Friday, March 1, 2013

Who compared apples and ideas? Shaw?

If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.

This aphorism should have been uttered by George Bernard Shaw and there's no shortage of websites claiming that it was.  But the excellent Quote Investigator has diligently sought compelling evidence that Shaw really made this remark, and has failed to find any. 

George Bernard Shaw: did he talk of swapping apples?
It seems the earliest quotation conforming to this theme was dated 1917, though dollars were mentioned rather than apples. It came in an advertisement for a magazine called System that was printed in the Chicago Tribune. The ad was titled “The Difference Between Dollars and Ideas”.  You'll find a full discussion by following the above link.

It's like this you see, when I find a good quote, I can't rest easy till I've sourced it. And when my dictionary of quotations doesn't help and I distrust what I'm seeing on the world wide web, that’s where the Quote Investigator comes in handy. It's a blog I can't praise too highly.

On a couple of occasions when stumped for the source of a quote, the Quote Investigator has tracked it down for me and put it on his blog. One was Einstein: “Everyone who is seriously interested in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe – a spirit vastly superior to man, and one in the face of which our modest powers must seem humble.” The other was Winston Churchill:  “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.” In the event this sort of thing excites you (and I realise it very possibly doesn't) the discussions on both these quotes are worth reading. Follow the links.

1 comment:

  1. That quote is new to me. Whoever said it, I love it. It can be applied to all manner of things in the digital age.