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Monday, February 6, 2012

Quintessential Quote #37

"It is impossible as I stated it, and therefore I must in some respect have stated it wrong."
-- Sherlock Holmes, "The Adventure of the Priory School"
Let's compare this to the famous Quintessential Quote #1 from The Sign of Four: "How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?"

The "eliminate the impossible" quote refers to the simple process of elimination, or "process of exclusion" as Holmes calls it in A Study in Scarlet. That is certainly a key element of any investigation, whether criminal or chemical. And the way it is stated usefully focuses on not excluding the improbable along with the impossible.

"It is impossible as I stated it," on the other hand, focuses on the seemingly impossible and warns us to look beyond the surface appearances. What appears to be impossible may not be.

If I were a consulting detective or his Boswell, I think I would find that a very useful warning indeed.

What's your favorite quote from the world of Sherlock Holmes?

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