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OT: Lincoln quote

From: Don Granaman <>
Date: Wed, 12 Sep 2001 22:33:45 -0700
Message-ID: <>

>From a previous post...

Abraham Lincoln, Once asked, "If you call the tail of a dog a leg, how many legs does it have?"
"Five", someone answered. "No", said Lincoln, "Four. Calling a leg a tail doesn't make it so."

This is one of my favorites, but it is slightly mangled here. Change "calling a leg a tail" to "calling a tail a leg" and it makes sense.

It was reported to be his favorite riddle. Supposedly, he used it against Douglas in the first Lincoln-Douglas debate (August 21, 1858) with a "horse" substitution.

I first heard it as:

Lincoln: "How many legs does a lamb have? Secretary: "Four"
Lincoln: "If I say the tail is a leg, then how many does it have? Secretary: "Five"
Lincoln: "No. It has still has four. Calling a lamb's tail a leg doesn't make it so."
Granted, this isn't as concise as the example from the previous post. It is very widely quoted using "dog" instead of "lamb". Sometimes it is "cow", "horse", "donkey", and who knows what other four-legged critters. I prefer "lamb" - it just seems more "Lincolnesque". Also, the only actual fully documented historical reference I've ever seen (the above), many years ago, used "lamb". He pulled it on one of the members of his cabinet to stifle a drift into what we might today call "management speak". I wish I could find that reference again - and the context.

-Don Granaman

[certifiable OraSaurus]

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Author: Don Granaman

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Received on Thu Sep 13 2001 - 00:33:45 CDT

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