Muhammad Ali and the Abuse of Ellipses


In February 1966, Muhammad Ali said:

I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong.

In March 1967 he said:

My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father.

In popular culture, this has become:

I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong…They never called me nigger.

I have to say that this is a pretty breezy employment of ellipses. Using them to indicate the passage of a few sentences? Fine. Using them to indicate the passage of 13 months? I have to cry foul on that, no matter how good it makes the quote.

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