A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from October 30, 2010
“Never make forecasts, especially about the future”

"Never make forecasts, especially about the future” is a joke told by economic forecasters. Variations of the saying include “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future” and “It’s difficult to prophesy, especially about the future.” The line has been attributed to movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn (1879-1974), to author Mark Twain (1835-1910), to baseball great Yogi Berra, and to a Chinese proverb—all frequent quotations-origin suspects—but it’s not documented that any of these possible sources had any connection with the saying.

The saying has been especially popular in Denmark and possibly originated in its parliament in the 1930s. Danish cartoonist Robert Storm Petersen (1882-1949), pen named “Storm P,” is frequently given credit for popularizing the saying in Denmark. Danish comedian Victor Borge (1909-2000) and Danish physicist Niels Bohr (1885-1962) both used the saying, but Bohr attributed it to Storm P.

In 1977, Edgar R. Fiedler popularized the “forecasting” version when he included it in his paper, “The Three Rs of Economic Forecasting — Irrational, Irrelevant and Irreverent.”


Who first said “It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future” (or one of its many variants)?
(Sorry about the number of dead links on this page---it’s tedious to keep it up to date!)
Yogi Berra…
Niels Bohr…
Casey Stengel…
Sam Goldwyn…
Dan Quayle…
Will Rogers…
Mark Twain…
Albert Einstein…
Allan Lamport (former mayor of Toronto)...
George Bernard Shaw…
Vicgtor Borge…
Robert Storm Petersen (Danish poet and philosopher)...
Winston Churchill…
Disreali [sic]...
Groucho Marx…
Enrico Fermi…
Woody Allen…
Confucius…
Freeman Dyson…
Cecil B. DeMille…
Vint Cerf…
Dr. Kerr L. White…
M. Taub…
Bob Fourer (of Northwestern University)...
Edgar R. Fiedler…
“a famous philosopher”...
“a famous basketball coach”...
“a golden rule among economists”...
“wise/old Chinese saying/proverb”...

Wikipedia: Samuel Goldwyn
Samuel Goldwyn (August 17, 1879 – January 31, 1974) was an American film producer, and founding contributor executive of several motion picture studios.
(...)
Goldwynisms
Samuel Goldwyn was also known for malapropisms, paradoxes, and other speech errors called ‘Goldwynisms’ ("A humorous statement or phrase resulting from the use of incongruous or contradictory words, situations, idioms, etc.") being frequently quoted, such as:...

Wikiquote: Talk:Samuel Goldwyn
Unsourced
Never make forecasts, especially about the future.

Wikipedia: Robert Storm Petersen
Robert Storm Petersen (19 September 1882 – 6 March 1949) was a Danish cartoonist, writer, animator, illustrator, painter and humorist. He is known almost exclusively by his pen name Storm P.
(...)
Quotes
“It’s tough making predictions, especially about the future,” (this phrase is sometimes, mistakenly, attributed to Yogi Berra)

Wikipedia: Victor Borge
Victor Borge (pronounced /ˈbɔrɡə/ BOR-gə; January 3, 1909 – December 23, 2000), born Børge Rosenbaum, was a Danish comedian, conductor and pianist, affectionately known as The Clown Prince of Denmark, The Unmelancholy Dane, and The Great Dane.

Wikiquote: Niels Bohr
Niels Henrik David Bohr (1885-10-07 – 1962-11-18) was a Danish physicist. He received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1922 for his contributions which were essential to modern understandings of atomic structure and quantum mechanics.
(...)
Disputed
Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.
. As quoted in Teaching and Learning Elementary Social Studies (1970) by Arthur K. Ellis, p. 431 (The first volume of this book is 1977. This “1970” date is incorrect in Google Books—ed.)
. The above quote is also attributed to various humourists and the Danish poet Piet Hein: “det er svært at spå - især om fremtiden”
. It is also attributed to danish cartoonist Storm P (Robert Storm Petersen).

Google Books
In memory of Vilhelm Bjerknes on the 100th anniversary of his birth
By Norske videnskaps-akademi i Oslo.; American Meteorological Society
Oslo: Universitetsforlaget
1962
Pg. 25:
But, to quote a Danish clown philosopher: “It is difficult to prophesy, especially about the future.”

Google Books
How to use the computer in business planning
By Henry F. Lande
Englewood Cliffs, NJ:, Prentice-Hall
1969
Pg. IX:
Let us not forget the old adage, “Forecasting is very difficult, especially about the future.”

Google Books
Technological Forecasting
By R. V. Arnfield; University of Strathclyde
Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press
1969
Pg. 34:
“Forecasting”, a Danish economist is reported to have said, “is very difficult - especially about the future.”

Google Books
Mathematics in Meteorology:
Theory and practice

By William James Gibbs, Australia. Bureau of Meteorology
Australian Government Publishing Service
August 1972
Pg. ?:
A Danish court jester once said “it is difficult to make a prediction, especially about the future”.

Google Books
The Future is Tomorrow: 17Pprospective Studies
Volume 2
By Henri Janne
The Hague: Nijhoff
1972
Pg. 324:
In the words of an old Danish proverb: “It is always difficult to predict, especially about the future.”

24 September 1973, Chicago (IL) Tribune, pg. B15:
It’s difficult to make predictions these days, especially about the future.

Google Books
Deepwater port act of 1973. Joint hearings before the Special Joint Subcommittee on Deepwater Ports Legislation of the Committees on Commerce, Interior and Insular Affairs, and Public Works, United States Senate, Ninety-third Congress, first session, on S. 1751 ... [and] S. 2232
By United States. Congress. Senate. Special Joint Subcommittee on Deepwater Ports Legislation.
Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office
1974
Pg. 1137:
As Mark Twain wrote, “It is hard to predict, especially about the future.”

Google Books
New tools for planning : Delphi, econometrics, operations research : papers presented at the September 1976 meeting of the Chemical Marketing Research Association held in Virginia Beach, Virginia, September 19-21, 1976
By Chemical Marketing Research Association.
Staten Island, NY: The Association
1976
Pg. 42:
A comment attributed to Victor Borge says “Forecasting is extremely difficult, especially about the future.”

Google Books
Teaching and learning elementary social studies
By Arthur K. Ellis
Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon
1977
Pg. 431:
“Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.”
Niels Bohr

Google Books
The Counseling Process
By Sheldon Eisenberg and Daniel J. Delaney
Chicago, IL: Rand McNally College Pub. Co.
1977
Pg. 56:
But an ancient Chinese proverb cautions about such assessments concerning the unrealistic aspirations of another: “It is very difficult to prophesy, especially about the future.”

Google Books
The Christian use of time
By Niels-Erik A Andreasen
Nashville, TN: Abingdon
1978
Pg. 109:
Dreams often do not come true, plans fail or must be revised, and as for prophets, said Storm P. in gentle sarcasm; “It is difficult to prophecy — especially about the future.”

Google News Archive
12 January 1978, Pittsburgh (PA) Post-Gazette, “Rug Makers on the Carpet” by Clara Herron, pg. 8, col. 1:
CHICAGO—“Forecasting is difficult, especially about the future.”

Thomas E. Swanstrom, manager of economic and sales predictions, Sears, Roebuck and Co. repeated the remark by comedian Victor Borge at the winter carpet maket here this week, admitting that unforeseen happenings could pull the rug out from under the rosy future years.

Google News Archive
29 November 1979, Kentucky New Era (Hopkinsville, KY), “Watching the Parade” by Joe Dorris, pg. 4, col. 4:
It is silly to make predictions, especially about the future.

Google News Archive
2 September 1980, Montreal (Quebec) Gazette, “Question from Poland: Can U.S.S.R. last?” (The Economist), pg. 7, col. 1:
Every prognosis here should be salted with all the familiar cautionary phrases, from Samuel Johnson’s snort (when warned in 1770 of Britain’s supposed impending ruin) that “there is a great deal of ruin in a country,” to Samuel Goldwyn’s “never prophesy, especially about the future.”

Google News Archive
6 August 1981, Sarasota (FL) Herald-Tribune, “Experts, Famous Earn Place In Mistake Book,” pg. 5C, col. 3:
As Danish physicist Neils Bohr, so aptly put it, “Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.”

Google Books
America’s New Immigration Law:
Origins, rationales, and potential consequences

By Wayne A. Cornelius and Ricardo Anzaldua Montoya
La Jolla, CA: Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies, University of California, San Diego
1983
Pg. 45:
“Forecasting is very difficult,” remarked the redoubtable Sam Goldwyn, “especially about the future,” so I will not try to predict what will happen to the Simpson-Mazzoli Bill.

Google Books
Ocotber 1991, Baseball Digest, pg. 17:
As Yogi Berra once said, “It’s hard to make predictions, especially about the future.”

Google Books
Statistically Speaking:
A Dictionary of Quotations

By Carl C. Gaither and Alma E Cavazos-Gaither
Philadelphia, PA: Institute of Physics Publishing
1996
Pg. 106:
Forecasting is very difficult, especially about the future.
Fiedler, Edgar R.
Across the Board
The Three Rs of Economic Forecasting — Irrational, Irrelevant and Irreverent
June 1977

Quotations Page and Literature Page Forum
frilanders
Posted: Thu Jul 03, 2003 12:40 pm
Post subject: “Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future
Did actually Niels Bohr say “Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future”? According to http://www.quotationspage.com / Michael Moncur’s (Cynical) Quotations he did, but the Danish don’t (the famous physicist Niels Bohr was Danish). I have checked the major Danish/Norwegian quotation dictionary and the national Ask-a-Librarian service, and they agree. The closest they come is a late MP suggesting its orgin in the parliament in the 1930ies, but he could give no name. However there is no doubt the q. was made known and famous by the Danish artist and humorist Storm P. : http://w1.901.telia.com/~u90112985/storm-p/

The Economist
The perils of prediction, June 2nd
Jul 15th 2007, 17:59 by The Economist | WASHINGTON
SIR —
A letter attributes the following comment to Niels Bohr: Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future. It is said that that Bohr used to quote this saying to illustrate the differences between Danish and Swedish humour.

Bohr himself usually attributed the saying to Robert Storm Petersen (1882-1949), also called Storm P., a Danish artist and writer. However, the saying did not originate from Storm P. The original author remains unknown (although Mark Twain is often suggested).
Felicity Pors
Copenhagen, Denmark

SIR —
I enjoy reading The Economist cover to cover every week, but I was quite befuddled recently when I read similar quotes by different authors in two June issues of the magazine.  “‘It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future’” is attributed to a baseball-playing philosopher, Yogi Berra, followed by “… never make predictions – especially about the future” by Samuel Goldwyn.  A quick internet search revealed a quote “Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future” by Niels Bohr, a Danish physicist. Obviously, my personal quest to resolve the ambiguity is creating more confusion. Granted, all three of these quotes have subtle differences. If these minor differences are all that is needed to be quoted, allow me to offer a new quote from a submariner cum management consultant cum philosopher, “Predictions are very difficult, especially when the future in involved.” Feel free to quote me at liberty.  And keep doing what you are doing, but try not to have discrepancies in back-to-back issues of the magazine.
Kenneth Kicia
Washington, DC

Google Books
The Black Swan:
The Impact of the Highly Improbable

By Nassim Nicholas Taleb
New York, NY: Random House Trade Paperbacks
2010
Pg. 136:
The great baseball coach Yogi Berra has a saying, “It is tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityBanking/Finance/Insurance • (0) Comments • Saturday, October 30, 2010 • Permalink