Oh, the Quotations You’ll Forge!

Dr. Seuss poses with The Cat in the Hat and other books, c. 1957Every March 2nd, Americans celebrate the birthday of Dr. Seuss (a.k.a. Ted Geisel) by reading his work… and by sharing words he neither wrote nor said.

I understand why. Seuss could be pithy. He’s far from the only aphoristic writer to be credited with phrases he didn’t coin. Mark Twain, Ghandi, Groucho Marx, and many others have posthumously become the authors of many ideas.

But finding something on the internet does not confirm that what you’ve found is true. So, in what will likely be a failed effort to set the record straight, here are some things that Dr. Seuss never said — or, at least, there’s no record of him saying these things. And the historical record is all we have.

1. Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.

The sentiment here is congruent with Seuss’s public statements and some of his children’s books, but he never said this. (Below: one of many graphics that spread misinformation about Seuss.  He only said numbers 1 and 3.)

3 quotes that Seuss didn't say, and 2 that he did.2. Today I shall behave, as if this is the day I will be remembered.

Not only did Seuss never say this, but he tended to celebrate misbehavior.

3. Don’t cry because it’s over…  Smile because it happened.

You have to be kidding me. Smile because it happened? No. He never said this.

4. Why fit in when you were born to stand out?

This is a Seussian sentiment, but he never uttered it using these words.

5. We are all a little weird and life’s a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.

Seuss might agree with this sentiment, but he never said it.

6. Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.

Nope. Not something Seuss said.

7. Be awesome! Be a book nut!

Seuss wrote lots of books and read many others, but he did not say this. The giveaway is the colloquial use of “awesome.”


Dr. Seuss, Cat in the Hat's hat25 Things That Seuss Said

There are many quotable lines that Seuss actually did say.  Why not use those instead?  Here’s a sampling.

1. It is fun to have fun.

But you have to know how.

— the Cat in the Hat, in The Cat in the Hat (1957)

2. Today you are you! That is truer than true!

There is no one alive who is you-er than you!

Shout loud, “I am lucky to be what I am!

Thank goodness I’m not a clam or a ham

Or a dusty old jar of sour gooseberry jam!

I am what I am! That’s a great thing to be!”

— narrator, Happy Birthday to You! (1959)

3. You have brains in your head.

You have feet in your shoes.

You can steer yourself

any direction you choose.

— narrator, Oh, the Places You’ll Go! (1990)

Dr. Seuss, The Lorax4. UNLESS someone like you

cares a whole awful lot,

nothing is going to get better.

It’s not.

— the Once-ler, The Lorax (1971)

5. Outside of my beginner books, I never write for children.  I write for people.

— Dr. Seuss, interview with Michael Lee Katz (1984)

6. From there to here,

from here to there,

funny things

are everywhere.

— narrator, One fish two fish red fish blue fish (1960)

7. I meant what I said

And I said what I meant. . .

An elephant’s faithful

One hundred per cent!

— Horton, Horton Hatches the Egg (1940)

Dr. Seuss, from Horton Hatches the Egg (1940)

8. Don’t give up! I believe in you all!

A person’s a person, no matter how small!

— Horton, Horton Hears a Who! (1954)

9. Adults are obsolete children and the hell with them.

— Dr. Seuss, in many interviews, including Shepard 1968, Dangaard 1976, & Bandler 1977

10. you’re in pretty good shape

for the shape you are in!

— narrator, You’re Only Old Once! (1986)

11. Children are just as smart as you are. The main difference is they don’t know so many words, and you’ll lose them if your story gets complicated.  But if your story is simple, you can tell it just as if you’re telling it to adults.

— Dr. Seuss, lectures at University of Utah (1949), quoted in my Dr. Seuss: American Icon (2004)

12. I know, up on top you are seeing great sights,

But down at the bottom we, too, should have rights.

Dr. Seuss, Hop on Pop

— Mack, Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories (1958)

13. STOP

You must not

hop on Pop.

— Pop, Hop on Pop (1963)

 14. So be sure when you step.

Step with care and great tact

and remember that Life’s

a Great Balancing Act.

— narrator, Oh, the Places You’ll Go! (1990)

Dr. Seuss's Sleep Book (1962)15. A yawn is quite catching, you see. Like a cough.

It just takes one yawn to start other yawns off.

— narrator, Dr. Seuss’s Sleep Book (1962)

16. My uncle ordered popovers

from the restaurant’s bill of fare.

And when they were served,

he regarded them with a penetrating stare . . .

Then he spoke great Words of Wisdom

as he sat there on that chair:

“To eat these things,”

said my uncle,

“you must exercise great care.

You may swallow down what’s solid . . .

BUT . . .

You must spit out the air!”

 

And . . .

As you partake of the world’s bill of fare,

that’s darned good advice to follow.

Do a lot of spitting out the hot air.

And be careful what you swallow.

— Dr. Seuss, “My Uncle Terwilliger on the Art of Eating Popovers” (1977), quoted in Judith and Neil Morgan’s Dr. Seuss and Mr. Geisel (1995)

17. Nonsense wakes up the brain cells.  And it helps develop a sense of humor, which is awfully important in this day and age.  Humor has a tremendous place in this sordid world.  It’s more than just a matter of laughing.  If you can see things out of whack, then you can see how things can be in whack.

— Dr. Seuss, in interview with Miles Corwin (1983)

18. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!

“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.

Maybe Christmas, . . . perhaps . . . means a little bit more!”

— narrator, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1957)

19. children’s reading and children’s thinking are the rock bottom base upon which this country will rise. Or not rise. In these days of tension and confusion, writers are beginning to realize that books for children have a greater potential for good or evil, than any other form of literature on earth.

— Dr. Seuss, “Writing for Children: A Mission” (1960)

Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut (1978)20. The more that you read,

the more things you will know.

The more that you learn,

the places you’ll go.

— the Cat in the Hat, I Can Read with My Eyes Shut! (1978)

21. It has often been said

there’s so much to be read,

you never can cram

all those words in your head.

 

So the writer who breeds

more words than he needs

is making a chore

for the reader who reads.

 

That’s why my belief is

the briefer the brief is,

the greater the sigh

of the reader’s relief is.

— Dr. Seuss, “A Short Condensed Poem in Praise of Reader’s Digest Condensed Books” (1980)

22. Think left and think right

and think low and think high.

Oh the thinks you can think up

if only you try!

— narrator, Oh, the Thinks You Can Think! (1975)

Dr. Seuss, from Oh, the Thinks You Can Think! (1975)

23. Whenever things go a bit sour in a job I’m doing, I always tell myself, “You can do better than this.”  The best slogan I can think of to leave with the kids of the U.S.A. would be “We can . . . and we’ve got to . . . do better than this.”

— Dr. Seuss to his biographers, Judith and Neil Morgan, as reported in their Dr. Seuss and Mr. Geisel (1995)

Dr. Seuss, One fish two fish red fish blue fish (1960)24. And will you succeed?

Yes! You will, indeed!

(98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)

KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTIANS!

— narrator, Oh, the Places You’ll Go! (1990)

25. Today is gone. Today was fun.

Tomorrow is another one.

— narrator, One fish two fish red fish blue fish (1960)


In celebration of what would be Seuss’s 110th birthday (March 2nd), you might enjoy perusing other posts tagged Seuss.  Here’s a selection:

Occasionally, I get asked to talk about Dr. Seuss:

  • “New Window into Dr. Seuss’s genius” (26 Feb. 2014). John Wilkens’ article in the San Diego Tribune discusses new Seuss material that his widow, Audrey, donated to the Dr. Seuss Papers at UCSD.
  • “Dr. Seuss: Mini-Biography.”  A&E Biography (2013).  Time: 4 minutes.
  • All Things Considered. Lynn Neary, “‘The Bippolo Seed’ : The ‘Lost’ Dr. Seuss Stories” (13 Apr. 2011): audio & transcript.  Charles Cohen & I talk about the new book of “lost” Seuss stories (edited by Charles).  Time: 3 mins, 30 secs.
  • Diane Rehm Show. Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (22 Dec. 2010): audio | transcript. Reverend Derrick Harkins, Maria Salvadore, and I talk with Diane Rehm about the Grinch.  Time: 1 hour.
  • Morning Edition. Lynn Neary, “Fifty Years of The Cat in the Hat” (1 Mar. 2007): audio & transcript. Anita Silvey and I talk with Lynn Neary about the Cat in the Hat.  Time: 7 mins, 20 secs.
  • Talk of the Nation.  Steve Inskeep, “Celebrating the 100th Birthday of Dr. Seuss: A New Book Looks Back on the Life of Theodor Geisel” (10 Feb. 2004): audio.  I was a bit nervous at the beginning (I believe it was my first time on live national radio), but after the first few minutes I seem to settle into it well enough.  Time: 1 hour.
Though the website appears to have been designed to impede its utility, Random House’s Seussville‘s author section includes a bio. and timeline I wrote — the former heavily influenced by Judith and Neil Morgan’s excellent Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel.  (If you read only one book about Dr. Seuss, the Morgans’ bio is the one I’d recommend.)And… that’s all.  Happy Read Across America Day!*


*Each year on or near March 2nd (the birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss), the National Education Association sponsors Read Across America, designed to promote literacy. This year, it’ll be celebrated on Monday, March 3rd. Read more about it at the NEA’s website.

Read Across America: An NEA Project

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Commonplace Book: Children’s Literature, Part II

Oh, I could do this all day.  Except that, well, I couldn’t — too many other things to do.  So, here are ten more.  And then I’ll stop.  For now.

“Welcome!” he said.  “Welcome to a new year at Hogwarts! Before we begin our banquet, I would like to say a few words. And here they are: Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!
“Thank you!”
— J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (1998; in the UK and the rest of the world, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone [1997]), p. 123.

I have often thought that if the people who write books for children knew a little more it would be better. I shall not tell you anything about us except what I should like to know about if I was reading the story and you were Toby Speed, Brave Potatoes, illus. Barry Root (2000)writing it. Albert’s uncle says I ought to have put this in the preface, but I never read prefaces, and it is not much good writing things just for people to skip. I wonder other authors have never thought of this.
— Oswald Bastable, in E. Nesbit, The Story of the Treasure Seekers (1899), Chapter 2.

But potatoes never listen.
Potatoes have no ears.
Toby Speed, Brave Potatoes (2000), illustrated by Barry Root

I see the Master as a man having terrible choices to make; whatever he chooses will do harm, but maybe if he does the right thing, a little less harm will come about than if he chooses wrong.  God preserve me from having to make that sort of choice.
— John Faa, in Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass (1995; Northern Lights in the UK), p. 128.

“Now we have no more cookies to eat,” said Toad sadly.  “Not even one.”
“Yes,” said Frog, “but we have lots and lots of will power.”
“You may keep it all, Frog,” said Toad.  “I am going home now to bake a cake.”
— Arnold Lobel, “Cookies,” Frog and Toad Together (1972)

His mind is concrete and fastidious,
Jon Agee, Dmitri the AstronautHis nose is remarkably big;
His visage is more or less hideous,
His beard it resembles a wig.
— Edward Lear, “How pleasant to know Mr. Lear!”

Dmitri hardly had a chance to relax before somebody recognized him.
“Aren’t you Barney Abernathy from Cincinnati?”
“No!” said Dmitri.  “I’m Dmitri the astronaut.”
“Oh,” said the man,” I’m so sorry.”
— Jon Agee, Dmitri the Astronaut (1996)

“You once told me that fish are meant for fish,” Bagley said.  “Do you still think that?”
“Well, I’m not really sure anymore,” she confessed, looking up again.  “The truth is, I was just spouting what I’d always heard.  It’s the inside of things that matters.  Not the outside.  I see that now.”
— Tor Seidler, The Wainscot Weasel (1993)

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.
— Langston Hughes, The Dream Keeper and Other Poems (1932)

A dream is to look at the night and see things.
— Ruth Krauss, A Hole Is to Dig (1952)

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Commonplace Book: Children’s Literature

The responses to yesterday’s “Commonplace Book” post prompts me to list here ten favorite lines from children’s literature.  (And please see yesterday’s post for quotations from Crockett Johnson and Dr. Seuss, and yesterday’s comments for great lines from E. B. White and Louis Sachar.)

To get very far he was going to need a lot of books.  B is for Books.  He could find plenty of big words in a pile of big books.  He was ready for anything.
— Crockett Johnson, Harold’s ABC (1963)

Crockett Johnson, "How to write a book," illus. from Ruth Krauss's How to Make an EarthquakeYou can write books about anything.  For instance, fruits.  The first page could be a banana and the second page could be an orange and the third could be cherries, and like that.  If you can’t write yet, you could just draw.  Then the book could be especially for someone who can’t read yet.
— Ruth Krauss, “How to write a book,” in How to Make an Earthquake (1954), illustrated by Crockett Johnson, p. 27.

‘The time has come,’ the Walrus said,
‘To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing wax —
Of cabbages — and kings.
And why the sea is boiling hot —
And whether pigs have wings.’
— Lewis Carroll, chapter 4 of Through the Looking-Glass and what Alice found there (1871)

We like our toys.
We take CARE of our TOYS.
We do not want our toys to become broken.
We want to keep our toys for along time.
Cousin Stinky has come over to play.
“Where are your toys?” he asks.
Munro Leaf, "Grown-ups aren't weird monsters," from How to Behave and Why“What is ‘TOYS’?” we ask.
“We do not know what that word means.”
Lane Smith, The Happy Hocky Family (1993)

Grown ups aren’t some kind of weird monsters that have fun making us do things we don’t want to do.  They just know a whole lot more than we do because they have been here longer.
— Munro Leaf, How to Behave and Why (1946)

You must never feel badly about making mistakes, as long as you take the trouble to learn from them.  For you often learn more by being wrong for the right reasons than you do by being right for the wrong reasons.
—  The Princess of Pure Reason, in Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth (1961), p. 233

“Do you like educational games?” Hodgkins asked cautiously.
“I love them!” said the Nibling.
I sat down and didn’t know what to say.
— Tove Jannson, Moominpappa’s Memoirs, translated by Thomas Warburton (1968), p. 147

Hodges is considered by many to be the finest pastry chef in the city.
Too bad his duck is so crazy.
— Tim Egan, Friday Night at Hodges’ Café (1994)

For we pay a price for everything we get or take in this world; and although ambitions are well worth having, they are not to be cheaply won, but exact their dues of work and self-denial, anxiety and discouragement.
— L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables (1908),Chapter 36

The Scarecrow was now the ruler of the Emerald City, and although he was not a Wizard the people were proud of him. “For,” they said, “there is not another city in all the world that is ruled by a stuffed man.”  And, as far as they knew, they were quite right.
— L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)

Yes, that last one was in honor of today’s midterm elections here in the U.S.  And, of course, one could add many more quotations to this list.  Among those who ought to be represented here are: Francesca Lia Block, Dr. Seuss, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Langston Hughes, Florence Parry Heide, J.K. Rowling, and the list goes on and on!  Do feel free to add your own below.

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Commonplace Book

People once kept commonplace books — personal, portable anthologies of favorite quotations.  Today, the “Favorite Quotations” section on Crockett Johnson, Harold and the Purple CrayonFacebook offers a brief, public version of the commonplace book.  This practice has, I think, mostly faded.  At any rate, here are ten quotations that would be in my commonplace book.

But, luckily, he kept his wits and his purple crayon.
— Crockett Johnson, Harold and the Purple Crayon (1955)

Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.
— often attributed to Groucho Marx

Being a professional is doing the things you love to do, on the days you don’t feel like doing them.
— Julius Erving, as quoted by David Halberstam, in Clyde Haberman, “David Halberstam, 73, Reporter and Author, Dies,” New York Times, 24 Apr. 2007

Jay-Z, Black Album

This is the life that I chose or, rather, the life that chose me.
— Jay-Z, “December 4th,” The Black Album (2003)

It’s like Duke Ellington said, there are only two kinds of music — good and bad. And you can tell when something is good.
— Ray Charles

Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.
— Noam Chomsky, Syntactic Structures (1957), p. 15

UNLESS someone like youDr. Seuss, The Lorax
cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better.
It’s not.
— Dr. Seuss, The Lorax (1971)

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant—
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
— Emily Dickinson, “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant—” (c. 1868), in Final Harvest: Emily Dickinson’s Poems, ed. Thomas H. Johnson (1954), p. 248

Nobody’s perfect.
— spoken by Joe E. Brown, Some Like It Hot (1959, dir. Billy Wilder), screenplay by Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
— Leonard Cohen, “Anthem,” The Future (1992)

I do like resonant quotations.  I think I will do a “commonplace book” post in the future featuring only quotations from children’s literature.  I suspect that this has already been done on other children’s lit blogs, but of course commonplace books are personal, idiosyncratic endeavors.  So, even if it’s been done before (and I’m sure it has been), my children’s literature commonplace book will at least be different, eh?

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