Quotations about   secret

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Only puny secrets need protection. Big discoveries are protected by public incredulity.

Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980) Canadian philosopher, communication theorist, educator
Take Today: The Executive as Dropout, ch. 2 (1972)
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Added on 2-Apr-21 | Last updated 2-Apr-21
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If nobody were to know or even to suspect the truth, when you do anything to gain riches or power or sovereignty or sensual gratification — if your act should be hidden for ever from the knowledge of gods and men, would you do it? […] Should they answer that, if impunity were assured, they would do what was most to their selfish interest, that would be a confession that they are criminally minded; should they say that they would not do so, they would be granting that all things in and of themselves immoral should be avoided.

[Si nemo sciturus, nemo ne suspicaturus quidemn sit, curn aliquid divitiarum, potentiae, dominationis, libidinis causa feceris, si id dis hominibusque futurum sit semper ignotuml, sisne facturus. […] Si responderint se impunitate proposita facturos, quod expediat, facinorosos se esse fateantur, si negent, omnia turpia per se ipsa fugienda esse concedant.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Officiis [On Duties; On Moral Duty; The Offices], Book 3, ch. 9 / sec. 39 (44 BC) [tr. Miller (1913)]
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Original Latin. Alternate translations:

  • "Suppose you could do any dishonest action, for the gratifying of a lustful, covetous, or ambitious desire, so as that no one living could either know or suspect it, but both gods and men must be kept perfectly in ignorance; whether in such case would you do it or no? [...] If they say they would gratify such desires on assurance of impunity, we may know them to be villains by their own confession; but if they deny it, they may be forced to grant that every base and dishonest action is barely as such to be shunned and detested." [tr. Cockman (1699)]

  • "If no man should know, or not even suspect, that you were any way engaged in the pursuit of wealth, power, or domination, or for the gratification of lust; and if it were to be forever unknown to gods and men; would you behave so? [...] If they answer, upon impunity being proposed, they would do what is profitable, they may confess themselves profligate, but if they refuse that they would follow such a course, they admit that every vice from its own nature ought to be avoided." [tr. McCartney (1798)]

  • "If nobody were to know, nobody even to suspect that you were doing anything for the sake of riches, power, domination, lust -- if it would be for ever unknown to gods and men, would you do it? [...] If they answer that they would do, if impunity were offered, what it was their interest to do, they must confess that they are wicked; if they deny that they would do so, they must admit that all base actions are to be shunned on their own account." [tr. Edmonds (1865)]

  • "If no one would ever know, if no one would ever suspect, when you performed some act for the sake of wealth, power, ascendency, lust, -- if it would remain forever unknown to gods and men, would you do it? [...] If they answer that they would do what seemed expedient if assured of impunity, they may confess themselves atrociously guilty; and if they make the contrary answer, that they may grant that whatever is wrong in itself ought to be shunned." [tr. Peabody (1883)]
Added on 8-Feb-21 | Last updated 8-Feb-21
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The holiest of holidays are those
Kept by ourselves in silence and apart;
The secret anniversaries of the heart,
When the full river of feeling overflows.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) American poet
“Holidays,” Keramos, and Other Poems (1878)
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Added on 13-Jul-20 | Last updated 13-Jul-20
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BOB: You know I’m retired from hero work.
EDNA: As am I, Robert, yet here we are!

Brad Bird (b. 1957) American director, animator and screenwriter [Phillip Bradley Bird]
The Incredibles (2004)
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Added on 4-Sep-19 | Last updated 4-Sep-19
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Secrets with girls, like loaded guns with boys,
Are never valued till they make a noise.

George Crabbe (1754-1832) English poet, writer, surgeon, clergyman
Tales of the Hall, “The Maid’s Story” (1819)
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Added on 7-Sep-17 | Last updated 7-Sep-17
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Alcohol: A liquid good for preserving almost everything except secrets.

Other Authors and Sources
Charles Wayland Towne, The Foolish Dictionary (1905)
Added on 23-Aug-17 | Last updated 23-Aug-17
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Thy friend has a friend, and thy friend’s friend has a friend; be discreet.

The Talmud (AD 200-500) Collection of Jewish rabbinical writings
Babylonian Talmud, Baba Bathra 28b
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Noted as a common saying. The summary "be discreet" does not appear in the actual Talmud translations I found, but seems to be an explanation from early Christian reviews of the Talmud for when the verse is given as a stand-alone proverb.
Added on 20-Jul-17 | Last updated 20-Jul-17
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Content thyself to be obscurely good.
When vice prevails, and impious men bear sway,
The post of honour is a private station.

Joseph Addison (1672-1719) English essayist, poet, statesman
Cato, Act 4, sc. 1, l. 319 (1713)
Added on 23-Aug-16 | Last updated 23-Aug-16
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We know so little about each other. We lie mostly submerged, like ice floes, with our visible social selves projecting only cool and white.

McEwan - cool and white - wist_info quote

Ian McEwan (b. 1948) English novelist and screenwriter
Amsterdam (1998)
Added on 26-Jul-16 | Last updated 26-Jul-16
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The grandest of heroic deeds are those which are performed within four walls and in domestic privacy.

Jean-Paul Richter (1763-1825) German novelist, art historian, aesthetician [pseud. Jean-Paul]
(Attributed)

In Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)
Added on 13-Jul-16 | Last updated 13-Jul-16
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Once you get it into your head that somebody is controlling events, you can interpret everything in that light and find no reasonable certainty anywhere.

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) Russian-American author, polymath, biochemist
Foundation’s Edge, ch. 12 “Agent” (1982)
Added on 12-Jul-16 | Last updated 12-Jul-16
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There is nothing so despicable as a secret society that is based upon religious prejudice and that will attempt to defeat a man because of his religious beliefs. Such a society is like a cockroach — it thrives in the dark. So do those who combine for such an end.

William Howard Taft (1857-1930) US President (1909-13) and Chief Justice (1921-1930)
Speech, Young Men’s Hebrew Association, New York (20 Dec 1914)
Added on 27-Jul-15 | Last updated 27-Jul-15
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Censorship, in my opinion, is a stupid and shallow way of approaching the solution to any problem. Though sometimes necessary, as witness a professional and technical secret that may have a bearing upon the welfare and very safety of this country, we should be very careful in the way we apply it, because in censorship always lurks the very great danger of working to the disadvantage of the American nation.

Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) American general, US President (1953-61)
Speech, Associated Press luncheon, New York (24 Apr 1950)
Added on 2-Jul-15 | Last updated 2-Jul-15
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To make another person hold his tongue, be you first silent.

[Alium silere quod voles, primus sile.]

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Phaedra [Hippolytus], l. 867 (c. AD 50)
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Sometimes given as "Alium silere quod valeas, primus sile." Alt. trans.: "Where thou wouldst have another silence keep, keep silence first thyself." [tr. F Miller (1907)]
Added on 19-Sep-14 | Last updated 19-Sep-14
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The secret thoughts of a man run over all things holy, prophane, clean, obscene, grave, and light, without shame, or blame.

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) English philosopher
Leviathan, Part 1, ch. 8 (1651)
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Added on 23-Sep-10 | Last updated 6-Nov-20
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Character is what you are in the dark.

Dwight Lyman "D. L." Moody (1837-1899) American evangelist and publisher
Sermon

Attributed by his son in William R. Moody, D. L. Moody, ch. 66 (1930), but quoted without citation before that (e.g., in Saint Andrew's Cross (Nov 1907), and The Outlook (6 Jun 1917)).
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 7-Aug-17
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Please don’t lie to me, unless you’re absolutely sure I’ll never find out the truth.

Ashleigh Brilliant (b. 1933) Anglo-American writer, epigramist, cartoonist
Pot-Shots
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 4-May-15
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Everyone is a moon and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Following the Equator, ch. 66, epigraph (1897)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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The measure of a man’s real character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out.

Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859) English writer and politician
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 16-Jan-20
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