An excellent and true quote. First uttered by Mark Twain it has subsequently become a ubiquitous aphorism about statistics. It refers to the abuses of statistics. While statistics is a branch of mathematics that commonly gets the bum rap, it is frequently misused by those who either have a poor understanding of it or aren't being honest. Misleading statistics should be considered damn lies, just as Twain so eloquently stated. For an excellent example of misleading statistics, see the thousands of hours shpiel from Amazon's propaganda defending their "innovative" one-click shopping patent.

Actually, the phrase was first said by Benjamin Disraeli, possibly to Mark Twain. The attribution of the phrase to Twain is a common example of misinformation readily available on the internet.

It is true that Twain had a rather skeptical opinion of statistics, as evidenced by other quotes attributed to him (at least on the internet): "Most people use statistics the way a drunk uses a lamp post: more for support than illumination." And, ironically, "Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please."

Here is slightly more clarification on the quote's origin. Mark Twain used it in his autobiography but attributed it to Benjamin Disraeli. The strange thing is, there is no record of Disraeli actually using it in his speeches or writings.

kisses says that the two may have spoken to each other but IMHO that's not too likely. Did Samuel Clemens ever travel to England or Disraeli travel to America? I don't know.

What's more likely is that Mark Twain lied to give weight to his point. please don't hurt me, Mark Twain was great but he became a little weird later in life.

Certain nodes here, Watergate, and Richard M. Nixon show people hate politicians and Mark Twain was definitely a populist. I guess that having Abraham Lincoln in the same era as him cut down on the possibility of attributing the quote to American politicians since no one else had the same stature.

Okay, my last two paragraphs were simply conjecture but the fact remains, Mark Twain attributed a quote to Benjamin Disraeli. If you have an alternate theory (probably "He heard it from some guy") I would like to hear it, my theory sounds vindictive.

edited later As additional support you can go to this website http://www1c.btwebworld.com/quote-unquote/p0000149.htm. Sorry about the Internet link but I don't want to rip off the website wholesale.

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