'Those who cannot remember quotations...'
0 comment Saturday, May 3, 2014 |
Those of you who read this blog even occasionally will have noted that I like great quotes. Now, I know some people have a dim view of those who resort to quoting others to make a point, but I think a well-chosen quote from an appropriate source is effective. I personally find a lot of mental and spiritual food in the words of great writers and thinkers of the past.
I've collected a number of books of quotes, some of them quite old, and I of course find the older books more profound than much of what passes for wisdom today. Just compare today's Bartlett's with one from, say, 90 years ago.
The difference in the quality of the quotes, and the points of view represented is stark. Political correctness has also tainted the recent versions, which is to be expected. For those reasons, it's valuable to go back to the older books to get some intellectual oxygen, as it were, and to escape the stifling air of PC.
And speaking of quotes, here's an interesting piece from the Times Online:
Never said it: 10 famously inaccurate quotes
Following my post on Voltaire and his failure to say "I disagree with what you have to say but I defend to the death your right to say it" here are ten other famous characters who didn't say the things most often associated with them.
Sherlock Holmes: Elementary, my dear Watson
Except for the fact that it's not. The most notorious resident of Baker St never actually used these words in the original books. Not that that's stopped his onscreen counterparts.
Edmund Burke: All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
And nothing is precisely what the statesman had to do with this phrase. Blame Bartlett's Familiar Quotations for the first mistaken attribution. The words do not appear in any of Burke's papers.''
I've quoted that line which is supposedly by Burke more than once, and wrote one blog entry about why I thought the quote does not make sense. Then a commenter told me that the phrase was in fact mis-attributed to Burke.
The other wrongly-attributed quotes are others that are often repeated; read the rest at the link.
One other incorrect quote which comes to my mind is the famous 'Biblical phrase' which enjoins us to ''hate the sin, love the sinner."
In a past blog post, I repeated that phrase, which all of us have no doubt heard many times, and again, a commenter pointed out to me that the phrase is not in the Bible, and upon some reflection I had to admit that I had never seen it anywhere in the Bible, and I am familiar enough with the Bible to have some memory of it if it were found there, though I don't have the Bible memorized.
I have done searches to be sure that the quote does not appear in some slightly different wording in the Bible, but I can find none nor can I think of even a similarly-phrased verse in the Bible.
Do any of you know the origin of this overused phrase? I know that it is popular today because it fits so well with our postmodern secular philosophy of nonjudgmentalism, and the phrase is most often pressed into service to scold Christians who criticize homosexuality.
Another popular phrase which I have heard quoted as being Biblical is 'God helps those who help themselves.' I have read that in some survey or poll, a large percentage of people believed that the phrase came from the Bible. But of course it does not, and as the answer here indicates, Ben Franklin was the author of the quote, and the idea itself is not consistent with Biblical teaching.
Another apparent misquote is the one attributed to George Orwell saying "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."
According to this Wikipedia page on misquotations, it is not a legitimate Orwell quote.
The page has many other examples of misquotations, some of them from popular culture, especially movies, apparently the largest source of the quotes often repeated these days.
One more contested quote is this one from Samuel Adams, which I, like a lot of people, have quoted on occasion:
'It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds.''
But the correct version is apparently this one:
It does not take a majority to prevail... but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.''
Another phrase which is so often quoted on the Internet is the phrase by George Santayana: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.'' However it's usually misquoted in some way, as this interesting piece tells us:
As a reference librarian, I have heard many variations on this theme by George Santayana.
This particular quotation has eluded more than one library customer, who recalled the keyword "history" instead of what American philosopher George Santayana (1863-1952) actually said: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" (from "Life of Reason I"). Searching for the wrong word in indexes can get you nowhere, fast. When using either book indexes or online search engines, it pays to think of synonyms and other other words of related meaning.
On August 26, syndicated columnist Trudy Rubin misquoted Santayana (""Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it.") in her "Wordlview" column, "Bush's bid to tie Iraq to Vietnam doesn't work."
A deliberately incorrect Google search (with search terms "santayana," "remember history," and "doomed to repeat"), yielded 269 Web pages misquoting Santayana ("Those who cannot remember history are doomed to repeat it."). Those who cannot remember quotations are condemned to paraphrase them.''
Do any of you have examples of misquotations?

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