Monday, December 13, 2004

A misattribution up with which we should not put

Most of us have heard some variation on the great story about Winston Churchill, retold here at Language Log after being retold here at The Evangelical Outpost:
After an overzealous editor attempted to rearrange one of Winston Churchill's sentences to avoid ending it in a preposition, the Prime Minister scribbled a single sentence in reply: "This is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put."
Well, someone wrote in to Language Log to try to prove that the attribution is apocryphal. The first reference found is in the Wall Street Journal in 1942, quoting from Strand Magazine.
When a memorandum passed round a certain Government department, one young pedant scribbled a postscript drawing attention to the fact that the sentence ended with a preposition, which caused the original writer to circulate another memorandum complaining that the anonymous postscript was "offensive impertinence, up with which I will not put." —Strand Magazine.
The writer to Language Log says, "Churchill often contributed to London's Strand Magazine, so it seems unlikely that the magazine would fail to identify the unnamed writer as Churchill if he were indeed the source of the story."

Further citations show that the quote started being attributed to Churchill only after the end of the war.

Regardless, it's as good a story (perhaps better) as quoted in strand as it is coming from Churchill. At the very least, it's easier for me to relate to.


At 5:31 PM, December 14, 2004, Blogger Bill said...

I was suspicious. Glad I hedged my bets in "The Elephants of Style."

At 10:42 AM, December 15, 2004, Blogger Nicole said...

For those who don't have Bill's "Elephants of Style" yet (there's still time to yell "Get me rewrite!" on those Christmas lists), this is how he hedged: " 'That is the kind [or type or sort] of nonsense [or insubordination or English or arrant pedantry, or maybe rule or thing] up with which I will not put!' --Winston Churchill, myabe, to an editor who questioned his ending a sentence with a preposition"


At 9:35 AM, March 15, 2010, Anonymous Joe said...

Well, the correct form (without the preposition) would be "with which I will not put up", but I'll bite.


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