30 Days of Wisdom — Day 2: Who is Maurice Switzer?


Hi there, welcome to 30 Days of quotes on wisdom as ranked by Goodreads. If you’re new here, this is what I do when I can’t think of anything to write about; if you’re old here… you know the drill.

Let’s go. Here’s the quote:

“It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt of it.”
― Maurice Switzer
tags: misattributed-to-abraham-lincoln, remaining-silent, wisdom — 36732 likes

Great quote. I’ll get to it in a minute. In the meantime, who the who is Maurice Switzer and how the how did he get 36,732 likes on his comment about being silent?

I looked him up. He’s listed on Goodreads as an author of two books, Letters of a Self-Made Failure and Trying It on the Dog. Both internationally acclaimed best-selling tomes.

I guess. His quote outranks SHAKESPEARE and TWAIN! SOCRATES!

I suppose I should follow his advice. Remain silent lest anything I say could be used against me. Did he pen the Miranda right? Mmmmmmnope.

Ok. Back to the quote.

I dated lots of guys like the people he refers to in the latter half of his famous, more popular than John Lennon, misattributed-to-Abraham-Lincoln quote. They were great until they opened their mouths, then it was all, “No. No… give us a kiss, dear.”

My husband is a strong, silent type. Not because he’s dense or a fool, but because he doesn’t bother throwing his pearls before swine. Me? I throw my pearls, fake diamonds, and crappy gemstones all over the place. To anyone who’ll listen, obviously. I have no problem not staying quiet. What I am though, is wiling to learn if I don’t know what I’m talking about.

NnnnNnnnn. He used “talk” in his quote. Should’ve been “speak.”

No. This slice of eloquence more popular than a line from Socrates can’t be from this guy that no one (me) has heard of. I am going to just ascribe it to my beloved, General George Washington, first president of these United States.

Seeing as how George said it, I know it means something. I can respect this quote now.

George was a man of great integrity. He turned down the opportunity to be made king of the United States. He was a silent and judicious type too. He also had red hair; did you know that?

Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m confusing silence with intelligence. There are plenty of times I don’t say a syllable. It’s usually because I don’t want the conversation to go on, because it’s absurd, not because I don’t know the answer or that I risk sounding like a fool if I reply.

I learned a long time ago that not having an opinion or not sharing my opinion was probably one of the most liberating things I could do for myself.

There are people in this world who are quite hell-bent on stirring a pot, just because they are bitter about something else but want the attention that being a pot stirrer garners. I have witnessed full-blown adults, who are feeling invisible about … oh, geraniums, start conversations about controversial topics like the NSA scandal just because no one cares about their thoughts on geraniums. I have even gotten ensnared in such dialogues. These people just want to fight. In these situations, it has to be avoided at all costs lest you be proclaimed a geranium hater. (You ever type “geranium”? It’s hard! The -nium is all counter-intuitive. Let’s see uranium, planetarium, titanium. I don’t like those words. They slow me down.)


Here’s me: I could be humming along in the kitchen simmering my gazpacho over a hot stove (shh!) and along comes your ex-step-veterinarian who is pissy and cold acting. He wants to talk to you about illegal Barbie smuggling. We all know that Barbie smuggling is a heinous crime, even treasonous, but we don’t talk about such things in polite company; any time gazpacho is being cooked, it’s polite company. The question is open-ended.

“Say, Molly… what do you think of the illegal Barbie-smuggling scandals?”

There’s no way out. I am trapped. “Uh, I think it’s … scandalous?”

Nothing can save me. Not the dryer buzzing (because I blew off doing the laundry) or the phone ringing (because no one ever calls me anymore) or even Murphy needing a walk (because I left him on the deck and he’s sunning). And that answer, the one I gave above, is pathetic. What I should have said was,

“I’m not sure where I am on it; what are your thoughts?” and then my rabid ex-step-veterinarian could have Gone Off! with his sentiment and I could just go about my way.

It used to be like that with me and Mom. She would have a burr in her bonnet and I’d simply not know how to deal. After a long time, I figured out that no answer other than an “Oh yeah?” was the best answer. Sometimes, it’s simply better to be silent. Some people can’t be placated though — they can’t help themselves and they just keep blathering on likely from feeling inferior and then what? It’s a hornet’s nest of misdirected whatchamacallit.

Regarding the quote, it’s all a matter of context. If you know your material, then talk all you want. If you don’t know your material, then keep your pie hole shut or simply claim ignorance. Learn from the people who know what they’re talking about. Lots of times though, silence can be misconstrued for complicity or allegiance.

“… Oh. We see now… you’re FOR Barbie smuggling. YOU THINK IT’S OK!!”

I’d rather be considered under-aware on a topic than wrongly aligned with a sentiment. Why, some of our past presidents and members of congress have even managed to come up with that dainty little blurb: “I have no recollection of that,” than risk complete ignorance.

I’m on the fence about this quote even though I think George Washington said it. I don’t know the context of the material. Maybe it was written as a character’s quote or maybe it was autobiographical. It would help to know more about it, but my off-the-cuff opinion is that it’s cowardly. The concept of risk of being considered a fool (by others) from simply speaking connotes cowardice. It’s not what we’re about here on Grass Oil blog, what with our Jung and Brown series and deep introspection sprinkled with humor.

We are all about risk here.

So long as it matters.

Thank you.

About Grass Oil by Molly Field

follow me on twitter @mollyfieldtweet. i'm working on a memoir and i've written two books thus unpublished because i'm a scaredy cat. i hail from a Eugene O'Neill play and an Augusten Burroughs novel but i'm a married, sober straight mom. i write about parenting, mindfulness, irony, personal growth and other mysteries vividly with a bit of humor. "Grass Oil" comes from my son's description of dinner i made one night. the content of the blog is random, simple, funny and clever. stop by, it would be nice to get to know you. :)

3 responses »

  1. Nor many politicians. That’s one of the things I appreciate about President Calvin Coolidge. He knew this quote well. He said himself: “The words of a President have an enormous weight,” he would later write, “and ought not to be used indiscriminately.”

Whatcha Think, Smahtypants?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s