Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Russell Baker. fully Russell Wayne Baker

American Journalist, Pulitzer Prize-winning Writer, Author, Humorist and Political Satirist

"In America it is sports that is the opiate of the masses."

"We live in an environment whose principal product is garbage. The shined shoe in such a society is a hypocritical statement because it promotes the lie that we can thrive on garbage without being dirtied by it."

"A group of politicians deciding to dump a President because his morals are bad is like the Mafia getting together to bump off the Godfather for not going to church on Sunday."

"A railroad station? That was sort of a primitive airport, only you didn't have to take a cab twenty miles out of town to reach it."

"Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it."

"All politicians are humble, and seldom let you forget it. They go around the country boasting about their humility. They are proud of their humility. Many are downright arrogant about their humility and insist that it qualifies them to be President."

"Americans like fat books and thin women."

"An educated person is one who has learned that information almost always turns out to be at best incomplete and very often false, misleading, fictitious, mendacious — just dead wrong."

"Anticipating that most poetry will be worse than carrying heavy luggage through O'Hare Airport, the public, to its loss, reads very little of it."

"By the age of six the average child will have completed the basic American education.... From television, the child will have learned how to pick a lock, commit a fairly elaborate bank holdup, prevent wetness all day long, get the laundry twice as white, and kill people with a variety of sophisticated armaments."

"Caution: These verses may be hazardous to your solemnity."

"Children rarely want to know who their parents were before they were parents, and when age finally stirs their curiosity, there is no parent left to tell them."

"A solved problem creates two new problems, and the best prescription for happy living is not to solve any more problems than you have to."

"Don't try to make children grow up to be like you, or they may do it."

"Goat cheese ... produced a bizarre eating era when sensible people insisted that this miserable cheese produced by these miserable creatures reared on miserable hardscrabble earth was actually superior to the magnificent creamy cheeses of the noblest dairy animals bred in the richest green valleys of the earth."

"Happiness is a small and unworthy goal for something as big and fancy as a whole lifetime, and should be taken in small doses."

"I frankly admit to not knowing who I am. This is why I refuse to buy clothes that will tell people who I want them to think I am."

"In America nothing dies easier than tradition."

"In an age when the fashion is to be in love with yourself, confessing to be in love with somebody else is an admission of unfaithfulness to one's beloved."

"In politics, the rare candidate who is serious, like Adlai Stevenson, is easily overwhelmed by one who is solemn, like General Eisenhower. This is probably because it is hard for most people to recognize seriousness, which is rare, especially in politics, but comfortable to endorse solemnity, which is as commonplace as jogging."

"As in some primitive ritual, we all agree — candidates and onlookers — to pretend we are involved in a debate, although the real exercise is a test of style and manners. Which of the competitors can better execute the intricate maneuvers prescribed by a largely irrelevant ritual?"

"In television-land we are all sophisticated enough now to realize that every statistic has an equal and opposite statistic somewhere in the universe. It is not a candidate's favorite statistic per se that engages us, but the assurance with which he can use it."

"Inanimate objects can be classified scientifically into three major categories: those that don't work, those that break down and those that get lost. The goal of all inanimate objects is to resist man and ultimately to defeat him, and the three major classifications are based on the method each object uses to achieve its purpose. As a general rule, any object capable of breaking down at the moment when it is most needed will do so."

"Is fuel efficiency really what we need most desperately? I say that what we really need is a car that can be shot when it breaks down."

"It seems to be a law in American life that whatever enriches us anywhere except in the wallet inevitably becomes uneconomic."

"I've had an unhappy life, thank God."

"Life is always walking up to us and saying, 'Come on in, the living's fine,' and what do we do? Back off and take its picture."

"Life seemed to be an educator's practical joke in which you spent the first half learning and the second half learning that everything you learned in the first half was wrong."

"Live by publicity, you'll probably die by publicity."

"I worry about people who get born nowadays, because they get born into such tiny families, sometimes into no family at all. When you're the only pea in the pod, your parents are likely to get you confused with the Hope Diamond. And that encourages you to talk too much."

"I gave up on new poetry myself thirty years ago, when most of it began to read like coded messages passing between lonely aliens on a hostile world."

"Long words, fat talk — they may tell us something about ourselves. Has the passion for fat in the language increased as self-confidence has waned?"

"Misery no longer loves company. Nowadays it insists on it."

"Most English speakers do not have the writer's short fuse about seeing or hearing their language brutalized. This is the main reason, I suspect, that English is becoming the world's universal tongue: English-speaking natives don't care how badly others speak English as long as they speak it. French, once considered likely to become the world's lingua franca, has lost popularity because those who are born speaking it reject this liberal attitude and become depressed, insulted or insufferable when their language is ill-used."

"Objects can be classified scientifically into three major categories: those that don't work, those that break down and those that get lost."

"One of the many burdens of the person professing Christianity has always been the odium likely to be heaped upon him by fellow Christians quick to smell out, denounce, and punish fraud, hypocrisy, and general unworthiness among those who assert the faith. In ruder days, disputes about what constituted a fully qualified Christian often led to sordid quarrels in which the disputants tortured, burned, and hanged each other in the conviction that torture, burning, and hanging were Christian things to do."

"People seem to enjoy things more when they know a lot of other people have been left out of the pleasure."

"People who say you're just as old as you feel are all wrong, fortunately."

"Poetry is so vital to us until school spoils it."

"Reporters thrive on the world's misfortune. For this reason they often take an indecent pleasure in events that dismay the rest of humanity."

"So there he is at last. Man on the moon. The poor magnificent bungler! He can't even get to the office without undergoing the agonies of the damned, but give him a little metal, a few chemicals, some wire, and twenty or thirty billion dollars and, vroom! there he is, up on a rock a quarter of a million miles up in the sky."

"The best thing about being President is that it gets you out of American life. I don't know what the theory is behind this, but it is a fact. The first thing we do with a President is shunt him off to a siding where nothing American can ever happen to him."

"The goal of all inanimate objects is to resist man and ultimately defeat him."

"The Government cannot afford to have a country made up entirely of rich people, because rich people pay so little tax that the Government would quickly go bankrupt. This is why Government men always tell us that labor is man's noblest calling. Government needs labor to pay its upkeep."

"The old notion that brevity is the essence of wit has succumbed to the modern idea that tedium is the essence of quality."

"The only thing I was fit for was to be a writer, and this notion rested solely on my suspicion that I would never be fit for real work, and that writing didn't require any."

"The worst thing about being a tourist is having other tourists recognize you as a tourist."

"The young cult of sociology, needing a language, invented one. There are many dead languages, but the sociologists' is the only language that was dead at birth."

"There is no business like show business, Irving Berlin once proclaimed, and thirty years ago he may have been right, but not anymore. Nowadays almost every business is like show business, including politics, which has become more like show business than show business is."

"Scientists have been struck by the fact that things that break down virtually never get lost, while things that get lost hardly ever break down."