"Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people."
A) Admiral Hyman G. Rickover
B) Eleanor Roosevelt
C) Samuel Clemens
D) Henry Buckle
E) None of the above
Keep reading for the answer.
If you're already familiar with this quotation, then you're probably under the impression it was Eleanor Roosevelt who first said this. Let me disabuse you of that idea. Although these words have often been attributed to her, it is done so without any citation to an original source. In 1931, The New York Times Review of Books and Art was already investigating the correct wording and origin of the expression. In the 1940's, this saying was frequently quoted as an anonymous proverb. In fact, this was not attributed to E. Roosevelt until the late 1980's or early 1990's. (First known attribution by a Hutchinson, Kansas newspaper in 1987 -- The Hutchinson News, October 28th 1987). The quote has also been attributed to Admiral Rickover. But although he is quoted as saying this, he prefaced it by saying the quote comes from an "unknown sage" thereby disclaiming credit for the quote. And although Samuel Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain, might be renowned for his aphorisms, this one has not been attributed to him. There is some evidence Henry Buckle is the original source. Charles Stewart, in his 1901 autobiography said about Buckle,
"His thoughts and conversation were always on a high level, and I recollect a saying of his, which not only greatly impressed me at the time, but which I have ever since cherished as a test of the mental calibre of friends and acquaintances. Buckle said, in his dogmatic way: 'Men and women range themselves into three classes or orders of intelligence; you can tell the lowest class by their habit of always talking about persons; the next by the fact that their habit is always to converse about things; the highest by their preference for the discussion of ideas.'"
"It has been said long ago that there were three classes of people in the world, and while they are subject to variation, for elemental consideration they are useful. The first is that large class of people who talk about people; the next class are those who talk about things; and the third class are those who discuss ideas. All of us are conscious of this and we have also realized how distasteful the lower thought is after we have accustomed ourselves to the higher."