Samara O'Shea

Guilty of Spreading the False Words

It’s no secret that I love quotes. A few wise words strung together can make a difference in someone’s day, or reinforce a private notion that a person has been afraid to admit s/he had. I cannot promise that all the quotes I pass along are credited to the right person, however. Since the Internet is one big game of Whisper Down the Lane, the origins of the quote or even the words themselves easily get lost. Evidence of my own misquoting exists here.

On Wednesday, Brian Morton wrote a spot-on op-ed piece for the NY Times called Falser Words Were Never Spoken . He examines how quotes get twisted, turned and, often, attributed to the wrong person.

For the most part, this isn’t a crime—or even a misdemeanor. If you like the quote, enjoy. On any given day, on any given blog, it probably doesn’t matter where it came from. There are other cases, however—when writing a book, academic paper, giving a speech, or erecting a memorial to someone—when you’ll want to get it right. Yesterday, Maya Angelou made her frustration known with having a Martin Luther King Jr. quote altered on his memorial. This is a case where one word altered the whole meaning of a sentence, and it’s sad that Martin Luther King Jr. (!) wasn’t quoted verbatim.