Sunday, March 18, 2012

Who said it? Not the person you think.

A couple of months ago, there was a John Lennon quote making the Facebook rounds.  As with so many memes, this one showed up suddenly, made its way to the profiles of a large and varied group of friends, and then disappeared.

The quote (and accompanying picture):

Very interesting quote.  And a great one, too.

Too bad it doesn't sound like John Lennon. 

I would never claim to have read every quote that ever came from John's mouth, but I certainly had never read this one, and even though I dutifully "liked" it every time someone posted it, I was suspicious.

And I wasn't the only one:

In trying to find any history for this quote, I found it marked as something attributed to John, but "unsourced" on Wikiquote, along with the note that it appears to be 21st century in origin.  


So how about that Yeats' quote that shows up every St. Patrick's Day?

"Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which 
sustained him through temporary periods of joy."

I don't even know much about Yeats, but I love the quote and wanted to write it down and, on a hunch, thought I should verify the quoter in this instance as well.

Well, somebody said it, but it sure as hell wasn't Yeats.


I'm not sure which is more tragic:  that the spread of information is such that quotes such as these (and countless others) will likely always be attributed to the wrong person (how could you possibly undo all the millions upon millions of times the error has been repeated?), or that in an age in which much of the knowledge of mankind is at all of our fingertips, the people who said these things - the actual speakers of these quotes - are unknown and/or forgotten.

And if we're unknowingly spreading the wrong information about harmless quotations, what else are we spreading the wrong information about?  The word "viral" didn't used to have a positive connotation.  Perhaps there was a reason for that.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Self,
    Well done on posting this entry to coincide EXACTLY with the story of Trayvon Martin going viral, proving that getting the word out in an unstoppable manner is sometimes the only thing that produces the pressure needed to get to the bottom of an issue.

    My thoughts on all of this need more baking time.