Today’s post concerns a quote that is widely misattributed to F. Scott Fitzgerald. It appears most commonly on the internet as well as in a few modern books.
The Misattributed Quote
✘ “Our lives are defined by opportunities, even the ones we miss.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Correct Quote
✓ “Our lives are defined by opportunities, even the ones we miss.”
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button screenplay
Dir. David Fincher
Paramount Pictures, 2008.
The Cause of the Misattribution
The correct author of this quote is the screenwriter, Eric Roth, who wrote the screenplay for the 2008 film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button which is based on the short story of the same name written by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Obviously the confusion stems from two different works, a screenplay and a short story, having the same title. It should be noted that even though a screenplay is based on a book or a short story, that does not mean it will contain the same narration or dialogue. In this case, the quote appears in the screenplay only which means Eric Roth is the correct source.
The Sources of the Misattribution
After analyzing 88 websites featuring this misquote, I found that 37% are quote websites, and 35% are blogs. The remaining 28% are either book websites or social media sites.
Note that quote websites make up the largest percentage. This demonstrates that you should never trust a quote from a quote website. Although it would seem that a site specializing in such a narrow subject matter would be a reliable resource, in reality it is not. The quotes featured on these websites are not verified quotes.
Blogs are the second highest percentage, so it goes without saying that they are also not a good resource for quotes.
Much like the misquotes in my previous posts, today’s misquote is available for purchase. It can be found on a site selling wall art, and depending on the size of the decal, the price range is $31.95 to $49.95. I would say that’s a pretty decent profit for flawed merchandise.
Most Disappointing Find
The most disappointing thing about this misquote is that it appears on websites that celebrate books. Some of them are strictly dedicated to quotes from books, and some of them feature reviews and discussion about books. What I find interesting is that readers have posted today’s misquote as their “favorite” quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button which they supposedly just finished reading and are now reviewing and commenting on. I’ve seen posts of this nature on several different websites. For example, one reader lists ten of her “favorite quotes from some amazing books,” and her second one is today’s misquote complete with a photo of the book. This person is the primary book reviewer on this website, and clearly she did not really read Fitzgerald’s short story. One has to wonder how many people are “faking it” on these bibliophile sites. Being a book lover myself, I’m actually very disheartened by this discovery.
Kill the Quote Virus
In conclusion, what I call the “quote virus” is continuing to spread its germs across the internet. To learn how you can avoid getting duped and infected by the virus, go to my “What You Can Do” page for a list of pitfalls to avoid. Please be sure to share the knowledge. I will close once again with my nerdy little mantra:
Investigate. Don’t propagate. Demand integrity in quoting.”