Saturday, September 12, 2009

Remembering Mencken

As someone whose education and professional experience has been dedicated to the craft of journalism, I am an admirer of those who have done a better job than most of communicating their thoughts on a variety of subjects.

It is unfortunate that many of them are either seldom mentioned anymore or rarely given credit when quoted. Thus, today being H.L. Mencken's 129th birthday, it seems only appropriate to remind you of some of his observations — and give him full credit for them.

This, incidentally, has been inspired in part by a blog entry by John McIntyre, whose You Don't Say blog discusses Mencken and the "irresistible" nature of his quotes. Until this past spring, McIntyre was the head of the copy desk at the Baltimore Sun, which is also the newspaper to which Mencken contributed for decades.

Mencken's memory may have special meaning for those who work or have worked for the Sun. His wit and wisdom should have special meaning for us all.
  • "A celebrity is one who is known to many persons he is glad he doesn't know."
  • "Christian — One who is willing to serve three Gods, but draws the line at one wife." And, in a related quotation, "A man may be a fool and not know it — but not if he is married."
  • "Platitude — An idea (a) that is admitted to be true by everyone, and (b) that is not true."
  • "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard."
  • "Misogynist — A man who hates women as much as women hate one another."
  • "The older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom."
  • "Truth would quickly cease to be stranger than fiction, once we got as used to it."
  • "If a politician found he had cannibals among his constituents, he would promise them missionaries for dinner."
  • "In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for. As for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican."
  • Mencken's standard reply to angry letters:
    "Dear Sir (or Madame),
    You may be right.
    Sincerely yours, HL Mencken"

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