Monday, September 27, 2010

Don't Quote Me on This

You must do the things you think you cannot do. 
Eleanor Roosevelt 

Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people. Eleanor Roosevelt 

Be the change that you want to see in the world. Gandhi 

Politics is the art of controlling your environment. Hunter S. Thompson 

When the going gets weird, the weird turn professional. Hunter S. Thompson 

If real life were a book, it would never find a publisher.
Jasper Fforde

I love quotes, even though I don't trust them. I mean, rarely do we quote a person in context, and then if we do, there's the question of whether or not the person we quote is actually quoting someone else. And if so, is s/he doing so in the context of the originator or adapting it to his or her own experience? 

One day, a long, long time ago, I shared a quote with my mother that went something like:  "No one's opinion of me is any of my business," and I attributed said quote to drag queen extraordinaire, Rupaul.  Mom was amused and sweetly said, "Rupaul is right, but you should probably attribute that quote to Eleanor Roosevelt, I think she said it first."  But who knows whether Eleanor borrowed the phrase from her mother or grandmother? When I researched it, I found that the quote had also been accredited to Ronald Reagan and some guy from an online AA meeting chatroom. (No matter who says it: Rupaul, Reagan or Jon X from Cleveland, the quote is fierce.) 

After verifying my mother's claim that Eleanor Roosevelt had at one time intoned the same profound words later delivered by Rupaul, I found quite a few other quotes by Roosevelt that I loved and have held on to since, for reference, inspiration, or a general laugh.  A funny one: I once had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalogue: no good in a bed, but fine up against a wall. (I wonder how accurately she quoted the catalogue.)

Then there are those quotes that make me laugh and cringe simultaneously; the unfortunate truths.  The one above, by Fforde, for instance. I laughed at this, nodded, then thought, "Hey, nuh uh!"  Publishers do buy these stories, I know, I've read them.  Life lends itself to stories all the time, and not just in under-read books and underground plays, no, many a blockbuster movie, book, series, play, etc... has been a person's retelling of life events, albeit not all of them.

Perhaps what Fforde (or whomever) meant is that if all the details of a life were included, we, as readers, would be bored to tears.  Even so, I'm still not so sure I agree.  I have been riveted by personal essays that have added beauty and humor to the most mundane of topics: migraines, belly button lint, antisocial behavior, the Internet, walking, sitting still, being confused, eating a peanut butter sandwich, and on and on and on... and most of these essays were published.  Anyway, I still love the quote, and I see a grain of truth there.

In this way, quotes are often only as accurate as a reader's experience. Then again, there are the life-changing quotes that cannot be disqualified or argued with.  "Be the change you want to see in the world." Indeed! Who is going to argue with Gandhi?  I mean, really. "When the going gets weird, the weird turn professional." Hell yeah!  We try... don't deny it.

I adore quotes, and if you follow me on Twitter, you know this.  Just thought I'd share my reasoning .... 

I never said most of the things I said. Yogi Berra 


  1. Nothing against those fab writers you're reviewing, but I miss these blog posts. I know you're busy, busy, but as Yoda once said, "Do, or do not. There is no 'try'." OK. That may be out of context.

  2. If you don't know who where the quote came from, just attribute it to either Mark Twain or Winston Churchill (or Yogi Berra) :)

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