Sunday, October 13, 2019

You Can Quote Me

Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations

Oxford Dictionary of Quotations

There are two of the more famous collections of important quotations.  But there is plenty of quoting going on these days, especially online and in the media.  A new book explores our penchant for quoting others, And I Quote…A History of Using Other People’s Words, by Elizabeth Knowles.

We know a lot of quoting takes place.  We hear it in school and at seminars.  We see it in books, blogs, magazines, and newspapers.  We hear it in speeches and sermons.  We see them on walls and on buildings.  Everywhere you go, someone is quoted.  But many are misquotes, misattributed quotes, or the quotes are used out of context.  How do we make sure we keep quoting alive- and do it correctly?

When you think of quotes, they come in a few varieties.  They are things said by famous people, where the power of who said something overwhelms what was actually said.  Then there are great quotes because they say so much with so few words.  Who said them is secondary. There are also quotes that seem relevant and are said by popular people but time passes and these quotes lack sustainability.  Just what is the exact formula for a long-lasting quote?

Some of the places we tend to see quotes these days is on accessories or household items from bags and mugs, to T-shirts and hats.  Quotes shed light on the social norms and cultural history from which they spring from.  Politics, relationships, health, nature, money, war, and attitude are probably the most often quoted topics.  Faith, too.

The funny thing about quotes is some can be ambiguous or the reader interprets the exact opposite intention of the quote's originator. 

“Sometimes a quotation is chosen because the circumstances in which it was originated appear to be strikingly echoed by the events of another time.” says Knowles.

Some quotes seem to live forever while others need more context to be seen as applicable or relevant.

Some quotes come from literature, television, and other fantasy worlds, but they take form in real life.

I do find it interesting that we like to quote others, as if pointing to the words of others will help our very own resonate and gain currency with the reader.  It’s as if by association we hope to link our work to those far more known, respected, and liked than ourselves.

Many quotes say the same thing, essentially, just in their own way.  But over time, everyone says something similar about universal things, such as life, death, power, love, or intellect.  Pick a quote, any quote and likely its sentiments are reflected in dozens or hundreds of other quotes by well-known or established individuals.  You can quote me on that.

I like to read books of quotes, rather than to come upon a random quote here and there.  I like to assault my senses with timeless observations of life that delve deeply into philosophy and morality.  But after digesting a book of quotes my mind feels frazzled, overwhelmed with so much truth right before my eyes.

“Famous quotations often imprint themselves on the public consciousness,” says Knowles.  It’s true.  Some quotes perfectly capture a mood, a thought, a belief, an experience, a feeling.  Sure, many quotes reveal humor, expose weaknesses or contradictions, or celebrate a singular moment, but so many can be spoken now as they were 300 years ago and still mean something to us.

Most writers want to be published, become famous, and have a legacy beyond their lifetime.  But they are lucky if one quote of their millions of written words make it into the public consciousness a generation after their passing.


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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2019. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America.

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