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I think I remember reading somewhere a glib (or is it deep?) quote, perhaps due to Rota?, which was something like

"All of combinatorics is essentially [or can be reduced to?] the representation theory of the symmetric group."

Does anyone know the actual quote / who said or wrote it / a reference to it? Or even a second-hand or third-hand reference, e.g. a paper where author X says "I've heard it said that..." or "Person Y told me that Rota once said..."

(I tried Googling, but found it difficult to come up with a query that got me quotations as opposed to lots of papers on representation theory, combinatorics, or the symmetric group. The quotation may of course be in such a paper, but the results were often so numerous as to be unhelpful.)

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Reminds me of a thing I just read: math.ucla.edu/~pak/hidden/papers/Quotes/… –  Andy B May 15 '13 at 19:09
This seems to fail badly in the case of hungarian style combinatorics :) –  Dan Sălăjan May 15 '13 at 19:19
The converse may be true: the representation theory of the symmetric group can be reduced to combinatorics. –  Geoff Robinson May 15 '13 at 19:53
I think Igor Pak (?) once said something like "gambling is the applied representation theory of the symmetric group," but I don't have a citation so I may have just imagined this. –  Qiaochu Yuan May 15 '13 at 20:31
Dan and Geoff: that's why I called it glib :). –  Joshua Grochow May 15 '13 at 20:51

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