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Mark Twain on kindness. Probably not.

Yesterday I clicked on a link to a post and was greeted by a an insterstitial page that said only:

Kindness is a language which the deaf and the blind can read.

This raised a few questions:

  • What was going through Forbes’ head when it decided to show us this pap? Does Forbes think that maybe we’re on the verge of kindness and just need this nudge?

  • Did Twain ever actually say this?

  • Why is there any question about what the deaf can read?

So I turned to Google. Herewith my findings:

1. There are a number of variations, including the more logical

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”

2. At Google Books, there are 1,800 results for “mark twain” kindness deaf. The ones I poked at do not provide a source for the quote, although The Gratitude Attitude footnotes it…but Google Books doesn’t show the page with the footnote.

3. If you search Google Books by author for the words “kindness,” “blind,” and “deaf”, you get nine results. None of the four that have the quote cite a source for it.

4. Google Books has an Advanced Search page: It produces a query at plain old Google of the form:

kindness deaf blind inauthor:”Mark Twain”

Two paired über-conclusions:

1. Mark Twain did not say this quote OR Mark Twain said it but it was not recorded in a work indexed by Google Books.

2. My searching skills are inadequate OR I just don’t care enough. (twitter: Quote Investigator) has taken up this case and reports the following (earliest at the top):

5 Responses to “Mark Twain on kindness. Probably not.”

  1. The quote you cited doesn’t sound at all like Mark Twain. It sounds quite like Kahlil Gibran, the lebanese poet, author of “The Prophet,” and many other works.

  2. okumak okuyabilmek görmek görebilmek duymak duyabilmek ayn? terimi içermiyor :)

  3. […] thanks to David Weinberger @dweinberger whose inquiry gave impetus to QI to formulate this question and initiate this […]

  4. there you go guys…

    1942 May 18, St. Petersburg Times, Walter Winchell On Broadway (Syndicated), Quote Page 10, Column 2, St. Petersburg, Florida. (Google News Archive)

  5. This may provide the answer for which you’re looking:


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