I had heard this story about British Prime Minister Winston Churchill
and his violation of one of the sillier rules of grammar in High School
. I was a bit vague on the details, so off to the search engine
The result was surprising. Most everyone was more
vague on the details than my recollection from high school, and after throwing these out, I still had three different variations on the story!
The story, as relayed to me by my German
teacher, was that in a question session after one of Churchill's public speeches, some smart-ass reporter
pointed out that Winnie
had used a preposition at the end of a sentence. "This is something up with which I shall not put!" replied Churchill.
The Web saith:
When one of Churchill's secretaries started revising speeches to avoid using prepositions at the ends of sentences, he fired a testy memo back to the secretary: "This is English up with which I shall not put!"
- "ending a sentence
with a preposition is a proposition, up with which I will not put".
- "The sort of arrant pedantry up with which I will not put".
Churchill had just given an important speech before the assembled members of Parliament. One young back-bencher turned to an older member and said, "I am losing my respect for Sir Winston as a grammarian. Did you notice he ended two sentences with prepositions?"
A few days later, the older gentleman told Sir Winston what their young colleague had said. Churchill thought for a moment about the subject of prepositions and then said," You tell our confused young friend that his criticism is the kind of nonsense up with which I shall not put."
- http://www.paw.com/sail/scuttlebutt/526.html (a sailing website, of all places) states that "this is English, up with which I shall not put" appeared in one of Churchill's marked-up copies of a draft of something written by Anthony Eden.
In the final irony, someone else claimed that "up with which I shall not put" was a phrase uttered by his own German teacher who had a habit of mentally translating German syntax into English. I suspect this was the teacher teasing him.
So, I guess he said it, I just can't get the real story
I will not
rule out the possibility that Churchill made his now famous retort to all of these people in their various forms -- Churchill was well known for re-using a turn of phrase he thought particularly clever over, and over, and over (e.g. "Iron Curtain
"), and over.