"We do quotation differently now"
July 20, 2018 2:12 PM   Subscribe

Lincoln Said What? Bogus Quotations Take On A New Life On Social Media is a 2017 piece noting "But quotations can be bogus in different ways."

There's a collection of quotations commonly misattributed to Thomas Jefferson. The C.S. Lewis foundation has a page on Quotes Misattributed. So does the International Churchill Society: Quotes Falsely Attributed to Winston Churchill. Elsewhere, "quotations either misquoted or erroneously attributed to Henry D. Thoreau". And then there's Misattributed Alice in Wonderland quotes spotted on all sorts of merchandise.

Ursula K. Le Guin wrote
"A false attribution on the Internet is like box elder beetles, the miserable little things just keep breeding and tweeting and crawling out of the woodwork."
in a 2015 blog post about a persistent misattribution.

[Previously: Ms. Attribution]
posted by readinghippo (26 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
"If you'll excuse me, I need to run to the outhouse." - George Washington
posted by grumpybear69 at 2:20 PM on July 20, 2018


So Gandalf (as played by Sir Patrick Stewart) never said, "use the force, Harry."?
posted by acidnova at 2:28 PM on July 20, 2018 [10 favorites]


Sometimes it takes only a slight change in an actual quotation to completely alter its meaning. In his Life of Samuel Johnson, James Boswell recalls how Johnson once upbraided him for repeating some fashionable platitudes: "My dear friend, clear your mind of cant."

In recent years that remark has been reinvented as a motivational slogan simply by inserting an apostrophe before the 't' of "can't" to turn it into a contraction. That's all it took to transform it into exactly the kind of fatuous cliché that Johnson urged Boswell to clear his mind of and to transform the most caustic wit in all of English literature into an apostle of positive thinking.


That is simultaneously puke-worthy and wondrous.
posted by Atom Eyes at 2:33 PM on July 20, 2018 [48 favorites]


Clickhole's Instagram account has a series called #TheySaidWhat mocking this sort of thing, where they just straight up invent ridiculous quotes and attribute them to celebrities.

E.g.

#wow
posted by tobascodagama at 2:35 PM on July 20, 2018 [5 favorites]


Fake Buddha Quotes is another useful resource. "I can't believe it's not Buddha!"
posted by Lexica at 2:39 PM on July 20, 2018 [7 favorites]


Clickhole's Instagram account has a series called #TheySaidWhat mocking this sort of thing, where they just straight up invent ridiculous quotes and attribute them to celebrities.

E.g.


The invented quote there is "You'd think antelopes and cantaloupes would have something in common, but it's just another of life's cruel tricks."

It seems like only yesterday, such a quote was widely attributed to a prominent public figure. Wait, it was yesterday:
Speaking to a crowd at a White House event called Pledge to America’s Workers, Trump came across a line in the prepared text that included the word apprenticeships. Then he went off script: “That’s an interesting word for me to be saying, right? The Apprentice. I never actually put that together until just now,” he said.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:55 PM on July 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


"My dear friend, clear your mind of cant."


Considering Johnson's temperament, and Boswell's preference for a particular sort of extracurricular activity, I suspect that the word in the original quote wasn't "cant" either.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:32 PM on July 20, 2018 [6 favorites]


“Everything is about sex, except for sex. Sex is about beans.”
— Oscar Wilde, perhaps
posted by acb at 3:50 PM on July 20, 2018 [7 favorites]


Simon says quit misquoting me you little sociopaths
posted by kleinsteradikaleminderheit at 4:35 PM on July 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


So Gandalf (as played by Sir Patrick Stewart)

Hey does anyone know how to get a hold of the people making that new LOTR show for Amazon?
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 4:50 PM on July 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


"I fucking love making up quotes and flying kites and shit." - George Franklin, 1776
posted by Krazor at 4:54 PM on July 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


cf: Einstein, Mark Twain

And let us not forget the venerable Quote Investigator.
posted by thelonius at 5:16 PM on July 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


I wonder if the rise of social media has really only changed the ability to track the circulations of bogus quotes. When they were in books -- and those of us who remember books also remember that a lot of those books were, like, wrong -- they circulated, but without easy tracking.

Also, bogus quotes are definitely not limited to internetting even today. There was one (of an intentionally edited to be misleading sort) in the Washington Post yesterday concerning birthright citizenship. (Link to twitter thread, not the bogus article.)
posted by migrantology at 5:46 PM on July 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


The phenomenon of the quote that is attributed to many different people is interesting. I can think of one example: the chess master, who, when asked how many moves ahead he sees, says "Only one. But it is the best move". I have seen this credited to just about every strong chess player of the early 20th century. At one point, I acquired the belief that Richard Reti was the actual originator, but I have no idea if that is really true. Maybe it was Dr. Tartakower, who said many splendid things ("The threat is stronger than its execution").

Einstein

I've even seen Einstein credited with "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results". Now as far as I know, that's a piece of AA folklore, originator unknown; Einstein was a physicist, not a psychiatrist; and that is not, in fact, the "definition" of insanity.
posted by thelonius at 6:00 PM on July 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


I want to know how in the world the quote "Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle" became attributed to Abraham Lincoln.
posted by bananana at 6:29 PM on July 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


"Is this something I'd need to have Twitter to understand?"
—Wayne Gretzky
—Michael Scott

posted by a halcyon day at 6:37 PM on July 20, 2018 [4 favorites]


“Believe nothing. No matter where you read it, Or who said it, Even if I have said it, Unless it agrees with your own reason And your own common sense.” - Buddha

Considering the poor quality of most "common" sense, I hope that's not an accurate quote.
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:49 PM on July 20, 2018


This is the kind of thing for the kind of people who like that kind of thing, I guess.
posted by jamjam at 6:58 PM on July 20, 2018


A four-piece collection of misleading "Alice in Wonderland" coasters.
posted by readinghippo at 8:48 PM on July 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


One of Stephen Colbert's best running bits is when he takes a Trump quote and attributes it to an actual statesman like Churchill.
posted by Brocktoon at 3:46 AM on July 21, 2018


So Gandalf (as played by Sir Patrick Stewart) never said, "use the force, Harry."?

What most boggles the mind is that there's been no comedian asking Sir Patrick to don a Gandalf costume and utter that quote. I'm pretty sure Sir Patrick would go for it in a heartbeat.
posted by DreamerFi at 4:35 AM on July 21, 2018 [1 favorite]


> Lincoln Said What? Bogus Quotations Take On A New Life On Social Media is a 2017 piece...

...by Geoff Nunberg. Attribute the attribution article, sheesh!
posted by languagehat at 6:11 AM on July 21, 2018


One of Stephen Colbert's best running bits is when he takes a Trump quote and attributes it to an actual statesman like Churchill

Though I find Eleanor Roosevelt extremely interesting in her own right, half of my affection stems from her classic line: "America is all about speed, hot nasty bad-ass speed."
posted by grandiloquiet at 8:14 AM on July 21, 2018


“Believe nothing. No matter where you read it, Or who said it, Even if I have said it, Unless it agrees with your own reason And your own common sense.” - Buddha

Considering the poor quality of most "common" sense, I hope that's not an accurate quote.


It's not.
This is a bad translation of the Kalama Sutta — so bad, in fact, that it contradicts the message of the sutta, which says that reason and common sense are not sufficient for ascertaining the truth.

And it’s very common as well.

Here’s the original version, from Access to Insight:

“Now, Kalamas, don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’ When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness’ — then you should enter & remain in them.
posted by Lexica at 9:42 AM on July 21, 2018 [1 favorite]


thelonius: "I've even seen Einstein credited with "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results". Now as far as I know, that's a piece of AA folklore, originator unknown; Einstein was a physicist, not a psychiatrist; and that is not, in fact, the "definition" of insanity."

This article traces it to the 1981 Narcotics Anonymous text.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:35 AM on July 28, 2018 [3 favorites]


Maybe it was Dr. Tartakower, who said many splendid things ("The threat is stronger than its execution").

thematically , i misattributed that I think - it was Tarrasch
posted by thelonius at 10:40 AM on July 28, 2018


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