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    Categories: Quotes

Only kings

Only kings, presidents, editors, and people with tapeworms have the right to use the editorial ‘we’.

Mark Twain

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  • So do I. Which is why it pains me to report that Mark Twain never said any such thing. (It does sometimes seem that the whole of the Internet can be divided into three parts: porn, cat pictures, and witty sayings wrongly attributed to Mark Twain.)

    A little digging reveals that the line, or something very similar, was first reported in 1877 by the Daily Illinois State Journal, as part of a speech by U.S. senator Roscoe Conkling:

    Conkling replied, very contemptuously, “Yes; I have noticed that there are three classes of people who always say ‘we’ instead of ‘I.’ They are emperors, editors, and men with a tape-worm.”

    The line wasn’t attributed to Mark Twain until years after Twain’s death, by which time, I suppose, most or all of his funny contemporaries had been forgotten by an ungrateful posterity, and their quips and anecdotes fathered instead onto the one living humorist of the Gilded Age whose name was still widely remembered.

    There is a full article on this particular quotation here:
    https://quoteinvestigator.com/2015/06/13/we/