet no direct reference to those exact four words coming from any one individual's mouth first. So any illumination on this would be appreciated. Thanks.

I found nothing in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (1999) or Bartlett's Famous Quotations, 16th ed. (1992). ~ Jeff Q (talk) 10:51, 25 August 2005 (UTC)[reply]
The phrase appears as the title of a 1955 American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) pamphlet (The AFSC is an organization founded by the Religious Society of Friends (also known as Quakers); see their website for more information about them). That document states that
Our title, Speak Truth to Power, taken from a charge given to Eighteenth Century Friends, suggests the effort that is made to speak from the deepest insight of the Quaker faith.
("Eighteenth Century Friends" would here mean Quakers in the 1700s.)
Paul Lacey (current (as of 2005) Clerk of the AFSC), in a 1982 pamphlet entitled "Quakers and the Use of Power", published by Pendle Hill (a Quaker conference center/community/publisher), suggests that the phrase is original to the committee which authored the AFSC pamphlet:
Let me recall the origin of the phrase. According to Steve Cary [Clerk of the AFSC at the time], the phrase just came to Milton Mayer [a member of the committee that drafted the pamphlet] one day, as he was thinking about the pamphlet. Everyone on the drafting committee liked it and asked where it came from. Milton Mayer thought he recalled it from some early Quaker writing, but no one subsequently found it, though Henry Cadbury [a founder of the AFSC and a Quaker scholar] made several attempts to find the phrase. In short, it would seem to have been original with Milton Mayer, though in sound and attitude it feels like an authentic expression of early Quakerism.
--Will.jennings 20:12, 23 December 2005 (UTC)[reply]

10 Sep 2009: This expression, used in this sense, considerably predates Milton Mayer. B.R. Haydon uses the phrase "the consequences of telling truth to power" on page 221 of the second volume of Lectures on Painting And Design, published in 1846 by Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans (london), and available on Google Books - which also indexes it in the 1844 edition. However, no scanned page is available for the latter.John D'Emilo in his biography of Bayard Rustin refers to the statement as being used by Rustin in a letter on 8/15/42: pages 48 and 503.

Kafka quote


Is this a Kafka quote, and if so, from where? "The meaning of life is that it stops." (From User:

I found nothing in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (1999) or Bartlett's Famous Quotations, 16th ed. (1992). ~ Jeff Q (talk) 10:51, 25 August 2005 (UTC)[reply]
Great Jewish Quotes by Noah Ben Shea (1993) and several other books attribute it to Kafka, but without citation.

Origin of quote


Does anyone know where "You can call a horse a duck all you want, but at the end of the day, it's still a horse" comes from? ~ MosheZadka (Talk) 04:46, 22 July 2005 (UTC)[reply]

I found nothing in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (1999) or Bartlett's Famous Quotations, 16th ed. (1992). ~ Jeff Q (talk) 10:52, 25 August 2005 (UTC)[reply]

Is this not a quote by Adrian Speyer? Website of writer Adrian Speyer[[User: JR] 08:46, 2 Feb 2006 (UTC)

It looks like it was said in another way, in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, 1594 "What's in a name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet;" ...may I suggest that if you can call a horse and duck, then you can also call it a rose, too... "What's in a name? that which we call a horse By any other name would run a horserace;" OR "What's in a name? that which we call a duck By any other name would quack a quack;"

A riddle, often attributed to Abraham Lincoln.

Q: If you call its tail a leg, then how many legs does a dog have?

A: Four. Calling it a leg does not mean it is one.

I asked about this on another forum. Fairly reliable sources indicate that he did use this riddle, but he was not the originator. 01:14, 4 June 2008 (UTC) Pete

George Fisher or Geoffrey Fisher?


Dear Wikiquote: I had asked the following question at Wikipedia and someone made the good suggestion that this may be the better place for it:

There is this quote on perfection floating around the net: When you aim for perfection, you discover it's a moving target.

It's attributed to George Fisher. The problem is that no one (and I went through at least 3 search engines using different criteria) gives any information about WHICH George Fisher this quote can actually be attributed to. Unfortunately there are quite a few George Fishers out there, including a cartoonist featured on Wikipedia.

On WIKIPEDIA, I received the replies included below, which actually raise up even more questions, rather than narrowing the search. Can anyone here shed some light on the mystery? Thank You!

  • I have no idea but you might give the folks over at Wikiquote a try. -- Dismas 19:15, 8 August 2005 (UTC)
  • The quotation is also frequently attributed to Geoffrey_Fisher, who was once Archbishop of Canterbury. --Tabor 19:42, 8 August 2005 (UTC)

-- Jacqueline Ehninger -- 17:49, 11 August 2005 (UTC)[reply]

I found nothing in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (1999) or Bartlett's Famous Quotations, 16th ed. (1992), including the lack of any entry for either George or Geoffrey Fisher. ~ Jeff Q (talk) 10:57, 25 August 2005 (UTC)[reply]
It's attributed to a George Fisher, as you say: without further info, in the books Benchmarking Basics: Looking for a Better Way (50-Minute Series) by James G. Patterson (1996) and Environmental Technology and Economics: Sustainable Development in Industry by Claire Soares (1998). It is also given as an African proverb in Sankofa: Stories, Proverbs & Poems of an African Childhood by David Abdulai (1995) and African proverbs: Wisdom of the ages by David Abdulai (2000).