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18 Timeless Will Rogers Quotes for his 135th Birthday

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William Penn Adair Rogers—who was born on November 4, 1879—ranks among the finest performers, comedians, and social commentators in American history. So today, let’s all celebrate by finding an excuse to recite some of his best remarks.

1. “Everything is funny, as long as it’s happening to somebody else.” — From Illiterate Digest

2. “Why don’t they pass a constitutional amendment prohibiting anybody from learning anything? If it works as well as prohibition did, in five years we will have the smartest people on earth.” — From Weekly Articles

3. "I was born on Nov. 4, which is election day ... my birthday has made more men and sent more back to honest work than any other days in the year." — in The Daily Telegraph

4. “When I first started out to write and misspelled a few words, people said I was plain ignorant. But when I got all the words wrong, they declared I was a humorist.” — via the University of Oklahoma

5. “Live in such a way that you wouldn’t be ashamed to sell the family parrot to the town gossip.” — via his official website

6. “Best doctor in the world is a veterinarian. He can’t ask his patients what’s the matter. He’s just got to know.” — via MSU Veterinarian

7. “It’s great to be great, but it’s greater to be human.” — From Will Rogers' Daily Telegrams

8. "This Einstein has proven a great comfort to us that always knew we didn’t know much. He has shown us that the fellows that we thought was smart is just as dumb as we are." — in The Daily Telegraph

9. “There is nothing as easy as denouncing ... It don’t take much to see that something is wrong but it does take some eyesight to see what will put it right again.” — From Will Rogers' Weekly Articles

10. “A fanatic is always the fellow that is on the opposite side.” — From Radio Broadcasts of Will Rogers

11. "Eventually you reach a point when you stop lying about your age and start bragging about it." — via the State of California Park Service, compiled by Will Rogers's historian

12. "Everything is changing in America. People are taking the comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke." — in The Daily Telegraph

13. “This would be a great world to dance in if we didn’t have to pay the fiddler.” — via Will Rogers' Daily Telegrams: Volume 2

14. “[Get] a few laughs and do the best you can… Live your life so that whenever you lose, you’re ahead.” — From Weekly Articles

15. "I was born on election day but never was able to get elected to anything. I am going to jump out some day and be indefinite enough about everything that they will call me a politician, then run on a platform of question marks, and be elected unanimously." — From Weekly Articles

16. "Finding things to tax is becoming quite a problem. You see when taxes first started, (who started 'em anyhow?) Noah must have taken into the ark two taxes, one male and one female, and did they multiply bountifully! Next to guinea pigs, taxes must have been the most prolific of animals." — From Weekly Articles, the Roosevelt Years

17. "Everybody is ignorant only on different subjects" — via The Will Rogers Book, by his niece Paula MsSpadden Love

18. "We don’t know what we want, but we’re ready to bite somebody to get it." — in The Daily Telegraph

And Here’s One Thing He Technically Didn’t Say:  

“I never met a man I didn’t like.”

Ironically, for somebody who came up with so much Grade A material, most people associate Rogers with a long-lived misquote. In actuality, the full, unaltered line was “I joked about every prominent man in my lifetime, but I never met one I didn’t like.” A few years before his death in 1935, Rogers proposed it as an epitaph for his tombstone. However, the shortened version does appear chiseled upon his final resting place in Claremore, Oklahoma.  

FURTHER READING: Will Rogers: A Biography; Will Rogers Versus the News: Humorist Ponders Current Events.

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Pop Culture
LeVar Burton Is Legally Allowed to Say His Reading Rainbow Catchphrase
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Kevork Djansezian, Stringer, Getty Images

It’s hard to imagine the original Reading Rainbow without LeVar Burton, but in August, the New York public broadcasting network WNED made it very clear who owned the rights to the program. By saying his old catchphrase from his hosting days, “but you don’t have to take my word for it” on his current podcast, WNED claimed Burton was infringing on their intellectual property. Now, Vulture reports that the case has been settled and Burton is now allowed to drop the phrase when and wherever he pleases.

The news came out in an recent interview with the actor and TV personality. “All settled, but you don’t have to take my word for it,” he told Vulture. “It’s all good. It’s all good. I can say it.”

The conflict dates back to 2014, when Burton launched a Kickstarter campaign to revive the show without WNED’s consent. Prior to that, the network and Burton’s digital reading company RRKidz had made a licensing deal where they agreed to split the profits down the middle if a new show was ever produced. Burton’s unauthorized crowdfunding undid those negotiations, and tensions between the two parties have been high ever since. The situation came to a head when Burton started using his famous catchphrase on his LeVar Burton Reads podcast, which centers around him reading short fiction in the same vein as his Reading Rainbow role. By doing this, WNED alleged he was aiming to “control and reap the benefits of Reading Rainbow's substantial goodwill.”

Though he’s no longer a collaborator with WNED, Burton can at least continue to say “but you don’t have to take my word for it” without fearing legal retribution. WNED is meanwhile "working on the next chapter of Reading Rainbow" without their original star, and Burton tells Vulture he looks “forward to seeing what they do with the brand next."

[h/t Vulture]

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literature
25 of Oscar Wilde's Wittiest Quotes
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By Napoleon Sarony - Library of Congress, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

On October 16, 1854, Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was born in Dublin, Ireland. He would go on to become one of the world's most prolific writers, dabbling in everything from plays and poetry to essays and fiction. Whatever the medium, his wit shone through.

1. ON GOD

"I think that God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability."

2. ON THE WORLD AS A STAGE

"The world is a stage, but the play is badly cast."

3. ON FORGIVENESS

"Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much."

4. ON GOOD VERSUS BAD

"It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious."

5. ON GETTING ADVICE

"The only thing to do with good advice is pass it on. It is never any use to oneself."

6. ON HAPPINESS

"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go."

7. ON CYNICISM

"What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing."

8. ON SINCERITY

"A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal."

9. ON MONEY

"When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old I know that it is."

10. ON LIFE'S GREATEST TRAGEDIES

"There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it."

11. ON HARD WORK

"Work is the curse of the drinking classes."

12. ON LIVING WITHIN ONE'S MEANS

"Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination."

13. ON TRUE FRIENDS

"True friends stab you in the front."

14. ON MOTHERS

"All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That's his."

15. ON FASHION

"Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months."

16. ON BEING TALKED ABOUT

"There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about."

17. ON GENIUS

"Genius is born—not paid."

18. ON MORALITY

"Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people whom we personally dislike."

19. ON RELATIONSHIPS

"How can a woman be expected to be happy with a man who insists on treating her as if she were a perfectly normal human being?"

20. ON THE DEFINITION OF A "GENTLEMAN"

"A gentleman is one who never hurts anyone’s feelings unintentionally."

21. ON BOREDOM

"My own business always bores me to death; I prefer other people’s."

22. ON AGING

"The old believe everything, the middle-aged suspect everything, the young know everything."

23. ON MEN AND WOMEN

"I like men who have a future and women who have a past."

24. ON POETRY

"There are two ways of disliking poetry; one way is to dislike it, the other is to read Pope."

25. ON WIT

"Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit."

And one bonus quote about Oscar Wilde! Dorothy Parker said it best in a 1927 issue of Life:

If, with the literate, I am
Impelled to try an epigram,
I never seek to take the credit;
We all assume that Oscar said it.

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