Cartoon by Cartoonresource
This is the longest piece I’ve posted here to date. It’s about the way we quote people — and misquote them. It’s a lot of words about sometimes minor differences between the reality of what someone says and the popular but inaccurate way it’s later retold. In the end, very little of substance is affected, but it’s always been interesting to me the way what a person says, quite often, goes down in history as something other than the actual, verbatim quote.
Equally engrossing to me is deciding when it matters and when it doesn’t. Most times, it’s nothing more than a minor footnote, of interest only to someone like me who enjoys dissecting and analyzing what people say and how other people retell it. For most people, this entry falls into the “too long, didn’t read” category, and that’s OK. But if you have a similar interest in how quotes become misquotes, you might have noticed these things too. Also, if you make it to the end, you’ll be rewarded with a couple of fun videos that poke fun at misquoted lines, or list dozens and dozens of them. So, there’s that.
Don’t misunderstand me (or misquote me): This is not a dissertation, nor an indictment of the way popular culture hands down such quotes. Also, I don’t have the answers from oral-history experts regarding questions I have about this common dynamic, and I don’t have scientific explanations, particularly regarding misheard or misremembered quotes, but I’ve enjoyed collecting and writing about phrases that have become part of history or pop culture, or both. And, as I consider this post a work in progress, a collection of notes I’ve kept over the years, expect it to be augmented and perhaps annotated from time to time.