"MAKE HELL WHILE THE SUN SHINES"
Proverbial Rhetoric in Winston Churchill's The Second
For my British friend Venetia
While literary historians have
investigated the use and function of proverbial speech in
the works of such major English authors as Geoffrey Chaucer,
William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Agatha Christie, and
many others, relatively little attention has been paid to the rhetorical
employment of proverbs and proverbial phrases in political
speeches and writings. A few more recent studies on proverbs
as effective verbal strategies during election
campaigns, as formulaic arguments during political discussions on
television, as part of the political diplomacy of the United
Nations, and as captions of political cartoons and
caricatures exist, but Joseph Raymond's general article on "Tensions in
Proverbs: More Light on International
Understanding" from 1956 still serves as an informative introduction to the
political use of proverbs as ready-made slogans and verbal
Not much is known about utilization of
proverbial language by individual politicians. Towards the
end of the nineteenth century, Hugo Blümmer looked at
the metaphorical style of Otto von Bismarck's (1815-1898)
speeches and letters, showing that this important statesman
used German proverbs as well as literary quotations
effectively to argue a point, to disarm his opponents, and
to add folkloric spice to his political
rhetoric. There are also five short essays on Vladimir Ilich Lenin's
(1870-1924) and Nikita Khrushchev's (1894-1971) rhetorical
use of proverbs for propaganda, agitation, and
manipulation. An article by Wolfgang Mieder has shown that proverbs became
dangerous tools in the hands of many National Socialists,
not only of Adolf Hitler or Joseph Goebbels, who misused
them as anti-Semitic folk wisdom to discredit the Jewish
population. There is also Mieder's detailed study on "Proverbial
Manipulation in Adolf Hitler's Mein
Kampf" which shows how this demagogue made frequent use of German
proverbs and proverbial phrases to explain his ill-conceived
racial and political ambitions in his massive
Scholars thus far have paid particular
attention to the proverbial rhetoric of such folk deceivers
as Lenin and Hitler. Where, one might well ask, are the
studies on politicians and statesmen like Theodore
Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Willy Brandt, Ronald Reagan, and
Ross Perrot, who all included proverbial wisdom in their
political speeches? Several systematic investigations of
such public figures of the twentieth century (or earlier
times) are necessary to ascertain the permeating presence of
proverbs in political rhetoric. Speeches, essays, letters,
diaries, memoranda, autobiographies, etc. need to be studied
to gain a complete picture of the role that folk speech
plays in the verbal communication on the highest political
level. There is no immediate need to investigate yet another
literary author for the inclusion of proverbial materials.
Paremiologists would indeed do well to cast their nets over
the use and function of proverbs in the public life of major
and minor politicians.
Warning: Division by zero in /home/world68/public_html/DPjournal/DP,1,2,95/CHURCHILL.html on line 382 Proverbs, Sayings and Popular Wisdom - Audio Proverbs in English and Romance Languages, Proverb Studies, Proverb Collections, International Proverb Bibliographies
De Proverbio – Latin for ‘About the Proverb’ – is a website devoted to proverbs in several languages. It was founded in January 1995 at the University of Tasmania, Australia. De Proverbio was the world’s first refereed electronic journal of international proverb studies. It’s inspiration was Proverbium: Yearbook of International Proverb Scholarship edited by Prof. Wolfgang Mieder at the University of Vermont. The Yearbook continued the tradition of Proverbium: Bulletin d’Information sur les Recherches Parémiologiques, published occasionally from 1965 to 1975 by the Society for Finnish Literature, Helsinki.
Recently, the website has added audio proverbs in six languages, read by native speakers. Also available for the lovers of languages and their proverbial richess is a page of multilingual proverb crosswords.
Proverbs and Their Definition
From time immemorial proverbs have fascinated people of all ages and from all walks of life. As it happened throughout centuries, common people today still avail themselves of the proverb’s rich oral tradition to convey their culture and values, while scholars collect and study them from a wide range of angles: linguistic, social, psychological, political, historical and so on.
The problem of proverb definition is still open. However, it is broadly accepted that proverbs were born from man’s experience. And that they generally express, in a very succinct way, common-sense truths. They give sound advice and reflect the human condition. But, as we know, human nature is both good and bad and the latter is often mirrored by discriminatory proverbs, be they against women, different nationalities or particular social groups. For a thorough discussion of proverb definition, see Popular Views of the Proverb by Prof. Wolfgang Mieder. Another article which sheds some light on the proverb definition is The Wisdom of Many and the Wit of One by Archer Taylor.
Proverbs and Their Origin
As to the origin of proverbs we tend to assume that they were born in times when human society began to self-impose rules and embrace principles necessary for communal living. Research can trace them back only to the time when language was recorded by means of some type of writing. The Sumerian civilisation of more than five thousand years ago is the oldest known civilisation to have made use of proverbs, some of which have been passed on through its cuneiform inscriptions.
One such proverb, in its Latin version, is Canis festinans caecos parit catulos. It spread to other languages. The English translation is The hasty bitch brings forth blind whelps. In French, it became La chienne dans sa hâte a mis bas des chiots aveugles. In the Italian La gatta frettolosa fece i gattini ciechi, the bitch has been replaced by the cat. The Portuguese version is Cadelas apressadas parem cães tortos, and the Romanian, Căţeaua de pripă îşi naşte căţeii fără ochi.
Proverbs and Their Use
Apart from use on a wide scale in day-to-day speech, there is ample evidence that proverbs were essential tools in teaching and learning. The pedagogical use of proverbs was encountered first in Sumerian society and subsequently this use became widespread throughout Medieval Europe.
Proverbs and proverbial expressions are found in religious manuscripts of the first half of the eighth century. The aim of introducing proverbs into religious texts was to help novices to learn Latin, and this practice became widespread by the tenth century.
The use of proverbs in teaching and learning was not circumscribed to England. Relatively new research attests to the use of proverbs in teaching in the eleventh century in Liège, France. In Italy the famous medical School of Salerno of the eleventh century formulated medical precepts which later became proverbs adopted by different cultures. Post prandium stabis, post coenam ambulabis was translated After dinner sit awhile, after supper walk a mile in English. In French became Après dîner repose un peu, après souper promène une mille, while in Italian Dopo pranzo riposar un poco, dopo cena passeggiar un miglio. The Spanish version is Después de yantar reposad un poco, después de cenar pasead una milla and the Portuguese Depois de jantar, dormir; depois de cear, passos mil.
Proverbs and Their Abuse
But from use comes abuse, as a Spanish proverb says. There is no doubt that the capacity of the proverb to convey universal truths concisely led to their abuse and manipulation.
Hitler and his Nazi regime employed proverbs as emotional slogans for propaganda purposes and encouraged the publication of anti-semitic proverb collections. For a thorough analysis of this phenomenon, please read the fascinating article “ … as if I were the master of situation.” Proverbial Manipulation in Adolf Hitler by Prof. Wolfgang Mieder.
At the opposite end of the political spectrum, communist regimes of the past have not only manipulated proverbs, but also purged popular collections of features which did not reflect their political ends. The former Soviet regime is at the forefront of such actions. One type of manipulation described by Jean Breuillard in Proverbes et pouvoir politique: Le cas de l’U.R.S.S. (published in “Richesse du proverbe”, Eds. François Suard and Claude Buridant. Lille: Université de Lille, 1984. II, 155-166). It consisted in modifying ancient proverbs like La vérité parcourt le monde (Truth spreads all over the world) into La vérité de Lénine parcourt le monde (Lenin’s truth spreads all over the world). As a result the new creation is unequivocably charged with a specific ideological message.
Manipulation did not stop at individual proverbs, it extended to entire collections. Vladimir Dal’s mid-nineteen century collection of Russian proverbs is such an example. Its first Soviet edition (1957) reduces the proverbs containing the word God from 283 to 7 only. Instead, those which express compassion for human weaknesses, such as alcoholism, disappear altogether. In more recent years, in Ceauşescu’s Romania, Proverbele românilor (published in 1877 by I. C. Hinţescu) suffered the same treatment. More than 150 proverbs were eliminated or changed in order to respond rigidly to the communist ideology.
Proverbs Across Time and Space
The Oxford Dictionary of English Proverbs states that foreign proverbs’ contribution to the English proverbial stock has enriched our language. Many proverbs of foreign origin were quickly absorbed into English life and have a rightful place in an English dictionary. Indeed, a close scrutiny of that dictionary reveals that more than two hundred and fifty proverbs are listed as first existing in Italian.
This is also true for other modern languages, particularly French and Spanish. The translation is not always literal. At times it is adapted to the new language and the resulting proverb is often enriched in its expression. For instance the Latin Homo sine pecunia est imago mortis (A man without money is the image of death) is rather closely translated in Italian as Uomo senza quattrini è un morto che cammina (A man without money is a dead man walking).
However, in other languages the metaphor changes, but not the meaning. In English the proverb becomes A man without money is a bow without an arrow, while in French Un homme sans argent / Est un loup sans dents (A man without money is a wolf without teeth) and an element of rhyme is introduced. The Romanian adaptation is a real poetic gem Omul fără bani e ca pasărea fără aripi; Când dă să zboare / Cade jos şi moare (A man without money is like a bird without wings; When he tries to fly / He falls down and dies). The concept is essentially the same: the man without money lacks something important…
While proverbs are still used today in a traditional way, that is in speech, literature and teaching, they have found a new ever expanding use in the advertising industry and in the mass media. One example is Here today, gone tomorrow, which became Hair today, gone tomorrow in the hair-removal industry. In the mass media it has a variety of paraphrases such as Hear today, gone tomorrow or Heir today, gone tomorrow. Before the Barcelona Olympic Games the old proverb All roads lead to Rome became All roads lead to… Barcelona in many English language newspapers and magazines. A new phenomenon encountered in many languages nowadays and is undoubtedly a sign of the proverb’s resilience and vitality.
Important writers of the past, among them Goethe and Voltaire, have questioned the traditional wisdom of proverbs. That led to some proverb transformations. Prof. Wolfgang Mieder coined the term anti-proverb for all forms of creative proverb changes. They can be deliberate innovations, alterations, variations, parodies. Anti-proverbs are widely spread today, some living a short time, some even making their way into recent proverb collections. A new broom sweeps clean, but the old one knows the corners and Absence makes the heart grow fonder – for somebody else are considered anti-proverbs.
Proverbs and Their Collection
Apart from studies on individual and multilingual proverbs and proverbial expressions, you will find a few e-books on our website. I will mention a Brazilian collection and a dictionary of equivalent English and Romanian proverbs. Prof. Wolfgang Mieder’s yearly bibliographies are an invaluable tool for students and researchers. Given their widespread use over the millennia, it is no wonder that scholars of the past started assembling proverbs in collections. Aristotle is believed to be among the first paremiographers (collectors of proverbs), but, unfortunately, his collection was lost. In more recent times a great impetus to the collection of proverbs was given by Erasmus. His fame spread from Venice throughout Europe after the publication in 1508 of his Adagiorum Chiliades. This collection contained 3,260 proverbs drawn from classical authors.
The success of the book led to several augmented editions culminating with that of 1536, which contains 4,151 proverbs. Erasmus’ work was translated into several European languages. While it became the model for future proverb collections in those languages, they were widely copied and translated.
One good example of such a practice is the 1591 Italian collection Giardino di Ricreatione, nel quale crescono fronde, fiori e frutti, vaghe, leggiadri e soavi, sotto nome di sei miglia proverbii, e piacevoli riboboli Italiani, colti e scelti da Giovanni Florio. And two decades later appeared in French as Le Jardin de Récréation, au quel croissent rameaux, fleurs et fruits très-beaux, gentils et souefs, soubz le nom de Six mille proverbes et plaisantes rencontres françoises, recueillis et triéez par GOMÈS DE TRIER, non seulement utiles mais délectables pour tous espritz désireux de la très-noble et copieuse langue françoise, nouvellement mis en lumière, à Amsterdam, par PAUL DE RAVESTEYN.
Proverbs and Fun
On the less academic side, you can test your knowledge of languages by solving our bilingual or multilingual crosswords. Or, you can listen to our featured proverbs in 6 languages – English, French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian and Spanish. Also, enjoy sharing them with your friends. Some were posted on Twitter as comments to political events of the day.
Painters in Renaissance time, from Hieronymus Bosch to Pieter Bruegel, with his famous Netherlandish Proverbs, were attracted by the subject.
Modern artists like James Chapman illustrated recently proverbs from other world languages with hilarious cartoons. See some of his images on this page.
Also relating to Soviet Russia is
another use of this twin formula in a letter by Churchill to
President Roosevelt on 8 October 1941. This reference
clearly shows Churchill's understanding of the dangerous
situation in which Stalin and his Russian people found
themselves in view of the German military
As things are now, it appears
to us virtually out of the question either to conclude an
agreement [concerning the sale of wheat] which
may seriously affect her [Russia's] interests
without consulting her, or to approach her on such a
matter at a time when she is engaged in a life-and-death
struggle, and when her richest wheatfields are in the
battle area (III,739-740).
In a final use of this leitmotif, Churchill refers to the British
intervention in Greece in a letter of 5 December 1944 as
"the matter is one of life and death" (VI,253), once again
alluding to the urgency of the situation. Churchill also
made use of the somewhat related somatic binary formula
"body and soul" in a statement which he wrote on 17 November
1938 regarding Nerville Chamberlain's controversial policy
By this time next year we
shall know whether the Prime Minister's view of Herr
Hitler and the German Nazi party is right or wrong. By
this time next year we shall know whether the policy of
appeasement has appeased, or whether it has only
stimulated a more ferocious appetite [Churchill's
emphasis]. All we can do in the meanwhile is to
gather forces of resistance and defence, so that if the
Prime Minister should unhappily be wrong, or misled, or
deceived, we can at the worst keep body and soul together
Churchill had a definite predilection
towards the use of such twin formulas, most likely because
their reduplicative nature helped to increase the strength
of a particular statement. What follows is a list of some of
these proverbial formulas in chronological order of their
appearance in the six volumes of The Second World
The wholesale massacre
[...] in the German execution camps exceeds in
horror the rough and ready butcheries of Ghengis Khan,
and in scale reduces them to pygmy proportions
[...] the Fleet [...] would have to go on
playing hide-and-seek (I,344).
[...] he [Chamberlain] was never more
spick and span or cool and determined than at the last
Cabinets which he attended (II,305).
[...] we should do everything possible, by hook
or by crook, to send at once to Greece the fullest
[...] they [German troops and tanks]
badly needed rest and overhaul after their mechanical
wear and tear in the Balkans (III,323).
It is now or never with the Vichy French (III,507).
Please remember how much they [German troops] got
by brass and bluff at the time of the French collapse
This was no time for a constitutional experiment with a
"period of trial and error" to determine the "future
relationship" of India to the British Empire
[...] action will emerge from what will otherwise
be almost unending hummings and hawings (IV,473).
The pros and cons of this have to be very carefully
I [Churchill] have the greatest confidence in you
[General Alexander] and will back you up through
thick and thin (V,448).
This [the friendly relationship between Churchill and
Roosevelt] continued through all the ups and downs of
the world struggle (VI,414).
It is interesting to note that
Churchill also uses twin formulas to describe Hitler's grasp
of power and Germany's move under him towards military
power: "Thus did Hitler obtain by hook and crook a majority
vote from the German people" (I,55) and "[...] the
German might grew by leaps and bounds, and the time for
overt action approached" (I,66). He also refers to the
assassination of Röhm and other early party members
during the night of 30 June 1934, employing the phrase of
"the night of the long knives" which has become an internationally disseminated proverbial
expression: "In that 'Night of the Long Knives', as it was
called, the unit of National Socialist Germany had been
preserved to carry its curse throughout the world" (I,79). A
dozen pages later, Churchill observes with the accuracy of
hindsight that "If Great Britain and France had each
maintained quantitative parity with Germany [in military
rearmament] they would together have been double as
strong, and Hitler's career of violence might have been
nipped in the bud without the loss of a single life.
Thereafter it was too late" (I,91).
One senses a certain feeling of
fatalism not only in many incidents in which Churchill
employs proverbial language but also throughout many of
these over four thousand pages of war history. Once the free
democracies of the world permitted Hitler to gain ultimate
power, Churchill resigned himself to the fact that this foe
had to be fought on his terms, i.e., through the resolve of
the British people and the strongest military alliance that
could possibly be assembled. There was no way to escape the
fate of a major war, and a number of proverbial leitmotifs underscore this determined viewpoint in
these volumes. The proverb that by its nature expresses the inescapable
course of events that would occur once all attempts at
preventing it had been exhausted is the classical "The die
is cast," used by Julius Caesar on crossing the Rubicon
after coming from Gaul and advancing into Italy against
Pompey (49 B.C.). Churchill in a similar vein plunged
himself into desperate and daring action when he accepted
the position of Prime Minister during the Second World War.
Being a man of action and deeds who worked best in crisis
situations, he made use of this fatalistic proverb three
times in short and decisive statements before the
However, the die was now
Accordingly the die was cast. (1935)
But now the die was cast to fight it out.
The proverb appears seven times in The Second World War, unmistakably indicating
Churchill's unshakable resolve to bring Hitler and his
allies to their knees:
The die was cast. (I,305)
Anyhow, the die is cast. (II,431) The Die is Cast (III,514 [part of chapter
I did not know that the die had already been cast by
Japan or how far the President's [Roosevelt's]
resolves had gone. (III,532)
But the die was cast. (III,627)
The die was cast, and the [British] fleet
dispersed before dark to their several destinations
At 4 a.m. on June 5 the die was irrevocably cast: the
invasion would be launched on June 6. (V,556)
Despite his erudition and vast
knowledge that could lead Churchill to very sophisticated
heights of the English language, he was always ready "to
speak in plain English" and to voice his opinion without
fear of the consequences. Speaking plainly and proverbially
certainly helped in arousing the peoples of the free world
against the tyranny of dictators. There definitely is
proverbial truth in the claim that Winston S. Churchill
"mobilized the English language and sent it into
See Wolfgang Mieder, Proverbs in Literature: An International
Bibliography (Bern: Peter Lang, 1978); and W. Mieder, International Proverb Scholarship: An Annotated
Bibliography, 3 vols. (New York: Garland Publishing,
1982, 1990, and 1993).
See Werner Koller, Redensarten: Linguistische Aspekte,
Vorkommensanalysen, Sprachspiel (Tübingen: Max
Niemeyer, 1977), esp. pp. 122-174; Theres Gautschi, Bildhafte Phraseologismen in der
Nationalratswahlpropaganda (Bern: Peter Lang, 1982);
Edmund Kammerer, Sprichwort und Politik: Sprachliche
Schematismen in Politikerreden, politischem Journalismus
und Graffiti (M.A. Thesis University of Freiburg,
1983); Shirley L. Arora, "On the Importance of Rotting
Fish: A Proverb and Its Audience [during the Michael
Dukakis presidential campaign]," Western
Folklore, 48 (1989), 271-288; and Karen E. Richman,
"'With Many Hands, the Burden Isn't Heavy': Creole
Proverbs and Political Rhetoric in Haiti's Presidential
Elections," Folklore Forum, 23 (1990),
Démétrios Loukatos, "Proverbes et
commentaires politiques: Le public devant les
télé-communications actuelles," Proverbium, 1 (1984), 119-126; and Peter
Kühn, "Routine-Joker in politischen
Fernsehdiskussionen. Plädoyer für eine
textsortenabhängige Beschreibung von
Phraseologismen," Beiträge zur Phraseologie des
Ungarischen und des Deutschen, ed. Regina Hessky
See R.D. Hoggs,
"Proverbs," Secretariat News, 14 (1960), 5-7; and
Victor S.M. de Guinzbourg, Wit and Wisdom of the
United Nations: Proverbs and Apothegms on Diplomacy (New York: privately printed, 1961; supplement
See Lutz Röhrich,
"Die Bildwelt von Sprichwort und Redensart in der Sprache
der politischen Karikatur," Kontakte und Grenzen:
Probleme der Volks-, Kultur- und Sozialforschung.
Festschrift für Gerhard Heilfurth, ed. Hans
Friedrich Foltin (Göttingen: Otto Schwarz, 1969),
pp. 175-207; Wolfgang Mieder, "'It's Five Minutes to
Twelve': Folklore and Saving Life on Earth," International Folklore Review, 7 (1989), 10-21;
and Fionnuala Williams, "'To Kill Two Birds with One
Stone': Variants in a War of Words," Proverbium, 8
Published in Western
Folklore, 15 (1956), 153-158; and reprinted in The
Wisdom of Many: Essays on the Proverb, eds. Wolfgang
Mieder and Alan Dundes (New York: Garland Publishing,
1981), pp. 300-308.
See Hugo Blümmer, Der bildliche Ausdruck in den Reden des Fürsten
Bismarck (Leipzig: S. Hirzel, 1891), esp. pp.
182-186; and H. Blümmer, "Der bildliche Ausdruck in
den Briefen des Fürsten Bismarck," Euphorion,
1 (1894), 590-603 and 771-787.
See Günter Wein,
"Die Rolle der Sprichwörter und Redensarten in der
Agitation und Propaganda," Sprachpflege, 12
(1963), 51-52; Aleksandr M. Zhigulev, "Poslovitsy i
pogovorki v bol'shevitskikh listovkakh," Sovetskaia
Etnografia, 5 (1970), 124-131; L.A. Morozova,
"Upotreblenie V.I. Leninym poslovits," Russkaia
Rech', no volume given, no. 2 (1979), 10-14; N.A.
Meshcherskii, "Traditsionno-knizhnye vyrazheniia v
sovremennom russkom literaturnom iazyke (na materiale
proizvedenii V.I. Lenina)," Voprosy frazeologii, 9
(1975), 110-121; and Jean Breuillard, "Proverbes et
pouvoir politique: Le cas de l'U.R.S.S.," Richesse du
proverbe, eds. François Suard and Claude
Buridant (Lille: Université de Lille, 1984), vol.
2, pp. 155-166.
See "Proverbs in Nazi
Germany: The Promulgation of Anti-Semitism and
Stereotypes Through Folklore," in Wolfgang Mieder, Proverbs Are Never Out of Season: Popular Wisdom in
the Modern Age (New York: Oxford University Press,
1993), pp. 225-255.
1 Manfred Weidhorn,
"'Always the Same Set of Songs': Topoi," in M. Weidhorn, Sir Winston Churchill (Boston: Twayne Publishers,
1979), pp. 34-45.
See for example Robert
Rhodes James, Churchill: A Study in Failure,
1900-1939 (New York: The World Publishing Company,
1970); and Maurice Ashley, Churchill as Historian (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1968).
Cited from Reed
Whittemore, "Churchill and the Limitation of Myth," Yale Review, 44 (1954-1955), 248 (entire article
on pp. 248-262); rpt. as "Churchill as a Mythmaker" in Language and Politics, ed. Thomas P. Brockway
(Boston: D.C. Heath, 1965), p. 56 (entire article on pp.
56-68). See also Keith Alldritt, Churchill the Writer:
His Life as a Man of Letters (London: Hutchinson,
A.G. Gardiner, "Genius
Without Judgment: Churchill at Fifty," in G. Gardiner, Portraits and Portents (New York: Harper &
Row, 1926), p. 63 (entire article pp. 58-64); rpt. in Churchill: A Profile, ed. Peter Stansky (New York:
Hill and Wang, 1973), p. 52 (entire article pp.
Ibid., p. 58
(rpt., pp. 48-49).
James (see note 13), p.
David Cannadine (ed.), Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat: The Speeches of Winston
Churchill (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1989),
p. 1 (introduction).
Regarding these six
volumes as "history" see Ashley (note 13), pp. 159-209;
Keith Niles Hull, The Literary Art of Winston
Churchill's "The Second World War" (Diss. University
of Washington, 1969); and Manfred Weidhorn, Sword and
Pen: A Survey of the Writings of Sir Winston
Churchill (Albuquerque, New Mexico: University of New
Mexico Press, 1974), pp. 139-177.
Joseph W. Miller,
"Winston Churchill, Spokesman for Democracy," Quarterly Journal of Speech, 28 (1942), 137 (the
entire essay on pp. 131-138.
Weidhorn (see note 11),
p. 133 (the entire chapter on pp. 130-150). On
Churchill's use of imagery see also Joaquim Paço
d'Arcos, Churchill: The Statesman and Writer (London: The Caravel Press, 1957), p. 25.
Ibid., p. 134.
See also Gwendoline Lilian Reid, Winston S.
Churchill's Theory of Public Speaking as Compared to His
Practice (Diss. University of Minnesota, 1987), pp.
Ibid., p. 136 and
p. 137. On Churchill's frequent use of colloquialisms see
also Manfred Weidhorn, Churchill's Rhetoric and
Political Discourse (Lanham, Maryland: University
Press of America, 1987), pp. 31-32. See also the comment
that Churchill "often rounded off [a discussion]
by a sudden colloquialism that from most other people
would be an anticlimax" by Collin Brooks, "Churchill the
Conversationalist," in Churchill by His
Contemporaries, ed. Charles Eade (London: The Reprint
Society, 1953), p. 248 (the entire essay on pp.
Cited from Randolph S.
Churchill, Winston S. Churchill. Companion volume
I, part 2, 1896-1900 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company,
1967), pp. 819-820 (the entire essay on pp.
See Wolfgang Mieder and
George B. Bryan, The Proverbial Winston S. Churchill:
An Index to Proverbs in the Works of Sir Winston
Churchill (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press,
In addition to the
references already cited, see the lack of comments on
Churchill's use of proverbs in the following three essays
included in Charles Eade (ed.), Churchill by His
Contemporaries (London: The Reprint Society, 1953):
Colin Coote, "Churchill the Journalist" (pp. 114-121);
Norman Birkett, "Churchill the Orator" (pp. 223-233); and
Ivor Brown, "Churchill the Master of Words" (pp.
312-317). The following two studies are also void of any
comments regarding proverbs: Herbert Leslie Stewart, Sir Winston Churchill as Writer and Speaker (London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1954); and Charles W.
Lomas, "Winston Churchill: Orator-Historian," Quarterly Journal of Speech, 44 (1958), 153-160. A
special disappointment in this regard is the study by Edd
Miller and Jesse J. Villarreal, "The Use of
Clichés by Four Contemporary Speakers [Winston
Churchill, Anthony Eden, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Henry
Wallace]," Quarterly Journal of Speech, 31
references concerning these nine citations see Mieder and
Bryan (note 25). For the Maori proverb cited by Churchill
see Raymond Firth, "Proverbs in Native Life, with Special
Reference to Those of the Maori," Folk-Lore (London), 38 (1927), 153.
Herbert Howarth, "Behind
Winston Churchill's Grand Style," Commentary, 11
(1951), 551 (the entire article on pp. 549-557).
It should be noted that
the following "popular" collections of Churchill's wit
and wisdom do not contain any scholarly annotations and
are, of course, limited to Churchill's own quotable
statements (often in the form of entire paragraphs):
Colin Coote (ed.), Maxims and Reflections of the Rt.
Hon. Winston S. Churchill (Boston: Houghton Mifflin
Company, 1947); Bill Adler, The Churchill Wit (New
York: Coward McCann, 1965); Adam Sykes and Iain Sproat, The Wit of Sir Winston (London: Leslie Frewin,
1965); Jack House, Winston Churchill: His Wit and
Wisdom (London: Hyperion Books, 19?); and James C.
Humes, The Wit and Wisdom of Winston Churchill (New York: HarperCollins, 1994). See also James C. Humes'
earlier collection of "Wit and Wisdom" in his book Churchill: Speaker of the Century (New York: Stein
and Day, 1980), pp. 261-279, with the following comment:
"The titanic output of his work is staggering to those
editors and anthologists who try to select for readers
the choicest of his wit and wisdom. Among writers in the
English language, perhaps only Shakespeare offers more
quotable lines. [...] There are more gems to be
gleaned in the writings and speeches of Churchill than in
the sayings of Mao or the observations of Machiavelli"
See Mieder (note
All citations are taken
from the following standard edition: Winston S.
Churchill, The Second World War (London: Cassell
& Co., 1948-1954). The two numbers in parentheses
refer to the volume and page.
For a short study of
this proverbial expression see Wolfgang Mieder and David
Pilachowski, "Die 'Nacht der langen Messer'," Der
Sprachdienst, 19 (1975), 149-152.
For proverbs expressing
a fatalistic worldview see Matti Kuusi, "Fatalistic
Traits in Finnish Proverbs," in Fatalistic Beliefs in
Religion, Folklore and Literature, ed. Helmer
Ringgren (Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1967), pp.
89-96; rpt. in Mieder and Dundes (note 6), pp.
See Mieder and Bryan
(note 25) for precise references.
For two representative
collections see Robert Hendrickson, Salty Words (New York: Hearst Marine Books, 1984); and Wolfgang
Mieder, Salty Wisdom: Proverbs of the Sea (Shelburne, Vermont: The New England Press, 1990).
For a history of this
proverbial phrase see Dietmar Peil, "'Im selben Boot':
Variationen über ein metaphorisches Argument," Archiv für Kulturgeschichte, 68 (1986),
269-293; and Wolfgang Mieder, "'Wir sitzen alle in einem
Boot': Herkunft, Geschichte und Verwendung einer neueren
deutschen Redensart," Muttersprache, 100 (1990),
18-37. See also the more general study by Irene
Meichsner, Die Logik von Gemeinplätzen.
Vorgeführt an Steuermannstopos und
Schiffsmetapher (Bonn: Bouvier, 1983).
See Brown (note 26), p.
Winston S. Churchill, My Early Life: A Roving Commission (New York:
Charles Scribner's Sons, 1958 ), p.
Ibid., p. 116.
See also Darrell Holley, Churchill's Literary
Allusions: An Index to the Education of a Soldier,
Statesman and Litterateur (Jefferson, North Carolina:
McFarland and Company, 1987); Reid (note 22), pp.
284-290; and more generally Paul F. Boller, Quotesmanship: The Use and Abuse of Quotations for
Polemical and Other Purposes (Dallas, Texas: Southern
Methodist University Press, 1967).
See Victor L. Albjerg, Winston Churchill (New York: Twayne Publishers,
1973), p. 46. See also Ashley (note 13), p. 23; and
Weidhorn (note 11), p. 30.
For a history of this
Latin proverb see Anette Erler, "Zur Geschichte des
Spruches 'Bis dat, qui cito dat' [He gives twice who
gives quickly]," Philologus, 13 (1986),
Karl Friedrich Wilhelm
Wander, Deutsches Sprichwörter-Lexikon, 5
vols. (Leipzig: F.A. Brockhaus, 1867-1880; rpt.
Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1964),
vol. 1 (1867), col. 278 (no. 112).
Ibid., vol. 2
(1870), col. 45 (no. 1024).
See Mieder and Bryan
(note 25) for precise references.
Cited from Robert Rhodes
James (ed.), Winston S. Churchill: His Complete
Speeches, 1897-1963 (London: Chelsea House
Publishers, 1974), vol. 8, p. 8507.
See J. Alan Pfeffer, The Proverb in Goethe (New York: King's Crown
Press, 1948), p. 24 (no. 56).
The only reference work
in which it is registered with a reference to Goethe is
Lilian Dalbiac, Dictionary of Quotations (German) (New York: Frederick Ungar, 1958 [1st ed. 1909]),
James (note 45), vol. 6,
Winston S. Churchill, The World Crisis (New York: Charles Scribner's
Sons, 1931 ), vol. 6, p. 1. See Manfred
Weidhorn, "Churchill the Phrase Forger," Quarterly
Journal of Speech, 58 (1972), 170 (the entire essay
on pp. 161-174).
See John Bartlett, Familiar Quotations, ed. Justin Kaplan, 16th ed.
(Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1992), p. 620:5 (note
references see Mieder and Bryan (note 25).
Churchill delighted in
using this quotation as can be seen from the citations in
Mieder and Bryan (note 25). It should be noted, however,
that he sometimes cites its source incorrectly as coming
from the Constitution of the United States.
A page later Churchill
returns again to this special relationship: "Thus began a
friendship which across all the ups and downs of war I
have preserved with deep satisfaction to this day"
Cited from James (note
45), vol. 6, p. 6266. See also Birkett (note 26), p. 226;
Weidhorn (note 49), pp. 168-169; and Bartlett (note 50),
p. 620 (no. 10).
Ibid., vol. 7, p.
Ibid., vol. 8, p.
Ibid., vol. 6, p.
6238. See also Bartlett (note 50), p. 620 (no. 8).
See Weidhorn (note 49),
For this type of
political use of proverbs see Charles H. Titus,
"Political Maxims," California Folklore Quarterly,
4 (1945), 377-389; Wolfgang Mieder, Das Sprichwort in
unserer Zeit (Frauenfeld: Huber, 1975), pp. 14-22;
and W. Mieder, Deutsche Sprichwörter in
Literatur, Politik, Presse und Werbung (Hamburg:
Helmut Buske, 1983), pp. 11-41.
Cited from Mieder and
Bryan (note 25).
Albjerg (note 40), p.
51. Albjerg continues: "If he was not preparing a speech,
organizing a report, planning a campaign, painting a
mural, writing a book, building a wall, digging a ditch,
he was off in the Enchantress inspecting dockyards
or observing naval maneuvers. Each enterprise, whatever
it was, constituted an entrancing experience which, in
its performance, held him spellbound."
See also the interesting
rephrasing of this proverb as "The iron stands hot for
the striking" (VI,190), cited by Churchill from a
communication to him by Sir A. Clark Kerr, British
Ambassador in Moscow, concerning Churchill's upcoming
trip to Russia to meet Stalin in October 1944.
The term was coined by
Wolfgang Mieder, who also collected 4,500 German
anti-proverbs in his Antisprichwörter, 3
vols. (Wiesbaden: Verlag für deutsche Sprache, 1982
and 1985; Wiesbaden: Quelle & Meyer, 1989).
See Richard Jente, "Make
Hay While the Sun Shines," Southern Folklore
Quarterly, 1 (1937), 63-68.
It might be of interest
to note here that Churchill describes Stalin's pragmatism
through a proverb as well, stating that "Marshall Stalin
followed the Russian maxim , 'You may always walk with
the Devil [in this case the Italian fascists]
till you get to the end of the bridge'" (V,167).
For the five references
of Churchill's use of this proverb see Mieder and Bryan
Quoted in The
Churchill Years 1874-1965, intro. Lord Butler of
Saffron Walden (New York: The Viking Press, 1965), p.
Department of German and Russian
University of Vermont
Burlington, Vermont 05405