No, Jane Austen did not write that.

Today’s post is about a love quote that is often misattributed to Jane Austen.  Read on to learn who really wrote it as well as who is propagating this misinformation across the internet.

The Misattributed Quote

“To love is to burn, to be on fire.”
Jane Austen

The Correct Quote

“To love is to burn, to be on fire.”
Emma Thompson
Sense and Sensibility screenplay
Director Ang Lee
Columbia Pictures, 1995

The Quote Can Also Be Found in Emma Thompson’s Book

The entire screenplay is included in Emma Thompson’s book Sense and Sensibility: the Screenplay & Diaries currently published by Newmarket Press for It Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.  Please note the original book is titled The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay & Diaries: Bringing Jane Austen’s Novel to Film published by Newmarket Press in 1995.  HarperCollins subsequently acquired the rights.

Statistics

After surveying 65 websites featuring the misattributed quote, I found the following trends.

PercentageType of Website
62%    Social media
12%    Quotes only
8%     Corporation/Corporate individual
8%     Topical Group or Discussion Forum
5%     Informational
3%     Quotes paraphernalia for purchase
1%     Academic/Educational/School
1%     Quotes a major feature

The Source of the Misattributed Quote

Based on the above statistics, by far the main source of today’s misquote is social media.  As I’ve mentioned before, the quote virus loves to spread its disease through social media.  As we know, all it takes is one person posting a misquote on his/her favorite social media site to begin the epidemic.  All of his/her followers receive the infected quote who then spread it to all of their followers who spread it to their followers ad infinitum.

For example, I came across a blog featuring the misquote by itself as a blog post.  I analyzed the statistics listed underneath the post and found it was reblogged 87 times and liked 112 times.  Just imagine how many of those reblogs and likes were subsequently reblogged and liked which were subsequently reblogged and liked.  And this is from a single person.  This is one of the main reasons there are so many misquotes floating around in cyber world.

The bottom line is never believe quotes that are sent to you via social media, yes, even if they’re from your family and friends.

The Cause of the Misattributed Quote

Because the 1995 Sense and Sensibility film is based on the 1811 Sense and Sensibility book, it is easy to understand how the film quote came to be misattributed to the book.  However, these two pieces of art have two separate creators.  Emma Thompson wrote the screenplay, and Jane Austen wrote the book.

As I have mentioned before, just because a film is based on a book does not mean that the entire dialog is verbatim from the book.  If this were the case, the film duration would never fit within a two-hour timeframe.  It is up to the screenwriter to condense the story and dialog into a reasonable feature-film length.  And this is what Emma Thompson did with Jane Austen’s book.

If you are interested in hearing the quote in the movie, it occurs at 19 minutes 24 seconds.  Marianne (played by Kate Winslet) says it to her mother, Mrs. Dashwood (played by Gemma Jones).  Please note, if you happen to view it on a free movie-streaming website, make sure the run time is the full 2 hours and 16 minutes; otherwise, the scene will not occur at the 19-minute mark.

In short, because this quote occurs in the film and does not appear in the book, Emma Thompson is the correct author of the quote.

Screenwriters Often Do Not Get Credit for Their Quotes

My 08/31/15 post titled No, Charles Dickens did not write that and my 06/18/14 post titled F. Scott Fitzgerald Gets Credit Where Credit Isn’t Due are two more examples of screenwriters not getting credit for their quotes.

Most Amusing Finds

I came across a book titled Jane Austen Quotes and Facts.  One of the “facts” is that Austen wrote the misquote.  Hmm . . . I wonder where the author did his “research.”

I also encountered an article in a local news magazine for a city in Massachusetts in which the author claims one of her “favorite novels written by Jane Austen” is Sense and Sensibility.  This author then proceeds to attribute the misquote to Austen and then misspells two characters’ names (Edward Ferrars is spelled Edward Farrows, and Elinor is spelled Eleanor).  Given these are two of the main characters whose names occur repeatedly in the story, one wonders how many times she actually read the book.

Finally, I found our misquote for sale on an apron for $25.55.  Not only is it amusing that flawed merchandise has a price of $25.55, but it is also amusing that an apron features a quote that is about burning and being on fire.  I suppose if you’re really into cooking flambé, it would be a great fit.  But I would think most cooks wouldn’t want to accompany their culinary efforts with the words “burn” and “on fire” (smile, wink, chuckle).

For Sale

Conveniently, today’s misquote is widely available for purchase online.  You can spend as little as $3.70 for a greeting card or as much as $46.95 for a traveler water bottle.  What a deal!

Kill the Quote Virus

The quote virus can only be exterminated through education.  You can be part of the solution by sharing the knowledge.  Please forward this post to family and friends, or if you’re on Facebook, “like” my Facebook fan page.  If you’re on Twitter, you can follow me @SueBrewton.  Remember to practice safe quoting and

“Be the antidote and don’t misquote.”

©Sue Brewton

No, Charles Dickens did not write that.

Today’s post is about an inspirational quote that is often misattributed to Charles Dickens.  Follow along to learn who really wrote it and why it continues to proliferate across the internet.

The Misattributed Quote

“Happiness is a gift and the trick is not to expect it but to delight in it when it comes.”
Charles Dickens
Nicholas Nickleby

The Correct Quote

“Happiness is a gift and the trick is not to expect it but to delight in it when it comes.”
Douglas McGrath
Nicholas Nickleby screenplay
Director Douglas McGrath
United Artists, 2002

Statistics

After surveying 104 websites featuring the misattributed quote, I found the following trends.

PercentageType of Website
41%    Social Media
16%    Corporation/Corporate individual
16%    Quotes only
9%     Informational
7%     Topical group or discussion forum
3%     Quotes paraphernalia for purchase
3%     Academic/educational/school
2%     Quotes a major feature
2%     Online app or service
1%     Organization

The Sources of the Misattributed Quote

Based on the above statistics, social media websites are the main mode of propagation for this misquote.  As I mentioned in my previous post, the quote virus loves social media.  It is one of the most effective ways to spread a contaminated quote.  A single person can post one misquote, and it will spread to all of his/her followers who then spread it to all of their followers who spread it to all of their followers and so on and so forth.  The bottom line is never believe a quote that is sent to you via social media.  There’s a high probability it is inaccurate.

As usual, quotes-only websites are in the top three offenders list.  As I’ve mentioned in the past, websites that specialize solely in providing quotes are the most erroneous sources for quotes.  For the most part, they are duplicates of each other and feature the same misquotes and typos often in the exact same order.  For some reason, these website administrators do not verify the information they are publishing.  Because they are so unreliable, I highly recommend avoiding them.

The Cause of the Misattributed Quote

Because the 2002 Nicholas Nickleby film is based on the Nicholas Nickleby book, it is easy to understand how the film quote came to be misattributed to the book.  However, they are two separate pieces of art with two separate creators.  Douglas McGrath wrote the screenplay, and Charles Dickens wrote the book.

Just because a film is based on a book does not mean that the entire dialog is verbatim from the book.  If this were the case, the film duration could never fit within a two-hour timeframe.  It is up to the screenwriter to condense the story and dialog into a reasonable feature-film length.  In his article “Nipping ‘Nickleby’” featured on Variety.com, McGrath humorously explains if he kept all parts of the book, “The film would then run 35 hours (34 if I cut the scene in the garden).”  Later in the article, he describes how he came up with this quote.

If you are interested in hearing the quote in the movie, it occurs in narration (Nathan Lane) during the wedding scene at the end of the film.

In short, because this quote occurs in the film and does not appear in the book, Douglas McGrath is the correct author of the quote.

My 06/18/14 post titled F. Scott Fitzgerald Gets Credit Where Credit Isn’t Due is another example of a screenwriter not getting credit for a quote.  In this instance the screenwriter is Eric Roth for his work in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Most Disappointing Find

I came across two professors with this misquote on their university homepages.  I am disappointed and saddened to find that the quote virus has wormed its way into the hallowed halls of academia.

Most Amusing Find

I found today’s misquote on a quotes-only website where the administrator claims his website is different from all others because his quotes are unique.  He writes, “Unlike other websites which source their quotes from some other websites, I handpick quotes from magazines, articles, interviews, newspapers, books etc. so users get a plethora of unique and interesting quotes.”  The funny/sad thing is his site not only features today’s misquote but also features other commonly misattributed quotes.  In reality, his site is just like the rest of them—unverified and unreliable.

Bibliophile Websites Are Not Reliable Sources for Quotes

One would think that a bibliophile website would be a great resource for book quotes.  After all, this is a place where avid readers communicate and share their love of books.  However, I came across five book-lover websites that feature today’s misquote.  I’ve also seen this phenomenon while doing research for previous blog posts.  It appears that even though these people profess their love for books, not all of them are genuine and are getting their quotes from quote websites, social media, or sources other than the actual book they are quoting.  So the moral is do not trust quotes found on these websites.

For Sale

As with so many of my previous posts, today’s misquote is also available for purchase.  I found a necklace offered for $10.96 and a bracelet for $34.00.  But wait! It gets better.  You can also purchase a heart pendant necklace on sale for just $24.98; the regular price is $55.00.  So my question is, “what happened?”  Did the price get reduced because someone realized the quote on the pendant was inaccurate?  Hmm . . . Something tells me that’s wishful thinking on my part (smile, wink, chuckle).

Final Analysis

In conclusion, never trust quotes on social media.  Never trust quotes from quote websites.  Never trust quotes found on academic websites.  Never trust quotes from bibliophile websites.  Never trust quotes found on merchandise for sale.

Only use quotes from a source that contains verified AND detailed source information with each quote.  The name attribution alone is not sufficient.  It should be accompanied by the title of the work in which the quote is found as well as relevant information such as chapter, act, scene, line number, stanza, etc.

Kill the Quote Virus

We can only exterminate the quote virus through education.  Please share the knowledge by forwarding this post to family and friends.  You can also “like” my Facebook fan page or follow me @SueBrewton on Twitter to help spread the word.

“Be the antidote and don’t misquote.”

©Sue Brewton

Walt Whitman vs. Henry Miller

The subject of today’s post is a quote that is often misattributed to Walt Whitman.  The correct source is actually Henry Miller.  Read on to learn who is responsible for perpetuating this misquote.

The Misattributed Quote

“Do anything, but let it produce joy.”
Walt Whitman

The Correct Quote

“Do anything, but let it produce joy.”
Henry Miller
Tropic of Cancer
Chapter 13

The Correct Work of Origin is Tropic of Cancer

Henry Miller’s novel Tropic of Cancer published in 1934 is the work in which the quote is found.  Here is the quote featured in chapter 13.

The Quote Found in 'Tropic of Cancer' by Henry Miller

The Quote Found in ‘Tropic of Cancer’ by Henry Miller

Here is the book title page.

Title Page of 'Tropic of Cancer' by Henry Miller

Title Page of ‘Tropic of Cancer’ by Henry Miller

Statistics

After surveying 115 websites featuring the misattributed quote, I found the following trends.

PercentageType of Website
39%    Social Media
24%    Corporation/corporate individual
12%    Quotes only
6%     Informational (sports, science, news, etc.)
5%     Online app or service
3%     Quotes a major feature
3%     Academic/educational/school
3%     Quotes paraphernalia for purchase
3%     Discussion forum
2%     Organization

The Source of the Misattributed Quote

In a rare twist of events it is not the usual quotes-only websites that are the major offenders in propagating a misquote.  Out of the 115 websites featuring this misattributed quote, I found it is social media that is the main culprit.  As I have discussed in previous posts, the quote virus thrives through social media.  Every time a misquote is posted on a social media website, it becomes a contagion waiting to be spread via sharing, retweeting, repinning, etc.  Much like a physiological virus, the quote virus multiplies by moving from a single person to all others who follow that person, and each of those people spread it to all of their followers who spread it to all of their followers and so on and so forth.

The Source of the Work Can Also Be Misattributed

Most quotes found on the internet and in quote books simply attribute the author of the quote and do not include the work in which the quote is found.  However, today’s misquote is unusual in that 37% of the websites I surveyed cite Walt Whitman’s poetry anthology Leaves of Grass in addition to his name.  Clearly whoever originated the misquote included the work and then most people who propagated it copied the entire citation.  So not only is the author incorrect but the work of origin is incorrect.

Quote Books Are Not Always Reliable

I came across a book of quotes published in 2014 that includes today’s misattributed quote.  This author clearly did not research her subject matter and, unfortunately, will now be another source of misquote propagation.  As I’ve mentioned before, just because a book is solely dedicated to quotes does not mean it contains accurate quotes.  Be wary of quote books that do not include detailed source information.  For example, if Leaves of Grass is cited, it should include the title of the poem and the section and line number(s) featuring the quote.  The author’s name alone is not sufficient.

Educators Are Also Guilty of Misquotes

Unfortunately, the quote virus has infiltrated our educational system.  I came across two elementary school websites featuring today’s misattributed quote on teacher bios.  It is disappointing that a teacher wouldn’t take the time to find a legitimate quote out of a work s/he actually read.  A school is the one place one would hope to find reliable information.  With the proliferation of so much inaccurate data on the internet, this is not the case.  Even educators have fallen victim to the quote virus.

False Advertising

I came across an e-book service that offers Leaves of Grass as a free download.  The funny (sad) thing is that the description next to Whitman’s book includes Henry Miller’s quote.  This is obviously very misleading.

I also stumbled upon a rare books website selling a second edition of Leaves of Grass for $15,000.  This website also places today’s misattributed quote next to the Whitman’s book.  More false advertising.

Most Amusing Find

I discovered a floral design business actually called Leaves of Grass Designs, and the misquote is the first thing listed under the website’s “About” page.  It is followed by claims they will bring “joy” to your event and that their flowers are “joyful.”  Clearly, this business was named after a misquote.

For Sale

There are many websites offering misquotes for sale, and today’s misquote is no exception.  For example, I found t-shirts ranging from $17.95 to $20.95 as well as greeting cards in a box set of eight for $24.00.  I would say that’s a pretty good profit for flawed merchandise.

Kill the Quote Virus

I will close once again with a plea to you, dear reader, to help kill the quote virus.  Please practice safe quoting by following the tips on my “What You Can Do” page.  You can also help by sharing the knowledge.  Forward this post to family and friends or “like” my Facebook fan page or follow me on Twitter.  And remember:  don’t trust any quotes sent to you via social media.  Check them out before sharing them.

“Be the antidote and don’t misquote.”

©Sue Brewton

William Wordsworth vs. Bertrand Russell

Today’s post concerns a popular motivational quote that is often misattributed and misworded.

The Misattributed and Misworded Quote

“What we need is not the will to believe, but the wish to find out.”
William Wordsworth

“What we need is not the will to believe, but the wish to find out.”
Bertrand Russell

The Correct Quote

“What is wanted is not the will-to-believe, but the wish to find out, which is its exact opposite.”
Bertrand Russell
“Free Thought and Official Propaganda” speech
Delivered at South Place Institute in London, England on March 24, 1922

“Free Thought and Official Propaganda” Is the Work of Origin

Most sources with the correct attribution cite Sceptical Essays, published in 1928, as the work in which to find the quote.  It is a collection of Russell’s essays and includes his 1922 speech “Free Thought and Official Propaganda” as an essay.  This speech was also published in 1922 as a book.  While it is not incorrect to cite Sceptical Essays as the source, I prefer to use the name of the speech “Free Thought and Official Propaganda” as it is more specific and is the work in which the quote originated.

There Are Two Versions Attributed to Bertrand Russell

Note the wording in the second misquote.  It appears that somewhere along the line, someone realized this quote is from Bertrand Russell and corrected the name attribution but did not correct the wording.  And as we have learned from all my previous posts, the quote virus took over, and this new version propagated.  This is why there are two versions of the quote attributed to Russell.

Here is the correct quote found in “Free Thought and Official Propaganda” by Bertrand Russell.

The Quote Found in 'Free Thought and Official Propaganda' by Bertrand Russell

The Quote Found in ‘Free Thought and Official Propaganda’ by Bertrand Russell

Here is the title page of “Free Thought and Official Propaganda” by Bertrand Russell.

Title Page of 'Free Thought and Official Propaganda' by Bertrand Russell

Title Page of ‘Free Thought and Official Propaganda’ by Bertrand Russell

Statistics

After surveying seventy-eight websites featuring the misattributed quote, I found the following trends.

PercentageType of Website
44%    Quotes only
17%    Quotes a major feature
10%    Corporate individual or company
9%     Academic/educational/school
9%     Social media
4%     Informational
3%     Quotes paraphernalia for purchase
3%     Online service/app
1%     Organization or discussion forum

The Source of the Misattributed Quote

Once again, the statistics tell the same story.  It is the websites dedicated to quotes only that are the major source of this misquote.  Coming in second place are websites that feature extensive quote collections in addition to other topics.  Even though it would seem that a website which specializes in quotes would be the best resource for quotes, the statistics clearly indicate otherwise.

Sadly, tied for fourth place are educational institutions.  This shows how powerful the quote virus is.  Even the hallowed halls of academia are not immune to its infection.

Another Possible Misattribution on the Horizon

I came across an addiction information website that attributes the quote to William Shakespeare.  I thought this was odd as I had never seen this attribution before.  So I did a little bit of research to see if I could find where this information may have originated.  The possible answer is a book of quotes published in 2002 which features Russell’s quote just prior to a Shakespeare quote.  I am guessing the addiction website administrator read it and misunderstood which quote went with which author and posted it erroneously on the website.  Yes, I realize there’s a joke here, but I can’t bring myself to write it, so we will just have to silently chuckle to ourselves.  Any way, this may sound like an outlandish conclusion, but based on how the quote virus works, it is a definite possibility.  Who knows—this could be the beginning of a new viral strain and within a year or two, we may see a third version of the quote commonly attributed to Shakespeare.

Quote Books Are Not Always Reliable

I found today’s misquote in a quote book published in 2014.  Much like quote websites, just because a book specializes in quotes, does not mean it is a reliable resource.  Unfortunately, most modern quote books are compilations of previous quote books which are compilations of previous quote books and so on and so forth.  Additionally, most modern quote books also contain compilations of quotes found on quote websites.  Because of all this duplication, miswording and misattributions are propagated ad infinitum.  As I’ve mentioned before, a quote that only provides a name attribution is not reliable.  It should also include the title of the work in which the quote is found as well as relevant information such as chapter, act, scene, line number, stanza, etc.

Most Disappointing Find

It is so disheartening to see educational institutions propagating misquotes.  One of the more disturbing finds is a school librarian who uses the misattributed quote on her library web page.  I also found another school’s English department using it on their web page.  And most egregious of all is a university professor and poetry editor of a national literary journal who uses it in one of his books.

Most Amusing Find

I discovered a religious website featuring today’s misquote.  The irony is that the true originator, Bertrand Russell, was not a fan of religion.  He not only considered himself agnostic and atheist but he wrote many essays on the topic.

For Sale

As with most other popular quotes, today’s misattributed quote is available for purchase.  I came across a website selling the misquote on t-shirts for $28.01.  I found another one offering posters for $12.20.  The bonus is that you get two for the price of one—misattributed AND misworded.  What a deal!

Kill the Quote Virus

Only you, dear reader, can help exterminate the quote virus.  Like a physiological virus, the best weapons are education and prevention.  You can educate by sharing the knowledge.  Share this post with your family and friends or “like” my Facebook fan page or follow me on Twitter.  You can prevent infection by never using a quote from a quote website and never trusting a quote that does not include detailed source information.  The name attribution alone is not sufficient.  For a complete list of prevention tips, visit my “What You Can Do” page.

Until next time,

“Be the antidote and don’t misquote.”

©Sue Brewton

Friedrich Schiller Morphs into Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Today’s post explores an inspirational quote that is often falsely attributed to Samuel Taylor Coleridge.  It isn’t as widespread as most of the other misquotes I’ve written about; however, its evolution has some interesting twists and turns worth mentioning.

The Misattributed Quote

“There is nothing insignificant—nothing.”
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

The Correct Quote

“There’s nothing insignificant, / Nothing!”
Friedrich Schiller
The Piccolomini
Act I, Scene VI, lines 15–16
Translated into English by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Here is the quote found in the play The Piccolomini by Friedrich Schiller translated by Samuel Taylor Coleridge:

The Quote Found in the Play The Piccolomini by Friedrich Schiller Translated by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Figure 1: The Quote Found in the Play The Piccolomini by Friedrich Schiller Translated by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Here is the title page of the play The Piccolomini by Friedrich Schiller translated by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.  Note Coleridge uses the anglicized form of Schiller’s first name.

Title Page of the Play The Piccolomini by Friedrich Schiller Translated by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Figure 2: Title Page of the Play The Piccolomini by Friedrich Schiller Translated by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Statistics

This misattributed quote only appears on a handful of websites, but the statistics tell the same old story.

PercentageType of Website
36%    Quotes-only
29%    Online service/app
21%    Quotes a major feature
7%     Social media
7%     Quotes paraphernalia for purchase

The Source of the Misattributed Quote

As usual, the statistics reveal it is the websites dedicated solely to quotes that make up the largest percentage of misattributions (36%).  Websites with quotes as a major feature constitute another large piece of the pie (21%).  This means quote-oriented sites make up 57% of the source of this misquote.  Once again, we see that quote websites are the worst resource for quality quotes.  Avoid them at all costs.  Only use verified sources that include the author/orator’s name accompanied by the work in which the quote is found followed by applicable information such as chapter, act, scene, stanza, line, etc.

The Cause of the Misattribution

The originator of the quote is German poet and playwright, Friedrich Schiller, best known for his play William Tell.  The source of the quote is The Piccolomini, a drama completed by Schiller in 1799.  The confusion begins when the work gets translated from German into English by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1800.  It is this translated version that is the root of the misattribution.

The title page in figure 2 illustrates how easy it is to misinterpret who the author is.  With his poems The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan, Coleridge is a celebrated poet in his own right.  His famous name appearing on any literary work would lead most people to believe he authored it.  On the title page, the words “Translated from the German of” are in a very small font size so they are easily overlooked.  This is most likely the major reason Coleridge gets credit for Schiller’s work.

Another contributing factor to the misattribution is that Coleridge anthologies often include works that were translated by him alongside works that were written by him.  Unfortunately, the table of contents does not always indicate which works were originated by another author.  This creates a situation where the reader will never know a work was authored by another writer until s/he reads the one page in the book where it is stated (typically the page on which the work begins).  This scenario is not uncommon.  My 10/21/14 post titled “Who wrote it? Wordsworth or Michelangelo?” is another example of a translator getting credit for work he did not author.

Punctuation Is Part of the Quote

Note the exclamation point in the correct quote.  In the world of quoting, exclamation points and question marks should not be removed because they convey meaning.  The misattributed version has the exclamation point deleted which is incorrect.

Note also the correct quote begins with the contraction “There’s” while the incorrect quote begins with “There is.”  The original form should always be retained, especially if the author is a prominent literary figure as both Schiller and Coleridge are.  It is downright sacrilegious to alter the words of the greats.  After all, their exemplary talent in the craft of writing is one of the reasons they are being quoted in the first place.

When quoting from a poem, the virgule (forward slash) indicates line divisions.  Figure 1 shows the last word of the quote begins a new line; thus a virgule is inserted accordingly into the citation.  Note also figure 1 has line numbers showing the quote begins on line 15 and ends on line 16.

The Correct Quote Has Two Variations

The quote can be found in Act I, Scene VI of The Piccolomini.  AND the quote can be found in Act II, Scene I of The Piccolomini.  Both are correct.  How is this possible?  Well it turns out there are two versions of the play.  Coleridge was sent the original version which had a total of 12 scenes in Act I.  Schiller then restructured the play for the print edition to have a total of five scenes in Act I.  This caused Scene VI to be moved forward into Act II becoming the first scene therein.  The following is a side-by-side comparison of the two versions to better illustrate how the two variations came about.

A Side-by-Side Comparison of the Two Versions of The Piccolomini

A Side-by-Side Comparison of the Two Versions of The Piccolomini

If you do a search for this quote on the internet, you will encounter both versions.  In summary, if the quote is from the original version, it will be found in Act I, Scene VI.  If it is from the newer, restructured version, it will be found in Act II, Scene I.

Translated Quotes Are Not Reliable

The final twist to this saga is that Coleridge was not the only person to translate The Piccolomini.  There were others, and they all have different translations for this particular quote.  Here are three variations:

“Nothing on earth, my son, is unimportant.”
Wallenstein:  A Dramatic Poem (1827), Act II, Scene I
Translated by George Moir

“There is in this world nothing unimportant.”
The Piccolomini (1862), Act II, Scene I
Translated by W. R. Walkington

“Nought is without its consequence in this world.”
The Piccolomini’s:  A Drama in Five Acts (1805), Act II, Scene I
Translated by unknown

The third translation was heavily criticized in reviews and magazines of the day, but I’m still including it to illustrate how wide translations can vary.  Notice all of them include the word “world” or “earth” except for the one by Coleridge.  How do we know which is the most accurate?  Maybe Coleridge is off the mark.  My point is that translated quotes are not reliable.  My 06/17/14 post titled “No, that’s not how Benjamin Franklin wrote it” includes another example of this involving a Latin quote with five very different English translations.

For Sale

Once again, we have a misattributed quote available for purchase.  I came across a website selling t-shirts printed with the misquote for $24.95.  What a bargain!

Kill the Quote Virus

I will conclude with another plea to help exterminate the quote virus.  It lives and breathes on the internet and uses quote websites to breed and spread infection.  One person posting one mutated quote is all it takes to begin an epidemic.  You, dear reader, can help stop this modern-day pestilence by practicing safe quoting.  This means never use a quote website as a resource for quotes.  Do not trust a quote book if it does not include detailed source information for each quote.  And never trust a quote found on social media.  You can help educate the world by forwarding this post to friends and family.  And remember

“Be the antidote and don’t misquote.”

©Sue Brewton

Edith Wharton vs. Edgar Watson Howe vs. Elbert Hubbard

Today’s post covers an inspirational quote that is falsely attributed to three different people.  Although it is not as widespread as most of the other misquotes I’ve written about, its mutations are worth mentioning.

The Misattributed and Misworded Quote and Its Variations

“To know when to be generous and when firm—that is wisdom.”
Edith Wharton

“To know when to be generous and when firm—this is wisdom.”
Edgar Watson Howe

“To know when to be generous and when firm—this is wisdom.”
Edgar Watson

The Correct Quote

“To know when to be generous, and when firm—this is wisdom.”
Elbert Hubbard
Little Journeys to the Homes of Eminent Orators
“Antony”

Here is the quote found in “Antony,” the second booklet in the Little Journeys to the Homes of Eminent Orators series first published in 1903:

The Quote Found in “Antony,” the Second Booklet in the Little Journeys to the Homes of Eminent Orators Series

The Quote Found in “Antony,” the Second Booklet in the Little Journeys to the Homes of Eminent Orators Series

Little Journeys to the Homes of Eminent Orators is actually a subseries under the overarching series titled Little Journeys to the Homes of the Great which was published monthly from December 1894 to 1910.  There are a total of fifteen subseries each focused on a specific category such as artists, philosophers, and scientists.  Here is the complete list for the 1903 eminent orators subseries showing Mark Antony as the second subject:

“Antony” Found in the List of the 1903 Eminent Orators Subseries

“Antony” Found in the List of the 1903 Eminent Orators Subseries

Here is the title page for the “Antony” issue:

Title Page of “Antony” Showing Elbert Hubbard as Author

Title Page of “Antony” Showing Elbert Hubbard as Author

Statistics

After surveying 40 infected websites, I found the following statistics.

PercentageType of Website
67%    Quotes-only (21) or Quotes a major feature (6)
17%    Social media
10%    Topical group/forum
3%     Quotes paraphernalia for purchase
3%     Online service/app

As usual, the overwhelming majority of websites featuring the misquote are quotes-only websites.  I must reiterate:  never use a quote website as a source for quotes.  They are notoriously unreliable.

The Cause of the Miswording

Many quote websites contain the exact same quotes, misquotes, and typos in the exact same order found on other quote websites.  In other words, there is widespread duplication of error.  For example, notice today’s misquote has two versions of wording.  The Edith Wharton misquote ends with the words “that is wisdom” while the Edgar Watson Howe versions end with the correct words “this is wisdom.”  Obviously, the transcriptionist who entered the Edith Wharton misquote misread the ending and unknowingly created a new “standardized” version.  I could find no instances of the Edith Wharton misquote that end with the correct wording.  Similarly, I could find no instances of the Edgar Watson Howe versions that end with the incorrect wording.  Furthermore, notice the Edgar Watson typo that is also duplicated across websites.  Clearly, the transcriptionist inadvertently omitted Howe, and this version is now beginning to propagate across the internet.  It only takes one person to begin the proliferation of the exact same error across all quote websites.  The administrators simply copy content from each other without checking for accuracy.

The Cause of the Misattribution

The quote virus got very creative and transformed this quote into a three-headed mutant.  The first head belongs to Edith Wharton who garnered 19 misattributions out of the 40 researched.  The second head belongs to Edgar Watson Howe who acquired 17 misattributions, and the third head belongs to Edgar Watson who collected four.

The question is why are these three people involved with this misquote?  Why these three?  My answer is the letter “E.”  Notice that all three first names as well as the correct author, Elbert Hubbard, begin with the letter “E.”  This is complete conjecture on my part, but I have encountered this alphabetical pattern on quotes websites many times.  I suspect that a quote website administrator was copying quotes from an alphabetized list in which Edgar Watson Howe or Edith Wharton occurred just prior to Elbert Hubbard, and when the list transitioned from Edgar or Edith to Elbert, the transcriptionist did not double check to ensure the quote entered corresponded with the correct person.  My July 17, 2014 post titled “Kennedy Morphs into Keats:  Another Reason to Get Your Inspirational Quotes from a Reliable Source” also features this phenomenon.  In this instance, it involves the last names of Keats and Kennedy.

The second question is how did the unknown Edgar Watson get involved with this misquote?  Clearly, the most well-known of the three is Edith Wharton (1862–1937), the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Age of Innocence, Ethan Frome, and The House of Mirth.  Edgar Watson Howe (1853–1937) is not quite as renowned, but he did leave his mark as an American author as well as founder and editor of local newspapers and a magazine.  And then there’s the mysterious Edgar Watson.  The only Edgar Watson of note that I could find was Edgar J. Watson (1855–1910) of the Florida Everglades who was supposedly responsible for several murders.  Based on this information and the fact that he only received four misattributions, I am going to assume this “person” is the result of a typo.  Somewhere along the line, a quote website administrator inadvertently omitted “Howe” while entering data on a website and consequently created a new “person” in the world of quotes.  This is speculation on my part, but I have a feeling I’m right.  One thing we do know is that the quote virus will be infecting other websites with this misquote in the near future, and Edgar Watson will become a real person.

Most Amusing Find

I came across a quotes paraphernalia website featuring today’s misquote attributed to Edgar Watson—not Edgar Watson Howe or Edith Wharton or Elbert Hubbard—but Edgar Watson ONLY.  For $14.99 you can have your own misquote coffee mug.  For $29.99 you can get a misquote smart phone case (actually dumb phone case is a better description).  If you really want to splurge, you can have your own misquote framed art print for $39.99.  I wonder what the people at this company would think if they knew Edgar Watson was a serial killer.  Oh come on.  You’ve got to admit; that is amusing.

Kill the Quote Virus

Once again, we have seen the damage the quote virus can inflict.  To avoid being infected, be sure to practice safe quoting.  Never trust a quote that does not have complete source information.  The author/orator’s name should be accompanied by the work in which the quote is found along with applicable information such as chapter, verse, stanza, line, scene, act, etc.  Never trust a quote posted on social media, including the ones with the title, “Yes!  He actually said this.”  Don’t believe it.

Finally, the best way to kill the virus is through education.  Please help spread the knowledge by forwarding this article to friends and family.  Additionally, authors and speakers often use quotes in their work and unknowingly are the cause of misquote propagation.  If you happen to know any, please share the knowledge with them.

Until next time, don’t forget to

“Be the antidote and don’t misquote.”

©Sue Brewton

There is a big difference between Walter Scott and Walter Dill Scott.

Today’s topic is about an inspirational quote that is often falsely attributed to Walter Scott or Sir Walter Scott.  Unfortunately, this misattribution is very popular across the internet and continues to grow like a fungus.

The Misattributed and Misworded Quote

“Success or failure in business is caused more by the mental attitude even than by mental capacities.”
Walter Scott or Sir Walter Scott

The Correct Quote

“Success or failure in business is caused more by mental attitude even than by mental capacities.”
Walter Dill Scott
Increasing Human Efficiency in Business
Chapter VI

Here is the quote found in chapter VI of Increasing Human Efficiency in Business by Walter Dill Scott:

The Quote Found in Chapter VI of Increasing Human Efficiency in Business by Walter Dill Scott

The Quote Found in Chapter VI of Increasing Human Efficiency in Business by Walter Dill Scott

Here is the book title page:

Title Page of Increasing Human Efficiency in Business Showing Walter Dill Scott as the Author

Title Page of Increasing Human Efficiency in Business Showing Walter Dill Scott as the Author

Statistics

The quote virus is hard at work with today’s quote.  After surveying 105 infected websites, I found the following statistics.

PercentageType of Website
66%    Quotes-only or Quotes a major feature
12%    Corporate individuals or companies
8%     Informational (sports, science, news, etc.)
7%     Social media
2%     Quotes paraphernalia for purchase
2%     Organization/foundation
1%     Academic/educational/school
1%     Topical group/forum
1%     Online service/app

The Cause of the Misattribution and Miswording

There are two people at the root of this misquote.  Both are notable men, and both happen to be named Walter Scott.  The first is Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832), the Scottish novelist and poet most known for his literary works Ivanhoe, Rob Roy, and The Lady of the Lake.  He was granted the title of baronet in 1820, and thus he is known as Sir Walter Scott.  The second is Walter Dill Scott (1869–1955), the American psychologist most known for his theories on organizational and business psychology, and his name does NOT bear the prefix “Sir.”  Clearly, they are two very different people who lived in very different places at very different times.  Unfortunately for Walter Dill Scott, he is preceded by the more well-known Sir Walter Scott, which means Walter Dill will most likely forever be in the shadow of Sir Walter.

Knowing how the quote virus works, we can assume that sometime after Walter Dill Scott published Increasing Human Efficiency in Business, someone must have cited this quote from the book without using his complete name.  And since Sir Walter Scott is more well-known than Walter Dill Scott, most people probably assumed Sir Walter Scott was the originator and took the liberty of adding “Sir” to the attribution.  Additionally, someone came along and added the word “the” before the words “mental attitude,” and for some reason this version prevailed.  With the advent of the internet, we can assume that quote websites took the liberty of adding Sir Walter Scott’s photo and bio to the quote further enforcing this inaccurate information.  Today this misquote is so deeply entrenched in the world of quotes that it not only appears on quote websites and in quote books, but it has made its way into the title of a poem written by Sir Walter Scott.  See the “Most Amusing Find” section below for full details.

This is why it is important to only use quotes that have detailed source information.  The author/orator’s name should be accompanied by the work in which the quote is found along with applicable information such as chapter, verse, stanza, line, scene, act, etc.

All is Not Lost

When I researched the quote with the correct wording (sans “the” before “mental attitude”), I found six websites with the correct attribution.  So Walter Dill Scott is hanging in there by a thread.  My hope is that this post will help educate the world to give credit where credit is due.

Most Amusing Find

During my research, I came across a recent publication (2014) of Sir Walter Scott’s poem The Lay of the Last Minstrel.  The amusing part is that the publishing company actually added Walter Dill Scott’s quote to the title!  So the new title reads The Lay of the Last Minstrel: “Success or failure in business is caused more by the mental attitude even than by mental capacities.”  This egregious mistake will give a lot of power to the quote virus.  This publishing company could single-handedly obliterate Walter Dill Scott as the originator—poor guy.

Books

I came across five books featuring the misquote, three of which are quotes-only books.  All were published between 2004 and 2014.  Once again, I must reiterate that quotes-only books are not to be trusted unless they include detailed source information.  This means author/orator name, book title with chapter, play title with act and scene, poem title with line number, or speech date and location.  If you can easily locate the quote, the source is reliable.  Most modern quote books are compilations of quotes and misquotes found in previously published quote books and/or quotes found on quote websites.  And as I have demonstrated in the aforementioned statistics (and all previous posts), quote websites are the most unreliable sources for quotes.

For Sale

Like many of the other misquotes I’ve blogged about, today’s misquote is available for purchase.  For $22.95 you can spice up your mornings with a misquote coffee mug, or for $19.99 you can have your own fashionable misquote t-shirt.  These fine products not only feature the incorrect wording but include the incorrect attribution.  What a bonus!

Kill the Quote Virus

The quote virus can only be killed through education and safe quoting.  You can help educate by sharing this blog post with friends and family.  You can also practice safe quoting by following all the guidelines on my “What You Can Do” page.  I would also greatly appreciate it if you would help spread the knowledge by “liking” my Sue Brewton Author Facebook fan page or following @SueBrewton on Twitter.

And don’t forget

“Be the antidote and don’t misquote.”

©Sue Brewton

Introducing The Adventures of Miss Quote

I would like to announce the world debut of Miss Quote.  She’s a woman who loves quotes but just can’t seem to get them right.  Click on the following link to see her latest adventure:

Miss Quote Learns Shakespeare

Warning:  Bear with me.  The lip movement is glitchy and sometimes doesn’t sync.  George Lucas I am not.

Squire Bill Widener vs. Theodore Roosevelt

Today’s post is about a motivational quote that is often falsely attributed to Theodore Roosevelt.  It is very popular across the internet and in quote books.

The Misattributed Quote and Its Variations (in order of popularity)

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
Theodore Roosevelt

“Do what you can where you are, with what you have.”
Theodore Roosevelt

“Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.”
Theodore Roosevelt

The Correct Quote

“Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.”
Squire Bill Widener of Widener’s Valley, Virginia
Theodore Roosevelt:  An Autobiography
chapter IX

Here is the quote found in chapter IX of Theodore Roosevelt:  An Autobiography (first published in 1913).  Note that Roosevelt clearly attributes the quote to Squire Bill Widener.

The Quote Attributed to Squire Bill Widener Found in Chapter IX of Theodore Roosevelt: An Autobiography (1913)

The Quote Attributed to Squire Bill Widener Found in Chapter IX of Theodore Roosevelt: An Autobiography (1913)

Here is the book title page:

Title Page of Theodore Roosevelt: An Autobiography

Title Page of Theodore Roosevelt: An Autobiography

Here is the table of contents:

Table of Contents Showing Title of Chapter IX Where the Quote is Found

Table of Contents Showing Title of Chapter IX Where the Quote is Found

Statistics

The quote virus is having a field day with this quote.  After surveying 135 infected websites, I found the following statistics.

PercentageType of Website
42%    Quotes-only or Quotes a major feature
21%    Corporate individuals or companies
11%    Social Media
10%    Informational (sports, science, news)
7%     Quotes paraphernalia for purchase
6%     Organization/foundation
3%     Academic/educational/school

Please keep in mind, this is an incomplete sample; there are many more sites featuring this misquote.  I stopped at 135 because I think that is an adequate amount to get a good approximation of the statistics.  Once again the majority of websites featuring the misquote are websites with an emphasis on providing an extensive quotes collection.  And once again, I will reiterate that quote websites are not reliable sources for quotes.  Use a source that includes detailed information for each quote.  In addition to the author/orator’s name, there should be accompanying data that enables you to find and verify the quote easily.  This data can include book title, chapter, play title, act, scene, poem title, line number, or speech date and location.

Variations

Somehow over the years, the words “with what you’ve got” have morphed into “with what you have,” and this is the most popular version of the misquote.  The second most popular version has the words “where you are” transposed into the middle of the sentence instead of at the end.  The least popular version of this misquote is the one with the correct wording.  That figures!

Some people don’t mind paraphrased or reworded quotes.  I am not one of them.  It doesn’t make sense to reword quotes by orators or writers who are revered for their skills in speaking and writing.  I have seen reworded quotes from William Shakespeare, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Walt Whitman and many other great authors which I think is downright sacrilegious.  It doesn’t make sense to alter words written by the greats.  After all, this is why they are being quoted—their brilliance in the craft of words.  I know there are people who disagree with me, but that is my humble opinion and I’m sticking to it.

Possible Cause of The Misattribution

There are probably a couple of factors contributing to the birth of this misquote.  The first is the obvious being that Theodore Roosevelt did indeed utter and write these words.  Unfortunately, even though he gives full credit to Squire Bill Widener, this information does not get forwarded with the quote.  I am guessing this is because a quote has more of an impact if it is from a well-known person, and sadly, Mr. Widener does not fit into this category.

Another contributing factor to this misquote is probably due to quote hunters not taking the time to read the full text in which the quote appears.  They instead presume that all the words contained within a book are originated by the author.  As some of my previous posts have demonstrated, this practice results in misquotes.  For example, my 10/21/14 post titled “Who wrote it?  Wordsworth or Michelangelo?” illustrates how William Wordsworth gets misquoted because he translated into English words written in the Italian of Michelangelo.  Another example can be found in my 08/12/14 post titled “Another Erroneous Inspirational Quote—Another Method of Origin.”  In this instance, Mark Twain gets misquoted because he includes Samuel Watson Royston’s entire short story within his own book The £1,000,000 Bank-Note and Other New Stories.  In both cases, a disclaimer is included to clarify that the author did not write the included work, and recognition is given to the proper originator.  Unfortunately, these efforts to give credit where credit is due are overridden by individuals who do not take the time to read the quote in its full context and thereby create a misquote that gets propagated like a virus throughout the literary world.

All is Not Lost

On the positive side, there are a handful of websites that not only provide the quote with the correct wording but also provide the correct attribution.  Many of them also point out that this quote is often misattributed to Theodore Roosevelt.  So there is hope!

Books

I came across five books containing the misquote.  They range in publication date from 1993 to 2013.  One of these books is dedicated solely to quotes.  I noticed that most books prior to the inception of the internet have the quote correctly worded and attributed.  I’m going to sound like a broken record again, but quotes found in books published after the birth of the internet are particularly unreliable as most of these authors use the internet as the source for their quotes.  This does not mean that all quotes found in books prior to the internet are accurate.  It just means to be wary of contemporary books.  And this includes quote books.

For Sale

As with most of my previous posts, today’s misquote is available for purchase.  In fact, it is the most popular for-sale misquote I have researched to date.  For as little as $7.00, you can have your own framed print.  You can also have a framed, “autographed” print for $49.99; the so-called “autograph” is an image of Roosevelt’s signature superimposed onto an image of the misquote.  A variety of t-shirts and coffee mugs are also available for purchase.  Unfortunately, these products are another method of misquote propagation.

Kill the Quote Virus

I will once again conclude with a plea to help kill the quote virus.  Never trust a quote website.  Do not trust a quote book unless it provides detailed source information.  And if you’re hunting for quotes, make sure you read the entire text in which the quote is found.  As today’s misquote illustrates, all content in a book is not necessarily written by the author.  Please visit my “What You Can Do” page for a complete list of pitfalls to avoid.

You can also help combat the quote virus by sharing this post with your friends and family.  I would also appreciate very much if you would “like” my Sue Brewton Author Facebook fan page.  Every “like” helps.  And remember

“Be the antidote and don’t misquote.”

©Sue Brewton

Edgar Allan Poe vs. Washington Irving

Today’s topic is a motivational quote that is often falsely attributed to Edgar Allan Poe.  Unfortunately, the misattributed version is wildly popular across the internet.

The Misattributed Quote

“There is an eloquence in true enthusiasm that is not to be doubted.”
Edgar Allan Poe

The Correct Quote

“There is an eloquence in true enthusiasm that is not to be doubted.”
Washington Irving
“The Adventure of the German Student”
Tales of a Traveller

Here is the quote found in the short story “The Adventure of the German Student” by Washington Irving.

The Quote Found in “The Adventure of the German Student” by Washington Irving

The Quote Found in “The Adventure of the German Student” by Washington Irving

Here is the title page of the book Tales of a Traveller in which the short story appears.  The book was first published in 1824 by Washington Irving under the pseudonym Geoffrey Crayon.  Irving is best known for his short stories “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”

Title Page of the Book Tales of a Traveller Showing the Author is Geoffrey Crayon, One of Irving’s Pseudonyms

Title Page of the Book Tales of a Traveller Showing the Author is Geoffrey Crayon, One of Irving’s Pseudonyms

Statistics

Today’s misquote has a serious case of quote virus infection.  It has contaminated a multitude of websites as well as modern books.  I surveyed 130 infected websites and found the following statistics.

PercentageType of Website
43%    Quotes-only or Quotes a major feature
33%    Social media
10%    Community/shared interest/discussion forum
5%     Corporate individuals or companies
4%     Online service or app
3%     Academic/educational/school
2%     Quotes paraphernalia for purchase

As in all my previous posts, the majority of websites featuring the misquote are websites dedicated solely to providing quotes.  Out of the 43% only six sites featured other non-quote information.  Once again, the lesson is do not rely on quotes websites for accurate quotes.  I know it doesn’t make sense that they are the least reliable since their sole purpose is to provide quotes.  Unfortunately, the administrators of these sites do not check the accuracy of the data they are providing, and many simply copy information verbatim from other inaccurate websites.  In fact many quotes websites contain the exact same quotes, the exact same misquotes with the exact same typos in the exact same order found on other quotes websites.  And as I’ve mentioned before, these types of websites continue to multiply like a virus.  Each time I do research for my next blog post, I notice new duplicate websites rearing their ugly heads.

The Possible Cause of the Misattribution

There are many books that feature the writings of both Edgar Allan Poe and Washington Irving.  Most of these books are collections of ghost stories or tales of the supernatural.  Some are collections of works by authors from the same time period or from the same country.  Since Poe and Irving happen to be grouped in several categories together, they are both often found within the same anthology.  One could surmise that perhaps a quote was taken from one of these collections and was inadvertently attributed to the wrong author in the collection.  This is a complete guess on my part, but I’m basing it on past experience with multiple authors found within the same book.  See my previous post dated 10/21/14 titled “Who wrote it? Wordsworth or Michelangelo?” as well as my post on 08/12/14 titled “Another Erroneous Inspirational Quote—Another Method of Origin.”  These two posts support my theory.

The Cause of Misquote Propagation

As my statistics indicate, social media is the second most popular category of website featuring today’s misquote.  The reason these sites play a major role in misquote propagation is they all feature some type of functionality to forward and re-post messages and images that users create.  For example, one Twitter user can create a cascade of re-tweets from a single tweet of a misquote.  In other words, the misquote travels from one person to multiple people who then forward it to multiple people who then forward it to multiple people and so on.  This is why I call it a quote virus.  Its propagation is very similar to a physiological or computer virus.  Social media together with quotes websites are the fuel propelling the spread of false information at an increasingly rapid pace.

Books

I came across two books featuring today’s misquote.  Both were published in 2010.  One is a book of strictly quotes.  The other is a book containing a chapter dedicated to quotes.  Neither of these books provides detailed source information for each quote; the author/orator’s name is the only information given.  This leads me to repeat my warning to be extra cautious when using quote books published after the birth of the internet.  Most of them are compilations of quotes found either on the internet or in other contemporary quote books.  Do not trust a book if the quotes do not include source information such as book title, chapter, play title, act, scene, poem title, line number, speech date, location, etc.  This applies to all books regardless of publication date.

Most Disappointing Find

The most disappointing discovery to me is that this misquote appears on academic websites for schools and universities.  Because information released from an educational institution or an educator is presumed to be current and accurate, a misquote disseminated from these types of sources might as well be gospel.  I actually came across two teachers who not only misattributed the quote to Poe but they also misspelled his middle name.  Additionally, I found an article produced by a writing consortium at a prestigious university featuring the same errors.  It is disconcerting that well-respected sources of information and knowledge play a part in misquote propagation.

Most Amusing Find

Although I am amused, I am also saddened by the following.  I came across a blogger whose home page title is “The Future Star of the Literary World,” and on the same page she cites Irving’s quote as being from The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe.  I came across another blogger who refers to herself as a “Poe Girl” on her title page, and underneath this title is Irving’s quote misattributed to Poe.

For Sale

As with many of my previous posts, today’s misquote is available for purchase.  For just $6.50 you can purchase one greeting card, or for $20.95 you can have your own coffee mug.  Not only do both items feature this very special misquote, but both come with Poe’s name misspelled and as a bonus the word “eloquence” is misspelled.  Be sure to place your order soon while supplies last!

Kill the Quote Virus

In conclusion, I will reiterate my admonition to never trust a quote from a quotes website, and never trust a quote found on social media.  Always make sure the quote is from a reliable source.  Please visit my “What You Can Do” page for a complete list of pitfalls to avoid.

To help extinguish the quote virus, please share this post with your friends and family, and “like” my Sue Brewton Author Facebook fan page to help spread the word.  And remember to

“Be the antidote and don’t misquote.”

©Sue Brewton