Reversible quotations

1 minute read

Walking around the Imperial War Museum today, I saw this quote:

John F. Kennedy:

Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind.

I realised that this kind of quote, which I’ll call a “reversible quote”, is pretty popular. But all you really need to do is sit down and think of two concepts (i.e. “mankind” and “war”), join them with a verb (i.e. “end”), and then reverse it. Or, for another form, think of a verb (i.e. “fail”) and a noun that can also be a verb (i.e. “plan”). Here’s a few other quotes I found. I’m sure there’s lots of others, feel free to suggest them and we can create a master list of reversible quotations.

John F. Kennedy:

And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.

John F. Kennedy:

Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.

Harry S. Truman:

A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities and an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties.

Abraham Lincoln:

And in the end it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.

Abraham Lincoln:

For those who like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing they like. [eh?!]

Ronald Reagan:

Peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.


He who fails to plan, plans to fail.

It’s not exactly a reversible quotation, but I couldn’t resist:

George W. Bush:

I just want you to know that, when we talk about war, we’re really talking about peace.

This all looks pretty easy to me, so I’m inspired to try some of my own:

Tim G. Jones:

A photographer may think he is taking a photograph of a place, but really the photograph is taking the photographer… places.

Okay, so it’s not that easy. Let’s try again using the second form.

Tim G. Jones:

He who prizes the win, wins the prize.

See? Instant eloquence guaranteed. It doesn’t even need to be true.


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