Ten Charmingly Mean-Spirited Quotes on Statistics and Data

August 23, 2010 at 8:35 pm 1 comment

Within advertising agencies on five continents, statisticians and data jockeys have made significant progress in their attempts to swathe themselves in the garments of infallibility. Even so, anything more than a cursory glance reveals that their backsides are, just like ours, hanging out and exposed to the same vicissitudes of climate and circumstance.

Occasionally this space is given over to those who have deftly humbled the hubristic ad men of the globe with sharp words. This thrashing we all should endure from time to time as penance for having chosen to worship at so disreputable an altar. Today the space is given over to those who would puncture the brightly colored balloons of statistics and data. I give you ten charmingly mean-spirited quotations that will–it is to be hoped–restore a modicum of–skepticism to the thinking of marketers everywhere:

“An unsophisticated forecaster uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts–for support rather than for illumination.”  – Andrew Lang

“If your experiment needs statistics, you ought to have done a better experiment.”  -Ernest Rutherford

“In ancient times they had no statistics so they had to fall back on lies.”  – Stephen Leacock

“Not everything that can be counted counts; and not everything that counts can be counted.”  – George Gallup

“Don’t be buffaloed by experts and elites. Experts often possess more data than judgment. Elites can become so inbred that they produce hemophiliacs who bleed to death as soon as they are nicked by the real world.”  – Colin Powell

“A statistician is a man who comes to the rescue of figures that cannot lie for themselves.”  -Abraham Maslow

“Satan delights equally in statistics and in quoting scripture….”  -H.G. Wells

“The average human has one breast and one testicle.”  -Des McHale

“Statistics are human beings with the tears wiped off.” – Paul Brodeur

“When I told Jerry that eighty percent of all accidents happen within a mile of the home, he said, “that settles it, we’re moving.” – Barth Gimbel (Martin Mull) recounting a conversation with his sidekick Jerry Hubbard (Fred Willard) on Fernwood 2 Night.

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Entry filed under: Advertising and Marketing. Tags: , , , , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Jeff Gentry  |  October 22, 2010 at 3:24 am

    As a data jockey, I love the quotes and couldn’t agree more. Only politics misuses statistics more than advertising. I’d like to add one more:

    “We can’t show those numbers to the client. Bring me different numbers.” – Anonymous Account Director

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