Mark Twain and History Repeating. Or Not

Ben Zimmer, the executive producer of and, gives us a great introduction in today’s Boston Globe to the recently published The Dictionary of Modern ProverbsHe concludes by telling us that “Recognizing that the search for early information on proverbs is unending, the editors are launching a website ( where readers can contribute their own historical research and suggest additional proverbs that this edition might have missed. It’s a fitting acknowledgment that a single compendium of proverbial language will never provide a final, definitive statement. Proverbs represent a kind of dynamic folklore, resonating with the past but constantly reinvigorated in the present. As Mark Twain didn’t say, though we wish he did, ‘History never repeats itself, but it rhymes.’”

The ever-reliable The Quotable Mark Twain tells us what Mark Twain did say about history repeating itself:

“It is not worth while to try to keep history form repeating itself, for man’s character will always make the preventing of the repetitons impossible.”


“History is better than prophecy. In fact, history is prophecy.”



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