7 Fascinating Facts About Winston Churchill

Yousuf Karsh, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0
Yousuf Karsh, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0 / Yousuf Karsh, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

As one of the most significant British figures of the 20th century, Winston Churchill had a pivotal role in shaping history. Although he is best known as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during World War II, Churchill had plenty of other accomplishments beyond his political and military endeavors.

1. Painting was one of Winston Churchill’s favorite hobbies.

Churchill started painting later in life, but he was able to produce more than 550 works of art before he died in 1965. It was one of his favorite hobbies, and today, his paintings are highly valued. View of Tinherir sold for £612,800 in 2006, while The Goldfish Pool at Chartwell sold for a record price of £1.8 million in 2014. "When I get to heaven I mean to spend a considerable portion of my first million years in painting, and so to get to the bottom of the subject,” Churchill once said.

2. Winston Churchill won a Nobel Prize for Literature.

The former Prime Minister was also a prolific writer. To set himself apart from Winston Churchill—an American novelist with the same name—Churchill often wrote under the name Winston S. Churchill. He was a great writer, producing mostly non-fiction work such as biographies, memoirs, and articles. The only novel and fictional work he wrote was Savrola: A Tale of the Revolution in Laurania.

From 1946 to 1952 (except for 1947), Churchill was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature. He finally won the highly coveted award in 1953, beating 24 other nominees that year. The prestigious accolade was given to him "for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values."

3. The abbreviation “OMG” was first used in a letter to Winston Churchill.

Nowadays, “Oh, my god!” abbreviated as “OMG” is regularly used in everyday conversations. However, the term wasn’t always colloquial. Its first recorded use was more than 100 years ago in a letter written by Lord John Fisher to Churchill. After that initial usage, there are no records of it ever occurring again until the 1990s, when it gained traction and became more widespread to the extent that we know now.

4. Winston Churchill had a speech impediment.

Churchill is known as a great orator, so most people don’t know that he had a lateral lisp. Like his father, he struggled to produce the “s” and “z” sounds. He consulted Sir Felix Semen, a specialist in speech difficulties, who recommended constant practice to get over the difficulty. Following his advice, Churchill rehearsed with phrases like “The Spanish ships I cannot see for they are not in sight.” He also practiced his speeches in advance and anticipated any questions he might receive. He was proud to announce, “My impediment is no hindrance.”

5. Before marrying Clementine, Winston Churchill had proposed to three other women.

Pamela Plowden was always considered to be Churchill’s first great love. He wrote plenty of letters and courted her for many years, but she repeatedly turned down his proposals and married someone else. Later on, Churchill fell in love with American actress Ethel Barrymore, but she rejected his proposal as well. Muriel Wilson then caught his eye, and though he took her on a romantic trip to Venice, she also turned him down. By 1908, Churchill started courting Clementine Hozier, who he married after five months.

6. Winston Churchill lived with a mental illness.

Churchill often had long periods of despair and lethargy where he couldn’t find the will to eat, get out of bed, or do any of his hobbies. He called this feeling of depression his “black dog.” To keep himself occupied and avoid feeling depressed, he would keep writing. His doctor, Lord Moran, wrote in his memoir that he had diagnosed Churchill with bipolar disorder, based on his symptoms.

7. Winston Churchill was an honorary American.

Churchill was actually half-American by birth, as his mother was born in Brooklyn, New York. Former President John F. Kennedy granted him honorary citizenship in 1963, making him one of only eight people to receive such an honor.