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As favour and riches forsake a man, we discover in him the foolishness they concealed, and which no one perceived before.
[À mesure que la faveur et les grands biens se retirent d’un homme, ils laissent voir en lui le ridicule qu’ils couvraient, et qui y était sans que personne s’en aperçût.]

Jean de La Bruyere
Jean de La Bruyère (1645-1696) French essayist, moralist
The Characters [Les Caractères], ch. 6 “Of Gifts of Fortune [Des Biens de Fortune],” § 4 (6.4) (1688) [tr. Van Laun (1885)]

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

When Riches and Favour forsake a Man, we see presently he was a Fool, but no body could find it out in his Prosperity.
[Bullord ed. (1696)]

In proportion as Riches and Favour forsake a Man, we discover he was a Fool, which no body cou'd find out in his Prosperity.
[Curll ed. (1713)]

As Riches and Favour forsake a Man, we discover him to be a Fool, but no body could find it out in his Prosperity.
[Browne ed. (1752)]

As a man falls out of favour and his wealth declines, we discover for the first time the ridiculous aspects of his character, which were always there but which wealth and favour had concealed.
[tr. Stewart (1970)]

Added on 6-Feb-24 | Last updated 6-Feb-24
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People say that age creeps up on them quicker than they expected. First of all, who forced them to think that way? Does age creep up on adults more quickly than maturity creeps up on children? And again, would their age lie less heavily upon them if they were in their eight hundredth year rather than their eightieth? It doesn’t matter how much time has passed; a foolish old man can never be consoled or comforted.
[Obrepere aiunt eam citius, quam putassent. Primum quis coegit eos falsum putare? Qui enim citius adulescentiae senectus quam pueritiae adulescentia obrepit? Deinde qui minus gravis esset eis senectus, si octingentesimum annum agerent quam si octogesimum? Praeterita enim aetas quamvis longa cum effluxisset, nulla consolatio permulcere posset stultam senectutem.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Senectute [Cato Maior; On Old Age], ch. 2 / sec. 4 (2.4) [Cato] (44 BC) [tr. Cobbold (2012)]

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

All the folis seyn that olde age comyth in them sonner thenne they wend, but I demaunde a question of such men what maner foly constreyned them forto trowe or suppose the thyng the which is fals, for they can sey no reason how olde age entrith sonner in the man aftir adolescence no more than doeth adolescence aftir puerice callid chidlhode which is the seconde age, how be it that it is so ordeyned by nature that that one of the ages entrith aftir the ende of the othir. More ovir I demaunde such foolys how olde age shuld be lesse chargyng & lesse grevous to men if they myght lyve viii C yere, for how be it that the age past had be longer yit it may neithir comforte ne allege ne satisfye the foole olde man.
[tr. Worcester/Worcester/Scrope (1481)]

They say [old age] creepeth and stealeth upon them faster and sooner than they thought it would. First, who causeth them to imagine and think such a false and peevish untruth? for why should they think that after their youth and adolescency, old age creepeth faster upon them, rather than their adolescency and youth doth after childhood? Seeing therefore they do not repine nor complain any whit after that they have been children to grow up to be tall striplings and lusty young men, why should they be aggrieved or think themselves discontented, after they have been striplings and young men, to be old and aged? Again, if they might reach ot the age of eight hundreth years, what greater pleasure and commodity is therein, or wherein should they think it to be less troublesome and tedious than it is when they be of the age of four-score years? for the age that is once passed and gone, be it never so long, can with no manner of pleasure or delectation comfort, recreate nor mitigate the old age that is in such fond persons.
[tr. Newton (1569)]

They say that [age] creepeth upon them ere they are aware. First let me aske, who bade them over reckon themselves? for how much sooner doth age creep on youth, then youth on child-hood? then, how much more grievous would their age be to them, if they should as well live to the eight hundred year, as to the eighty year? for the former age (though long,) when it is past, can asswage a foolish old age, with no comfort.
[tr. Austin (1648)]

[They are] always complaining that [Old Age] stole upon them unawares. But pray whose fault is it, that they were so surprized by a wrong computation? Why may they not with equal reason exclaim, that their Youth came too quick upon their Childhood, as that Old Age stole upon their Youth? Or what reason have they to expect Old Age to be less burthensome at eight hundred, than at eighty? For the time they have passed, of what length soever it be, will administer no comfort to Old Age, if foolishly squandered away.
[tr. Hemming (1716)]

They charge Old Age with stealing on them faster than it was expected. Who constrain'd them to think wrongfully? Does not Age gain sooner on Youth, than Youth does on Childhood? Besides, How much easier would Old Age fit upon them, where they in their eight-hundredth Year, than in their eightieth? Because the Effluction of Time thro' several Æras,, can give no Comfort to us in these Years of Dotage.
[tr. J. D. (1744)]

But, oh! they say, [Old Age] has crept on us too fast, and overtaken us sooner than we thought or expected. In the first Place, pray who put them on thinking wrong? How can they say, Old Age creeps faster on Manhood, than Manhood succeeded Youth and Childhood? Or how would it sit lighter at the Age of Eight Hundred Years, if that were the Term of it, than at Eighty? For the longer Duration of the preceding Age, when once 'tis past, abates Nothing from the Effects of Old Age, when come; nor affords any Relief against the Follies and Weakness of such as sink under it.
[tr. Logan (1744)]

It is usual with men at this season of life to complain that old age has stolen upon them by surprise, and much sooner than they expected. But if they were deceived by their own false calculations, must not the blame rest wholly on themselves? For, in the first place, old age surely does not gain by swifter and more imperceptible steps on manhood, than manhood advances on youth ; and in the next, in what respect would age have sitten less heavily upon them, had its progress been much slower, and, instead of making his visit at fourscore years, it had not reached them till four hundred? For the years that are elapsed, how numerous soever they may have been, can by no means console a weak and frivolous mind under the usual consequences of long life.
[tr. Melmoth (1773)]

They say that [old age] steals upon them sooner than they had supposed. First, who compelled them to make a truthless supposition? For, what? Does old age steal upon adolescence sooner than adolescence upon boyhood? Then, how would old age be less onerous to them, if they were passing their eight-hundredth year than their eightieth? For the past life, however long, when it had run out, could sooth a foolish old age with no consolation.
[Cornish Bros. ed. (1847)]

They say that [old age] steals over them more quickly than they had supposed. Now, first of all, who compelled them to form a false estimate of its progress? for how does old age more quickly steal upon youth, than youth upon boyhood? Then, again, how would old age be less burdensome to them, if they were in their 800th year than in their 80th? for the past time, however long, when it had flowed away, would not be able to soothe with any consolation an old age of folly.
[tr. Edmonds (1874)]

They say that age creeps upon them faster than they had thought possible. In the first place, who forced them to make this false estimate? In the next place, how could old age be less burdensome to them if it came on their eight-hundredth year than it is in their eightieth? For the time past, however long, when it had elapsed, could furnish no comfort to soothe a foolish old age.
[tr. Peabody (1884)]

They say that [old age] is stealing upon them faster than they expected. In the first place, who compelled them to hug an illusion? For in what respect did old age steal upon manhood faster than manhood upon childhood? In the next place, in what way would old age have been less disagreeable to them if they were in their eight-hundredth year than in their eightieth? For their past, however long, when once it was past, would have no consolation for a stupid old age.
[tr. Shuckburgh (1895)]

They say that it has come with quicker step
Than they expected: pray, who was it then
Forced them to this illusion?
Did old age Come quicker upon youth, than youth itself
On childhood? Had it seemed a lighter load
If they had reached not to their eightieth year
But e'en to ten times that? For sure past years
Howe'er prolonged could ne'er endow with charm
A stupid old age.
[tr. Allison (1916)]

They say that [old age] stole upon them faster than they had expected. In the first place, who has forced them to form a mistaken judgement? For how much more rapidly does old age steal upon youth than youth upon childhood? And again, how much less burdensome would old age be to them if they were in their eight hundredth rather than in their eightieth year? In fact, no lapse of time, however long, once it had slipped away, could solace or soothe a foolish old age.
[tr. Falconer (1923)]

Old age, they protest, crept up on them more rapidly than they had expected. But, to begin with, who was to blame for their mistaken forecast? For age does not steal upon adults any faster than adulthood steals upon children. Besides, if they were approaching eight hundred instead of eight, they would complain of the burden just as loudly! If old people are stupid enough, then nothing can console them for the time that has gone by, however great its length.
[tr. Grant (1960, 1971 ed.)]

They complain that [old age] crept up on them faster than they had thought it would. To begin with, who compelled them to accept something that is patently untrue? How does old age “creep up on” adulthood any faster than adulthood does on childhood? In the second place, how would old age be less burdensome to these people if it were to come at age eight hundred instead of at age eighty? No matter how many years of life might have gone by, there could be no effective word of comfort for the old, if they were foolish and thoughtless.
[tr. Copley (1967)]

They also say old age creeps up on us more quickly than we thought it would. But tell me, just how does old age creep up on middle age any more quickly than middle age creeps up on youth? The length of time before the onset of old age is not the issue here. To those who think it is, a life in their 800th year would be just as bothersome as one in their 80th. No matter how long the past lasts, once it has gone, it is gone, and a past that has no other virtue than its length will offer no consolation for old age.
[tr. Gerberding (2014)]

Faster than they thought, they say,
Senility worms its way
Into them but who obliged them to
Hold such an imaginary view?
But how much faster in truth
Does old age encroach on youth
Than youth itself upon infancy?
And again how overbearing would old age be
Were one eight hundred years old rather than eighty?
Indeed no past life could, as a rule,
Soothe and cheer the old age of a fool.
[tr. Bozzi (2015)]

They say that old age crept up on them much faster than they expected. But, first of all, who is to blame for such poor judgment? Does old age steal upon youth any faster than youth does on childhood? Would growing old really be less of a burden to them if they were approaching eight hundred rather than eighty? If old people are foolish, nothing can console them for time slipping away, no matter how long they live.
[tr. Freeman (2016)]

They say that [old age] came upon them faster than they had expected. Who forced them to this false belief? For, who would claim that old age succeeded adolescence any faster than adolescence succeeded childhood? Would old age seem any less a burden to them if they were living their eight-hundredth year instead of their eightieth? Once an age has passed and flown away, no consolation is able to soften the blow of a feeble-minded senescence.
[tr. Robinson / @sentantiq (2017)]

Added on 21-Dec-23 | Last updated 21-Dec-23
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A foolish man speaks foolishness.

[Μῶρα γὰρ μῶρος λέγει.]

Euripides (485?-406? BC) Greek tragic dramatist
Bacchæ [Βάκχαι], l. 369 [Tiresias/Τειρεσίας] (405 BC) [tr. Wodhull (1809)]

To Cadmus, about his grandson, Pentheus. (Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

Folly issues from the mouth of fools.
[tr. Buckley (1850)]

Fools still speak folly.
[tr. Milman (1865)]

Fools blurt their folly out.
[tr. Rogers (1872), l. 357]

The words of a fool are folly.
[tr. Coleridge (1891)]

Fools alone speak folly.
[tr. Way (1898)]

Blind words and a blind heart.
[tr. Murray (1902)]

The words of fools finish in folly.
[tr. Arrowsmith (1960)]

He who speaks folly is himself a fool.
[tr. Kirk (1970)]

The things he has said reveal the depth of his folly.
[tr. Vellacott (1973)]

It is a fool who folly speaks.
[tr. Neuburg (1988)]

You can tell a dangerous fool by his own words.
[tr. Cacoyannis (1982)]

For a fool speaks folly.
[tr. Blessington (1993)]

For Pentheus is a fool and says foolish things.
[tr. Esposito (1998)]

He who speaks foolishness is a fool.
[tr. Woodruff (1999)]

The fool speaks foolish things.
[tr. Gibbons/Segal (2000), l. 435]

His talk is folly and he's a fool.
[tr. Kovacs (2002)]

Often a fool speaks foolishly.
[tr. Valerie (2005)]

A man who's mad tends to utter madness.
[tr. Johnston (2008)]

His foolish words will end in folly.
[tr. Robertson (2014)]

A fool says foolish things.
[tr. @sentantiq (2016)]

The speech of the fool is foolish.
[tr. @sentantiq (2018)]

The tongue of a fool makes a foolish noise.
[tr. Behr/Foster (2019)]

For a foolish man says foolish things.
[tr. Buckley/Sens/Nagy (2020)]

Added on 28-Feb-23 | Last updated 11-Jul-23
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I don’t care how smart you are, if you say something you are liable to say something foolish, and the smarter you are, and the longer you talk, the more foolish things you will say.

Will Rogers (1879-1935) American humorist
“Weekly Article” column (24 Aug 1924)
Added on 25-Jan-23 | Last updated 25-Jan-23
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But many do not know that they do not know, and many think they know when they know nothing. Failings of the intelligence are incorrigible since those who do not know do not know themselves and cannot therefore seek what they lack.

[Pero hay muchos que ignoran que no saben y otros que piensan que saben, no sabiendo. Achaques de necedad son irremediables, que como los ignorantes no se conocen, tampoco buscan lo que les falta.]

Baltasar Gracián y Morales (1601-1658) Spanish Jesuit priest, writer, philosopher
The Art of Worldly Wisdom [Oráculo Manual y Arte de Prudencia], § 176 (1647) [tr. Jacobs (1892)]

(Source (Spanish)). Alternate translations:

Yet there are some, who are ignorant that they know nothing; and others, who think they know, though they know nothing at all. The faults that proceed from the want of wit, are incurable. For as ignorants know not themselves, so they take no care to search for that they want.
[Flesher ed. (1685)]

But there be many who do not know that they know nothing, and others who think that they know, but know nothing; these deformities of the mind are incurable, whence it is that the ignorant neither know themselves nor yet how to gain what they lack.
[tr. Fischer (1937)]

But many people are unaware that they do not know, and others think they know when they do not. Attacks of foolishness have no remedy. Because the ignorant do not know themselves, they never look for what they're lacking.
[tr. Maurer (1992)]

Added on 10-May-22 | Last updated 30-Jan-24
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What inconceivable madness! For it is not enough to call an opinion “foolishness” when it is utterly devoid of reason.

[O delirationem incredibilem! non enim omnis error stultitia dicenda est.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Divinatione [On Divination], Book 2, ch. 43 (2.43) / sec. 90 (44 BC) [tr. Falconer (1923)]

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

  • "What an incredible insanity this is! for every error does not deserve the mere name of folly." [tr. Yonge (1853)]
  • "We must not say that every mistake is a foolish one." This is an early and quite common English translation of the phrase (e.g.) and seems to reverse the meaning.
Added on 23-Nov-20 | Last updated 11-Aug-22
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Stupidity lies in wanting to draw conclusions.

[L’ineptie consiste à vouloir conclure. […] Oui, la bêtise consiste à vouloir conclure.]

Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) French writer, novelist
Letter to Louis Bouilhet (4 Sep 1850)

The phrase is used twice in the letter. The initial phrase is usually translated to "foolishness" or "folly," the second to "stupidity."
Added on 23-Jan-20 | Last updated 23-Jan-20
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‘Tis hard bewildering riddles to compose
And labour lost to work at nonsense prose.

[Turpe est difficiles habere nugas,
Et stultus labor est ineptiarum.]

Marcus Valerius Martial
Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 2, epigram 86 (2.86.9-10) (AD 86) [tr. Francis & Tatum (1924), #105]

Discussing writing elaborate or highly stylized poetry forms. (Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

Disgraceful 't is unto a poet's name
Difficult toys to make his highest am:
The labour's foolish that doth rack the brains
For things have nothing in them, but much pains.
[tr. Killigrew (1695)]

How foolish is the toil of trifling cares.
[tr. Johnson (1750); he credits the translation Elphinston]

How pitifull the boast of petty feats!
How idle is the toil of mean conceits!
[tr. Elphinston (1782), 2.76]

It is disgraceful to be engaged in difficult trifles; and the labour spent on frivolities is foolish.
[tr. Amos (1858), 2.19]

It is absurd to make one's amusements difficult; and labor expended on follies is childish.
[tr. Bohn's Classical (1859)]

'Tis mean and foolish to assign
Long care and pains to trifles light.
[tr. Webb (1879)]

Disgraceful ’tis to treat small things as difficult;
‘Tis silly to waste time on foolish trifles.
[ed. Harbottle (1897)]

'Tis degrading to undertake difficult trifles; and foolish is the labour spent on puerilities.
[tr. Ker (1919)]

'Tis hard bewildering riddles to compose
And labor lost to work at nonsense prose.
[tr. Francis & Tatum (1924)]

It's demeaning to make difficulties out of trifles, and labor over frivolities is foolish.
[tr. Shackleton Bailey (1993)]

It is absurd to make trifling poetry difficult, and hard work on frivolities is foolish.
[tr. Williams (2004)]

The Latin phrase was used by Addison as the epigram of The Spectator #470 (29 Aug 1712).
Added on 18-Oct-17 | Last updated 27-Nov-23
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It is safe to wager that every public idea and every accepted convention is sheer foolishness, because it has suited the majority.

[Il y a à parier que toute idée publique, toute convention reçue, est une sottise, car elle a convenu au plus grand nombre.]

Nicolas Chamfort
Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) French writer, epigrammist (b. Nicolas-Sébastien Roch)
Products of Perfected Civilization [Produits de la Civilisation Perfectionée], Part 1 “Maxims and Thoughts [Maximes et Pensées],” ch. 2, ¶ 130 (1795) [tr. Mathers (1926)]

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

It may be argued that every public idea, every accepted convention, is a piece of stupidity, for has it not commended itself to the greatest number?
[tr. Hutchinson (1902), "The Cynic's Breviary"]

One can be certain that every generally held idea, every received notion, will be an idiocy, because it has been able to appeal to a majority.
[In Botton, Status Anxiety (2004)]

It is likely that every public idea, every received convention, is folly, because the majority of men consented to it.

Added on 21-Aug-17 | Last updated 10-Jul-23
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The only wa tu pleze evra boddy, is tu make evry boddy think yu ar a bigger fule than tha ar.

[The only way to please everybody is to make everybody think you are a bigger fool than they are.]

Josh Billings (1818-1885) American humorist, aphorist [pseud. of Henry Wheeler Shaw]
His Sayings, ch. 45 (1867)
Added on 7-Aug-15 | Last updated 7-Aug-15
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TOUCHSTONE: I do now remember a saying, “The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.”

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
As You Like It, Act 5, sc. 1, l. 30ff (5.1.30-32) (1599)
Added on 12-May-04 | Last updated 9-Feb-24
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The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool.

Richard Feynman (1918-1988) American physicist
“Cargo Cult Science,” commencement address, California Institute of Technology (1974)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 10-Jan-20
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