Remembering My Hat

7th June 2011

Quotable ageing

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 16:50
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Need a way to get going writing on a topic? Why not start with a quote.

Null points for originality but full marks for doability in very little time, thanks to the wonders of the internet (I particularly rate The Quote Garden). Also, sometimes the old ones are the best (I meant writing techniques but this is itself a quote about my topic). So this afternoon I’m looking for quotes about ageing.

There are an awful lot out there. Here are some of my favourites, not properly attributed unless the website did so for me:

  • Old age is no place for sissies – Bette Davis
  • Growing old is mandatory. Growing up is optional – Chili Davis
  • In youth the days are short and the years are long; in old age the years are short and the days long.  ~Nikita Ivanovich Panin
  • Age does not diminish the extreme disappointment of having a scoop of ice cream fall from the cone.  ~Jim Fiebig

(cc) Spookygonk

  • There is no pleasure worth forgoing just for an extra three years in the geriatric ward.  ~John Mortimer
  • Old age isn’t so bad when you consider the alternative.  ~Maurice Chevalier, New York Times, 9 October 1960
  • The first sign of maturity is the discovery that the volume knob also turns to the left.  ~Jerry M. Wright
  • There is always a lot to be thankful for, if you take the time to look. For example, I’m sitting here thinking how nice it is that wrinkles don’t hurt.  ~ Anon
  • Grow old with me!  The best is yet to be.  ~Robert Browning
  • I advise you to go on living solely to enrage those who are paying your annuities.  It is the only pleasure I have left.  ~Voltaire
  • An archeologist is the best husband any woman can have:  the older she gets, the more interested he is in her.  ~Agatha Christie, news summaries, 9 March 1954
  • Old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read.  ~Quoted by Francis Bacon, Apothegm

(cc) osmium

  • First you forget names, then you forget faces, then you forget to pull your zipper up, then you forget to pull your zipper down.  ~Leo Rosenberg
  • The years between fifty and seventy are the hardest.  You are always being asked to do more, and you are not yet decrepit enough to turn them down.  ~T.S. Eliot, quoted in Time, 23 October 1950
  • Old age is the most unexpected of all the things that happen to a man.  ~Leon Trotsky (Lev Davidovich Bronstein), Diary in Exile, 1935
  • Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.  ~Henry Ford

And of course, my particular favourite, after which this blog is named:

There is a wicked inclination in most people to suppose an old man decayed in his intellects. If a young or middle-aged man, when leaving a company, does not remember where he laid his hat, it is nothing; but if the same inattention is discovered in an old man, people will shrug up their shoulders, and say, “His memory is going.”

Boswell, J (1791) Life of Johnson Vol IV, p.501

When I say they’re my favourites, I don’t mean I necessarily agree with them. In fact, I’d be rather muddle-headed if I did since several of them contradict each other. Rather, I mean that they strike me as pithy and well worded and revealing of everyday societal sense-making about ageing and old age.



  1. Thanks for setting out these quotations, Rebecca. But it would be good to read your comments on why they are so ‘popular’. Some keep popping up, often being presented as if for the first time, whereas others appear – at least to me – to be new ‘discoveries’. What is the relationship between these quotations and the tropes that are so dominant in discourses about age? How come a quotation ends up being ascribed to ‘Anon’ – who first decides the source is unknown? What is the relationship between the citation of such quotes and the cultural assocation between age and wisdom?

    I’m reminded of Joanna’s research into the origins of the poem, Crabbit Old Woman. These poems and quotations become popular because they ring bells and reflect widespread beliefs about the ‘realities’ of age. Not only that but they help consolidate the concept of age and age as something that we have to live with, something distinctive from life and living or change and changing or growth and growing.

    I also think that starting a piece with a quote is a sign of a certain kind of intellectual laziness. I’ve done it myself and it’s often seemed like an effective way of signalling up what is to follow, or at least setting a kind of tone. It might also be a way of connecting up with readers, or at least those readers who recognise the quote or the message and who might be encouraged to starting reading whatever follows.

    Comment by Bill Bytheway — 9th December 2011 @ 16:47 | Reply

    • Good questions! … which I don’t have time to reply to now but will try to return to.

      Thanks for making the link with Joanna’s Kate work (I’ve referenced that in K319) which I hadn’t thought of as the same sort of phenomenon as ‘quotes’. But I think you’re right that they’re similar.

      I entirely agree that starting a piece with a quote is often a bit naff (and also have done it myself. Several times recently). The sarcasm in my first three sentences probably got lost in the writing-down.

      Comment by rememberingmyhat — 15th December 2011 @ 18:25 | Reply

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