I understand why. Seuss could be pithy. He’s far from the only aphoristic writer to be credited with phrases he didn’t coin. Mark Twain, Ghandi, Groucho Marx, and many others have posthumously become the authors of many ideas.
But finding something on the internet does not confirm that what you’ve found is true. So, in what will likely be a failed effort to set the record straight, here are some things that Dr. Seuss never said –Â or, at least, there’s no record of him saying these things. And the historical record is all we have.
1. Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.
The sentiment here is congruent with Seuss’s public statements and some of his children’s books, but he never said this. (Below: one of many graphics that spread misinformation about Seuss. Â He only said numbers 1 and 3.)
Not only did Seuss never say this, but he tended to celebrate misbehavior.
3. Don’t cry because it’s over…Â Smile because it happened.
You have to be kidding me. Smile because it happened? No. He never said this.
4. Why fit in when you were born to stand out?
This is a Seussian sentiment, but he never uttered it using these words.
5. We are all a little weird and life’s a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.
Seuss might agree with this sentiment, but he never said it.
6. Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.
Nope. Not something Seuss said.
7. Be awesome! Be a book nut!
Seuss wrote lots of books and read many others, but he did not say this. The giveaway is the colloquial use of “awesome.”
25 Things That Seuss Said
There are many quotable lines that Seuss actually did say.Â Why not use those instead?Â Here’s a sampling.
1. It is fun to have fun.
But you have to know how.
– the Cat in the Hat, inÂ The Cat in the Hat (1957)
2. Today you are you! That is truer than true!
There is no one alive who is you-er than you!
Shout loud, “I am lucky to be what I am!
Thank goodness I’m not a clam or a ham
Or a dusty old jar of sour gooseberry jam!
I am what I am! That’s a great thing to be!”
–Â narrator, Happy Birthday to You! (1959)
3. You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
–Â narrator, Oh, the Places You’ll Go! (1990)
cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better.
–Â the Once-ler, The Lorax (1971)
5. Outside of my beginner books, I never write for children.Â I write for people.
–Â Dr. Seuss, interview with Michael Lee Katz (1984)
6. From there to here,
from here to there,
–Â narrator, One fish two fish red fish blue fish (1960)
7. I meant what I said
And I said what I meant. . .
An elephant’s faithful
One hundred per cent!
–Â Horton, Horton Hatches the Egg (1940)
8. Don’t give up! I believe in you all!
A person’s a person, no matter how small!
–Â Horton, Horton Hears a Who! (1954)
9. Adults are obsolete children and the hell with them.
–Â Dr. Seuss, in many interviews, including Shepard 1968, Dangaard 1976, & Bandler 1977
10. you’re in pretty good shape
for the shape you are in!
– narrator, You’re Only Old Once! (1986)
11. Children are just as smart as you are. The main difference is they don’t know so many words, and you’ll lose them if your story gets complicated.Â But if your story is simple, you can tell it just as if you’re telling it to adults.
–Â Dr. Seuss, lectures at University of Utah (1949), quoted in my Dr. Seuss: American Icon (2004)
12. I know, up on top you are seeing great sights,
But down at the bottom we, too, should have rights.
– Mack, Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories (1958)
You must not
hop on Pop.
–Â Pop, Hop on Pop (1963)
Â 14. So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s
a Great Balancing Act.
–Â narrator, Oh, the Places You’ll Go! (1990)
It just takes one yawn to start other yawns off.
–Â narrator, Dr. Seuss’s Sleep Book (1962)
16. My uncle ordered popovers
from the restaurant’s bill of fare.
And when they were served,
he regarded them with a penetrating stare . . .
Then he spoke great Words of Wisdom
as he sat there on that chair:
“To eat these things,”
said my uncle,
“you must exercise great care.
You may swallow down what’s solid . . .
BUT . . .
You must spit out the air!”
And . . .
As you partake of the world’s bill of fare,
that’s darned good advice to follow.
Do a lot of spitting out the hot air.
And be careful what you swallow.
–Â Dr. Seuss, “My Uncle Terwilliger on the Art of Eating Popovers” (1977), quoted in Judith and Neil Morgan’sÂ Dr. Seuss and Mr. Geisel (1995)
17. Nonsense wakes up the brain cells.Â And it helps develop a sense of humor, which is awfully important in this day and age.Â Humor has a tremendous place in this sordid world.Â It’s more than just a matter of laughing.Â If you can see things out of whack, then you can see how things can be in whack.
–Â Dr. Seuss, in interview with Miles Corwin (1983)
18. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.
Maybe Christmas, . . . perhaps . . . means a little bit more!”
–Â narrator, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1957)
19. children’s reading and children’s thinking are the rock bottom base upon which this country will rise. Or not rise.Â In these daysÂ of tension and confusion, writers are beginning to realize that books for children have a greater potential for good or evil,Â than any other form of literature on earth.
–Â Dr. Seuss, “Writing for Children: A Mission” (1960)
the more things you will know.
The more that you learn,
the more places you’ll go.
– the Cat in the Hat, I Can Read with My Eyes Shut! (1978)
21. It has often been said
there’s so much to be read,
you never can cram
all those words in your head.
So the writer who breeds
more words than he needs
is making a chore
for the reader who reads.
That’s why my belief is
the briefer the brief is,
the greater the sigh
of the reader’s relief is.
– Dr. Seuss, “A Short Condensed Poem in Praise of Reader’s Digest Condensed Books” (1980)
22. Think left and think right
and think low and think high.
Oh the thinks you can think up
if only you try!
– narrator, Oh, the Thinks You Can Think! (1975)
23. Whenever things go a bit sour in a job I’m doing, I always tell myself, “You can do better than this.”Â The best slogan I can think of to leave with the kids of the U.S.A. would be “We can . . . and we’ve got to . . . do better than this.”
– Dr. Seuss to his biographers, Judith and Neil Morgan, as reported in their Dr. Seuss and Mr. Geisel (1995)
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and Â¾ percent guaranteed.)
KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTIANS!
–Â narrator, Oh, the Places You’ll Go! (1990)
25. Today is gone. Today was fun.
Tomorrow is another one.
– narrator, One fish two fish red fish blue fish (1960)
In celebration of what would be Seuss’s 110th birthday (March 2nd), you might enjoy perusing other posts taggedÂ Seuss. Â Here’s a selection:
- Happy birthday to Dr. Seuss! A guest post by Charles D. Cohen (2 Mar. 2013). Â Birthday reflections from Seussologist Charles Cohen (The Seuss, the Whole Seuss, and Nothing But the Seuss). Quotes some original verse by Seuss, including “Pentellic Bilge for Bennett Cerf’s Birthday” (1940).
- How to Mispronounce “Dr. Seuss” (6 Feb. 2013). Also: how to pronounce “Dr. Seuss.”
- I Am the Lorax. I Speak for the Theeds? (3 Mar. 2012). Some thoughts onÂ The Lorax film and its attendant advertising.
- Dr. Seuss: children’s books “have a greater potential for good or evil, than any other form of literature on earth.”Â (1 Mar. 2012). A 1960 essay by Seuss on writing for children.
- Dr. Seuss on “conditioned laughter,” racist humor, and why adults are “obsolete children”Â (16 Jan. 2012). A 1952 essay by Seuss on humor.
- SeussologyÂ (15 Jan. 2012): On my graduate-level “Dr. Seuss” course.
- Oh, the Thinks That He Thought! Some of Seuss’s Lesser-Known WorksÂ (2 Mar. 2011): My post for Dr. Seuss’s birthday, last year.
- You’re a Mean One, Mr. GrinchÂ (20 Dec. 2010): 15 versions of the song.
- Corporate Seuss; or, Oh, the Things You Can Sell!Â (21 Aug. 2010). Ted Geisel was first famous for advertising, not children’s books.
Occasionally, I get asked to talk about Dr. Seuss:
- “New Window into Dr. Seuss’s genius” (26 Feb. 2014). John Wilkens’ article in the San Diego TribuneÂ discusses new Seuss material that his widow, Audrey, donated to the Dr. Seuss Papers at UCSD.
- “Dr. Seuss: Mini-Biography.”Â A&E Biography (2013). Â Time: 4 minutes.
- All Things Considered. Lynn Neary, “‘The Bippolo Seed’ : The ‘Lost’ Dr. Seuss Stories” (13 Apr. 2011):Â audio & transcript. Â Charles Cohen & I talk about the new book of “lost” Seuss stories (edited by Charles). Â Time: 3 mins, 30 secs.
- Diane Rehm Show. Dr. Seuss’sÂ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!Â (22 Dec. 2010):Â audioÂ |Â transcript. Reverend Derrick Harkins, Maria Salvadore, and I talk with Diane Rehm about the Grinch. Â Time: 1 hour.
- Morning Edition. Lynn Neary, “Fifty Years of The Cat in the Hat” (1 Mar. 2007):Â audio & transcript. Anita Silvey and I talk with Lynn Neary about the Cat in the Hat. Â Time: 7 mins, 20 secs.
- Talk of the Nation. Â Steve Inskeep, “Celebrating the 100th Birthday of Dr. Seuss: A New Book Looks Back on the Life of Theodor Geisel” (10 Feb. 2004):Â audio. Â I was a bit nervous at the beginning (I believe it was my first time on live national radio), but after the first few minutes I seem to settle into it well enough. Â Time: 1 hour.
|Though the website appears to have been designed to impede its utility, Random House’sÂ Seussville‘sÂ authorÂ sectionÂ includes a bio. and timeline I wrote – the former heavily influenced by Judith and Neil Morgan’s excellentÂ Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel. Â (If you read only one bookÂ aboutÂ Dr. Seuss, the Morgans’ bio is the one I’d recommend.)And… that’s all. Â HappyÂ Read Across AmericaÂ Day!*
*Each year on or near March 2nd (the birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss), the National Education Association sponsorsÂ Read Across America, designed to promote literacy. This year, it’ll be celebrated on Monday, March 3rd. Read more about it atÂ the NEA’s website.