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Funny quotes for training, writing, speeches, love and work

Free posters with these quotes, jokes and more are available here.

Quotes for training, personal development, and inspiration. Quotes provide helpful references and inspirational examples for business and life.

These quotes below here are mainly funny as well as inspirational and motivational.

Now moved to its own page, see the more serious collection of inspirational and motivational quotes for leadership, training, personal visualization, etc.

Below remain some other famous quotes, funny maxims and sayings, also love quotes for writing and speeches, fun and amusement.

Here are training cliches, maxims and sayings.

Many of the quotations here are good training aids. Quotes help convey complex issues and can be very memorable and attitude-changing.

Some quotes are deep and meaningful; others deeply amusing, like the alleged quotes from letters to the council.

While sources are checked and clarified wherever possible, authenticity for all quotes cannot be guaranteed - these quotes are not meant to be a historical archive, they're here because they are motivational, inspirational, amusing or otherwise helpful for teachers, learners, leaders and communicators.

If you know the source of any of the unattributed quotes or sayings here please let me know so that acknowledgement can be given.

Inspirational quotes for leadership and personal development are now here.

See also the amusing real funny insurance claimsreal funny Weakest Link answersreal funny Family Fortunes answers, and stories and metaphors for training and learning.

Included in this quotes page are several principles and 'laws' which are helpful in business, management, teaching and training, for example:

Glass Half-Full or Half-Empty (have your say.. main collection now on the Glass Half-Full/Empty Quotes pagePuns (amusing and interesting double-meanings, double-entendres)

See the (now moved) collection of more serious inspirational and motivational quotes.

Please note that where quotations refer to 'man' or 'men' this is not intended to be discriminatory.

Send your favourite quote, funny saying, funny sign, funny graffiti, training maxims, or inspirational metaphors.


Aristotle: three modes of persuasion

Aristotle (384-322BC) was a seminal thinker, philosopher and polymath, of Ancient Greece. He was a student of Plato, and a teacher of Alexander the Great. He conceived many great ideas and extensive theories about many things.

Here is a simple small example of one such conception.

Known as 'The Three Modes of Persuasion', Aristotle defined this model for effective communications, especially communications from a speaker or writer to an audience. These principles remain fundamentally useful and significant today, more than 2,300 years since Aristotle first proposed them.

These principles (which you might see referred to variously as 'three secrets...' or 'three principles...' etc., aside from the title above) represent extremely cleverly how an audience or listener determines the validity and quality of written or spoken communications, and crucially whether to take action according to the communication.

The essential elements are as follows. We might describe these as the ingredients of successful communications:

  1. Ethos - The integrity of the communicator.
  2. Pathos - The emotional effect (of communicator and message) on the listener/reader/audience.
  3. Logos - The relevance and strength of the message content.

Each of the above main areas contains, and is consciously and unconsciously assessed by the audience according to many indicators and factors, which are interpreted and summarised for the modern world below. Note that some factors appear in more than one area where the factors have different sorts of relevance (for example 'empathy' is both an indicator of communicator integrity (ethos), and a key aspect of emotional connection (pathos):

1. Ethos - integrity of the communicator

  • vocal style, body-language, passion, enthusiasm (see assertiveness/confidence and body-language)
  • humility, modesty, empathy, sensitivity, concern for audience
  • trustworthiness, experience, reputation, credibility
  • technical expertise, knowledge, skills
  • qualification, reliable referee opinion, evidence of reputation/claims
  • wisdom, strength, maturity, self-awareness (see Erikson's life-stage theory)
  • motive, rewards arising for the communicator from successful communication
  • associates, friends, interests
  • appropriateness, suitability of style/approach for situation

2. Pathos - emotional effect on listener/audience

  • attention-grabbing, impactful (AIDA refers significantly to this and more in this section)
  • involving, engaging, audience is attracted and drawn in (see advertising and EQ)
  • sensitivity, empathy, concern for audience (see empathy)
  • passion, enthusiasm, believability, credibility
  • inspirational and motivational impact, stirring (see motivation)
  • fair and just (see the psychological contract)
  • ethical and careful (see ethical leadership)
  • encourages a following (see leadership)
  • 'likeability' (difficult to analyse, but a big factor)
  • makes people feel good, smile, be happy, enthused
  • helpful, facilitative, selfless, loving, caring, compassionate (see love and facilitation)
  • affirming, audience identifies with communicator (for example NLP refers to this)
  • sympathetic, harmonious, non-competing, non-conflicting (for example TA refers to this)
  • interesting, captivating, builds desire and interest in audience (see AIDA again)
  • invites or encourages action, makes it easy to act/decide

3. Logos - relevance and strength of the message content

  • well structured (see presentation)
  • meaningful and relevant (see WIIFM)
  • clear, in language and terms that the audience will understand easily (see advertising)
  • achievable, transferable, applicable, usable for audience
  • logical, cohesive, demonstrates 'cause and effect'
  • realistic, believable, appropriate scale and timings (see delegation and SMART model)
  • includes tangible measurable positive outcomes (see SMART)
  • special or unique (see advertising)
  • outcomes justify the time, effort, cost, risk of change/action (see MILEMOFMOFPAY and Pareto 80/20)
  • supported with facts and figures, referenced, proven, convincing, evidenced
  • balanced, includes pros and cons, unbiased
  • accentuates the positive - gives reasons 'to do', instead of reasons 'not to do'
  • memorable, can be absorbed and interpreted and the reasoning/justification easily recalled (see KISS)

Qui docet discit

'Who teaches learns.'

This wonderful Latin phrase - 'Qui docet discit' - 'Who teaches learns' - very elegantly expresses a powerful learning and teaching maxim, that:

A very good way to learn something is to teach it to someone else.

The concept relates to the following models and theories, among others:

When we try to learn something ourselves, we usually try to understand and acquire the knowledge or skill in a simple direct way, typically using a single sense (reading, or listening). This can be challenging, especially if the knowledge or skill is very new to us, and/or outside of our natural strengths and preferences. We also tend to try to replicate the knowledge - to copy it rather than interpret it - into our memory. We tend not to analyze what we are trying to learn any more than is absolutely necessary. We might use certain memorizing techniques also based on copying, such as verbal repetition, or writing it, to accelerate and reinforce the transfer of information into our own brains. This type of learning can become boring and tedious. None of this helps us to be very aware of what and how we are learning, nor does it help us to assimilate the learning at a deep level. When trying to learn something ourselves we tend to do it superficially, which means we are less likely to retain the knowledge/skills afterwards, unless we use and practise what we have learned.

However, when instead we approach a subject with the aim of teaching it to someone else, our understanding, retention and command of the new knowledge/skill is often dramatically improved, compared to simply learning it for ourselves.

This is due to several factors:

  • our motivation/need to learn tends to increase because we have a responsibility towards someone else, which increases our commitment and diligence
  • we think about and analyse the new knowledge/skill on a deeper level in order to understand it, in order to interpret its meaning, to explain it to others
  • we tend to practise and rehearse the knowledge/skill more than we would if merely learning it for ourselves - because of the increased pressure and risks in being responsible for explaining it to someone else - we don't want to make a mistake, especially as our mistakes are exposed to another person (this pressure/diligence increases with the number of people we are teaching)
  • we are inclined to learn more than the bare facts/skill, because learners ask questions of their teachers, and we want to be prepared for unforeseen questions and learning needs
  • we work with the subject in various communications media - reading, verbal, visual, physical/bodily, etc., in designing and delivering the teaching
  • we become proud of our command and responsibility for the teaching - this increases the attractiveness of the personal learning, and so we are more likely to develop a fondness for the subject, because it makes us feel good
  • we translate or adapt the knowledge or skill sufficiently to optimize its accessibility and appeal to the learner - being able to adapt/translate knowledge/skill requires a much deeper control of the subject than merely absorbing for self-learning
  • we might additionally advise the learner as to how to implement/apply the learning, and be involved in following-up after the teaching to assess how the learner has absorbed and understood and applied the new knowledge/skill
  • all this guarantees that we will have had to approach the subject in a multi-sensory way, and multi-experiential way too, which substantially improves our own understanding and retention of the subject/skill

And all this is represented by the phrase: Qui docet discit - Who teaches learns.

Is the glass half full or half empty?

The main collection of glass half-full/empty quotes is now on its own page - see the glass half-full/half-empty quotes collection.

Here's what started it all..

The optimist says the glass is half full.

The pessimist says the glass is half empty.

The project manager says the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

The realist says the glass contains half the required amount of liquid for it to overflow.

And the cynic... wonders who drank the other half.

The school teacher says it's not about whether the glass is half empty or half full, it's whether there is something in the glass at all.

The professional trainer does not care if the glass is half full or half empty, he just knows that starting the discussion will give him ten minutes to figure out why his powerpoint presentation is not working.

Anyway... Attitude is not about whether the glass is half full or half empty, it's about who is paying for the next round.

See the full collection of glass half-full/empty quotes.

Thanks to P Deer (realist and cynic lines), C Trafford (school teacher line), R Wishin (professional trainer), J Benad ('next round').

Please pass the hemlock - ironherder's search for wit and wisdom

Editor's note of introduction: Many people kindly send me contributions of their original writings for this website, notably for the inspirational quotations page, and also for the glass half empty/full discussion above. I enjoyed this writer's contributions so much that I created a new section. Please see if you agree. This is it - Please Pass the Hemlock; Ironherder's search for wit and wisdom.

Ironherder's note of explanation: The writer's pen-name Ironherder refers to being a collector of cars that need to be fixed, but probably won't be. There are in fact over twenty used vehicles, that is to say, an 'Iron Herd'. Three vehicles work well enough to use, and the rest serve as mouse sanctuaries. It's not that Ironherder collects cars the way other people collect stamps. It is more that the vehicles are driven until they require extensive repairs. They are then parked with the intent to fix them later and return them to use. Number of rehabilitated vehicles so far: Zero.

Referencing note: If you use any of Ironherder's work, please reference/attribute the quotes to the pen-name 'Ironherder' - not 'anon', and to this webpage/website. Dates are shown at the end of this section.

Ironherder on age

George Bernard Shaw was polite to the point of obfuscation when he said, "Youth is wasted on the young."

Less polite, but more direct, are these stark truths:

1. "Experience is wasted on the old; they die before they can get any useful return on their investment."

2. "Experience is wasted on the old, at least in Western European cultures; nobody listens to our elders' hard-earned wisdom."

3. "Experience is wasted on the old (mostly); very few people actually acquire any wisdom."

Short snippets

"At thirty, we are impatient that we haven't made more progress towards achieving our potential. At forty, we are nervously aware that the opportunities to achieve our potential are slipping away. But at fifty, if we have the courage to look in the mirror, we face the crushing realization that there is no unachieved potential left, that what we have done is our potential: please pass the hemlock."

"I never let friendship get in the way of a good insult, not that I have many friends."

"I think it is my ability to stay focused that accounts for my legendary record of accomplishments." 
(That is 'legendary' in the sense of 'imaginary'.)

"Don't mind me, my kids don't." 
(Occasionally used as a substitute for 'Excuse me'; often good for a double-take.)

"If marital relations sour, one must be ready to take matters into hand directly."

"If my privates have been retired from active service, am I eligible for veterans' benefits?"

"If I can't think of it, and nobody else can think of it, it ain't gonna happen."

Alternative version:

"We are all virtual prisoners, held captive by the limits of imagination." 
(Ironherder's note: To my dismay, the first version, which is rather inelegant, conveys my intent better than my second version. Either way, very few people realize that many of the limits in their lives are just failures of imagination. These phrases are the combined and re-worked sentiments of an observation by Dr Michael Crichton - "We all live every day in virtual environments, defined by our ideas." And a quote called to my attention by Dr Dean Edell - "The first step in making a diagnosis is to think of it." My internet search engine found an example of the diagnosis quote in "The Diagnosis and Treatment of Myxoedema" by Dr Richard Asher, MD, FRCP, Central Middlesex Hospital, London; Postgraduate Medical Journal, 36:471-476, July 1960. Personally, I believe that statement to be a very old medical adage, far older than Dr Asher's article.)

"Dessert (first attempt): Adulthood brings with it many responsibilities, but if you can't eat dessert first, you have the worst of all worlds: responsibility without the freedom to do what you want."

"Dessert (second attempt): Gentlemen, if your fiancée objects when you eat dessert first, please consider this: Your prospective bride's inflexibility will not be limited to the dinner table. Worse is yet to come. She will soon cease to be a wife, but part of a deadly trio of mothers (your mother, your mother-in-law, and your spouse, omnipresent and inescapable)."

Entertaining distortions of adages and phrases

"A fool and my money are soon parted." 
(Here I turn a perfectly good adage into a self-description. Originally: "A fool and his money are soon parted" - Thomas Tusser, 1524-80.)

"Arguing about whether the glass is half full or half empty misses the point, which is this: the bartender cheated you." 
(Original phrase, which is not in need of change: "Is the glass half full or half empty?")

"The meek might inherit the earth, but they won't be able to run it: they're meek, remember?" 
(Please note that this is only a comment on the consequences of the original beatitude: "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.")

"If needed and if possible, I light a candle; but I do not stop cursing the darkness." 
(A necessary correction of the original adage, which tries to impose a false dichotomy: "Don't curse the darkness, light a candle.")

"All boys leave Junior High, but Junior High never leaves any boy."

Or, with more words, inferior grammar and a more obvious meaning:

"You can take the boy out of Junior High, but you can't take the Junior High out of the boy."

Or, with fewest words and least obvious meaning: "Child is father to the child."

(Earlier conventional phrases: "Boys will be boys." and "Child is father to the man.")

"Never trust people who can be bribed with their own money." 
(Original sometimes misattributed to de Tocqueville. A possible, but unverified, sourceis Alexander Fraser Tytler. This applies to those who remain blissfully oblivious that 'government grants' are funded by tax revenue (i.e., their own money), and also to those who don't realize that all money paid out by a business concern, e.g., rebates on purchases or donations to charity, is funded by revenue from retail sales (i.e., their own money). (Compare existing expression: "A democracy … can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury.")

"You can lead a donkey to water, but it's still an ass." 
(I really don't know what this means, but I still like it. Compare original: "You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink.")

"Necessity is a real mother." 
(Apologies for the implied vulgarity. Compare original: "Necessity is the mother of invention.")

"If I should wake before I die, I'll have another slice of life's shit pie." 
(Compare the perfectly good children's prayer: "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep; If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.")

"She is outspoken, but we don't know by whom." 
(Probably plagiarized in its entirety. Used by me, long ago, to describe of one of my adolescent acquaintances.)

"Never do today what you might never have to do at all." 
(Probably plagiarized in its entirety. While this version could be taken as a rationalization for procrastination, it could also be, less pejoratively, an homage to 'deus ex machina' solutions. Compare original: "Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today." Incidentally 'deus ex machina' is Latin for 'God out of the machine', referring to a literary plot device in which a mystery or story is resolved, sometimes conveniently for the writer, by the sudden intervention of an new or unexpected character or unrealistic mechanism. In this case, a 'deus ex machina' solution might be the delusional hope that your boss dies on the way to work, and hence won't be asking about the project that hasn't even been started. The expression originated from the teachings of Roman poet Horace, 65-8BC, who recommended that the device be avoided.)

Ironherder's four rules

1. Pee when you have the chance.

Because to ignore it is to regret it. Unnecessary example: One morning I put my underwear on backwards, and I didn't notice the mistake until I was standing at a urinal, desperately trying to deal with the impeding cloth barrier. Compare conventional phrases: "Pee early and often" and "Never pass up a bathroom".)

2. Never turn down a breath mint.

Literal and figurative applications. This rule follows from the fact that there are no information-neutral gestures.

3. Never see a proctologist first. (A proctologist specialises in disorders of the rectum, anus, and colon.)

Literal and figurative applications. This rule is a consequence of the fact that everyone's understanding of reality is percolated through their own experience. Unnecessary, but real, example: after a pulmonologist analyzed the results from my sleep study, he recommended that I buy and use a CPAP device, in spite of the fact that there was absolutely no indication of hypoxia. (CPAP is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure - referring to equipment used in treating sleep apnea and hypoxia, etc., in which breathing is interrupted while sleeping, causing health problems such as daytime fatigue). Unnecessary example 2: if you see a proctologist for a hangnail, that specialist will still recommend colonoscopy. (A colonoscopy is the examination of the colon and the distal part of the small bowel typically using a tiny camera on a tube passed through the anus.) Alternative conventional expressions are: "All is grist that comes to the mill" and "A man with a hammer sees every problem as a nail" (or "To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail").

4. Never willfully ignore beauty, because we have a moral and religious obligation to appreciate God's creation."

An unassailable rationale for guilt-free girl-watching. Or boy-watching if that is your preference.

Oxymoron candidates

(An oxymoron is a phrase or word pairing which is contradictory in itself. The word oxmoron is from Greek meaning 'sharp dull')

Marital sex.

I can take a hint, as long as it's not subtle.

Management decision.

(A single word oxymoron - but more likely just a prefix and a suffix in search of a noun - this was the name of a very, very small neighborhood grocery store in my hometown.)

Pre-literate history. 
(This phrase was used by a so-called scholar, who seemed oblivious to its inherent self-contradiction. 'Pre-literate' events can be studied as folklore or as archeology or maybe in some other field of legitimate inquiry, but they are not history. History is a tangible and contemporaneous (or nearly so) record in words, that is to say, 'literate'. Any attempt to include non-literate aspects in the definition of history makes for nonsense.)

Priceless heirloom. (If an heirloom is for sale, it's not an heirloom any more, and if it's not for sale, no value can be assigned - priceless being hyperbole for 'very valuable'.)

Ironherder biography - in his own words..

"A great deal of what I write is self-descriptive. Well, more or less. More particularly, I am a reasonably bright person with a notable absence of focus and motivation. Smart enough to avoid outright failure, and inconsistent enough to fend off success. I was awarded a full tuition scholarship as an undergraduate, and after two years was expelled for bad grades. Upon reinstatement, I finished a four-year bachelor's degree program in just seven years. Perhaps the only thing I do as a compulsion is to write short bits of this and that, and send them off to the two people who haven't learned that compliments only encourage me."

Referencing note: When referencing any of these Ironherder quotes you should attribute them to Ironherder, published July 2011, The 'Ironherder on age' quotes were published in January 2012.

Softly-softly catchee monkey

The saying "Softly softly, catchee monkey," (alternatively "Softly softly, catchee monkee") refers to situations where achieving success requires a patient, careful and quiet strategy.

The phrase is pidgin English from the late 1800s or earlier, either a genuine part of language among native people of a developing region, or a phrase used in pidgin style by British people working overseas. Sources such as Partridge and Rees indicate that the saying originated in Africa or elsewhere among black people. Logically it would also have to have been in a part of the world where monkeys were hunted. You might see references to Lord Baden-Powell (1857-1941), founder of the Boy Scout movement and a military leader in Africa and India, having used the phrase, but he did not coin it, if indeed he actually used it.

The saying is now used in shortened form "Softly softly," meaning the same as the full version, popularised mainly by the 1960s UK TV crime detective series of that name, which apparently (Rees says) was inspired by the 'Softly Softly' motto of the Lancashire Constabulary Training School.

For an amusing comparison and similar analogy about planning and implementing tasks which require care and patience, see the Two Bulls Story.

Funny paternity explanations

These comments (allegedly) were provided by mothers on CSA forms in response to the CSA request for details of children's fathers. Aside from being variously amusing and sad their own right some of these quotes illustrate the admirable spirit and humour that people can exhibit in the face of personal challenge, institutional bureaucracy and what some clearly regard as an invasion of privacy.

  • "..I don't know the identity of the father of my daughter. He drives a BMW that now has a hole made by my stiletto in one of the door panels. Perhaps you can contact the BMW dealers in the area to see if he's had it replaced.."
  • "..I have never had sex with a man. I am waiting for a letter from the Pope confirming that my son's conception was immaculate, and that he is Christ risen again.."
  • "..[XXX] is the father of child A. If you catch up with him can you ask him what he did with my AC/DC CD's?.."
  • "..I don't know the name of my child's father as all squaddies look the same to me, although I can confirm he was a Royal Green Jacket.."
  • "..I thought it was [XXX] because we definitely had sex at a time which fits with the birth of child A, but since discovering he is gay I am not so sure.."
  • "..Regarding the identity of the father of my twins, child A was fathered by [XXX]. I am unsure about child B but I believe he was conceived on the same night.."
  • "..It's difficult to remember because I was drunk on holiday in Tenerife, which was months before I got properly pregnant.."
  • "..I do not know the name of my daughter's father. She was conceived at a party on [date] at [venue] where I had unprotected sex with a man I met that night. I do remember that the sex was so good I fainted. If you manage to trace the father can you send me his phone number? Thanks.."
  • "..I remember buying the sperm at a boot market last spring but I never kept the documentation I'm afraid.."
  • "..I cannot tell you the name of child A's father as he informs me that to do so would blow his cover, and that this would have cataclysmic implications for the British economy. I am torn between doing right by you and right by my country. Please advise.."
  • "..From the dates it seems my daughter was conceived at EuroDisney. Maybe it really is the Magic Kingdom.."
  • "..Regarding the identity of child A's father, putting two and two together and considering the time of year, it must have been when Father Christmas came down the chimney.."
  • "..I do not know the identity of my baby's father. After all, when you eat a tin of beans you can't be sure which one made you fart.."
  • "..That night is a blur. The only thing I remember was watching a Delia Smith programme about eggs in the evening. If I had stayed in and watched more TV rather than going to the party, mine might have stayed unfertilised.."
  • "..He gave me a phone number which turned out to be one of his mates who said he'd been killed in a cement mixer accident. He was a builder and a bit stupid so I thought yes that sounds about right.."

(From various sources. If you have other quotes like these please send them.)

Chinese wisdom

(Translations have been adapted for the modern age where appropriate.)

  • "When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be." - attributed to Lao Tsu, aka Lao Zi, legendary Chinese Taoist philosopher, supposed to have lived between 600-400BC
  • "There is no greater happiness than freedom from worry, and there is no greater wealth than contentment." - attributed to Lao Tsu, aka Lao Zi, legendary Chinese Taoist philosopher, supposed to have lived between 600-400BC
  • "People's tendency towards good is as water's tendency is to flow downhill." - Mencius, Chinese philosopher, c.300BC
  • "Eat less, taste more." - traditional Chinese proverb
  • "Failure lies not in falling down. Failure lies in not getting up." - traditional Chinese proverb
  • "The higher my rank, the more humbly I behave. The greater my power, the less I exercise it. The richer my wealth, the more I give away. Thus I avoid, respectively, envy and spite and misery." - Sun Shu Ao, Chinese minister from the Chu Kingdom, Zhou Dynasty, c.600BC
  • "Success under a good leader is the people's success." - attributed to Lao Tsu, aka Lao Zi, legendary Chinese Taoist philosopher, supposed to have lived between 600-400BC
  • "Do not worry if others do not understand you. Instead worry if you do not understand others." - Confucius, Chinese philosopher, 551-479 BC
  • "Softness overcomes hardness." - Zuo Qiuming, court writer of the State of Lu, and contemporary of Confucius, c.500BC
  • "The greatest capability of superior people is that of helping other people to be virtuous." - Mencius, Chinese philosopher, c.300BC
  • "A great man is hard on himself; a small man is hard on others." - Confucius, Chinese philosopher, 551-479 BC
  • "Failure is the mother of success." - traditional Chinese proverb
  • "It is not wise for a blind man, riding a blind horse, to approach the edge of a deep pond." - traditional Chinese proverb
  • "I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand." - attributed to Confucius, Chinese philosopher, 551-479 BC, however the origins of this quote are arguably from the writing of the Chinese scholar Xunzi, 340-245 BC, for which clearer evidence seems to exist. The origin of the quote attributed to Confucius is not certain. The Xunzi quote - which is more subtle and complex, and literally translates as: "Not hearing is not as good as hearing, hearing is not as good as seeing, seeing is not as good as mentally knowing, mentally knowing is not as good as acting; true learning continues up to the point that action comes forth [or, only when a thing produces action can it be said to have been truly learned]" - can be traced to an original work, but it seems the Confucius version cannot. It is possible that the Western world simplified and attributed the quote to Confucius, being a popularly quoted source of Chinese wisdom. Thanks K Bennett.)
  • "He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask is a fool for ever." - traditional Chinese proverb
  • "With a strong heart and a ready mind what have I to fear?" - Chu Yuan, aka Qu Yuan, Chinese politician-turned-poet, c.300BC - China's first great poet and considered the father of Chinese poetry, his death by drowning in 278BC is celebrated every year on the Day of Dragon Boat Festival
  • "Half an orange tastes as sweet as a whole one." - traditional Chinese proverb
  • "The wise man puts himself last and finds himself first." - attributed to Lao Tsu, aka Lao Zi, legendary Chinese Taoist philosopher, supposed to have lived between 600-400BC
  • "He knows most who says he knows least." - Confucius, Chinese philosopher, 551-479 BC

Funny newspaper headlines

Couple slain; police suspect homicide

Kids make nutritious snacks

County to pay $250,000 to advertise lack of funds

Utah Poison Center reminds everyone not to take poison

Federal agents raid gun shop, find weapons

Crack found in man's buttocks

President wins budget; more lies ahead

Local high school dropouts cut in half

Typhoon rips through cemetery - hundreds dead

Man struck by lightning faces battery charge

New study of obesity looks for larger test group

Statistics show that teen pregnancy drops off significantly after age 25

Tiger Woods plays with own balls, Nike Says

One-armed man applauds the kindness of strangers

Fish need water, Fed says

Astronaut takes blame for gas in space

Alton attorney accidentally sues himself

Plane too close to ground, crash probe told

Miners refuse to work after death

Juvenile court to try shooting defendant

Stolen painting found by tree

Two sisters reunited after 18 years in checkout

War dims hope for peace

If strike isn't settled quickly, it may last a while

Man in diaper directs traffic

17 remain dead in morgue shooting spree

Coach fire - passengers safely alight

Grandmother of eight makes a hole in one

Something went wrong in jet crash, experts say

Police begin campaign to run down Jaywalkers

Drunks get nine months in violin case

Eastern head seeks arms

Prostitutes appeal to religious Leader

Failed panda mating - veterinarian takes over

British left waffles on Falkland Islands

Teacher strikes idle kids

(Thanks S Rolph, T Martinek, B Heyn for contributions)C

Cleverest funny headline that never was?

Was this ever a real newspaper headline or seasonal tip for birdwatchers?

"Get your lard out for the tits."

(Thanks R Ward) 

Another missed clever headline opportunity, assuming it never appeared, concerned Sir Thomas Legg's appointment in 1998 to lead an inquiry into sales of arms to Sierra Leone:

"Legge Heads Arms Body"

(featured apparently on a BBC Radio 4 News Quiz, thanks M Osborne)

Faster horses

This famous quote is a powerful analogy for illustrating that product/service development may be 'pushed' by a vision, or 'pulled' by a market (and that a variable balance of these two development approaches is usually helpful for effective business strategy).

The debate usually juxtaposes two main notions of product/service/business development, i.e:

  • encouraging/enabling high customer involvement and influence, or
  • using the pioneering, vision and initiative of leadership (and effectively ignoring customer/market input)..

..whereas one method does not necessarily compete against the other - ideally the two methods work in harmony.

Here's the quote:

"If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses." (misattributed to Henry Ford, but actually of unknown origin)

American industrialist Henry Ford (1863-1947) founded and headed the Ford Motor Company, responsible for the Model-T Ford car, the first mass-produced car. While Henry Ford apparently had relatively low regard for customer wishes in some situations (he did introduce Ford's production policy that customers could have the Model-T Ford in "...any colour/color they like, as long as it's black..."), there seems no evidence that Henry Ford originated the 'faster horses' quote.

The quote reflects the step-change in technology that happened when cars replaced horses. The passage infers that the motor car would not have been invented if customer wishes had driven development. This is an over-simplification, and misses the subtleties of the subject.

The quote asserts that vision and design innovation are more important than customer ideas in determining product/business development. In many cases this is true, notably where development entails technology or other sophistications that are unknown to customers. The bicycle, railways, steam power, electricity, telephony, computers, the internet, Google, texting, pharmaceuticals, etc., are examples of innovations unlikely to have been initiated directly by market/customer suggestion or demand. Instead, these innovations have arisen because of the vision and creative brilliance of inventors and other pioneers.

However, these innovations all succeeded because at some point they were made accessible and affordable and appealing to customers. And we see many great inventions, and innovating businesses, that shift into decline and termination because pioneers and corporations ignore ever-changing market needs.

So a balance is required, between:

  • pioneering visionary leadership and innovation, (to which customers contribute little or nothing technically) and
  • the wishes and needs of the market-place and its customers, (which ultimately behaves independently, especially where the supply related to innovation and vision fails to remain relevant, or affordable, or competitive).

It is true that markets and customers do not always know what they need, and especially what is technically possible. However it is also true that pioneering businesses risk stagnation and obsolescence if customers and markets are ignored.

As with so many aspects of good leadership and management, there is not a single answer that fits all situations.

In some situations, a pioneer's single-minded vision is vital for development. In other situations, customer need is paramount.

Rock the tandoor

A somewhat random series of puns which combine band names with popular British-Indian food.

There is no point at all to this collection other than it's funny. Well I think it is..

New suggestions welcome, especially some names from more recent times.

  • Gobi West
  • Madrasness
  • Bindi Lauper
  • Papadam and the Ants
  • Siouxsie and the Bhajees
  • Stiff Little Ladies Fingers
  • Raita Coolidge
  • Raita Said Fred
  • Tikka That
  • Jalfraizee goes to Bollywood
  • Emerson Lake and Pilau
  • Pat Bhunatar
  • Chapati Labelle
  • Sisters of Methi
  • Aloo Rolls
  • (Comperes: Okra Winfrey, Steve Raita and Bhuna Brooks)

With acknowledgements to the Secret Curry Society.


Smile (Charlie Chaplin story)

The words to the song 'Smile' are one of the great anthems for personal inspiration and belief. The music for Smile was written by Charlie Chaplin for his landmark film, Modern Times, released in 1936, although Smile's lyrics were actually added by John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons in 1954, in which year Nat King Cole had the commercial success with the Smile song. Perhaps understandably the owners of the copyright for the words and music of the Smile song, Bourne Company of New York, refused me permission to publish the full lyrics and the music, although plenty of other websites seem to have the whole thing for free if you care to look for it (strangely it seems easier to get it for free than to buy it). There is actually a second verse which talks about lighting up your face with gladness, the need to keep on trying, and that life is still worthwhile. And for the musicians among you, you could try playing around with A, Amaj7, F#m, D/F#bass, Bm, F#, Bm, Dm, A, F#m, Bm, Esus4, E, and A, which is based on an interpretation by Eric Clapton (another story of triumph over adversity..).

Smile tho' your heart is aching, 
Smile even tho' it's breaking, 
When there are clouds in the sky, you'll get by. 
If you smile thro' your fear and sorrow, 
Smile and maybe tomorrow, 
You'll see the sun come shining through; for you.

Although Charlie Chaplin didn't write the lyrics to Smile, the words resonate strongly with Chaplin's inspirational life of challenge, tragedy, success, and ultimately global appreciation, which owed much to his difficult early character-forming years. The Smile lyrics, and Chaplin's life story, each provide in their own way a lesson for anyone seeking inspiration and personal fulfilment.

Chaplin was born in Walworth, South London on 16 April, 1889. His mother and father were stage performers, but were also tragic people, divorcing when Charlie was young. As a child Chaplin descended to the workhouse orphanage because his parents were unable to look after him. Throughout his life Charlie Chaplin struggled with challenges, some of his own making, while he strived and became one of the most successful achievers - in creative and financial terms - of the 20th century. At one time exiled and rejected by the USA for his political views, Chaplin was awarded the World Peace Prize in 1954, eventually welcomed back to America to receive an Academy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1972, and was knighted in 1975. Charlie Chaplin died on Christmas Day, 1977.

The words and music of Smile and Chaplin's wonderful films help to demonstrate that the power of personal belief, and a positive approach to life, can enable people to overcome all kinds of disadvantage, challenge and adversity.

Five stages of innovation

  1. People deny that the innovation is required.
  2. People deny that the innovation is effective.
  3. People deny that the innovation is important.
  4. People deny that the innovation will justify the effort required to adopt it.
  5. People accept and adopt the innovation, enjoy its benefits, attribute it to people other than the innovator, and deny the existence of stages 1 to 4.

©AC 2005. Inspired by Alexander von Humboldt's 'Three Stages Of Scientific Discovery', as referenced by Bill Bryson in his book, 'A Short History Of Nearly Everything'.

Not applicable of course to courageous early adopters of innovation everywhere.

Early adoption of innovation might not be natural to everyone - but it is an option worth considering, especially if you have a feeling that the present situation can be improved.

Funny signs, funny quotes, and graffiti from bars, public toilets, washrooms and restrooms

(British folk tend to say washroom or WC, which is an old abbreviation of water closet, whereas Americans tend to say restroom or bathroom.)

Here I sit broken-hearted, 
Paid my penny but only farted. 
(Public toilet graffiti from way back, when all it cost was an old penny. Thanks R Harrison)

Sign above the entrance to a men's washroom: MEMBERS ONLY. (This is in the reception area of County Hall, Chichester - Thanks R Kemp)

Advert in a newsagents window: Massage in the Oval Area. (The Oval is an area in Kennington, SE London, boasting a tube station and the Oval Cricket Ground, around which runs the oval-shaped street called Kennington Oval. Kennington is not particularly noted for massage parlours, and the sign is perhaps an invention of comedian Paul Merton who has quipped about it.)


Shop window sign : CLOTHING ALTERATIONS DONE HERE. Smaller sign underneath: WASHING ALSO TAKEN IN. This was next-door to a small house displaying a poster which read : HAPPY 30TH BIRTHDAY GRANDMA. (Thanks B Lindsay)

We aim to please, you aim too please. (Sign above a urinal.)

Antidisestablishmentarianism - easier done than said.

There are 10 types of people in this world - those who understand binary, and those who don't.

There are three sorts of people in the world, those who can count and those who can't.

Man who stands on toilet, is high on pot.

RockShitFuckDie (Graffiti on the wall of a male washroom in a pub, and someone's idea of the meaning of life.)

Five out of four people can't do fractions.

I am neither for nor against apathy. (On the wall above a urinal in a men's WC at a university at the height of US social unrest in the 1960's.)

Beware of a man with a gleam in his eyes - it may just be the sun shining through the hole in his head. (Women's washroom graffiti.)

The best way to a man's heart is to saw his breastplate open. (Graffiti in a women's washroom.)

To do is to be - Descartes, To be is to do - Voltaire, Do be do be do - Sinatra.

"God is dead" - Nietzsche. "Nietzsche is dead" - God.

Express Lane: Five beers or less. (Sign above a urinal.)

You're too good for him. (Sign above a women's washroom mirror.)

No wonder you always go home alone. (Sign above a men's washroom mirror.)

A woman's rule of thumb: If it has tyres or testicles, you're going to have trouble with it. (Sign in a women's washroom. In the US tyres would be tires.)

Beauty is only a light switch away.

At the feast of ego everyone leaves hungry.

If voting could really change things it would be illegal.

Temporary notice on a public bar - "Our public bar is presently not open because it is closed."

Sign outside a pub: "Liquor in the front - Poker round the back." (Thanks D Cruttenden)

And the old favourite found in Gents toilets the world over, commonly added to any sign instructing visitors: Please do not throw cigarettes in the urinal... "... Because it makes them difficult to light..."

(Thanks to other contributors J Kincaid, P Lewis, Tim Ryan, TC, CJ, MK, S Mafikeng, Pat, J Burland.)

Sign outside an antiques shop

Dead People's Things For Sale.

Sign in a gift shop window

Unattended Children will be given an Espresso and a Free Puppy.

(Thanks CB)

'The offside rule for women'

"Imagine you are in Primark standing in the queue, the woman in front of you has forgotten her purse, and you realise that you have too. However, your friend is at the back of the queue and she has your purse. Before you can jump in front of the girl without her purse, your mate needs to throw you your purse. Only when you've got your purse in your hand can you then go in front of her and pay for your stuff."

(Author unknown. This appeared in emails and website discussion postings during summer 2010. Its origins could be earlier. If you know its origins please tell me. I welcome other clever interpretations/adaptations of 'the offside rule', and of any other complex principles seen from a quirky perspective. There is a serious learning viewpoint to this, namely that the explanation of many complex principles can be be helped by offering a radically different illustration or demonstration of whole or partial meaning.)


Training quotes and cliches

For trainers and speakers, here are some maxims and sayings, with one or two new ideas and twists.

Many of these, although not the first collection, are mnemonics. A mnemonic (pronounced 'nemonic') is a memory aid.

The glass half full lines are now in a section of their own because they deserve to be.

"The squeaky wheel gets the oil." (A wonderful metaphor emphasising the tendency often for "He who shouts loudest.." to be heard/to win/get the sale, etc. It shouldn't be true, but frequently it is. Seen in a more reasonable light, the maxim reminds us that if we want something done, or want to achieve a result requiring the cooperation/agreement of others, then generally we need to be quite persistent in stating our case and issuing gentle reminders. Origin uncertain. Thanks Jed. Thanks subsequently J Heuman for possible origin: "...In the UK the expression is "The squeaky wheel gets the oil" while the US it's often "The squeaky wheel gets the grease". This is commonly attributed to Josh Billings (1818-1885), an American humorist, pen-name Henry Wheeler Shaw, generally credited with a poem The Kicker, containing the lines: "I hate to be a kicker, I always long for peace, But the wheel that does the squeaking is the one that gets the grease." Incidentally, at the time, 'kicker' meant a constant complainer.] )

"Five bums and a rugby post."

(Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? - a memory aid for open questioning.)

five bums and a rugby post

"The only place where Success comes before Work is in the dictionary." 
(Attributed variously to Donald M Kendall, US businessman and first leader of merged Pepsi-Co corporation; Vidal Sassoon, the British hairdresser and businessman; and Vincent Thomas 'Vince' Lombardi, US football coach. If you know more about the origins of this quote please tell me - Thanks JC Blachere)

"If you've got time to lean, you've got time to clean." 
(A specific maxim for the retail industry, but the principle of using spare time for productive purposes is transferable to all situations - thanks JCB)

"Success comes in cans."

"You are a time millionaire - for a rich life invest wisely." 
(Richard Andrews, KYT Stage and Screen Academy)

"It's difficult to clear the swamp when you are up to your armpits in alligators.." or 
"When you are up to your armpits in alligators it is hard to remember that your initial objective was to drain the swamp!" or 
"When you are up to your arse in alligators it is sometimes difficult to remember that the original objective was to drain the moat!" 
(Unknown original authorship - many variations - thanks for these W Cooper and Y Rundle.)

"There is only one IF in LIFE - between the L and the E." 
(For next time you say "If only..." Thanks R Andrews)

"Jacket on = directing. Jacket off = participating. Trousers off = performing." 
(A humorous dress code indicator of management working-style.)

"If you can't ride two horses at the same time you shouldn't be in the circus."

"If a=1%, b=2%, c= 3%, etc., what does 'attitude' add up to? ........" 
(Work it out - the answer is 100%.)

"Mushroom Management - The practice of keeping people in the dark, and every now and then dumping a load of dirt on them." 
(See McGregor's X-Y Theory - Douglas McGregor did not devise the 'mushroom management' expression, but it is distinctly Theory X.)

"Wheelbarrow Management or Wheelbarrow Culture - people only work when pushed, and are easily upset." 
(As described by certain managers, who probably have only themselves to blame... again see McGregor's X-Y Theory).

"Tell'em what you're gonna tell'em, tell'em, tell'em what you told'em." 
(Training and presentations mnemonic for effective presentation or speaking structure, in other words: introduction, content points, summary.)

"When you ASSUME you make an ASS out of U and Me."

"There is no I in TEAM." 
(But if you look carefully there is a ME...)

"No gain without pain." 
(Or better still, as Nietzsche might have said instead: "No pain without gain" - see the Nietzsche quote below.)

"Don't sell the steak, sell the sizzle."

(Or more fashionably today:)

"Sell the crunch not the apple."

(Or, a maxim for selling and sales training:)

"The buyer buys the seller not the salt." 
(Alternatively: "The buyer buys the cellar not the salt.")

"Everyone gets butterflies - the trick is getting them to fly in formation." 
(See the presentations and public speaking training materials.)

"Nothing cleans a house like company coming." (Mabel McGrury Lynn, 1906-82, homemaker, Virginia, USA. The maxim, dating from the 1980s, is a fitting reminder for staff to be well-rganized at all times, and not to regard good housekeeping as something required only when there's a visit from the inspectors or the corporation chief - thanks S Gage, Mabel Lynn's great granddaughter.)

Ambrose Bierce: the Devil's Dictionary

The Devil's Dictionary was written by American Ambrose Bierce around a hundred years ago, and was first published as 'The Cynic's Word Book' in 1906. It was reissued as 'The Devil's Dictionary' in 1911, and continues to be published today. Its humour and irony still shine. In fact many of its observations perhaps resonate more strongly now than when Bierce first made them. Here are some choice examples of Bierce's wit, and interestingly for a writer considered to be such a 'cynic', these quotes are also examples of a touching sensitivity. These quotes still serve, as when they were created, to remind us that whether a thing is a force for good or bad is largely decided by the human factor. This is an encouraging thought, since the implication of this is that we have it in our power to change bad into good. I think Bierce would have agreed.

Corporation: An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility. (If you work for one of these be assured that there are more ethical and caring employers out there who would be more deserving of your efforts and loyalty.)

Duty: That which sternly impels us in the direction of profit, along the line of desire.

Experience: The wisdom that enables us to recognize as an undesirable old acquaintance the folly that we have already embraced.

Famous: Conspicuously miserable.

Land: A part of the Earth's surface, considered as property.The theory that land is property subject to private ownership and control is the foundation of modern society...... Carried to its logical conclusion, it means that some have the right to prevent others from living...... It follows that if the whole aea of terra firma (Earth) is owned by A, B and C, then there will be no place for D, E, F and G to be born, or, born as trespassers, to exist. (How true, and how applicable today.)

Lecturer: One with his hand in your pocket, his tongue in your ear, and his faith in your patience.

Marriage: The state or condition of a community consisting of a master, a mistress and two slaves, making in all, two.

Overeat: To dine.

Pain: An uncomfortable frame of mind that may have a physical basis in something that is being done to the body, or may be purely mental, caused by the good fortune of another.

Peace: In international affairs, a period of cheating between two periods of fighting.


Amusing puns and double-meanings

A pun is a humorous or clever effect of language/communications which exploits two words or expressions that sound the same, but which have two different meanings.

Here are a few examples. The main puns collection, including regular additions, has now grown enough to warrant its own webpage at puns and double-meanings.

The invention of the wheel created a revolution.

Websites about wild cats usually have lynx.

A harp which sounds to good to be true is probably a lyre.

A currant bun never goes out of date.

When tennis equipment is overpriced it's a racket.

Single apples are not pairs.

Serious campers are intense.

See the full and increasing collection at puns and double-meanings.

'Intellectual' jokes

In 2013 an online thread of 'intellectual' jokes made the news and prompted various related lists of quirkily entertaining items and funny esoterica (by definition funny to some), plus lots of debate about 'intellectual' humour/humor. Putting aside the debate about 'intellectual' humour, below is a selection of examples. The jokes actually offer more than amusement - although they won't amuse everyone - they illustrate the fascination of grammar and language, together with the sophistication of verbal and literary concepts, and the flexibility of communications. They also provide analogies for explaining and emphasizing some wider issues, such as equality and political correctness. As such this is more than a list of jokes. It's a collection of potentially amusing devices for adding stimulation and interest to training sessions, teaching, presentations, and public-speaking, etc.

As with other materials on this website, care is required in using and positioning these items, as some are potentially non-pc or would actually be offensive to some people.

"I have successfully conditioned my master to smile and write in his book every time I drool..." (Pavlov's Dog - see Pavlov's Dog)

"Two women walk into a bar and discuss the Bechdel test." (The Bechdel test is an informal assessment of gender bias in films and other fictional entertainment, which requires at least two women with speaking roles to discuss something other than a man. The 'test' is named after US cartoonist Alison Bechdel, specifically her comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For and a 1985 edition 'The Rule', where a female character says she only watches a movie if it: has at least two women in it; who talk to each other; about something besides a man. Bechdel attributed the idea to her friend Liz Wallace.)

''I went to the zoo the other day, there was only one dog in it, it was a shitzu.''

''A dyslexic man walked into a bra.''

A man visits Boston (or another place famous for seafood). He asks the taxi-driver, "Can you take me where I can get scrod?" The driver replies, "I've heard that question a million times, but never in the pluperfect subjunctive." (The theoretical word 'scrod' is apparently the pluperfect subjunctive verb tense of 'screw' [=screwed] - and scrod is a young cod, haddock or similar.)

An engineer, a physicist, and a mathematician stay in a hotel. The engineer is woken by smoke. He finds a fire in the hallway, sees a fire extinguisher, puts out the fire, and returns to bed. Later, the physicist smells smoke, gets up, and sees a fire in the hallway. After calculating air pressure, temperature, humidity, distance, extinguisher force and trajectory, he puts out the fire, and returns to bed. Later the mathematician awakes, smelling smoke. He gets up and sees a fire in the hallway. He sees the fire-extinguisher and exclaims to himself, "A solution exists," and goes back to bed.

(Alternative ending: The mathematician sees embers of the fire still burning. After much thought, he fans the embers into a proper blaze, then goes back to bed, satisfied that the problem has been reduced to one for which a proven solution exists. Second alternative solution: The mathematician sees the fire and returns to bed. The physicist, engineer and mathematician are rescued from the inferno. When challenged as to why he'd taken no action on seeing the fire, the mathematician answered, "I saw the fire, and saw the extinguisher: the solution was obviously trivial." N.B. Change the occupations to suit your situation. The joke is a perspective of personality/thinking styles - first: practical/experiential/kinaesthetic, second: detailed/planner/reliable, third: theoretical/thinking/philosophical.)

"There are two types of people in the world: Those who can extrapolate from incomplete data sets."

A sandwich walks into a bar. The barman says, ''Sorry we don't serve food in here''

A computer programmer's wife tells him: "Run to the store and pick up a loaf of bread. If they have eggs, get a dozen." The programmer comes home with twelve loaves of bread.

(And an extension/alternative to the above:) A programmer's wife sends him to the store saying, "Get some bread, and while you're there pick up some eggs." The programmer never came back.

A professor of classics takes his torn trousers (pants) to a tailor to be mended. The tailor asks: "Euripedes?" The professor replies "Yes. Eumenides?"

"To understand what recursion is, you must first understand recursion." (In mathematics, logic and computing, recursion refers to a routine or process which is repeatedly applied in order to produce a solution or result.)

How may Freudians does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Two - One to screw in the lightbulb and one to hold the penis... I mean ladder. (See Freud's Psychosexual Stages Theory)

A lorryload of tortoises crashed into a trainload of terrapins; it was a turtle disaster.

"We don't serve faster-than-light particles here," says the barman. A tachyon goes into a bar." (A tachyon is the name of a theoretical particle which travels at faster than the speed of light.)

Tribal wisdom 

There were various versions of this in the late 1900s. This is a newer angle.

According to legend and the customary presentation of this item, the tribal wisdom of the Dakota Indians, presumably passed on from generation to generation, says that: "When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount."

The analogy is used where an organizational activity or initiative of some sort is obviously failing and offers no possibility for redemption or rescue. Sensible people respond by terminating the activity, and managing the exit to limit damage as far as possible. Less sensible people, especially when under pressure and subject to high expectations, and particularly where a loss of reputation is feared, tend to look for, to implement and to justify all sorts of daft strategies, rather than admit mistakes, and dismount, so to speak.

In government, education and the corporate world, lots of highly ambitious strategies are employed when facing a dead horse situation, such as (and updated here for the 21st century):

Strategies to consider when you are riding a dead horse....

  1. Giving dead horse and rider a good bollocking (a favourite in previous centuries too).
  2. Re-structuring the dead horse's reward scale to contain a performance-related element (obviously..)
  3. Suspending the horse's access to the executive grassy meadow until it improves its attitude and makes good all productivity shortfalls.
  4. Finding a mentor or buddy for the dead horse.
  5. Examining the cost-savings accruing from de-skilling the dead horse function.
  6. Denying the existence of the dead horse, until the story appears in the Drudge Report, upon which release ready-made PR featuring the dead horse 'in action', thus totally fooling everyone who thought the horse was dead (but it still is of course).
  7. Re-aligning the organizational aims to better fit the needs of the dead horse.
  8. Outsourcing the management and/or the riding of the dead horse to a specialist dead horse management company (another firm favourite that won't go away).
  9. Bringing in a team of expensive external consultants to focus on dead horse optimisation.
  10. Re-branding the dead horse a 'Fair Trade Horse', and affixing prominent Fair Trade insignia to its hind-quarters.
  11. Scrutinsing and challenging the dead horse's expenses claims, and leaking baseless related accusations to the media and the dead horse transparency unit.
  12. Asking Richard Branson if he'd be interested in running a Virgin Dead Horse joint venture.
  13. Setting up a free-phone customer service hotline to handle complaints relating to the dead horse fiasco.
  14. Re-designing the dead horse's shoes so that they can be made of bamboo and re-cycled.
  15. Setting up an inquiry into the dead horse, preferably headed by a dead horse and answerable to other dead horses.
  16. Forming a task force to investigate the dead horse's positive benefits on social enterprise.
  17. Blaming the dead horse on the sub-prime credit crunch, thereby absolving (and enabling the obscenely generous rewarding of) those responsible for the decision to recruit an emaciated horse, starve it, and keep it in a frozen field (because the stables were sold to property developers years ago).
  18. Unmasking the dead horse to be in illegal immigrant, therefore author of its own misfortune, and to blame for a lot more than simply being dead on the job.
  19. Appointing a top advertising agency to promote the benefits of the reduced carbon hoofprint of a dead horse compared to the ridiculously out-dated and unsustainable notion of a living horse.
  20. Off-shoring the stabling and veterinary support of the dead horse to somewhere in the Indian sub-continent.
  21. Sending the dead horse on an outward bound or log-carrying weekend with other dead horses.
  22. Lobbying ministers and pressure groups for the extension of European standards to encompass the special qualities of dead horses.
  23. Nationalising the dead horse.
  24. Making the dead horse redundant, giving it a hefty golden hoof-shake, and then retaining it as consultant at five times its previous annual cost.

Adapted from various versions. Other suggested strategies are very welcome and will be added to the list if they are suitably original. I'm sure you have much better ideas than these.

Since first publishing this item (initially in a more traditional format) I have been pointed towards (thanks J Towers and G Caswell) a version which appears in H William (Bill) Dettmer's book Strategic Navigation - A Systems Approach to Business Strategy (ASQ Press 2003) Appendix F, Strategic Wisdom (actually Strategic "Wisdom"). Bill Dettmer's introduction to the 'Dead Horse Strategies' indicates that he did not devise the concept, and that it had existed for 'a period of years' (prior to 2003). If you know where the 'Dead Horse Strategies' or 'Dakota Tribal Wisdom' came from, or you know of its earlier usage (1990s or sooner perhaps) please tell me. Even better, if you have an old photocopy from an office wall please send me a scan of it.

If - Rudyard Kipling


Thinking and the power of thought

"Wisdom does not always come with age - sometimes age comes alone." (Origin unknown - if you know please tell me - thanks C Hopper. A helpful prespective for this quote and the challenges of ageing positively and productively is Erikson's Life-Stage Theory. )

On pain and stress and approach to life: "Pain is a relatively objective, physical phenomenon; suffering is our psychological resistance to what happens. Events may create physical pain, but they do not in themselves create suffering. Resistance creates suffering. Stress happens when your mind resists what is... The only problem in your life is your mind's resistance to life as it unfolds." (Dan Millman, 21st century philosopher from The Way of the Peaceful Warrior - ack CB)

On Knowledge - "If you stood on the bottom rail of a bridge, and leant over, and watched the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you would suddenly know everything that there is to be known..." (Winnie the Pooh - allegedly - Thanks CM)

"He trudged along unknowing what he sought, And whistled as he went, for want of thought." (John Dryden, English poet and playwright 1631-1700, from Cymon and Iphigenia written in 1700)

"Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth - more than ruin - more even than death.... Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habit. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man." (Bertrand Russell, British philosopher, 1872-1970)

"Great men are they who see that spiritual thought is stronger than any material force, that thoughts rule the world." (Ralph Waldo Emerson, American philosopher and poet, 1803-82, from Progress of Culture)

"For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he." (The Holy Bible, Proverbs 23:7)

"What is life but the angle of vision? A man is measured by the angle at which he looks at objects. What is life but what a man is thinking of all day? This is his fate and his employer. Knowing is the measure of the man. By how much we know, so we are." (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

"The mind is the man, and knowledge mind; a man is but what he knoweth." (Francis Bacon, English lawyer and philosopher, 1561-1626)

Karen Walker quotes

Irony is a powerful way to emphasise a point, and these quotes cover a wide range of subjects, aside from which they are all useful in illustrating extremes of attitude, bigotry and insecurity.

An ironic representation of heartlessness, the comedy character Karen Walker was played by Megan Mullally in TV's Will & Grace. The award-winning series was created by David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, and 29 writers were involved in the 186 episodes running from 1998-2006, which makes it a little difficult to attribute precisely these wonderful ironic quotes.

"It's not something you can just run away from like a hotel bill or a crying baby..."

"It's a victimless crime, like tax evasion or public indecency..."

(To a waiter) "Hey apron - who told you you could make eye contact?..."

"Husbands come and go but the Chanel slingback is forever..."

"It's Christmas, for goodness sake. Think about the baby Jesus... up in that tower, letting his hair down... so that the three wise men can climb up and spin the dradel and see if there are six more weeks of winter..."

"Oh honey, that's just a saying, like 'Ooh. That sounds like fun.' or 'I love you'..."

"It's a cult, like the Moonies, or the homeless..."

"I know what guilt is. It's one of those touchy-feely words that people throw around that don't really mean anything... You know, like 'maternal' or 'addiction' ..."

"You know what else is sad? Poor people who have dreams..."

"Oh yeah, honey, we're all lesbians when the right man isn't around..."

Other suggestions welcome. Perhaps for the Maryann character in Cybill too..

Rules for a happy life

Do not try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig. (Thanks A Menvell)

Life is not about how fast you run, or how high you climb, but how well you bounce.

Life is simpler when you plough around the stumps.

The trouble with a milk cow is she won't stay milked.

Forgive your enemies. It messes with their heads. (This is a modern adaptation of a quote by Oscar Wilde: "Always forgive your enemies. Nothing annoys them more." - Thanks I Mac. Additionally an often-misquoted passage from the Bible, Proverbs chapter 25, verses 21-22 suggests a similar notion: "If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the Lord shall reward thee." - Thanks L Nicole. The relevance of the Biblical quote depends somewhat on your interpretation of whether it's vengeful or loving to heap coals of fire onto someone's head, even figuratively. There are some who insist this is meant in a loving caring way. I'm not so sure. The passage incidentally is part of the proverbs of Solomon, said in the Bible to have been copied out by the men of Hezekiah, the King of Judah. I am grateful for this additional clarification - thanks M Francis - that the 'heaping coals on his head' refers to the annoyance caused by the forgiveness, which brings us back neatly to the most modern rendering of the expression.)

Don't corner something meaner than you.

Don't wrestle with pigs: you'll get all muddy and the pigs will love it. (Based on a quote attributed to Cyrus S Ching, 1876-1967, US industrialist and labour-relations pioneer, "I learned long ago never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.")

Most of the stuff people worry about never happens. (Probably based on an original quote attributed to Leo Buscaglia: Ninety per-cent of what we worry about never happens, yet we worry and worry. What a horrible way to go through life! What a horrible thing to do to your colon!" - Thanks Wayne)

(Thanks CB. All anon unless otherwise stated - if you know any of the authors please tell us.)

See Don Miguel Ruiz's The Four Agreements, and Cherie Carter Scott's If Life Is A Game These Are The Rules.


What do you get when you combine a joke with a rhetorical question?

A Boss: Someone who's early when you're late and late when you're early. (Unknown)

It's the kind or organisation where the lunatic fringe extends right to the centre. (unknown - for disorganized organizations everywhere - ack TW)

Lead me not into temptation - I can find the way myself. (Ack J C)

Chinese proverb No1: Man who run in front of car get tired; man who run behind car get exhausted.

Chinese proverb No2: Man who walk through airport turnstile sideways going to Bangkok.

I'm not a complete idiot, some parts are missing.

Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.

Beauty is in the eyes of the beer holder.

Failure is not an option. It comes bundled with the software.

Bacon and Eggs: a day's work for a chicken, a lifetime commitment for a pig.

HECK is where people go who don't believe in GOSH.

A picture is worth 1,000 words, but it uses up 1,000 times the memory.

Remember that half the people you know are below average.

The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.

And (thanks D Gray): The early worm gets the bird.

Giving the extended version: The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese, and the early worm gets the bird..

A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.

How many of you believe in telekinesis? Raise my hand.

Eagles may soar, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines. (I'm told this appeared in Scott Adams' Dilbert cartoon - thanks BT. I have also seen it attributed to John Benfield. Clarification welcome.)

Strange that psychics have to ask you for your name.

He who dies with the most toys is nonetheless dead.

(All unknown authorship unless stated otherwise. If you know origins please tell me. Some might be attributable to US comedian Steven Wright, in which case, my acknowledgements to him. Thanks L Keller for informing me that the 'Time flies..' quote was certainly in use pre-1966, and is an example of antanaclasis.)

The early bird

Here's something that might be extended (by other ways of seeing different strategies or effects of being early, second, late, non-showing-completely, etc., or other clever variations on the general idea of timing and opportunity, loss and gain, advantage, disadvantage, etc).

I am grateful to D Gray for the second extension ('The early worm gets the bird') and the idea to start this section, after the mouse and cheese version, which seems often attributed to US comedian Steven Wright. I suspect that further clever and funny variations will appear here in due course.

The early bird gets the worm.

The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.

The early worm gets the bird.

The early bird... probably has got jetlag.

The sparrowhawk gets anything he wants.

The Regulatory Authority for Birds and Worms has not the faintest idea who did what or when. 

Suggest another one

Thanks D Gray (for the worm/bird inversion), R Aravind (jetlag), S Billbess (sparrowhawk and regulatory authority).

Funny wrong predictions

"Computers in the future will weigh no more than 1.5 tons." (Popular Mechanics, forecasting advance of science, 1949.) 

"I think there's a world market for maybe five computers." (Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943.) 

"I have travelled 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." (Editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957.) 

"But what is it good for?" (Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, commenting on the micro chip, 1968) 

"There is no reason why anyone would want to have a computer in their home." (Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp, 1977.) 

"This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us." (Western Union memo, 1876.) 

"The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?" (David Sarnoff's associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920's.) 

"Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?" (HM Warner, Warner Bros, 1927.) 

"A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, the market research reports say that America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you make." (Response to Debbi Fields' idea of starting the Mrs Fields Cookies business.) 

"We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out." (Decca Recording Company rejecting the Beatles, 1962.) 

"Heavier than air flying machines are impossible." (Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895.) 

"If I had thought about it, I wouldn't have done the experiment. The literature was full of examples that said you can't do this." (Spencer Silver on the work that led to the unique adhesives for 3M PostIt Notepads.)

"So we went to Atari and said, 'We've got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts and what do you think about funding us? Or we'll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we'll come work for you.' They said 'No'. Then we went to Hewlett-Packard; they said, 'We don't need you. You haven't got through college yet'." (Apple Computer founder Steve Jobs on attempts to get Atari and HP interested in his and Steve Wozniak's personal computer.) 

"Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You're crazy." (Drillers whom Edwin L Drake tried to enlist to his project to drill for oil, 1859.) 

"Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau." (Irving Fisher, Economics professor, Yale University, 1929.)

"Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value". (Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre.) 

"Everything that can be invented has been invented." (Charles H Duell, Commissioner, US Office of Patents, 1899.) 

"Louis Pasteur's theory of germs is ridiculous fiction." (Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology at Toulouse, 1872.) 

"The abdomen, the chest, and the brain will forever be shut from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon." (Sir John Eric Ericksen, British surgeon, appointed Surgeon Extraordinary to Queen Victoria, 1873.) 

"640K ought to be enough for anybody." (Bill Gates of Microsoft, 1981.)

"Fred Astaire Can't act, can't sing, balding... Can dance a little." (MGM telent scout, 1928.)

"What can you do with a guy with ears like that?" (Jack Warner, movie mogul, rejecting Clark Gable, 1930.)

"You ain't goin' nowhere son. You ought to go back to drivin' a truck." (Jim Denny of the Grand Ole Opry, Nashville, firing Elvis Presley after his first performance.)

"I'm sorry Mr Kipling, but you don't know how to use the English language." (Editor of the San Francisco Examiner, rejecting a short story from author and poet Rudyard Kipling.)

And finally there is the story, seemingly based mostly on truth, that Fred Smith, the founder of the multi-billion-dollar FedEx carrier corporation, originally proposed the FedEx concept in a college examination paper - for which we was awarded a C grade. Smith has broadly confirmed this story in later interviews, albeit with a little uncertainty as to how specifically he presented the FedEx model, and precisely how the examiner expressed his indifference. It's a good story nevertheless, and helps confirm not only that great oaks grow from tiny acorns, but also how difficult it is to recognize a particularly good acorn before it's grown.

(With thanks to Tony Wills for his contributions, and also to Jim S for suggesting the Fed-Ex item.)

This be the verse (1974) - Philip Larkin

Larkin's words are a bitterly incisive comment on the negative effect that parents can have on their children. The words are especially relevant to understanding the potency of parental conditioning upon young children, notably in the context of  Transational Analysis.

"They fuck you up, your Mum and Dad, 
They may not mean to but they do. 
They fill you with the faults they had 
And add some extra just for you."

(For a wonderful antidote to the desperation of this sentiment, see the Thich Nhat Hanh quote about parents on the inspirational quotes page.)

Hell hath no fury..

This is commonly misquoted, typically as "Hell has no fury like a woman scorned," or more traditionally, "Hell hath no fury as a woman scorned," and other variations around this theme. Ask people if they know the quote. Very many will do, but not many will know the correct version.

As is often the case, the distortion largely fails to convey the meaning of the original writing.

'Hell hath no fury.." is one of the most widely misquoted famous quotations, and provides a fine illustration of the need to use appropriately robust reference sources when researching material that is prone to misunderstanding. The internet might be free and easy, but it is still not generally as reliable as a decent book of quotations and biographical dictionary, which can be found in most libraries. Libraries and proper books can also be a lot more interesting and enjoyable than sitting at a PC getting eye-strain and a stiff neck.

The full actual quotation is:

Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, 
Nor Hell a fury like a woman scorned.

These wonderful lines were written by William Congreve, 1670-1729, an English dramatist and poet, and appear in his 1697 play The Mourning Bride, Act III, Scene viii.

The quotation is also useful in discussions about revenge and retaliation, tit-for-tat, negotiation and business styles, game-playing, war and diplomacy, and the fine line between positive and negative relationships. Congreve's words focus on the female view, but the principle - especially the first line - is central to the behaviour of many people.

Sources: Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, and Chambers Biographical Dictionary.

Incidentally (thanks M Beddingfield and A Beddingfield, Nov 2008), the word fury is derived from Greek mythology. The furies were Alecto, Megaera and Tisiphone, daughters of Nyx or Hades and Persephone, typically described as 'snakey haired women' with dogs' heads and bats' wings. According to myth the furies descended on wrong-doers (especially anyone disrepectful to the gods) to deliver various mental harrassment and appalling physical punishment. Chaucer is the earliest recorded user of the words furious and furie (rage) in English, in the late 1300s, referring to the Greek story of the furies, and in more general reference to rage, in which his usage stems from the Latin word furia (violent rage). The word fury itself therefore has very old connections with the notions of hell and female revenge, and this word history helps explain how the expression evolved, and was associated with ancient story-telling and beliefs.


The Peter Principle - Dr Laurence Peter

"In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence" (Dr Laurence Peter, 1919-90, Canadian academic, from the 1969 book, The Peter Principle, written by Dr Peter and Raymond Hull - Peter was the academic; Hull the writer)

Far from being an indictment of people, Laurence Peter's ideas were mostly focused on the weaknesses of typical organisations, and the threat that they present to the well-being of their people.

Laurence Peter and Raymond Hull's 1969 book The Peter Principle is a study of hierarchies (Peter coined the scientific term 'hierarchiology') and how people behave within them in relation to promotion and competence. Laurence Peter also asserted that, "Work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence", although he places the blame on organisations, not employees, and urges people to prioritise their health and happiness rather than struggle to meet the unhealthy demands of a promotion-too-far, in an uncaring hierarchy.

Although written in 1969, The Peter Principle contains perspectives that resonate even more strongly today.

Notably Laurence Peter observed that bosses who are competent in their roles tend to assess employees according to their output and results, whereas incompetent bosses tend to assess employees according to their input and adherence to rules and policies, etc. This remains a feature of poorly managed organisations and hierarchies.

Peter also suggested that 'super-competence' in an employee is more likely to result in dismissal than promotion, which again is a feature of poor organisations, which cannot handle the disruption. A super-competent employee "...violates the first commandment of hierarchical life: [namely that] the hierarchy must be preserved.." which again is symptomatic of poorly run modern organisations, just as it was back in the 1960's.

Peter also says of leadership in poor organisations: "Most heirarchies are nowadays so cumbered with rules and traditions....... that even high employees do not have to lead anyone anywhere, in the sense of pointing out the direction and setting the pace. They simply follow precedents, obey regulations, and move at the head of the crowd. Such employees lead only in the sense that the carved wooden figurehead leads the ship.."

Also included in Laurence Peter's study was his analysis of a survey of general practice doctors who were asked to list the most commonly encountered medical complaints among 'successful' patients. The survey results could easily be found in a modern survey, and included ulcers, colitis, high blood pressure, alcoholism, obesity, hypertension, insomnia, cardiovascular problems and impotence. Peter interpreted such complaints as evidence of 'constitutional incompetence' associated with what he termed 'final placement syndrome'. At the time, Peter bemoaned the fact that the medical profession failed to see the connection between over-demanding work responsibility and people's well-being. Today of course we understand that there is a connection, although the challenge remains for most organisations, and society as a whole, to focus seriously on dealing with the situation. As Peter himself says, "...Truth will out! Time and the increasingly tumultuous social order inevitably will being enlightenment.."

Laurence Peter's ideas of 1969 were keenly perceptive then, and remain so today.

The Dilbert principle...

Scott Adams, creator the famous Dilbert cartoon strip devised his own version of The Peter Principle, which he called The Dilbert Principle:

"The most ineffective workers are systematically moved to the place where they can do the least damage: management.."

You can still buy the brilliant and funny book The Peter Principle, which remains very relevant today.

Separately here are the Dilbert Books, which are even funnier and equally relevant to today's world of work and management.


Parkinson's Law - Cyril Northcote Parkinson

"Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." (Cyril Northcote Parkinson, 1909-1993, English political scientist, historian and writer, from his book, Parkinson's Law - The Pursuit of Progress, written in 1957.)

The fuller vesion of the quote known as 'Parkinson's Law' is:

"Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion, and subordinates multiply at a fixed rate, regardless of the amount of work produced.." (Cyril Northcote Parkinson, 1909-1993, English political scientist, historian and writer, from his book, Parkinson's Law - The Pursuit of Progress, written in 1957.)

Parkinson also coined other notable phrases of enduring relevance:

"Expenditure rises to meet income." (C Northcote Parkinson, 1909-1993, from The Law and the Profits, 1960.)

"The man who is denied the opportunity of taking decisions of importance begins to regard as important the decisions he is allowed to take." (C Northcote Parkinson, 1909-1993, from Parkinson's Law - The Pursuit of Progress, 1957.)

Parkinson's law of triviality

C Northcote Parkinson's 1957 book, Parkinson's Law - The Pursuit of Progress, also contained Parkinson's Law of Triviality, which contends that in organizations, notably in meetings and group discussions about projects, most time and attention (or certainly a disproportionately large effort) is given to trivial issues rather than important ones. Parkinson asserted that this effect is an inevitable 'law' or tendency within organizational behaviour. Parkinson provided the analogy of the relative attention given to the building of a nuclear reactor versus a bicycle shed. The nuclear reactor is regarded as a highly complex project, and a general assumption among group members is made that a suitably qualified person or team will make the right decisions about it, (which of course may not be the case). Most people choose not to invest time and effort in understanding such a challenging issue, and doubt their ability to make a useful contribution. Instead people largely prefer to focus on simpler accessible matters - crucially which they can influence more easily - such as the design of the bikeshed.

The bicycle shed law

Parkinson's Law of Triviality provided the inspiration for a recently popularized interpretation of its central argument under the name 'Bikeshed Colour' (and variations such as The Colour of the Bikeshed Law, and the Bicycle Shed Law). This resurgence was prompted by Poul-Henning Kamp, a prominent Danish computer developer, after an email posting dated 2 Oct 1999 to a mailing list for FreeBSD developers (FreeBSD is a substantial free computer operating system). Kamp's email had the subject line: "A bike shed (any colour will do) on greener grass.." His ideas were to an extent an application of Parkinson's 1957 thinking (Kamp clearly referred to Parkinson's Triviality theory) as to how computer development projects tend to become distracted by debate about irrelevant minor factors.

Parkinson incidentally never referred to the colour of the bikeshed. This was part of Kamp's interpretation, which certainly seemed to capture people's interest, given the adoption of the 'bikeshed' terminology.

Fascinatingly, for decades, Parkinson's Law of Triviality remained relatively hidden under its old dry heading. Kamp's seemingly unintentional and quirky renaming of the concept brought it to life again. The effect of new branding and packaging on anything - whether deliberate or not - can be remarkable.

(Please note that colour and behaviour are UK-English spellings. US-English spellings are color and behavior.)

The Pareto principle

Known by various names, including Pareto's Law, The 80/20 Rule, The Principle of Least Effort and The Rule of the Vital Few, the Pareto 80/20 Rule is a powerful methodology for assessing and prioritizing choices in all sorts of situations.

A full explanation is available at the main Pareto 80-20 Rule article.

The concept is especially useful in:

Here are some examples of Pareto's Law as it applies to various situations. According to the Pareto Principle, it will generally the case (broadly - remember it's a guide not a scientific certainty), that within any given scenario or system or organisation:

  • 80 percent of results come from 20 percent of efforts
  • 80 percent of profit comes from 20 percent of the product range
  • 80 percent of a restaurant's turnover comes from 20 percent of its menu
  • 80 per cent of the time you will be wearing just 20% of your wardrobe
  • and so on..

The precise ratios for situations can be different to 80:20, but the principle will apply nevertheless, and in many cases the actual ratio will not be far away from the 80:20 general rule.

Pareto's Principle is named after the man who first discovered and described the '80:20' phenomenon, Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923), an Italian economist and sociologist, who first observed it when researching wealth and income distribution in nineteenth-century England.

See the full history, definitions, explanation and lots more examples of situations and usage in the main Pareto 80-20 Rule article.

Generation x, y, and baby-boomers...

This model is explained more fully in the generational nicknames and groups article.

This broad model for defining people appeared towards the end of the 20th century.

References to its terminology and descriptions appear often in 'western world' media, although it is rarely shown as a structure of all of the 'types'.

Terminology and principles of the concept are frequently used by writers, journalists and social commentators, notably in North America and the UK, most commonly the term 'baby boomers'.

The 'generational nicknames model' is a very loose theory, open to wide interpretation and debate, and is not a reliable scientific tool for demographics and profiling, but it does offer a very unusual interpretation of human group personality, which can be helpful for various human behaviour/behavior purposes (teaching, study, presentation, writing, etc).

The model most commonly features three generational types, and corresponding characteristics, very briefly here:

generation name born (range, loosely) characterizing features typically described (loosely)
Baby Boomers 1946-1960 Equality, freedom, civil rights, environmental concern, peace, optimism, challenge to authority, protest. Baby Boomers mostly lived safe from war and serious hardship; grew up mostly in families, and enjoyed economic prosperity more often than not. Teenage/young adulthood years 1960-1980 - fashion and music: fun, happy, cheery, sexy, colourful, lively.
Generation X (Gen-X) 1960-1980 Apathy, anarchy, reactionism, detachment, technophile, resentful, nomadic, struggling. Teenage/young adulthood years 1973-2000 - fashion and music: anarchic, bold, anti-establishment.
Generation Y 
(Gen-Y or Millennials)
1980-2000 and beyond Views vary as to when this range ends, basically because no-one knows. Generational categories tend to become established some years after the birth range has ended. Teenage/young adulthood years 1990s and the noughties - fashion and music: mainstream rather than niche, swarmingly popular effects, fuelled by social networking and referral technology. Also called Echo Boomers because this generation is of similar size to the Baby Boomers.

Note that X and Y here are completely unrelated to McGregor's X-Y Theory.

(See more generational types and the full model)

The fully combined theory categorizes ten or more different generations of people into groups according to the period in which they were born, referring also to lifestyles and attitudes.

While this is not a scientific theory, and is actually rarely shown as a cohesive model (instead usually just one or a few 'types' are described), it does offer an interesting 'fixed in time' interpretation of groups of people.

For a more scientific and movable (not fixed in time) theory of generational personality see Erikson's Life-Stage Theory.

The full generational nicknames model is explained more completely in the generational nicknames model article.

The 1st law of cybernetics

"The unit within the system with the most behavioural responses available to it controls the system."

This is also known as the law of requisite variety, and is nowadays central to the concepts of neuro-linguistic programming(NLP), as well as being one of the most powerful principles for achieving a happy, fulfilled and successful life.

See the Cybernetics history and overview

Love quotes

"When the rain is blowing in your face, 
And the whole world is on your case, 
I could offer you a warm embrace, 
To make you feel my love.

When the evening shatters and the stars appear, 
And there is no one there to dry your tears, 
I could hold you for a million years, 
To make you feel my love." 
(Bob Dylan - the opening verses from Make You Feel My Love, on the album Time out of Mind, 1997.)

"Perhaps it was right to dissemble your love, 
But - why did you kick me downstairs?..." 
(Isaac Bickerstaffe, c.1733-1808, from An Expostulation, 1789. Dissemble means hide or conceal.)

"Come live with me, and be my love, 
And we will all the pleasures prove." 
(Christopher Marlowe, 1564-93, English poet and dramatist, from The Passionate Shepherd to his Love. In this sense, the word prove means try, test, evaluate - I'm sure you get the idea..)

" 'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have lost at all." (Samuel Butler, 1835-1902, from from The Way of All Flesh, published 1903.)

"I am the Love that dare not speak its name." (Lord Alfred Douglas, 1870-1945, from Two Loves, 1896)

"Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness." (Bertrand Russell)

"Come, let us make love deathless." (Herbert Trench, 1901)

"And so to bed..." (Samuel Pepys not exactly written originally in a love context, but it works...)

"All's fair in love and war." (Francis Smedley, from his novel 'Frank Farleigh', 1850)

"Man's love is of man's life a thing apart, 'Tis woman's whole existence." (Lord Byron, from Don Juan, 1824.)

"Pleasure's a sin, and sometimes sin's a pleasure." (Lord Byron, from Don Juan, 1824.)

"Of all pains, the greatest pain, Is to love, and to love in vain." (George Granville, 1666 1735.)

"Heaven has no rage, like love to hatred turned, Nor Hell a fury, like a woman scorned." (William Congreve, from 'The Mourning Bride', 1697.)

"The nakedness of woman is the work of God." (William Blake)

"Wherefore there are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together let not man put asunder." (Matthew 19:6)

"The female of the species is more deadly than the male." (Rudyard Kipling, 1919)

"C'mon, baby, light my fire." (Jim Morrison and Robby Krieger, from the Doors' 'Light My Fire', 1967.)

Latin love quotes

"Amor vincit omnia." (Love conquers all - this timeless quote is first recorded in the introduction (first meeting with the pilgrims) of "The Canterbury Tales" by Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400), the satire about religion and human hypocrisy. The story has it that the quote was written on the back of a (particularly valuable looking) medallion worn, ironically, by a nun, referred to as 'The Prioress'. (Ack CLB)

"Ad infinitum." (Endlessly)

"Aeternus." (Everlasting)

"Meminerunt omnia amantes." (Lovers remember everything - Ovid)

"Odi et amo: quare id faciam, fortasse requiris. Nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior." ("I hate and I love: why I do so you may well ask, I don't know, but I feel it happen and am in agony." (Catullus, Roman poet, 84-54BC, from 'Carmina'. Thanks to R Baber for helping to improve this translation.)

Funny love quotes

"It's so long since I had sex I've forgotten who ties up whom." (Joan Rivers)

"Sexual intercourse is a grossly overrated pastime; the postion is undignified, the pleasure momentary and the consequences damnable." ( Lord Chesterfield)

"When a man steals your wife there is no better revenge than to let him keep her." (Sasha Guitry)

"Splendid couple - slept with both of them." (Maurice Bowra)

"My wife is a sex object - every time I ask for sex, she objects." (Les Dawson)

"She was stark naked except for a PVC raincoat, dress, net stockings, undergarments, shoes, rain hat and gloves." (Keith Waterhouse)

"Bisexuality doubles your chances of a date on a Saturday night." (Woody Allen)

"It's impossible to obtain a conviction for sodomy from an English jury. Half of them don't believe that it can physically be done, and the other half are doing it." (Winston Churchill)

"I'll come to your room at five o'clock. If I'm late, start without me." (Tallulah Bankhead)

"I've been in love with the same woman for forty years - if my wife finds out she'll kill me." (Henry 'Henny' Youngman)

Funny letters to Islington Council's housing department

"I want some repairs done to my cooker as it has backfired and burnt my knob off."

"I wish to complain that my father hurt his ankle very badly when he put his foot in the hole in his back passage."

"Their 18 year old son is continuously banging his balls against my fence."

"I want to complain about the farmer across the road; every morning at 6am his cock wakes me up and it's getting too much."

"This is to let you know that our lavatory seat is broken and we can't get BBC2."

More of these funny quotes now appear on their own page, which makes it easier to find them and link to them. See the letters to the council page.

Inspirational quotes

These quotes are now on the inspirational motivational quotes page.

The inspirational quotes page includes wonderful inspiring quotations for learning and teaching, with helpful notes, such as:

Anthony Seldon's wonderful quote about what education should actually be and do for people.

"Cerca Trova" - meaning Seek And You Shall Find - see the fascinating origins of the Cerca Trova saying.

The Mandela Speech myth quote - "...We are all meant to shine, as children do... It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone..." This is part of an earth-moving quotation commonly wrongly attributed to Nelson Mandela, but who actually wrote it?


The 'Everybody Somebody...' famous poem about responsibility - see the various versions and a probable origin.

The Guy in the Glass poem - also known wrongly as The Man in the Mirror - see the proper version and origins.

The Serenity Prayer - "...Give us the grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed..." - versions and origins.

Come to the Edge - another immensely powerful yet commonly unattributed misquoted verse - original version and origins.

The Success poem - "... to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived..." - an inspiring and moving description of what success in life actually means - alternative versions and history.

"Thich Nhat Han's wonderful quote about responsibility and being a grown-up - irrespective of our up-bringing.

"If you're not part of the solution..." - Probably you know the complete maxim, but what is its origins?

Booker T Washington's fine quote for defining personal success.

"Standing on the shoulders of giants..." Wonderful quote, much used, rarely attributed - versions and origins.

"The Captain of My Soul..." Stirring verse by Henley, for inner resolve, courage and determination, etc.

"What does not kill us makes us stronger..." Nietzsche's quote is actually an extremely meaningful and powerful concept.


The above quotes and lots more similarly inspiring sayings are on the inspirational motivational quotes page.

See the motivation webpage for explanation of why quotes and sayings inspire people, including yourself, and how inspirational quotes stimulate motivation and self-belief, and promote self-development, personal growth and fulfilment.

Funny quotes from sales interviews

"I only came to the interview to confirm my feeling that I should never have been called for the interview.."

"I was handling a market research project on accident prevention, but I couldn't interview any of the target respondents because they were all dead.."

"I am not married to either a man or a woman.."

"Pressurising people is all part of giving customer satisfaction.."

"At my present company they are all bastards including my boyfriend who I met there.."

"The water in your washrooms is exceptionally wet today.."

Funny reasons for transport requests to the clinic

(apparently from the Chiropodists Association Journal)

I'm under the doctor and can't breathe.

I can't walk to the bus stop and my wife is bent.

I can't breathe and haven't done so for years.

I live five miles from the clinic and the postman says I should have it.

I have got athritis and heart failure in both feet and knees.

I am unable to walk now as my dog has died.

I cannot drive a car because I haven't got one.

My husband's dead and won't bring me.

I need transport as I have funny feet.

If my mum goes out alone she gets into trouble.

I must have your man as I cannot go out or even do up my suspenders.

When your man brings me back could you ask him to drop me off at the White Swan.

I hope you will send your driver as my husband is quite useless.

My wife must have transport as she is over 80 and drives me mad.

I cannot walk up a hill unless it is down and the hill to your clinic is up.

I want transport as bus drivers do funny things to me and make me feel queer.

Funny Prince Phillip quotes

Also known as the 'consort's clangers'.. Some are more reliable than others.

"You look like you are ready for bed.." 
(On meeting an African leader wearing robes, date uncertain - reported to be in Nigeria 1956.)

"Are you sure you want to go ahead with this, old chap?.." 
(To the future President Kenyatta at Kenya's official independence ceremony, 1963.)

"The bastards murdered half my family.." 
(When asked if he would like to visit the Soviet Union, 1967.)

"We shall all be old one day - provided of course we can avoid being slaughtered on the roads or beaten up by some hooligan in a peace demonstration.." 
(Quoted in the press, 1970.)

"Everybody was saying we must have more leisure. Now they are complaining they are unemployed.." 
(A comment during the UK's recession, 1981.)

"You must be out of your minds.." 
(To Solomon Islanders, on being told that their population growth was 5% a year, 1982.)

"You are a woman aren't you?.." 
(On receiving a gift from a Kenyan native woman, 1984.)

"If you stay here much longer you'll all be slitty-eyed.." 
(To a group of British students in China, 1986.)

"Aren't most of you descended from pirates?.." 
(To a Cayman Islander, date uncertain.)

"You can't have been here that long, you haven't got a potbelly yet.." 
(To a British expat in Hungary, c.1990.)

"I am self-employed.." 
(When replying to a question as to what type of work he did, c.1990.)

"You're not wearing minke knickers are you?.." 
(To a fashion writer at a World Wildlife Fund event., 1993.)

"How do you keep the natives off the booze for long enough to pass their test?.." 
(To a Scottish driving instructor in Oban, 1995.)

"You managed not to get eaten then?.." 
(To a student who'd trekked in Papua New Guinea, 1998.)

"I don't think a prostitute is more moral than a wife, but they are doing the same thing.." 
(Quoted in The Observer newspaper, 1988.)

"It looks as though it was put in by an Indian.." 
(On seeing a fuse box while being shown around an Edinburgh factory, 1999.)

"So who's on drugs here?... He looks as if he's on drugs" 
(While visiting a Bangladeshi youth club, 2002.)

"You were playing your instruments weren't you? or do you have tape recorders under your seats?.." 
(To a school band in Cairns, Australia, 2002.)

"Do you still throw spears at each other..? 
(To an Aboriginal man on Australia's Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park, 2002.)

"Do you know they have 'eating-dogs' for the anorexics now?.." 
(To a blind woman with a guide-dog, 2002.)

"If you travel as much as we do you appreciate how much more comfortable aircraft have become. Unless you travel in something called economy class, which sounds ghastly.." 
(Commenting during the Jubilee tour, 2002.)

"The problem with London is the tourists. They cause the congestion. If we could just stop tourism we could stop the congestion.." 
(Commenting on the London traffic debate, after mayor Ken Livingstone forced through his plan to charge motorists £5 to enter the city, 2002.)

"French cooking's all very well, but they can't do a decent English breakfast.." 
(Aboard the floating restaurant 'Il Punto' on the river Orwell in Ipswich, after thoroughly enjoying an excellent full English breakfast, Summer 2002 - Il Punto is owned by Frenchman Regis Crepy.)

"You'll have to lose a bit of weight first.." 
(Visiting a school, asking a tubby little boy what he wanted to be when he grows up, and being told, 'an astronaut', 2003.)

"Who are you burying today?" 
(Arriving to open a Brighton Youth Centre, 2007.)

Prince Philip: "What did you do in the war? 
Woman: I wasn't born until 1954.." 
(Visiting a D-Day museum in Portsmouth, to a woman - this was how the quote was reported by certain press, 2009. In truth Prince Philip apparently asked "Where's your [Land Army] badge?", which might have been a joke, but was interpreted as a gaffe. The Land Army were women who worked on farms during the 2nd World War, 1939-45, some survivors of which were at the museum for the visit by the Queen and Prince Philip. The lady in question was there with her 83-year-old mother, who was wearing a Land Army badge, hence the question arising.)

"Can you tell the difference between them?.." 
(To US President Obama referring to meeting Gordon Brown, David Cameron and representatives of China and Russia, 2009.)

Funny quotes: appraisals and putdowns

Needless to say, these amusing comments are not recommended for use in real appraisals.

"He is depriving a village somewhere of their idiot.."

"Not a born leader yet.."

"A well balanced person, has a chip on both shoulders.."

"Takes him two hours to watch sixty minutes.."

"Gargled from the fountain of knowledge.."

"If you stand close enough to him you can hear the oceans.."

"If you gave him a penny for his thoughts you'd get change.."

"If he were any more stupid he'd have to be watered twice a week.."

"Has two brains: one is lost and the other is out looking for it.."

"Gates are down, the lights are flashing, but the train isn't coming.."

"Donated his brain to science before he was done using it.."

"A prime candidate for natural deselection.."

"A photographic memory but with the lens cover glued on.."

"If you see two people talking and one looks bored, he's the other one.."

"When his IQ reaches 50 he should sell.."

"He brings a lot of joy whenever he leaves the room.."

"He has a knack for making strangers immediately.."

"He would argue with a signpost.."

"He's been working with glue too much.."

"I would like to go hunting with him sometime.."

"He doesn't have ulcers but he's a carrier.."

"Got a full six-pack but lacks the plastic thingy to hold it all together.."

"When she opens his mouth it seems that it is only to change feet.."

"Not so much of a 'hasbeen', more of a definite 'won'tbe'.."

"I would not allow this employee to breed.."

"His men would follow him anywhere, but only out of morbid curiosity.."

"He would be out of his depth in a car park puddle.."

"This person has delusions of adequacy.."

"Since my last report has reached rockbottom, and has started to dig.."

"Sets low standards and consistently fails to achieve them.."

"Has the wisdom of youth and the energy of old age.."

"Works well under constant supervision and when cornered like a rat in a trap.."

"You are on the crest of a slump."

"The lights are on but nobody's at home.."

"The wheel is turning but the hamster is dead.."

(Thanks for contributions, E Welburn, P Houghton, N Webb, N Sutcliffe.)


Send your favourite quote, funny saying, funny sign, funny graffiti, training maxims, or inspirational metaphors.

Please note that where quotations refer to 'man' or 'men' this is not intended to be discriminatory.



See also


The poem 'Come To The Edge' in the inspirational quotes is ©Christopher Logue.

The poem 'The Guy In The Glass' is ©Dale Wimbrow, 1934.

'Smile' lyrics are ©Boune Co, NY.

'Please Pass the Hemlock - Ironherder's search for wit and wisdom' is ©Ironherder, c/o Businessballs.

© (collection) alan chapman 1995-2014 > Please see additional referencing/usage terms below.