My late father used to say, fairly frequently as I recall, this quotation: “It is better to remain silent and be thought of as a a fool than to speak up and remove any doubt.”
But who was he quoting? I couldn’t find anything in Bartelby or Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, the latter, in print form, a constant source of my entertainment growing up.
Finally, I found a similar quotation at Quote Investigator. Was it attributed to Abraham Lincoln? Mark Twain? A Biblical Proverb?
“There is a biblical proverb that expresses a similar idea, namely Proverbs 17:28. Here is the New International Version followed by the King James Version of this verse:
“‘Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.’
“‘Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.'”
After dismissing Lincoln and Twain because the attributions to them were so much after their time, and noting the Proverbs have not quite the same sentiment, QI favors Maurice Switzer, from a “book titled ‘Mrs. Goose, Her Book’… The publication date was 1907 and the copyright notice was 1906. The book was primarily filled with clever nonsense verse, and the phrasing in this early version was slightly different:
“It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt of it.”
This all begs the question, Is it true? Do people actually think you’re smart if you retain a mysterious silence? Perhaps; this does not appear to be a period in history when a lot goes unsaid. That apparent need to always say SOMETHING is often to the detriment of the speaker, and, quite often, of us all.
Rather off topic, but LISTEN to the Tremeloes sing Silence is Golden.
For ABC Wednesday