E. B. White – Writings from The New Yorker 1927-1976 (1948)

The liberal holds that he is true to the republic when he is true to himself. (It may not be as cozy an attitude as it sounds.) He greets with enthusiasm the fact of the journey, as a dog greets a man’s invitation to take a walk. And he acts in the dog’s way, too, swinging wide, racing ahead, doubling back, covering many miles of territory that the man never traverses, all in the spirit of inquiry and the zest for truth. … When the two of them get home and flop down, it is the liberal–the wide-ranging dog–who is covered with burdocks and with information of a special sort on out-of-the-way places. Often ineffective in direct political action, he is the opposite of the professional revolutionary, for, unlike the latter, he never feels he knows where the truth lies, but is full of rich memories of places he has glimpsed it in. He is, on the whole, more optimistic than the revolutionary, or even the Republican in a good year.


E. B. White – Writings from The New Yorker 1927-1976 (1948)

But there it stands–a clear guide to the life of expediency, a simple formula for journalism by acceptance, a short essay on how to run a newspaper by saying only the words the public wants to hear said. It seems to us that Dr. Bush hands his students not a sword but a weather vane. Under such conditions, the fourth estate becomes a mere parody of the human intelligence, and had best be turned over to bright birds with split tongues or to monkeys who can make change.


E. B. White – Writings from The New Yorker 1927-1976 (1938)

A Bureau of Fine Arts would indeed accelerate culture, in that it would provide public money for creative enterprise, and by so doing would make it easier for artists and writers to go on being artists and writers, as well as for persons who are not artists and writers to continue the happy pretence.

“Accelerating Culture”

E. B. White – Writings from The New Yorker 1927-1976 (1939)

You have, of course, observed this phenomenon of the American press–the sentence with no verb. From a literary standpoint it is the prose invention of the century, for it enables the writer to sound as though he were saying something without actually saying it.

It is perhaps only fair to columnists and to the subjects of their stillborn sentences to confess that, a year or more ago, when we discovered that unfinished sentences were having a bad effect on our nerves, we took to completing all sentences under our breath–using a standard predicate. We found that the predicate “ought to be in bed” served well enough, and that is the one we still use.

“No Verbs”

E. B. White – Writings from The New Yorker 1927-1976 (1950)

When we read the word “dismal” in the Times, we knew that the era of pure science was drawing to a close and the day of philosophical science was at hand. … There are, of course, no evil days in nature, no dies mali, and the forecast plainly showed that the weatherman had been spending his time indoors. To the intimates of rain, no day is dismal, and a dull sky is as plausible as any other. … No one can write knowingly of weather who walks bent over on wet days.



Isaac Asimov – Second Foundation (1953)

The Student put his hand upon the sheaf of calculating paper he had brought with him and said, “Are you sure that the problem is a factual one?”

“The premises are true. I have distorted nothing.”

“Then I must accept the results, and I do not want to.”

“Naturally. But what have your wants to do with it?”