Tuesday, December 1, 2009

On Quotes

There has apparently been quite a bit of hoopla over a couple of quotes in Sarah Palin's book.

Quote #1 - "Our land is everything to us...I will tell you one of the things we remember on our land. We remember our grandfathers paid for it -- with their lives."

Sarah Palin attributes this to John Wooden, sports guy. Turns out it was actually said by John Wooden Legs (yes, that was actually his name, please, keep your chuckles to yourself). John Woodenlegs (okay, that is funny) was a Native American activist. That quote makes more sense now. I couldn't figure out why John Wooden would wax so poetic about land, but now I know.

As far as gaffes go, not major. Next quote -

Quote #2 - "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."

Palin attributes this quote to Plato, but some academics are getting their panties in a wad saying that while this quote is often attributed to Plato, it's doubtful that he actually said it.

Well, blow me over. My world is shattered.

Give me a break. Do you have any idea how many quotes out there are merely attributed to historical figures and were probably never penned or uttered by them? This stuff happens all the time. There are a few quotes by Patrick Henry that people are fond of using although those quotes are merely attributed; there's no proof that he said them.

And how's about this for a misattributed quote - preachers and conservative politicians are fond of using Alexis de Tocqueville's phrase:

"Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good America will cease to be great."

When I was a teenager, I got Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America (both volumes, unabridged) because I had heard that quote. Only problem: I never found those words in those pages. I thought I must have missed it, so I got the ebook version online and did word searches. Nothing. I did some more research; turns out that nobody knows exactly where that quote came from. It's been used by Presidents (Eisenhower, Reagan, and Clinton) along with many others even though it's clear that it is not actually in Tocqueville's book. Here's more backstory.

Nobody pays that much attention when that famous quote is billed wrongly, most people probably don't even know about it, but if Sarah Palin had put that in her book the whole world would know it now. You can bank on that.

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