Quotes of obscure people

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Quotes of obscure people

Post by John Barton » Thu Apr 11, 2013 5:38 am

Quotes which become quite well-known often originate as careless throw-offs made by obscure persons who never expect them to register. An example is: "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle". The origin of this feminist masterpiece has been traced to an Australian journalist Irina Dunn, who scrawled it on a door in 1970. As often, there were precursor models, such as this from the Connecticut newspaper The Hartford Courant, December, 1898:

"The place [Aragon, Spain] didn't need an American consul any more than a cow needs a bicycle; for it had no trade with America, and no American tourist ever dreamed of stopping there".

Such quotations tend to get attributed, not to 'anonymous', but either the author of the precursor, or someone famous likely to have written them, or (in error) to anyone who quotes them without giving a source. A case in point is:
"The very longest journey that a man will ever start, is the one of eighteen inches, from the head down to the heart".
It began in New Zealand around 2000, or a few years earlier, but is found in various forms sourced to Mother Teresa, Lao-Tze, Billy Graham, Thomas Merton, Dag Hammarskjold, "Old English proverb", "Old Indian saying", "shamans", "yogi", among many more.
This is not because of false claims, but mere apathy.
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Re: Quotes of obscure people

Post by Erik_Kowal » Thu Apr 11, 2013 8:49 am

John, there's an old Wordwizard discussion focusing specifically on this issue which you might find worth taking a look at.

Given that its subject is misattributed or invented quotes, on rereading the thread I was amused to notice that the oldest postings there date from an early incarnation of the Wordwizard forum which often failed to identify the individual posters unless they explicitly typed their names in their postings, which most of them didn't do...
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Re: Quotes of obscure people

Post by tony h » Thu Apr 11, 2013 7:43 pm

In business I often attribute sayings of my coinage to antique friends and relatives in the form: as my grandfather used to say...
The purpose is to provide a sense of stature and maturity to the words. The fact that I also have many such sayings genuinely from an interesting collection of people means that new coinage blends seamlessly with the genuine. But I have heard my attributions repeated and maybe one day they will appear as the collected sayings of anthony's grandfathers.
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With the right context almost anything can sound appropriate.

Re: Quotes of obscure people

Post by John Barton » Thu Apr 11, 2013 8:31 pm

Almost the opposite of the "as my grandad said" habit, was the late Edwardian one of adding "As the Bishop said to the chorus girl" or vice-versa, to any remark whatever, in the hope that it will have a comic connotation or double-entendre. Strangely, it nearly always 'worked' after any trivial sentence such as "We must investigate this further, as the...".
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Re: Quotes of obscure people

Post by Erik_Kowal » Fri Apr 12, 2013 5:17 am

tony h wrote:In business I often attribute sayings of my coinage to antique friends and relatives in the form: as my grandfather used to say...
Why stop there? You could create a fabulous cast of characters from among your supposed forebears and their associates:

"As {my second cousin's jailer / the swordmaker of my great-uncle's concubine / the chief slave-master of one of my great-grandfather's companies in Burma / my great-great-great-aunt's executioner / my maiden aunt's punkah-wallah / my second great-uncle's slug breeder / the valet of my great-grandmother's gigolo} once said..."

Armed with such a formidable array of antecedents, even the most mild-mannered person is sure to generate an aura of mystery and fascination, or even outright awe.

Or at least, that's what my maternal grandfather's fourteenth wife used to say, before she was poisoned.
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Re: Quotes of obscure people

Post by Wizard of Oz » Fri Apr 12, 2013 7:53 am

.. if you are interested in this topic then you may find They Never Said It by Paul F Boller Jr & John George (ISBN 0-19-506469-0) an interesting book to hunt down ..
Abraham Lincoln never said, "You cannot fool all the people all the time." Thomas Jefferson never said, "That government is best that governs least." And Horace Greeley never said, "Go west, young man." ..... (Boller & George) examine hundreds of misquotations, incorrect attributions and blatant fabrications in order to outline the origins of quotes and explain why we should consign them to the historical trashcan."
.. Boller is Professor of History Emeritus at Texas Christian Uni & George is Professor of Political Science and Sociology at Uni of Oklahoma ..

.. others to get a run include Adolf H, Neil Armstrong, Humphrey Bogart, Sherlock Holmes, Marie Antoinette, Groucho, President RR, Will Rogers, Duke of Wellington .. the list goes on but I was glad to see that big Mae didn't make the list so I STILL want to go up to see her with a pistol in my pocket .. how's that for mixing them up ?? ..

.. the one that really upset me though was the revelation that George Gipp never asked Notre Dame to win one for him ..

WoZ who never said it
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Signature: "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

End of topic.
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