Talk:Margaret Atwood

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Transwiki of "Nolite te bastardes carborundorum"[edit]

This article, originally titled Nolite te bastardes carborundorum, was transwikied from List of contributors:

  • [2005-01-21T20:55:12Z] (started entry)
  • [2005-01-21T21:01:40Z] Plop (speedy deletion)
  • [2005-01-22T10:53:58Z] SWAdair (rm Speedy tag, add {{Move to Wikiquote}}) 02:11, 24 Jan 2005 (UTC)


Wikiquote no longer allows unsourced quotations, and they are in process of being removed from our pages (see Wikiquote:Limits on quotations); but if you can provide a reliable and precise source for any quote on this list please move it to Margaret Atwood. --Antiquary 18:24, 30 March 2009 (UTC)[reply]

  • . . . time is compressed like the fist I close on my knee. . . . I hold inside it the clues and solutions and the power for what I must do now.
  • A ratio of failures is built into the process of writing. The wastebasket has evolved for a reason.


  • A voice is a human gift; it should be cherished and used, to utter fully human speech as possible. Powerlessness and silence go together.
  • A word after a word after a word is power (from "Spelling").
  • An eye for an eye only leads to more blindness.
  • Another belief of mine: that everyone else my age is an adult, whereas I am merely in disguise.
  • Because I am a mother, I am capable of being shocked; as I never was when I was not one.
  • Canada was built on dead beavers.
  • For years I wanted to be older, and now I am.
  • Gardening is not a rational act.
  • I hope that people will finally come to realize that there is only one 'race' — the human race — and that we are all members of it.
  • I've never understood why people consider youth a time of freedom and joy. It's probably because they have forgotten their own.
  • If a stranger taps you on the ass and says, "How's the little lady today!" you will probably cringe. But if he's an American, he's only being friendly.
  • If I were going to convert to any religion I would probably choose Catholicism because it at least has female saints and the Virgin Mary.
  • If the national mental illness of the United States is megalomania, that of Canada is paranoid schizophrenia.
  • In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.
  • Men are not to be told anything they might find too painful; the secret depths of human nature, the sordid physicalities, might overwhelm or damage them. For instance, men often faint at the sight of their own blood, to which they are not accustomed. For this reason you should never stand behind one in the line at the Red Cross donor clinic.
  • Never pray for justice, because you might get some.
  • No one knows what causes an outer landscape to become an inner one.
  • Popular art is the dream of society; it does not examine itself.
  • Put yourself in a different room, that's what the mind is for.
  • She even had a kind of special position among men: she was an exception, she fitted none of the categories they commonly used when talking about girls; she wasn't a cock-teaser, a cold fish, an easy lay or a sneaky bitch; she was an honorary person. She had grown to share their contempt for most women.
  • Sons branch out, but one woman leads to another.
  • The answers you get from literature depend upon the questions you pose.
    • Variant: The answers you get from literature depend on the questions you pose.
  • The basic Female body comes with the following accessories: garter belt, panti-girdle, crinoline, camisole, bustle, brassiere, stomacher, chemise, virgin zone, spike heels, nose ring, veil, kid gloves, fishnet stockings, fichu, bandeau, Merry Widow, weepers, chokers, barrettes, bangles, beads, lorgnette, feather boa, basic black, compact, Lycra stretch one-piece with modesty panel, designer peignoir, flannel nightie, lace teddy, bed, head.
  • The beginning of Canadian cultural nationalism was not "Am I really that oppressed?" but "Am I really that boring?".
  • The Eskimo has fifty-two names for snow because it is important to them; there ought to be as many for love.
    • Variant: The Eskimos had 52 names for snow because it was important to them; there ought to be as many for love. ~Margaret Atwood, Surfacing p. 107 978-0385491051
  • The truly fearless think of themselves as normal.
  • Their mothers had finally caught up to them and been proven right. There were consequences after all but they were the consequences to things you didn't even know you'd done.
  • We still think of a powerful man as a born leader and a powerful woman as an anomaly.
  • We thought we were running away from the grownups, and now we are the grownups.
  • You need a certain amount of nerve to be a writer.

Changing a word in a quote to a word that is politically correct[edit]

Regarding the quote about fifty-two names for snow which was changed in this edit to a word that is acceptable today, but is not the word that was used in the original quote. What is the oficial policy at WQ when quoting someone who uttered an offensive word? Anyone? Ottawahitech (talk) 16:17, 16 February 2021 (UTC)[reply]

WQ quotes should be accurate. Changing words renders them inaccurate. There are many words that are used in an offensive way in quotes that are notable, for example, the words pagan or heathen have been used in offensive ways by Christian polemicists and which may be offensive to followers of polytheism. -- ~ #SheSaid 19:40, 27 February 2021 (UTC)[reply]
I agree - the quotes should never be altered or censored. They should be accurate as written or spoken. ~ UDScott (talk) 21:39, 27 February 2021 (UTC)[reply]
And the quote in question is hardly offensive in any way. By looking at the Eskimo article on wikipedia, it seems that the word is only controversial in some countries like Canada. But English speakers will be better aware than me about it. -- ~ #SheSaid 23:47, 27 February 2021 (UTC)[reply]
The word is a no-no in north america, I think? The IP who Politically Corrected it, certainly thought so. Ottawahitech (talk) 01:44, 28 February 2021 (UTC)[reply]
Whether it is offensive or not, it is the statement of the author. If it is quotable it should appear on Wikiquote as the author wrote or spoke it. That said, I know of nothing that prevents adding a brief comment pointing to any controversy regarding a quote. Butwhatdoiknow (talk) 15:36, 28 February 2021 (UTC)[reply]

Slept in the Gymnasium?[edit]

The significance of the following Atwood quote utterly eludes me: "We slept in what had once been the gymnasium. The floor was of varnished wood, with stripes and circles painted on it, for the games that were formerly played there; the hoops for the basketball net were still in place, though the nets were gone." What possible significance does this quotation have? Expansion of Wikiquote's coverage of gymnasiums? Providing a pithy remark on basketball hoops? Ross Fraser 04:00, 7 July 2010 (UTC)[reply]

I swapped the remarkably tepid quote above for a more quotable quote from The Edible Woman (Atwood's first major novel and not otherwise referenced) as well as correcting the date on the quote from Surfacing (this was 1972, not the 1990's date reported which was the release of a certain paperback edition). Ross Fraser 01:53, 8 July 2010 (UTC)[reply]

"Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them."[edit]

I haven't been able to fully track down the source for this quote, but I have been able to dig up various references to it, so I wanted to share them here.

The most common way the quote is phrased is above: "Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.". However, various other phrasings are also found:

Novelist Margaret Atwood writes that when she asked a male friend why men feel threatened by women, he answered, "They are afraid women will laugh at them." When she asked a group of women why they feel threatened by men, they said, "We're afraid of being killed."

And from wikipedia:Margaret Joe, a member of the Yukon Legislative Assembly:

a brief quote by Margaret Atwood.
“’Why do men feel threatened by women?’ I asked a male friend of mine.
“’They are afraid women will laugh at them’, he said, ‘undercut their world view.’
“Then I asked some women students, ‘Why do women feel threatened by men?’ ”’They are afraid of being killed,’ they said."

Note the addition of the "undercut their world view", which I haven't see in most of the other examples.

Also, as cited (#2253) in Margaret Atwood: A Reference Guide, 1988-2005, a letter to the editor:

Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood once asked a male friend why men feel threatened by women. He replied, "They are afraid women will laugh at them." She then asked a group of women why they feel threatened by men. They answered, "We're afraid of being killed." - Meghan Casey, Richfield.

I'll continue to try and dig up references, but if anyone else has suggestions, that would be very appreciated! 21:44, 25 January 2013 (UTC)[reply]

I found a reference that seemed to provide a source: Second Words (1983). And I found it in there, on page 413!

"Why do men feel threatened by women?" I asked a male friend of mine. So this male friend of mine, who does by the way exist, conveniently entered into the following dialogue. "I mean," I said, "men are bigger, most of the time, they can run faster, strangle better, and they have on the average a lot more money and power." "They're afraid women will laugh at them," he said. "Undercut their world view." Then I asked some women students in a quickie poetry seminar I was giving, "Why do women feel threatened by men?" "They're afraid of being killed," they said.
  • Atwood, Margaret, Writing the Male Character (1982) (reprinted in Second Words: Selected Critical Prose from a Hagey Lecture on February 9, 1982, at the University of Waterloo)

I'll add it to the page now. 22:18, 25 January 2013 (UTC)[reply]

This exact phrasing appears to be from Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker with a few words missing. If you search the phrase in the book, it appears on p. 67 ( The exact quote appears to be "At core, men are afraid women will laugh at them, while at core, women are afraid men will kill them." EvergreenFir (talk) 06:29, 13 July 2013 (UTC)[reply]

As indicated above The Gift of Fear: And Other Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence (1997) by Gavin De Becker contains a similar statement, but it also indicates some prior use of such expressions: "It is understandable that the perspectives of men and women on safety are so different—men and women live in different worlds. I don’t remember where I first heard this simple description of one dramatic contrast between the genders, but it is strikingly accurate: At core, men are afraid women will laugh at them, while at core, women are afraid men will kill them." ~ Kalki·· 07:42, 10 August 2017 (UTC)[reply]