Information from the Past and into the Present, Part 3

(a few words from the Reader's Digest, July, 1940)

Words from the Reader's Digest, Quotes and Excerpts from July, 1940

Price: 25 cents a copy; $3.00 a year

Excerpts of humorous and more serious topics

"Wake Up, America!"

Condensed from the syndicated column by Walter Lippmann

For the United States, this is the beginning of the most critical period in 70 years. Our security is gravely jeopardized.

The nation is unprepared in all essential respects: in material for defense, in training, in discipline, in industrial organization, in its politicians, and in its mind and heart to protect adequately and swiftly its vital interests.

Our cities may not be bombed; but if Hitler's offensive succeeds, we shall know no peace in our lifetime.

If the Allied power falls in Europe, we must then resign ourselves to the fact that Japan will be master of the Pacific, and capable of subjecting us to very serious pressure upon essential materials of our economic life.

If the Allied power falls in Europe, our neighbors in the Atlantic will then be not the easygoing British but the Rome-Berlin Axis, intoxicated with victory and drunk with power.

If the Allied power falls in Europe, there will appear in some, perhaps in many, of the countries of this hemisphere subversive movements led by native adventurers, financed and organized by the totalitarian powers.

They will be hard to deal with. They will jeopardize most gravely the inner defenses of the United States.

All of this will not destroy us. But it will mean that we and our children will have to live wholly different lives. Isolated in a world which envies and despises us, we too shall have to become a nation in arms.

We, too, shall have to have conscription; we, too, shall have to regiment capital and labor in order to build the ships, the airplanes, the guns, and tanks without which we shall be harassd and intimidated, threatened, and blackmailed by the coalition on both sides of us.

—Copyright 1940, New York Tribune, Inc., (N.Y. Herald Tribune, May 11, '40) [R.D., pgs. 6-7]

"Keyed Up"

The Navy Department shares private business's idea that pressing documents can be hurried through the barricate of office red tape if specially marked for immediate attention.

The trouble with this system, as the Navy Department discovered, is that people get used to any sort of immediate-attention mark, and you have to resort to a more stimulating one.

Long ago, a Navy Department official got some little pink slips marked "EXPEDITE." Its novelty wore off, and the slips next said "URGENT." This was followed by "RUSH."

Came the inevitable time when documents marked "RUSH" were discovered days later, buried in somebody's desk, and the high command realized that a new word was in order.

Pressing papers are now marked "FRANTIC."

The New Yorker

"He Who Laughs, Lasts"

Mr. Goldberg, returning from Europe on a cruise ship, was assigned by the head steward to a table for two. Here he was presently joined by a polite Frenchman who, before sitting down, bowed, smiled, and said, "Bon appetit."

Not to be outdone, Mr. Goldberg rose, bowed, and said, "Goldberg."

—Contributed by Lloyd C. Douglas [R.D., pg. 22]


When London's Bank of England built an air-raid shelter underground, to protect its staff, its A.R.P. wardens sent a health questionnaire to employes [sic] to find out if they could withstand prolonged imprisonment in the narrow, crowded shelter.

One question was: "Do you suffer from claustrophobia?"

To their amazement, 95 percent of the women employes [sic] answered, "Yes."

Calling in the chief of the women's division, the A.R.P. organizers asked her if she had explained to the girls exactly what "claustrophobia" meant.

"Oh, yes," said she. "I told them it meant being afraid of confinement."

Time [R.D., pg. 79]


  • Not only England, but every Englishman is an island. -M. Novalis
  • A young physician calls his suburban estate Bedside Manor. -Contributed
  • It matters more what's in a woman's face than what's on it. -Claudette Colbert
  • I guess you'd call us friends — we have the same enemies. -Washington Herald
  • The way to fight a woman is with your hat. Grab it and run. -John Barrymore
—[R.D., pg. 97]

For other sources of Information from the Past and into the Present,
see this Information Index page.