Two statistics quotes

Data are definitive values, not open to manipulation, right? Wrong. Gollum has the right word for data once statistical analysis is brought to play: tricksy.

There’s the quote that many people have heard, about there being

lies, damn lies and statistics

Attribution for this quote, and its ‘correct’ format, is often hotly disputed. Mark Twain certainly used it but he was not the first. What does seem likely, however, is that the word ‘statistics’ first appeared in English at the tail end of the 18th century.

My favourite statistics quote is one that has been modified in various ways, but appears to have originated in a comment made by Ronald Coase, exact form unknown but along the lines of:

If you torture data enough they will tell you anything.

Note that I’m being pedantic here: ‘data’ is the plural form of ‘datum’, hence ‘they will’ rather than ‘it will’.

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2 thoughts on “Two statistics quotes

  1. cirrusjh Post author

    As I said, that is the pedantic view; in real life data is used as a singular or plural noun and I don’t have a problem with that. Living languages are changing all the time to meet current needs.

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