Murphy\’s Bye-Laws

Law #4: Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it. –H.D. Thoreau

Don’t Quote Me On This

Posted by PintofStout on December 29, 2005

I saw a quote the other day on a website from a person who would normally be derided on the same site.  In fact, it may have been on that site where I saw another quote by this person to illustrate the site’s creator’s dislike of this person and why.  This made me wonder about the nature of quoting.

When quoting a person, do we consider the person and their overall actions, or do we just use their words without context and affix their name for recognition and strength of point?  To some degree, I try to use quotes from people whom I have some admiration and respect for.  I may know enough of their life to determine this respect, but sometimes I probably base the feelings on the strength of a single or very few small quotations.  So when I saw the contradicting quote on the site mentioned above (quoting Theodore Roosevelt on an Anarchist site) it made me wonder if the person being quoted ever enters into it.  Besides, how much credence should we put on single phrases with no context.

Personally, I enjoy the quotes.  I read them like proverbs or jokes.  They are easy and quick and usually have some point in the context you use it in (not necessarily the author’s context).  The ultimate irony is quoting somebody saying how little reverence they have for quotes.  This one is kind of up in the air on which side of the argument it favors.  He could be making fun and being cynical, or he could be offering sage advice.  This is Tom Stoppard ( I have no idea who he is either): “It is better to be quotable than to be honest.”  Voltaire’s opinion is more easily discerned: “A witty saying proves nothing.”  Now, he could be talking about sarcasm or insult in conversation, I don’t know.  But in this context, it seems to fit right, right?

I will likely continue to quote people with witty comment and hard-to-forget proverbs.  I feel that quoting does prove to be a strong argument in your favor when making a point because the quote says whatever your point may be in better, perhaps more flowery, language, and it carries the weight, usually, of a famous or large personality.  I’ll close with a quote from, no surprise here, Mark Twain, “When a thing has been said and said well, have no scruples. Take it and copy it.”


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