Rush Limbaugh today gave Eleanor Roosevelt credit for a quotation that she probably had nothing to do with. I wrote to [email protected], but if there’s a Rush 24/7 member out there, please write to him also because he looks at your emails first.

Great Minds, Average Minds, Small Minds — and the Battle for the GOP
March 16, 2011
RUSH: I’ve seen this quote before. I ran across it again last night. You might have heard me mention this. You might have heard this quote yourself. “Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.” You know who said it? Eleanor Roosevelt, before she knew that Hillary Clinton was trying to channel her in seances. “Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.” And it reminded me what we were talking about yesterday about Sarah Palin and the Tea Party, the Drive-By Media in general.

I researched the quotation and I have the best (only?) web page on the historical origins of the quotation. Some of you might remember this post about the Google search monopoly: “Google Changes Its Algorithm (or, a virtual monopoly destroys my web traffic by 40% overnight, and I have no recourse).” The Google algorithm change supposedly rewarded the good websites and punished the bad websites, so let’s give it a test, as Rush Limbaugh or his staff probably did.

A search for “great minds discuss ideas” has the ultra-crappy Quotedb.com as the first and “best” result. It’s simply the quote, credited to Eleanor Roosevelt. When did she say it, Quotedb.com? Did she ever say it?

Then there are two Wikiquote cites (Eleanor Roosevelt and Hyman Rickover), followed by the super crappy QuotationsPage.com and FunTrivia.com and ThinkExist.com and BrainyQuote.com — sites that duplcate the same crap, without any context whatsoever. There’s even a Twitter ahead of my website!

I’m on page four, where no one looks. Bing has my work in the middle of page two, behind another crappy quotations site called iwise.com.

Finding the correct information in this information age is essential. Google hurt more than my website.

SUMMARY
Truth should matter. The quote existed before FDR ever became president and most people ever heard of Eleanor Roosevelt.

I’m a contributor to the Yale Book of Quotations, the Oxford English Dictionary, the Historical Dictionary of American Slang, the Dictionary of American Regional English, and others. I make no money at all, but I offer my work for free. Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and even Rachel Maddow can ask me about an Americanism, and I’ll promptly reply with the best answer that I can find.

It would be nice if Rush can correct this tomorrow. I’ve been a fan of his for a long time. If he fails to correct the “Eleanor Roosevelt” attribution, I’ll still be a fan.

FYI, here’s what I have:

Entry from November 26, 2010
“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people”
“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people” is a popular saying, first cited in this form in 1931. The saying has been attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962), but it’s uncertain if she ever said it. The saying has also been attributed to Admiral Hyman G. Rickover (1900-1986), but he admitted in a 1959 magazine article that the saying wasn’t his.

The earliest version appears to be from Printers’ Ink of 1927:

He now reports that, “the best minds discuss ideas; the second ranking talks about things; while the third and lowest mentality — starved for ideas — gossips about people.”

Wikiquote: Eleanor Roosevelt
Anna Eleanor Roosevelt (11 October 1884 – 7 November 1962) was a social activist, first lady and the wife of US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
(…)
Disputed
Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.
This has been quoted without citation as a statement of Eleanor Roosevelt. It is usually attributed to Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, but though Rickover quoted this, he did not claim to be the author of it; in “The World of the Uneducated” in The Saturday Evening Post (28 November 1959), he prefaces it with “As the unknown sage puts it…”
. Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, and little minds discuss people.
.. In this form it was quoted as an anonymous epigram in A Guide to Effective Public Speaking (1953) by Lawrence Henry Mouat
. Several other variants or derivatives of the expression exist, but none provide a definite author:
.. Great minds discuss ideas, mediocre minds discuss events, small minds discuss personalities.
.. Great minds discuss ideas, Average minds discuss events, Small minds discuss people
.. Small minds discuss things, Average minds discuss people, Great minds discuss ideas

Wikiquote: Hyman G. Rickover
Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, U.S. Navy, (27 January 1900 – 8 July 1986) was known as the “Father of the Nuclear Navy”.
(…)
Misattributed
Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.
. Though Rickover quoted this, he did not claim to be the author of the statement. Using it in “The World of the Uneducated” in The Saturday Evening Post (28 November 1959), he prefaces it with “As the unknown sage puts it…” — It has sometimes been attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, but without definite citation.

Google Books
Printers’ Ink
Volume 139, Issue 2
1927
Pg. 87:
He now reports that, “the best minds discuss ideas; the second ranking talks about things; while the third and lowest mentality — starved for ideas — gossips about people.”

11 May 1928, Danville (VA) Bee, “Scoop’s Colyum,” pg. 6, col. 4:
The best minds discuss IDEAS; the second ranking talks about THINGS; while those of the lowest mentality GOSSIP about PEOPLE.

19 April 1931, New York (NY) Times, “Queries and Answers,” pg. 75:
“Great and Small Minds”
H. A. M.—Wanted, the correct quotation and origin of this expression: “Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.”

19 May 1934, Lubbock (TX) Morning Avalanche, “From The Woman’s Angle” by Margaret Turner, pg. 2, col. 1:
SIGN in a beauty parlor: “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”

18 January 1936, Cleveland (OH) Gazette, “Wise Sayings,” pg. 1:
As great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, and small minds discuss people!

2 March 1936, Altoona (PA) Mirror, “Phalanx Members Hear C. C. Caveny,” pg. 5, col. 3:
“Small minds talk about people and ordinary minds about things, but great minds talk about ideas,” he said.

Google Books
Your Voice Personality
By Loraine Osborn
New York, NY: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
1938
Pg. 132:
There is an old saying:
SMALL MINDS DISCUSS PEOPLE.
AVERAGE MINDS DISCUSS EVENTS.
GREAT MINDS DISCUSS IDEAS.

8 October 1939, Trenton (NJ) Sunday Times-Advertiser, “Trenton Scout Trail,” pt. 4, pg. 5, col. 1:
Scout Thought
Great minds talk about ideas
Average minds talk about events
Small minds talk about people
And boys talk about themselves.

Google Books
January 1946, The Rotarian, pg. 60, col. 2:
That was soon followed by this motto on the desk of the superintendent at Breckenridge, Texas:
Great minds discuss ideas.
Average minds discuss events,
Little minds discuss people.

Newsweek (May 26, 2010)
“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” —Eleanor Roosevelt