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.
So, we’ve learned that statistical analysis shows that punk was not a musical revolution.
It’s time to cease those perpetual debates with your friends about whether Nirvana’s Nevermind was a musical revolution. Once again, science has done its job, and we can all stop having differing opinions on a subject that was previously thought to be open to subjective interpretation. According to the BBC, a recent scientific study has demonstrated definitively that pop music has been marked by exactly three revolutions, no more, and no less. So it’s time to cool it with that “Elvis changed everything” nonsense.Queen Mary University and Imperial College in London looked at more than 17,000 songs from the United States’ Billboard Hot 100 Chart, and found exactly three “music revolutions,” something which can definitely be quantified and logged as pure data. The scientists defined a revolution as a “period of extremely rapid change within the charts.” Evaluating a number of musical characteristics, such as timbre, harmony, chord changes, and how they shifted over time, these intrepid researchers were able to pinpoint exactly when these musical revolutions happened, and can confirm that, no, punk rock really didn’t change anything.
Source: Science proves there were exactly three pop music revolutions, so that’s settled · Newswire · The A.V. Club
Reading about this, I couldn’t help but remember a comment by a friend’s 13-year-old daughter years ago after she saw “Sid and Nancy.”
“I love the punk movement. It was really a romantic movement disguised by horribleness.”
I know I didn’t say anything that interesting when I was 13. Her mom told me she made the comment after seeing the movie and reading the following passage written by Colin McDowell in Harper’s Bazaar:
“Powerful enough to frighten old ladies in the street, punk was actually a romantic movement hiding its insecurities and fears behind a buccaneering, sneering facade.”
And really, doesn’t that pretty much describe all of us, in one sense or another?
Photo by Piotr Marcinski
Scrolling through old notes from a newspaper where I worked years ago, I came across an explanation given by a high school football coach to a reporter about why his team would be short-handed for a game that night:
“We had one player just go stupid on us. Injuries are one thing … you can put ice on an injury. You can’t put ice on stupid.”
Image by Gustavo Frazao
This piece by Maria Bello in The New York Times and her piece that preceded it were food for much thought as I was reminded of them again recently. Consider:
Echoing the thoughts of many, one person wrote to me: “I’ve been feeling ‘whatever’ and I didn’t know what to call it. I’m a whatever too.” Another said: “Being a divorced mom I sometimes don’t know where my life fits, and your story brought to light that everything doesn’t always have to be black and white. There can be ex-husbands who are still partners in our and our children’s lives, friends who could be lovers — whatever it is.”
Yes. And so continues the journey toward liberation from the preconceived notions and the labels of others we so often think we must personify.
At the risk of labeling you … are you a whatever?
Back home from the grocery store, and all of its temptations, which reminded me of an oldie but goodie from a retired football coach.
“If you put it in your mouth and it tastes good, spit it out!”
Photo by topnatthapon
A line I heard today brought me here to post this. I’m certain there are several variations, but the version I heard is easy to remember.
“The faintest ink is better than the best memory.”
Going through notes I’d jotted down, long ago and more recently, reminded me that false memory is a real thing, and that misremembering something can be as troublesome as completely forgetting it. I’ve experienced both in the past few weeks as I’ve stumbled upon notes, whose details are not the way I’d remembered — or of which I had no recall.
Even now, as the world around me distracts me, I’m losing focus about the points I wanted to make in this post. Ideas fade so quickly sometimes. But my main post is: Write it down.
On a piece of paper. On a receipt. On your hand. Or dictate it and record it. Get it on the record, so to speak. Preserve it. Now. Before you forget it.
Photo by Erin Cadigan
How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?
That quote, sometimes presented in a version with a folksy grammatical awkwardness but always displaying its liberating and charming insight, has been attributed to the late Satchel Paige. His age was an elusive target for many who tried to nail it down.
I can’t vouch for the quote, but I love it.
This sounds scary, doesn’t it?
“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest.”
— Pema Chödrön
But, that sounds about right, doesn’t it?