"Nice guys finish seventh": False phrases, spurious sayings, and familiar misquotations

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Leo Durocher is best remembered for saying, "Nice guys finish last." He never said it. What the Brooklyn Dodgers' manager did say, before a 1946 game with the New York Giants, was: "The nice guys are all over there. This is just one of hundreds of misquotations that Ralph Keyes dissects in this informative and entertaining book. Keyes discovered that "The opera ain't over 'til the fat lady sings," comes from an older saying: "Church ain't out 'til the fat lady sings." He determined that Winston Churchill did not originate the phrase "iron curtain," and never said, "blood, sweat and tears." Keyes also confirmed that "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing," was the slogan of UCLA coach Red Sanders, not Vince Lombardi. According to him such words voice observations we want made. Freud may never have said "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar," for example, but we certainly wish he had. Keyes calls this "the flypaper effect." Orphan quotes or comments by unknowns routinely gravitate to noted figures such as Churchill, Lincoln, or Twain. Other syndromes Keyes discusses include bumper stickering (condensing a long comment to make it more quotable), lip syncing (mouthing someone else's words as if they were your own), and retro-quoting (putting words in the mouths of famous dead people). "Nice Guys Finish Seventh" is a fascinating, eye-opening book. It's both fun to read and a reliable work of reference.

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About the Author:

Ralph Keyes is the author of fourteen books. His bestseller Is There Life After High School? was made into a Broadway musical that is still produced in this country and abroad. Chancing It was a New York Times Notable Book. Timelock was selected by the Book-of-the-Month Club and excerpted in Reader s Digest. John Jakes called The Courage to Write one of the two or three best books on writing I ve ever read. Keyes has appeared on Oprah Winfrey, The Today Show, The Tonight Show, ABC World News Tonight, and twice on 20/20. On National Public Radio he s been interviewed by Susan Stamberg, Robert Siegel, Noah Adams, Neal Conan, and Terry Gross (on Fresh Air, All Things Considered, and Talk of the Nation). Keyes was one of Bob Edwards's first guests on The Bob Edwards Show on XM Radio. People Magazine has featured him twice. His own articles have been published by magazines such as Esquire, Good Housekeeping, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Self, GQ, Newsweek, Parade, Sports Illustrated, Car and Driver, Harper s, and Human Behavior. An article he co-authored won the McKinsey Award for Best Article of the Year in the Harvard Business Review. Keyes is listed in Contemporary Authors, Who s Who in America, and Who s Who in the World.

From Library Journal:

Gone are the days when a book of quotations was just that--a list of bons mots arranged by author or subject, usually accompanied by the source of the quote. Now the expression must be explained (both in and out of context), its source discussed, and its content compared with what others have said, an approach that meets with varying degrees of success. With its lengthy bibliography and copious "Notes" section, Keyes's book has a much more scholarly tone than Tad Tuleja's Quirky Quotations ( LJ 8/92). There is also an extensive keyword index and author index. This talky tome will appeal more to borrowers than to reference librarians. Buy one for each if your budget allows.
- Paula M. Zieselman, Fulbright & Jaworski, New York
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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