Fools

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A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. ~ Douglas Adams

A fool refers to someone being ignorant and confused about matters; someone duped, an unwise person or a madman.

See also:
Comedy
Clowns
Foolishness
Ignorance
Laughter

Quotes[edit]

The three greatest fools of History have been Jesus Christ, Don Quixote . . . and me! ~ Simón Bolívar
It is a fool's prerogative to utter truths that no one else will speak. ~ Neil Gaiman
I have great faith in fools — self-confidence my friends will call it. ~ Edgar Allen Poe
Any fool can make a rule
And any fool will mind it. ~ Henry David Thoreau
The trouble ain't that there is too many fools, but that the lightning ain't distributed right. ~ Mark Twain
Alphabetized by author or source
  • A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.
  • Drinking makes such fools of people, and people are such fools to begin with, that it's compounding a felony.
  • For there is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool for ever; seeing that which now is in the days to come shall all be forgotten. And how dieth the wise man? as the fool.
  • But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
  • Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise.
  • Un sot trouve toujours un plus sot qui l'admire.
    • Translation: A fool always finds one still more foolish to admire him.
    • Variant A fool always finds a greater fool to admire him.
    • Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux, L'Art Poétique (The Art of Poetry), Canto I, l. 232 (1674).
  • The three greatest fools of History have been Jesus Christ, Don Quixote . . . and me!
    • Simón Bolívar, words reportedly said to his physician in his final days, but not his last words, as quoted in Our Lord Don Quixote : The Life of Don Quixote and Sancho, with Related Essays (1967) by Miguel de Unamuno, as translated by Anthony Kerrigan, p. 386
    • Variant translations or versions:
    • The three greatest fools (majaderos) of history have been Jesus Christ, Don Quixote — and I!
      • As quoted in Simón Bolívar and Spanish American Independence, 1783-1830 (1968) by John J. Johnson and Doris M. Ladd, p. 115.
    • The three greatest idiots in history, have been Jesus Christ, Don Quixote, and myself.
      • As quoted in Nineteenth-century Gallery : Portraits of Power and Rebellion (1970) by Stanley Edward Ayling, p. 122.
    • In the course of history, there have been three radicals: Jesus Christ, Don Quixote, and... me.
    • The three biggest fools in the world have been Jesus Christ, Don Quixote, and... me.
    • Jesus Christ, Don Quixote and I: three greatest fools of history.
    • We have sewn the sea — Jesus Christ, Don Quixote and me: the three great fools of history...
    • I’ve been plowing in the sea. Jesus Christ, Don Quixote and I — the three great mavericks of history.
  • Foolproof systems do not take into account the ingenuity of fools.
  • The reason why fools and knaves thrive better in the world than wiser and honester men is because they are nearer to the general temper of mankind, which is nothing but a mixture of cheat and folly.
  • Twenty-seven millions, mostly fools.
    • Thomas Carlyle, Latter-Day Pamphlets (1850), no. 6, p. 15, used several times in reference to the citizens of Great Britain. Champ Clark, referring to this remark added, "While the percentage of fools in this country is not so large, there are still enough to fatten the swindlers…. The percentage of fools in this country is not so great as Carlyle states it, but nevertheless it is quite large."—Champ Clark, My Quarter Century of American Politics (1920), p. 213.
  • You will be amused when you see that I have more than once deceived without the slightest qualm of conscience, both knaves and fools. As to the deceit perpetrated upon women, let it pass, for, when love is in the way, men and women as a general rule dupe each other. But on the score of fools it is a very different matter. I always feel the greatest bliss when I recollect those I have caught in my snares, for they generally are insolent, and so self-conceited that they challenge wit. We avenge intellect when we dupe a fool, and it is a victory not to be despised for a fool is covered with steel and it is often very hard to find his vulnerable part. In fact, to gull a fool seems to me an exploit worthy of a witty man.
  • Wise men learn more from fools than fools from the wise.
    • Cato the Elder, Plutarch's Life of Cato
    • Variant: Wise men profit more from fools than fools from wise men; for the wise men shun the mistakes of fools, but fools do not imitate the successes of the wise.
  • Young men think old men are fools; but old men know young men are fools.
    • George Chapman in All Fools (1605), act V, scene ii, lines 205–6. This was a common proverb which appeared not only in Chapman's play, first published in 1605, but in other works as well. See The Oxford Dictionary of English Proverbs (1970), p. 927–28.
  • 'Tis hard if all is false that I advance,
    A fool must now and then be right by chance.
  • Every man is made a fool through his own wisdom.
  • We assemble parliaments and councils, to have the benefit of their collected wisdom; but we necessarily have, at the same time, the inconvenience of their collected passions, prejudices, and private interests. By the help of these, artful men overpower their wisdom, and dupe its possessors; and if we may judge by the acts, arrêts, and edicts, all the world over, for regulating commerce, an assembly of great men is the greatest fool upon earth.
    • Benjamin Franklin, letter to Benjamin Vaughan, July 26, 1784; in Albert H. Smyth, ed., The Writings of Benjamin Franklin (1906), vol. 9, p. 241.
  • It is a fool's prerogative to utter truths that no one else will speak.
  • The world is filled with fools, but none of them considers himself one, or tries not to be one.
  • Hope maketh fol man ofte blenkes.
  • There are two kinds of fools: one says, "This is old, therefore it is good"; the other says, "This is new, therefore it is better."
  • If people keep opposing you when you are right, you think them fools; and after a time, right or wrong, you think them fools simply because they oppose you.
    • Randall Jarrell, “Poets: Old, New, and Aging”, p. 44, Kipling, Auden & Co: Essays and Reviews 1935-1964 (1980).
  • A man may be a fool and not know it, but not if he is married.
  • Few human creatures would consent to be changed into any of the lower animals for a promise of the fullest allowance of a beast’s pleasures; no intelligent human being would consent to be a fool, no instructed person would be an ignoramus, no person of feeling and conscience would be selfish and base, even though they should be persuaded that the fool, the dunce, or the rascal is better satisfied with his lot than they are with theirs.
  • There are three kinds of fools in this world, fools proper, educated fools and rich fools. The world persists because of the folly of these fools.
  • I have great faith in fools — self-confidence my friends will call it.
  • Fools rush in where Angels fear to tread.
  • For, as blushing will sometimes make a whore pass for a virtuous woman, so modesty may make a fool seem a man of sense.
    • Alexander Pope, Thoughts on Various Subjects, published in Swift's Miscellanies (1727).
  • Some old men, by continually praising the time of their youth, would almost persuade us that there were no fools in those days; but unluckily they are left themselves for examples.
    • Alexander Pope, Thoughts on Various Subjects, published in Swift's Miscellanies (1727).
  • Il y a des gens niais qui se connaissent, et qui emploient habilement leur niaiserie.
    • There are foolish people who know and who skillfully use their folly.
    • François de La Rochefoucauld, Maximes (1665–1678), No. 208. Translation: J. W. Willis Bund and J. Hain Friswell (1871).
    • Variant: There are foolish people who recognize their foolishness and use it skillfully.
  • Il n'y a point de sots si incommodes que ceux qui ont de l'esprit.
    • No fools so wearisome as those who have some wit.
    • François de La Rochefoucauld, Maximes (1665–1678), No. 451. Translation: J. W. Willis Bund and J. Hain Friswell (1871).
    • Variant: No fools are so difficult to manage as those with some brains.
  • No Man is so much a Fool as not to have Wit enough sometimes to be a Knave ; nor any so cunning a Knave, as not to have the Weakness sometimes to play the Fool.
  • Who's the more foolish, the fool or the fool who follows him?
  • A young man sees a terribly venomous snake in his small village. Nervous, he watches the snake carefully until it leaves.The young man follows the snake into the forest. He clears the branches out of its path and helps it over obstacles. He even works to keep it fed. Many nights pass and still the young man continues to follow the snake. He even follows it into the sands of the great desert. In the desert, the snake eventually grows hungry. It turns and bites the young man, its poison quickly working its way into his system. Finally curious, the snake looks at the boy as he lays dying and asks, "Why were you foolish enough to follow me all the way out into the desert?" The boy looks back and replies, "Did I follow you? I thought I was leading you away from everyone else..." And then he died.
    • Jolee Bindo to Revan, in Star Wars, Knights of the Old Republic.
  • 'Tis an old maxim in the schools,
    That flattery's the food of fools;
    Yet now and then your men of wit
    Will condescend to take a bit.
  • When I hear any man talk of an unalterable law, the only effect it produces upon me is to convince me that he is an unalterable fool.
    • Sydney Smith, in Peter Plymley's Letters (1808), Letter IV.
  • Taciturnitas stulto homini pro sapientia est.
    • Translation: Let a fool hold his tongue and he will pass for a sage.
    • Publius Syrus, Maxim 914.
  • Any fool can make a rule
    And any fool will mind it.
  • Fools rush in where angels fear to tread, and the angels are all in heaven, but few of the fools are dead.
  • Now and then there's a fool such as I am over you
    You taught me how to love
    And now you say that we are through
    I'm a fool, but I'll love you dear
    Until the day I die
    Now and then there's a fool such as I.
  • The trouble ain't that there is too many fools, but that the lightning ain't distributed right.
    • Mark Twain, as quoted in Deduction : Introductory Symbolic Logic (2002) by Daniel A. Bonevac, p. 56.
  • The world is made up, for the most part, of fools and knaves, both irreconcilable foes to truth.
    • George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, in "Letter to Mr. Clifford, on his Human Reason"; also in The Works of His Grace, George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham (London: T. Evans, 1770) vol. 2, p. 105.
  • The best way in which to silence any friend of yours whom you know to be a fool is to induce him to hire a hall. Nothing chills pretense like exposure.
    • Woodrow Wilson, remarks to the Motion Picture Board of Trade, New York City (January 27, 1916); in Arthur S. Link, ed., The Papers of Woodrow Wilson (1981), vol. 36, p. 17.
  • I have always been among those who believed that the greatest freedom of speech was the greatest safety, because if a man is a fool, the best thing to do is to encourage him to advertise the fact by speaking. It cannot be so easily discovered if you allow him to remain silent and look wise, but if you let him speak, the secret is out and the world knows that he is a fool.
    • Woodrow Wilson, “That Quick Comradeship of Letters,” address at the Institute of France, Paris, May 10, 1919. — The Public Papers of Woodrow Wilson, ed. Ray Stannard Baker and William E. Dodd, vol. 5, p. 484 (1927).
  • Be wise with speed;
    A fool at forty is a fool indeed.
  • At thirty, man suspects himself a fool;
    Knows it at forty, and reforms his plan.

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