Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Columnist

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Columnist

Article excerpt

Byline: KEITH HANN

YEARS ago I had a client whose catchphrase was "I never said that."

Twice a year, as regular as clockwork, his now long-vanished company would present results falling well short of the optimistic projections everyone remembered him making six months earlier.

Everyone, that is, apart from the person who had actually uttered the words.

This was a much easier trick to pull off in the days before nearly everyone wandered around with a phone that doubles as an audio and video recorder.

Though the shifting sands of our memories distort even words that have been captured on camera. Witness "Play it again, Sam" becoming the most famous line from Casablanca, even though it is ever uttered in the film.

There are people who seem dedicated to sucking the pleasure from life by debunking famous quotations. Look up any great wit's most hilarious sayings and you will almost certainly find a leaden, spoilsport footnote advising you that there is no proof that Churchill, Wilde or whoever it might be ever uttered any such words.

This is particularly hard on those who have come up with one amusing saying in a lifetime, like the recently deceased Mandy-Rice Davies, whose unoriginal but perfectly-timed "Well, he would, wouldn't he?" earned her a place in every dictionary of quotations.

Only for a distinguished barrister who had made extensive notes during the relevant hearing to write to The Times last year claiming that she had never said it, despite its being widely reported in the media at the time.

I prefer to sustain myself with the belief that every wit really did make all those lightning-fast ripostes, just as I delude myself that I used the hilarious line that nearly always occurs to me shortly after a conversation has ended.

Currently, like most parents, I derive most pleasure from the utterances of my own children. Mrs Hann, determined to make our offspring understand that there is more to Christmas than Santa and presents, announced that we would attend the crib service in Whittingham on Christmas Eve.

Charlie, aged 51/2, was aghast. …

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