Posted by: travelrat | February 23, 2020

Quotes and Misquotes

‘If you copy from one source, it’s plagiarism; if you copy from many, it’s research’

A few of us were having an online discussion about this saying, and we couldn’t agree about who said it. Or, more probably, who said it first. Because, I suppose it happens that, consciously or unconsciously, someone repeats a saying he’s heard or read somewhere and, because he’s more famous than whoever said the original, the saying is attributed to him.

This caused me to assemble the collage you see here.


I think just about anyone who writes, whether amateur or professional, has a book of quotations on his shelves, because it’s fair that, if you use a quote, it should be attributed where possible. If he hasn’t, there’s always the Internet. Although, as Queen Victoria once said, you shouldn’t believe everything you read on the Internet.

Then, there’s the misquote. The one most often pointed up is ‘ … fresh fields and pastures new …’ . Shakespeare actually wrote ‘ … fresh woods …’ Also, there’s the one that was never said. Sherlock Holmes never actually said ‘Elementary, my dear Watson!’ and nowhere did Captain Kirk ever say ‘Beam me up, Scotty!’

There is also the apocryphal quote. No one has ever proved that the dying words of Lord Nelson were ‘Kiss me, Hardy!’ or that King George V died with the words ‘Bugger Bognor!’ on his lips.

Finally, there’s the ‘expert’ who tells you if you’ve paraphrased the quote by one jot or tittle. Here, you’re safer with stuff like:

‘Give me six lines written by the most honest man, and I will find something in them to hang him. (Cardinal Richelieu) or:

‘If you just want to get there, you could take a coach, But, to travel, you must walk’ (Jean-Jacques Rousseau)

Because, these gentlemen would have written in French … and no two translators will write it identically, word for word in English!


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