Nobody's perfect, and even the most articulate among us goof it once in a while. I already gave you a bunch of smart quotes in Chapter 1. Now here are some choice words not to live by.
Question: "If you could live forever, would you and why?"
Answer: "I would not live forever, because we should not live forever, because if we were supposed to live forever, then we would live forever, but we cannot live forever, which is why I would not live forever."--Miss Alabama in the 1994 Miss USA contest
"Outside of the killings, Washington has one of the lowest crime rates in the country."--Marion Barry, mayor of Washington, D.C.
"If you let that sort of thing go on, your bread and butter will be cut right out from under your feet."--Former British foreign minister Ernest Bevin
"Whenever I watch TV and see those poor staving kids all over the world, I can't help but cry. I mean I'd love to be skinny like that but not with all those flies and death and stuff."--Mariah Carey
"If we don't succeed, we run the risk of failure."--Former President Bill Clinton
"I'm not going to have some reporters pawing through our papers. We are the president."--Hillary Clinton, commenting on the release of subpoenaed documents
"When more and more people are thrown out of work, unemployment results."--Former U.S. President Calvin Coolidge
"That lowdown scoundrel deserves to be kicked to death by a jackass, and I'm just the one to do it."--A congressional candidate in Texas.
When Philip Morris chairman Joseph Cullman was confronted with statistics showing that pregnant women who smoke have lower birthweight babies, he replied, "Some women would prefer having smaller babies."
"The police are not here to create disorder, they're here to preserve disorder."--Chicago Mayor Daley during the infamous 1968 Democratic convention
"China is a big country, inhabited by many Chinese."--Former French President Charles De Gaulle
"I haven't committed a crime. What I did was fail to comply with the law."--David Dinkins, former New York City mayor, when answering accusations that he failed to pay his taxes
"Things are more like they are now than they ever were before."--Former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower
"We apologize for the error in last week's paper in which we stated that Mr. Arnold Dogbody was a defective in the police force. We meant, of course, that Mr. Dogbody is a detective in the police farce."--correction notice in the Ely Standard, a British newspaper
"Traditionally, most of Australia's imports come from overseas."--Keppel Enderbery [compare this with the Britney Spears quote below]
"If somebody has a bad heart, they can plug this jack in at night as they go to bed and it will monitor their heart throughout the night. And the next morning, when they wake up dead, there'll be a record."--Mark S. Fowler, FCC Chairman [and they'll cut off your food stamps, read on to find out why]
"If I did that, I'd be sticking my head in a moose."--Samuel Goldwyn
"Researchers have discovered that chocolate produces some of the same reactions in the brain as marijuana. The researchers also discovered other similarities between the two, but can't remember what they are."--Matt Lauer on NBC's Today show
"Listen, everyone is entitled to my opinion."--Madonna
"They call me a right-winger, which is an insult -- I'm simply a racist and a separatist."--Tom Metzger, leader of the White Aryan Nations, a notorious hate group
"The government is not doing enough about cleaning up the environment. This is a good planet."--A Mr. New Jersey contestant, when asked what he would do with a million dollars.
"It is necessary for me to establish a winner image. Therefore, I have to beat somebody."--Former U.S. President Richard M. Nixon
"They're multipurpose. Not only do they put the clips on, but they take them off."--a Pratt & Whitney spokesperson explaining why the company charged the Air Force nearly $1000 for an ordinary pair of pliers
"The streets are safe in Philadelphia. It's only the people who make them unsafe."--Frank Rizzo, ex-police chief and mayor of Philadelphia
"Smoking kills. If you're killed, you've lost a very important part of your life."--Brooke Shields, during an interview to become spokesperson for a federal anti-smoking campaign
"Your food stamps will be stopped effective March 1992 because we received notice that you passed away. May God bless you. You may re-apply if there is a change in your circumstances."--Form letter from the South Carolina Department of Social Services
"I get to go to lots of overseas places, like Canada."--Britney Spears, when asked about the best part of being famous
"The President has kept all of the promises he intended to keep."--Clinton aide George Stephanopolous, speaking on Larry King Live
"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 don't feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves."--John Wayne
"Without censorship, things can get terribly confused in the public mind."--General William Westmoreland
"I'm sick and tired of people saying that we put out 11 albums that sound exactly the same. In fact, we've put out 12 albums that sound exactly the same."--Angus Young, AC/DC guitarist
If you thought the quotes in the previous list were dumb, these are worse.
"I'm going to graduate on time, no matter how long it takes."--Senior basketball player at the University of Pittsburgh
"I've never had knee surgery on any other part of my body."--Winston Bennett, University of Kentucky basketball forward
"I wan' all dem kids to do what I do, to look up to me. I wan' all the kids to copulate me."--Chicago Cubs outfielder Andre Dawson
"The doctors X-rayed my head and found nothing."--Dizzy Dean, explaining how he felt after being hit on the head by a ball in the 1934 World Series
"We all get heavier as we get older because there is a lot more information in our heads."--Vlade Divak, basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers
"Why would anyone expect him to come out smarter? He went to prison for three years, not Princeton."--Boxing promoter Dan Duva, on why Mike Tyson hooked up again with promoter Don King
"That's so when I forget how to spell my name, I can still find my clothes."--Stu Grimson, Chicago Blackhawks left wing, explaining why he keeps a color photo of himself above his locker
"We're going to turn this team around 360 degrees."--Jason Kidd, when drafted to the Dallas Mavericks
"I asked him, 'Son, what is it with you? Is it ignorance or apathy?' He said, 'Coach, I don't know and I don't care.'"--Frank Layden , Utah Jazz president, on a former player
"Son, looks to me like you're spending too much time on one subject."--Shelby Metcalf, basketball coach at Texas A&M, recounting what he told a player who received four F's and one D
When he heard Joe Jacobi of the Washington Redskins say, "I'd run over my own mother to win the Super Bowl," Matt Millen of the Oakland Raiders said: "To win, I'd run over Joe's Mom, too."
"My sister's expecting a baby, and I don't know if I'm going to be an uncle or an aunt."--Chuck Nevitt , North Carolina State basketball player, explaining to Coach Jim Valvano why he appeared nervous at practice
"I can't really remember the names of the clubs that we went to."--Basketball star Shaquille O'Neal, when asked whether he had visited the Parthenon on a trip to Greece
"Half this game is 90 percent mental."--Danny Ozark, Philadelphia Phillies baseball team manager
"You guys line up alphabetically by height."--Florida State football coach Bill Peterson. Another time he told the players, "You guys pair up in groups of three, and then line up in a circle."
When Bob Costas asked Amarillo High School and Oiler coach Bum Phillips why he takes his wife on all the road trips, Phillips responded: "Because she is too damn ugly to kiss good-bye."
"He treats us like men. He lets us wear earrings." --Torrin Polk, University of Houston receiver, describing his coach, John Jenkins
"I know the Virginia players are smart because you need a 1500 SAT to get in. I have to drop bread crumbs to get our players to and from class."--George Raveling, Washington State basketball coach
"I want to rush for 1,000 or 1,500 yards, whichever comes first."--New Orleans Saint RB George Rogers, when asked about the upcoming season
"I can go to my left or right, I am amphibious."--NC State's Charles Shackelford
"Nobody in football should be called a genius. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein."--Football commentator and former quarterback Joe Theismann
"I want to eat his children! Praise be to Allah!"--Former boxing champ Mike Tyson, talking about opponent Lennox Lewis
"We can't win at home. We can't win on the road. As general manager, I just can't figure out where else to play."--Pat Williams, Orlando Magic general manager, commenting on his team's 7-27 record for the 1991-92 season.
For many years I was led to believe that in the 21st century, the typical family would have a flying car, use picture phones, and take vacations on the moon. Now that the 21st century has arrived, where is all that spacey stuff? On the other hand, hardly anybody saw how important computers would become, as they took us from the Industrial Age to the Information Age.
(I guess I should be glad that another prediction, the one that we'd be wearing unisex aluminum-foil leotards, didn't come true either.)
You don't have to go to National Enquirer psychics for predictions that won't come true. Many, in fact, were made by thinkers who ought to know better, like these ones:
"The invention of [war machines] has long ago been completed and I don't see anything surpassing the state of the art."--Sextus Julius Frontinus, a Roman engineer, writing about the catapult, 1 A.D.
"In my own time there have been inventions of this sort, transparent windows, tubes for diffusing warmth equally through all parts of a building, short-hand which has been carried to such a pitch of perfection that a writer can keep pace with the most rapid speaker. But the inventing of such things is drudgery for the lowest slaves; philosophy lies deeper . . ."--Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Roman poet and Stoic philosopher, first century A.D.
"Animals, which move, have limbs and muscles. The earth does not have limbs and muscles; therefore it does not move."--Scipio Chiaramonti, professor of philosophy and mathematics at the University of Pisa, arguing against the theory of Copernicus that the earth revolves around the sun.
"People give ear to an upstart astrologer who strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or the firmament, the sun and the moon . . . Whoever wishes to appear clever must devise some new system, which of all systems is of course the very best. This fool wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but the sacred scripture tells us [Joshua 10:13] that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, not the earth."--Martin Luther, also criticizing Copernicus
"Just as in the microcosm there are seven 'windows' in the head (two nostrils, two eyes, two ears, and a mouth), so in the macrocosm God has placed two beneficent stars (Jupiter, Venus), two maleficent stars (Mars, Saturn), two luminaries (sun and moon), and one indifferent star (Mercury). The seven days of the week follow from these. Finally, since ancient times the alchemists had made each of the seven metals correspond to one of the planets; gold to the sun, silver to the moon, copper to Venus, quicksilver to Mercury, iron to Mars, tin to Jupiter, lead to Saturn.
From these and many other similar phenomena of nature such as the seven metals, etc., which it were tedious to enumerate, we gather that the number of planets is necessarily seven... Besides, the Jews and other ancient nations as well as modern Europeans, have adopted the division of the week into seven days, and have named them from the seven planets; now if we increase the number of planets, this whole system falls to the ground . . . Moreover, the satellites are invisible to the naked eye and therefore can have no influence on the earth, and therefore would be useless, and therefore do not exist."--Francesco Sizzi, astronomer at Florence, explaining why the four moons Galileo discovered near Jupiter cannot be real.
"It would fill the world with innumerable immoralities and give such occasion for intrigues as people can not meet with. You would have a couple of lovers make a midnight assignation upon the top of the monument and see the cupola of St. Paul's covered with both sexes like the outside of a pigeon house. Nothing would be more frequent than to see a beau flying in at a garret window or a gallant giving chase to his mistress like a hawk after a lark."--Joseph Addison, concerned about what might happen if flying machines were invented (1713)
"Men might as well project a voyage to the Moon as attempt to employ steam navigation against the stormy North Atlantic Ocean."--Dr. Dionysus Lardner (1793-1859), Professor of Natural Philosophy and Astronomy at University College, London.
"Rail travel at high speed is not possible, because passengers would die of asphyxia [suffocation]."--Dr. Dionysius Lardner (Hey, this guy was consistent!).
"Transport by railroad car would result in the emasculation of our troops and would deprive them of the option of the great marches which have played such an important role in the triumph of our armies."--Dominique Francois Arago (1786-1853)
"There is a young madman proposing to light the streets of London--with what do you suppose--with smoke!"--Sir Walter Scott, discussing a proposal to light cities with gaslights.
"The abolishment of pain in surgery is a chimera. It is absurd to go on seeking it . . . Knife and pain are two words in surgery that must forever be associated in the consciousness of the patient."--Dr. Alfred Velpeau, French surgeon (1839)
"Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try to find oil? Mister, you're crazy."--Drillers whom Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist in Texas (1859)
"I see no good reasons why the views given in this volume should shock the religious sensibilities of anyone."--Charles Darwin, talking about The Origin Of Species (1869)
"Pasteur's theory of germs is ridiculous fiction."--Pierre Pachet, eminent professor of physiology (1872)
"The abdomen, chest and brain will be forever shut from the intrusion of the humane surgeon."--Sir John Ericksen, Queen Victoria's Surgeon-Extraordinaire (1873)
"A new source of power . . . called gasoline has been produced by a Boston engineer. Instead of burning the fuel under a boiler, it is exploded inside the cylinder of an engine.
The dangers are obvious. Stores of gasoline in the hands of people interested primarily in profit would constitute a fire and explosive hazard of the first rank. Horseless carriages propelled by gasoline might attain speeds of 14 or even 20 miles per hour. The menace to our people of vehicles of this type hurtling through our streets and along our roads and poisoning the atmosphere would call for prompt legislative action even if the military and economic implications were not so overwhelming . . . The cost of producing [gasoline] is far beyond the financial capacity of private industry . . . In addition the development of this new power may displace the use of horses, which would wreck our agriculture."--U. S. Congressional Record, 1875
"The telephone has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device has no value to us."--Western Union internal memo (1876)
"When the Paris Exhibition closes electric light will close with it and no more be heard of.--Erasmus Wilson, Professor at Oxford University (1878, I guess nobody told Thomas Edison about this.)
"They will never try to steal the phonograph because it has no 'commercial value.'"--Thomas Edison (he later revised that opinion).
"All marriages will be happy [in the 1990s], for the law will put to death any man or woman who assumes conjugal position without the proper physical, mental and financial qualifications."--author John Haberton, 1893
"Heavier-than-air flying machines are fantasy. Simple laws of physics make them impossible."--Lord Kelvin, president, British Royal Society (1895)
"Radio has no future."--Lord Kelvin (again, 1897)
"No possible combination of known substances, known forms of machinery, and known forms of force, can be united in a practical machine by which man shall fly long distances through the air . . ."--Simon Newcomb (1835-1909), astronomer, head of the U. S. Naval Observatory
"I confess that in 1901 I said to my brother Orville that man would not fly for fifty years. Two years later we ourselves made flights. This demonstration of my impotence as a prophet gave me such a shock that ever since I have distrusted myself and avoided all predictions."--Wilbur Wright, in a speech to the Aero Club of France (1908)
"The horse is here to stay, but the automobile is only a novelty--a fad."--the president of the Michigan Savings Bank, speaking to Henry Ford's lawyer, Horace Rackham. Rackham ignored the advice and invested $5000 in Ford stock, selling it later for $12.5 million.
"That the automobile has practically reached the limit of its development is suggested by the fact that during the past year no improvements of a radical nature have been introduced."--Scientific American (1909)
"Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value."--Marshal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre (he said this in 1911, long before he became commander of the Allied armies in World War I)
"He seems to lack the basic knowledge ladled out daily in high schools."--New York Times editorial, criticizing Professor Robert Goddard's rocket experiments (1921)
"The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?"--Investors rejecting 1920s enterpreneur David Sarnoff's business plan for NBC
"While theoretically and technically television may be feasible, commercially and financially it is an impossibility."--Lee DeForest, inventor of the vacuum tube (1926)
"This foolish idea of shooting at the moon is an example of the absurd length to which vicious specialization will carry scientists working in thought-tight compartments. Let us critically examine the proposal. For a projectile entirely to escape the gravitation of earth, it needs a velocity of 7 miles a second. The thermal energy of a gramme at this speed is 15,180 calories . . . The energy of our most violent explosive--nitroglycerine--is less than 1,500 calories per gramme. Consequently, even had the explosive nothing to carry, it has only one-tenth of the energy necessary to escape the earth . . . Hence the proposition appears to be basically impossible."--W. A. Bickerton, Professor of Physics and Chemistry at Canterbury College (Christchurch, New Zealand, 1926)
"Who in Hell wants to hear actors talk?"--H.M. Warner, Warner Bros. (1927)
"There is no likelihood man can ever tap the power of the atom. The glib supposition of utilizing atomic energy when our coal has run out is a completely unscientific Utopian dream, a childish bug-a-boo. Nature has introduced a few fool-proof devices into the great majority of elements that constitute the bulk of the world, and they have no energy to give up in the process of disintegration."--Robert A. Millikan, in a speech to the Chemists' Club of New York (1928)
"Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau."--Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University (1929)
"There is not the slightest indication that [nuclear energy] will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will."--Albert Einstein (1932)
"Any one who expects a source of power from the transformation of these atoms is talking moonshine . . ."--Ernest Rutherford (1933)
"I'm just glad it'll be Clark Gable who's falling on his face and not Gary Cooper."--Gary Cooper on his decision not to take the leading role in "Gone With The Wind."
"There is not in sight any source of energy that would be a fair start toward that which would be necessary to get us beyond the gravitative control of the earth."--Forest Ray Moulton, astronomer (1935)
"There will never be a bigger plane built."--A Boeing engineer, after the first flight of the 247, a twin-engine plane that holds ten people
"There has been a great deal said about a 3000 miles high angle rocket. In my opinion such a thing is impossible for many years. The people who have been writing these things that annoy me have been talking about a 3000 mile high-angle rocket shot from one continent to another, carrying an atomic bomb and so directed as to be a precise weapon which would land exactly on a certain target, such as a city.
I say, technically, I don't think anyone in the world knows how to do such a thing, and I feel confident that it will not be done for a very long period of time to come... I think we can leave that out of our thinking. I wish the American public would leave that out of their thinking."--Vanevar Bush, director of our Office of Scientific Research and Development during World War II
"Automobiles will start to decline almost as soon as the last shot is fired in World War II. The name of Igor Sikorsky will be as well known as Henry Ford's, for his helicopter will all but replace the horseless carriage as the new means of popular transportation. Instead of a car in every garage, there will be a helicopter . . . These 'copters' will be so safe and will cost so little to produce that small models will be made for teenage youngsters. These tiny 'copters, when school lets out, will fill the sky as the bicycles of our youth filled the prewar roads."--Harry Bruno, aviation publicist, 1943.
"That is the biggest fool thing we have ever done. The bomb will never go off, and I speak as an expert in explosives."--Admiral William Leahy, when President Truman asked for his opinion on the project to build an atomic bomb
"[Television] won't be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night."--Darryl F. Zanuck, head of 20th Century-Fox (1946)
"Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons."--Popular Mechanics (1949)
"There is little doubt that the most significant event affecting energy is the advent of nuclear power...a few decades hence, energy may be free--just like the unmetered air . . ."--John von Neumann, scientist and member of the Atomic Energy Commission (1955)
"Space travel is utter bilge."--Dr. Richard van der Reit Wooley, Astronomer Royal, space advisor to the British government (1956, a year before the Soviet Union launched the first satellite)
"To place a man in a multi-stage rocket and project him into the controlling gravitational field of the moon where the passengers can make scientific observations, perhaps land alive, and then return to earth--all that constitutes a wild dream worthy of Jules Verne. I am bold enough to say that such a man-made voyage will never occur regardless of all future advances.--Lee DeForest (1957)
"There is absolutely no reason that anyone would ever want a computer in their home."--Ken Olson, chairman, founder and CEO of Digital Equipment Company
"I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won't last out the year."--The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall (1957)
"Guitar music is on the way out."--Decca Records, declining to record a new group called The Beatles (1962)
"Interesting, but what is it good for?"--An engineer at IBM's advanced computing division, commenting on the microprocessor (1968)
"With over 50 foreign cars already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn't likely to carve out a big slice of the U.S. market."--Business Week, August 2, 1968
"It will be years--not in my time--before a woman will become Prime Minister."--Margaret Thatcher (1974, five years before she got the job)
"You want to have consistent and uniform muscle development across all of your muscles? It can't be done. It's just a fact of life. You just have to accept inconsistent muscle development as an unalterable condition of weight training."--Response to Arthur Jones, who solved the "unsolvable" problem by inventing Nautilus weightlifting machines
"We went to Atari and said, 'Hey, we've built this amazing thing. Will you fund us?' and they said 'No,' so we said, 'Okay, just pay our salary and we'll give it to you,' and they said 'No.' So we went to Hewlett-Packard and they said, 'You kids aren't even out of college yet,' so then I asked Dad if we could use the garage, and he asked what I expected him to do with the Ford."--Steve Jobs, recounting Apple's early days
"640K should be enough for everyone."--Bill Gates, discussing disk drive space (1981, this one may be an urban legend)
"The concept is interesting and well-informed, but in order to earn better than a 'C' the idea must be feasible."--Yale professor's comments on a term paper submitted by Fred Smith for a reliable overnight delivery program. Two years later, Smith founded Federal Express.
"A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, market research and focus groups confirm that America wants soft, not chewy, cookies."--Investor rejection letter to Debby Fields, founder of Mrs. Fields' Cookies
"I didn't read the research paper until later. It gave insurmountable evidence that this simply could not be done."--Spencer Silver, inventor of Post-It Notepads
"I think there's a world market for maybe five computers."--Tom Watson, chairman, IBM (1943)
"The PC market--hardware, software and peripheries--may actually eclipse $1 billion annually in sales by the turn of the century."--DataQuest (1983)
"We see a corporate market of maybe 15,000 PCs a year by 1990."--DataQuest (1984) Compare the last two with this one:
"We estimate there are 15,000 PCs sold daily in the US alone and we see no end in sight for continued demand."--DataQuest (1993)
Taken from the Massachusetts Bar Association Lawyers Journal, the following are questions actually asked of witnesses by attorneys during trials and, in certain cases, the responses given by insightful witnesses. These make me wonder if sodium pentothal ("truth serum") might be a better way to determine guilt and innocence:
"Was that the same nose you broke as a child?"
"Now, doctor, isn't it true that when a person dies in his sleep, in most cases he just passes quietly away and doesn't know anything about it until the next morning?"
Q: "What happened then?"
A: "He told me, he says, 'I have to kill you because you can identify me.'"
Q: "Did he kill you?"
"Was it you or your brother that was killed in the war?"
"The youngest son, the 20-year-old, how old is he?"
"Were you alone or by yourself?"
"How long have you been a French Canadian?"
"Do you have any children or anything of that kind?"
Q: "I show you exhibit 3 and ask you if you recognize that picture."
A: "That's me."
Q: "Were you present when that picture was taken?"
"Were you present in court this morning when you were sworn in?"
Q: "Now, Mrs. Johnson, how was your first marriage terminated?"
A: "By death."
Q: "And by whose death was it terminated?"
Q: "Do you know how far pregnant you are now?"
A: "I'll be three months on November 8."
Q: "Apparently, then, the date of conception was August 8?"
Q: "What were you doing at that time?"
Q: "Mrs. Jones, do you believe you are emotionally stable?"
A: "I used to be."
Q: "How many times have you committed suicide?"
"So you were gone until you returned?"
Q: "She had three children, right?"
Q: "How many were boys?"
Q: "Were there girls?"
"You don't know what it was, and you didn't know what it looked like, but can you describe it?"
Q: "You say that the stairs went down to the basement?"
Q: "And these stairs, did they go up also?"
A Texas attorney, realizing he was on the verge of unleashing a stupid question, interrupted himself and said, "Your Honor, I'd like to strike the next question."
Q: "Were you acquainted with the defendant?"
A: "Yes, sir."
Q: "Before or after he died?"
Judge: "Now, as we begin, I must ask you to banish all present information from your minds, if you have any."
Q: "When he went, had you gone and had she, if she wanted to and were able, for the time being excluding all the restraints on her not to go, gone also, would he have brought you, meaning you and she, with him to the station?"
Opposing atorney: "Objection. That question should be taken out and shot."
Q: "What is your relationship with the plaintiff?"
A: "She is my daughter."
Q: "Was she your daughter on February 13, 1979?"
Q: "Now, you have investigated other murders, have you not, where there was a victim?"
Q: "Do you recall approximately the time that you examined the body of Mr. Edington at the Rose Chapel?"
A: "It was in the evening. The autopsy started about 8:30 p.m."
Q: "And Mr. Edington was dead at the time, is that correct?"
A: "No, you stupid, he was sitting on the table wondering why I was doing an autopsy!"
"Have you ever thought of committing unvoluntary manslaughter?"
"Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury! Please take a long, hard look at this alleged repeat sex offender...."
Q: "Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?"
Q: "Did you check for blood pressure?"
Q: "Did you check for breathing?"
Q: "So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?"
Q: "How can you be so sure, Doctor?"
A: "Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar."
Q: "But could the patient have still been alive nevertheless?"
A: "It is possible that he could have been alive and practicing law somewhere."
"How far apart were the vehicles at the time of the collision?"
"You were there until the time you left, is that true?"
Q: "Mr. Slatery, you went on a rather elaborate honeymoon, didn't you?"
A: "I went to Europe, Sir."
Q: "And you took your new wife?"
Q: "Can you describe the individual?"
A: "He was about medium height and had a beard."
Q: "Was this a male, or a female?"
Q: "Is your appearance here this morning pursuant to a deposition notice which I sent to your attorney?"
A: "No, this is how I dress when I go to work."
Q: "Doctor, how many autopsies have you performed on dead people?"
A: "All my autopsies are performed on dead people."
Q: "All your responses must be oral, OK? What school did you go to?"
Q: "You were not shot in the fracas?"
A: "No, I was shot midway between the fracas and the navel."
Q: "Are you qualified to give a urine sample?"
A: "I have been since early childhood."
Q: What is your brother-in-law's name?
Q: What's his first name?
A: I can't remember.
Q: He's been your brother-in-law for years, and you can't remember his first name?
A: No. I tell you I'm too excited. (Rising from the witness chair and pointing to Mr. Borofkin.) Nathan, for God's sake, tell them your first name!
Q: Did you ever stay all night with this man in New York?
A: I refuse to answer that question.
Q: Did you ever stay all night with this man in Chicago?
A: I refuse to answer that question.
Q: Did you ever stay all night with this man in Miami?
Q: Doctor, did you say he was shot in the woods?
A: No, I said he was shot in the lumbar region.
Q: What is your name?
A: Ernestine McDowell.
Q: And what is your marital status?
Q: Are you married?
A: No, I'm divorced.
Q: And what did your husband do before you divorced him?
A: A lot of things I didn't know about.
Q: How did you happen to go to Dr. Cherney?
A: Well, a gal down the road had had several of her children by Dr. Cherney, and said he was really good.
Q: Did he pick the dog up by the ears?
Q: What was he doing with the dog's ears?
A: Picking them up in the air.
Q: Where was the dog at this time?
A: Attached to the ears.
Q: And what did he do then?
A: He came home, and next morning he was dead.
Q: So when he woke up the next morning he was dead?
Q: Did you tell your lawyer that your husband had offered you indignities?
A: He didn't offer me nothing; he just said I could have the furniture.
Q: So, after the anesthesia, when you came out of it, what did you observe with respect to your scalp?
A: I didn't see my scalp the whole time I was in the hospital.
Q: It was covered?
A: Yes, bandaged.
Q: Then, later on . . . what did you see?
A: I had a skin graft. My whole buttocks and leg were removed and put on top of my head.
Q: Could you see him from where you were standing?
A: I could see his head.
Q: And where was his head?
A: Just above his shoulders.
Q: What can you tell us about he truthfulness and veracity of this defendant?
A: Oh, she will tell the truth. She said she'd kill that sonofabitch - and she did!
Q: Do you drink when you're on duty?
A: I don't drink when I'm on duty, unless I come on duty drunk.
Q: Any suggestions as to what prevented this from being a murder trial instead of an attempted murder trial?
A: The victim lived.
Q: Are you sexually active?
A: No, I just lie there.
Q: What is the meaning of sperm being present?
A: It indicates intercourse.
Q: Male sperm?
A: That is the only kind I know.
Q: What is your date of birth?
A: July 15th.
Q: What year?
A: Every year.
Q: This myasthenia gravis, does it affect your memory at all?
Q: And in what ways does it affect your memory?
A: I forget.
Q: You forget? Can you give us an example of something that you've forgotten?
Q: How old is your son, the one living with you?
A: Thirty-eight or thirty-five, I can't remember which.
Q: How long has he lived with you?
A: Forty-five years.
Q: What was the first thing your husband said to you when he woke up that morning?
A: He said, "Where am I, Cathy?"
Q: And why did that upset you?
A: My name is Susan.
Many of the lawyers in the previous section have probably been on cases involving people who were injured because they used a consumer's product incorrectly. Some products have warning labels that can save lives, like the famous "keep out of the reach of children," but you have to wonder about others. I suspect some people are kept employed doing nothing but writing/designing product warning labels, and they don't all work for OSHA (the Occupational Safety & Health Administration). You can also bet that if there's a need for a warning label, somebody must have done what they warn you against doing. Can you imagine the lawsuits that produced these? My comments follow each one.
Bottle of flavored milk:
After opening, keep upright. (I can only drink it with a straw, right?)
Warning: Do not use while sleeping. (There goes one of my favorite time savers.)
1. Do not use to pick up gasoline or flammable liquids
2. Do not use to pick up anything that is currently burning.
3. Do not use to unclog toilets. (But they showed it picking up a bowling ball on TV!)
Energizer AAA 4 Pack:
If swallowed, promptly see doctor. (If you don't see the doctor, you'll keep going, and going . . .)
Warning: For indoor or outdoor use only. (I guess that means they'll work anywhere.)
Caution: Never aim spray at your own eyes. (Meaning: You can't try it before you buy it.)
Warning: Do not ignite in face. (And you thought only tobacco was hazardous to your health.)
Warning: Never iron clothes on the body. (There goes another time saver.)
This camera will only work when film is inside. (No wonder my pictures didn't turn out.)
Nytol Sleep Aid:
Warning: May cause drowsiness. (Meaning: No refunds if it doesn't work.)
Warning: Do not reuse the bottle to store beverages. (Because when the bars are closed, people will drink anything.)
Caution: Do not use near power lines. (I'm not even going to ask.)
Consumption of alcoholic beverages impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery, and may cause health problems. (If you didn't know that, it's not yet Miller time for you.)
Sainsbury's Mineral Water:
Suitable for vegetarians. (Did you hear that, mineral rights activists?)
Caution: Avoid dropping air conditioners out of windows. (How am I supposed to catch the armadillo under my windowsill, then?)
On a hotel-provided shower cap in a box:
Fits one head. (Somebody never figured this out, case #1.)
On the bottom of a box of Tesco's Tirimisu (a fancy Italian desert):
Do not turn upside down. (If you can read the label, you've already goofed it.)
Hellman's Fat Free Honey Dijon Dressing:
On cap: Twist to Open. (Somebody never figured this out, case #2.)
Little Ones Baby Lotion:
Keep away from children. (Ah, it's for the other kind of babes!)
Do not use as an ice cream topping. (But the red one looks so yummy!)
Clairol Herbal Essences Maximum Hold Hairspray:
WARNING: Do not smoke until hair is dry. (This gives a new meaning to the term "controlled burn.")
Bath & Body Works Peppermint Foot Spray:
CAUTION: Avoid contact with face, eyes, and broken skin. (But you just said I can't use the pepper spray, either.)
Directions: Tear open packet and use. (Somebody never figured this out, case #3.)
Cabot's Vitamin E Chamomile Anti-Stress Bath Calming Bath Soak:
For adult use only. (Because this is a family website, we can't show you how to use it.)
On the bag containing a McDonald's Power Rangers toy:
WARNING: This bag is not a toy. (You could have fooled me, sometimes the bag is more fun than the toy.)
On a bag of Fritos:
You could be a winner! No purchase necessary. Details inside. (Only shoplifters qualify.)
On a bar of Dial soap:
Directions: Use like regular soap. (Anybody got directions for regular soap?)
On some Swanson frozen dinners:
Serving suggestions: Defrost. (But what if I like it cold?)
On Marks & Spencer Bread Pudding:
Product will be hot after heating. (Somebody never figured this out, case #4.)
On Boot's Children's Cough Medicine:
Do not drive a car or operate machinery after taking this medication. (And in what state are five-year-olds with colds allowed to drive?)
On a Korean kitchen knife:
Warning -- keep out of children. (A good idea!)
On a Japanese food processor:
Not to be used for the other use. (Maybe I shouldn't ask, but what's the other use?)
On a can of Sainsbury's peanuts:
Warning: Contains nuts. (Conspiracy theorists are wondering what's really in the can.)
On an American Airlines packet of nuts:
Instructions: Open packet, eat nuts. (Step 3: Fly Delta.)
On a child's Superman costume:
Wearing of this garment does not enable you to fly. (Don't blame the company, blame the parents for this one.)
On a Swedish chain saw:
Do not attempt to stop chain with your hands or genitals. (If you're into body-piercing, there are better ways to do it.)
On a bottle of Palmolive Dishwashing liquid:
Do not use on food. (Hey, Mom, we're out of syrup! It's okay, honey, just grab the Palmolive!)
On a tube of Crest Toothpaste:
If swallowed contact poison control. (It's the truth! Everyone who has ever swallowed toothpaste will die eventually, sometimes more than fifty years later.)
On a bottle of ALL laundry detergent:
Remove clothing before distributing in washing machine. (Meaning: Do not wash kids in washing machine.)
On ice machine in Sands Hotel lobby:
Keep frozen or ice will turn to water. (Somebody never figured this out, case #5.)
In a guide to setting up a new computer:
To avoid condensation forming, allow the boxes to warm up to room temperature before opening. (Sensible, but the instruction was inside the box)
On a packet of Sunmaid raisins:
Why not try tossing over your favorite breakfast cereal? (Quick, put this to music and get the California Raisins to sing it!)
In some countries, on the bottom of Coke bottles:
Open other end. (I suppose if more people knew this, they wouldn't drink Pepsi instead.)
On a New Zealand insect spray:
This product not tested on animals. (Approved by PETA, the Animal Liberation Front, and the cockroaches in your kitchen.)
On a Taiwanese shampoo:
Use repeatedly for severe damage. (Well, my hair was getting too thick, anyway.)
On a helmet mounted mirror used by US cyclists:
Remember, objects in the mirror are actually behind you. (Somebody never figured this out, case #6.)
On a blanket from Taiwan:
Not to be used as protection from a tornado. (If Dorothy had tried this in "The Wizard of Oz," the Wicked Witch of the East might still be alive today.)
In a public restroom on the outside of a continuous roll towel dispenser:
Maintenance operator: Failure to follow loading instructions could result in serious injury or death. (Anyone who gets killed by a paper towel dispenser deserves an automatic nomination
for the Darwin Awards.)
On the outside of a citrus air freshener:
Precaution: Not for personal consumption. (Don't sell it to consumers, then. It's as simple as that.)
In the instructions for a snow thrower:
Do not use snow thrower on surfaces above ground level such as roofs of residences. (Does that go for riding lawn mowers, too?)
On a package containing a brand of modelling clay:
Warning: Not for use as earplugs. (Besides, eating it on a dare is more fun.)
On a package containing candy gummy worms:
No cholesterol, no preservatives. A meal in itself. (You mean kids don't have to eat their veggies after all?)
On the handle of a hammer:
Caution: Do not use this hammer to strike any solid object. (I've got to put a dining table together. Should I use glue?)
On the inside of a pull-top lid of liquid radiator sealant:
Caution: Do not lick lid. (But this is nature's way of weeding out dumb mechanics!)
On a lawnmower:
"WARNING WHEN MOTOR IS RUNNING -- THE BLADE IS TURNING!" (Somebody never figured this out, case #7.)
On a curling iron:
"Do Not Insert Curling Iron Into Any Bodily Orifice." (So what do I use to braid my nose hairs?)
On a bottle of bathtub cleaner:
"For best results, start with clean bathtub before use." (And what would you recommend for that?)
On a container of lighter fluid:
"WARNING: Contents flammable!" (Well, duh.)
On a bottle of hand lotion:
"Warning: Starts healing skin on contact." (We can't have that happening, can we?)
On a box of household nails:
"CAUTION! - Do NOT swallow nails! May cause irritation!" (Remember what your mother said? Don't bite your nails!)
On a bag of microwave popcorn:
Direction #1: Remove plastic. (Sensible, but the bag is folded so that you cannot read the label until you remove the plastic.)
On a can of powdered infant formula:
"Mix with water before serving." (Like I'm going to spoon it to my baby dry!)
On a can of Woolite carpet cleaner:
"Safe for carpets, too!" (Glad you told me that.)
On a box of Frosted Cheerios:
"To close: place tab here." (This was placed right underneath their slogan "Tastes so good this box never closes.")
On a plastic orange juice can:
"100% pure all-natural fresh-squeezed orange juice from concentrate." (I bet it also says "Made in USA, oranges grown in Brazil.")
On a package of Lunchables Nachos:
"Dip chips in cheese and salsa." (Somebody never figured this out, case #8.)
On a golf cart and on a wheelbarrow:
"Not for highway use." (Darn, have you seen how much a new car costs these days?)
On a box of salt:
"Warning: High in sodium." (For those who didn't study chemistry in school.)
On a hose nozzle:
"Do not spray into electrical outlet." (But I can still squirt the electric fence, right?)
On a five-inch fishing lure with three hooks:
"Harmful if swallowed." (Tell that to the fish, and I'll never catch anything again.)
On a sled:
"Beware: sled may develop high speed under certain snow conditions." (That certain snow condition even has a name. It's called "ice.")
On a baby stroller:
"Remove baby before folding." (So you can put him or her on a fast-moving sled.)
On a 12-inch-high storage rack for compact disks:
"Do not use as a ladder." (You know what this means. Somewhere, there is a label on a ladder that warns you not to use it as a CD rack.)
On a CD player:
"Do not use as a projectile in a catapult." (No comment.)
On a bottle of drain cleaner:
"If you do not understand, or cannot read, all directions, cautions and warnings, do not use this product." (And if you think this warning makes any sense, you should definitely not be using this product.)
On Jabra Drive 'N' Talk, a speaker intended for use with cell phones in cars:
"Never operate your speakerphone while driving." (Maybe they should have just named it "Jabra Talk.")
On a blow torch gas bottle:
"Contents may catch fire." (Somebody never figured this out, case #9.)
On a sun shade for car dashboards:
"Do not drive with sun shield in place." (If you use one of these, you'll have to wait for the sun to go down before you can drive.)
On an egg carton:
"This product may contain eggs." (So that's what those things are!)
On the gas cap for a jet ski:
"Never use a lit match or open flame to check fuel level." (If this is news to you, you are not legally permitted to operate this vehicle or, for that matter, leave the house.)
On Dremel Multipro rotary tools:
"This product is not intended for use as a dental drill." (Because doctors and dentists are so expensive these days, you can't be too careful.)
On the website (not the product) for Apple's iPod Shuffle:
"Do not eat." (Was this a joke or paranoia? Apple never told us.)
On Bialetti Casa Italiana's nonstick pans:
"Keep pet birds out of the kitchen when using this product." (Sensible, because the fumes given off by hot teflon are poisonous to parrots and other birds. However, this warning could have been worded better. The Bialetti company got several calls from animal owners asking what it meant.)
I love the comic strip "Dilbert"; so much of it applies to the corporate workplace. A few years ago, a magazine ran a "Dilbert Quotes" contest. They were looking for people to submit quotes from their real life Dilbert-type managers. Here are the top ten finalists:
1. "As of tomorrow, employees will only be able to access the building using individual security cards. Pictures will be taken next Wednesday and employees will receive their cards in two weeks." (This was the winning quote from Fred Dales at Microsoft Corp. in Redmond, WA.)
2. "What I need is an exact list of specific unknown problems we might encounter." (Lykes Lines Shipping)
3. "E-mail is not to be used to pass on information or data. It should be used only for company business." (Accounting manager, Electric Boat Company)
4. "This project is so important, we can't let things that are more important interfere with it." (Advertising/Marketing manager, United Parcel Service)
5. "Doing it right is no excuse for not meeting the schedule." (Plant manager, Delco Corporation)
6. "No one will believe you solved this problem in one day! We've been working on it for months. Now, go act busy for a few weeks and I'll let you know when it's time to tell them." (R&D supervisor, Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing/3M Corp.)
7. "My boss spent the entire weekend retyping a 25-page proposal that only needed corrections. She claims the disk I gave her was damaged and she couldn't edit it. The disk I gave her was write-protected." (CIO of Dell Computers)
8. Quote from the Boss: "Teamwork is a lot of people doing what I say." (Marketing executive, Citrix Corporation)
9. My sister passed away and her funeral was scheduled for Monday. When I told my Boss, he said she died on purpose so that I would have to miss work on the busiest day of the year. He then asked if we could change her burial to Friday. He said, "That would be better for me." (Shipping executive, FTD Florists)
10. "We know that communication is a problem, but the company is not going to discuss it with the employees." (Switching supervisor, AT&T Long Lines Division)
11. We recently received a memo from senior management saying: "This is to inform you that a memo will be issued today regarding the subject mentioned above." (Microsoft, Legal Affairs Division)
12. One day my boss asked me to submit a status report to him concerning a project I was working on. I asked him if tomorrow would be soon enough. He said, "If I wanted it tomorrow, I would have waited until tomorrow to ask for it!" (New business manager, Hallmark Greeting Cards)
13. Speaking the Same Language: As Director of Communications I was asked to prepare a memo reviewing our company's training programs and materials. In the body of the memo one of the sentences mentioned the "pedagogical approach" used by one of the training manuals. The day after I routed the memo to the executive committee, I was called into the HR director's office, and told that the executive vice president wanted me out of the building by lunch. When I asked why, I was told that she wouldn't stand for perverts (pedophilia?) working in her company. Finally he showed me her copy of the memo, with her demand that I be fired - and the word "pedagogical" circled in red. The HR manager was fairly reasonable, and once he looked up the word in his dictionary, and made a copy of the definition to send back to her, he told me not to worry. He would take care of it. Two days later a memo to the entire staff came out - directing us that no words which could not be found in the local Sunday newspaper could be used in company memos. A month later, I resigned. In accordance with company policy, I created my resignation memo by pasting words together from the Sunday paper. (Taco Bell Corporation)
14. This gem is the closing paragraph of a nationally-circulated memo from a large communications company: "(Company name) is endeavorily determined to promote constant attention on current procedures of transacting business focusing emphasis on innovative ways to better, if not supersede, the expectations of quality!" (Lucent Technologies)
1. Coors put its slogan, "Turn it loose," into Spanish, where it was read as "Suffer from diarrhea."
2. Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux used the following in an American campaign: "Nothing sucks like an Electrolux."
3. Clairol introduced the "Mist Stick", a curling iron, into Germany only to find out that "mist" is slang for manure. Not too many people had use for the "manure stick."
4. When Gerber started selling baby food in Africa, they used the same packaging as in the U.S., with the beautiful Caucasian baby on the label. Later they learned that in Africa, companies routinely put pictures on the label of what's inside, since most people can't read. The would-be customers responded by telling Gerber: "We don't eat that anymore."
5. Colgate introduced a toothpaste in France called Cue, the name of a notorious porno magazine.
6. An American T-shirt maker in Miami printed shirts for the Spanish market which promoted the Pope's visit. Instead of "I saw the Pope" (el Papa), the shirts read "I saw the potato" (la papa).
7. Pepsi's "Come alive with the Pepsi Generation" translated into "Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave", in Chinese.
8. Frank Perdue's chicken slogan, "it takes a strong man to make a tender chicken" was translated into Spanish as "it takes an aroused man to make a chicken affectionate."
9. The Coca-Cola name in China was first read as "Ke-kou-ke-la", meaning "Bite the wax tadpole" or "female horse stuffed with wax", depending on the dialect. Coke then researched 40,000 characters to find a phonetic equivalent "ko-kou-ko-le", translating into "happiness in the mouth."
10. When Parker Pen marketed a ball-point pen in Mexico, its ads were supposed to have read, "it won't leak in your pocket and embarrass you". Instead, the company thought that the word "embarazar" (to impregnate) meant to embarrass, so the ad read: "It won't leak in your pocket and make you pregnant."
There is a special category of dumb quotes, uttered by those who speak without thinking. It is called the Irish bull, after Sir Boyle Roche (1736-1807), an Irish politician who let his mouth get ahead of his brain all the time. This kind of "bull" is best described by giving examples; the main rule seems to be that the end of the phrase turns around to contradict the beginning, sort of like John Kerry's infamous "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it." Other rules might state that if the quote appears in print, it would be worth entering in a bad literature contest, and that if you try picturing a scene created by an Irish bull, it won't make sense. John Pentland Mahaffey, a professor from Dublin University, tried defining an Irish bull by making up one of his own: "An Irish bull is always pregnant."
In the two centuries since Roche's time, I doubt if anyone has blundered as often or as well as he did. Therefore he still gives us the best examples of Irish bulls. Besides complaining that Ireland was "overflowing with absentee landlords," Roche was also known for saying, "The cup of Irish misfortunes has been overflowing for centuries, and is not yet half full," and "All along the untrodden path of the future, I can see the footprints of an unseen hand." Here are some more choice quotes from him, and this doesn't exhaust the supply:
"Mr Speaker, I smell a rat; I see him forming in the air and darkening the sky; but I will nip him in the bud."
"Why should we put ourselves out of our way to do anything for posterity? For what has posterity ever done for us?"
"How can I be in two places at once, unless I were a bird?"
"Half the lies our opponents tell about us are untrue."
"Ireland and England are like two sisters; I would have them embrace like one brother."
"We should silence anyone who opposes the right to freedom of speech."
"The only thing to prevent what's past is to put a stop to it before it happens."
"At present there are such goings-on that everything is at a standstill."
Sometimes Roche's hand got ahead of his brain, too, for he made the same kind of mis-statements even when writing letters:
"While I write this letter, I have a pistol in one hand and a sword in the other."
"PS., If you do not receive this, of course it must have been miscarried; therefore I beg you to write and let me know."
I'll finish with some more recent examples of Irish bulls. Read and enjoy!
"And when the chickens that didn't hatch come home to roost, we will rue the day when, misled by sloppy accounting and rosy scenarios, we gave away the national nest egg."--Paul Krugman, economics editor for The New York Times
"If I could drop dead right now, I'd be the happiest man alive."--Samuel Goldwyn, movie producer
"Anybody who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined."--Samuel Goldwyn (again)
"I'm living beyond my means, but I can afford it."--Samuel Goldwyn (was he the American Boyle Roche?)
"The ballparks have gotten too crowded. That's why nobody goes to see the game anymore."--Yogi Berra
"Always go to other people's funerals, otherwise they won't come to yours."--Yogi Berra
"If you save her, millions will die who did not die before."--Leonard Nimoy (as Mr. Spock on Star Trek).
"You couldn't get me on Mars if it were the last place on earth."--Erma Cohen
"I wish the Arabs and the Jews would settle their differences like Christian gentlemen."--attributed to Arthur Ballour and others
"Football is an incredible game. Sometimes it's so incredible, it's unbelievable."--Tom Landry
"The food here is terrible, and the portions are too small."--Woody Allen
"Cocaine isn't habit forming. I should know -- I've been using it for years."--Talullah Bankhead
"If you live to the age of a hundred, you have it made because very few people die past the age of a hundred."--George Burns
"Always be sincere, even when you don't mean it."--Irene Peter
"Live within your income, even if you have to borrow to do so."--Josh Billings
"I don't care how much a man talks, if he only says it in a few words."--Josh Billings (again)
"Wagner's music is better than it sounds."--Mark Twain (I think he meant to say that)
"People are more than fun than anybody."--Dorothy Parker
"If we're gonna win, we have to play up to and beyond our potential."--Don Nelson
"Of course I can keep secrets. It's the people I tell them to that can't keep them."--Anthony Haden-Guest
"It takes about ten years to get used to how old you are."--anonymous
"The best cure for insomnia is to get a lot of sleep."--W. C. Fields
"I distinctly remember forgetting that."--Clara Barton
"We must believe in free will. We have no choice."--Isaac Bashevis Singer
"There's nothing wrong with incest just as long as you keep it in the family."--Milton Mayer
"Why, that's the most unheard-of thing I've ever heard of."--Joseph McCarthy
"Mere form without substance must collapse of its own weight."--Clarence Manion, 1950s-era politician
"A man who has a million dollars is as well off as if he were rich."--John Jacob Astor, founder of Astoria, Oregon and the first American millionaire
"A zebra cannot change its spots."--Al Gore
"I'd give my right arm to be ambidextrous."--unknown
"Monotheism is a gift from the gods."--unknown
"Nostalgia isn't what it used to be."--unknown
"After they got rid of capital punishment, they had to hang twice as many people as before."--unknown