Proverbial wisdom

“Promises are like pie-crusts, made to be broken.” Many American politicians, but quite especially Ronald Reagan, were fond of quoting Lenin to this effect, insinuating that communists are not to be trusted. And as cynical as can be. Reagan thought he had read that Lenin had said this somewhere. As a matter of fact, Lenin had said “The promises like pie-crusts are leaven to be broken”, which he called “an English proverb”. Lenin’s point was not that he believed in what the proverb said but that his opponents did! The proverb actually first appears in an English text, Swift’s Polite Conversation, in the form of a comment by Lady Answerall: “I beg your pardon, my Lord, Promises and Pye-Crusts, they say, are made to be broken.” (Keyes, Ralph: Quote Verifier. Who Said What, Where, and When? New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2006: 174)

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