Thursday, 28 March 2013

my work here is overshadowed

["The thing about quotes on the internet is you can not confirm their validity" -- Abraham Lincoln] I like to collect witty and apposite quotations. I also like to make sure that they are properly attributed.  There are many incorrect or apocryphal attributions around on the net of a million lies; anything unsourced should be treated with suspicion.  In my zeal to track things down, I have even been known to buy two different translations of a well known quotation in order to examine its meaning.

I've learned a lot hunting around for the correct attribution, such as the fact that Edmund Burke did not say
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
that Ralph Waldo Emerson did not say
Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
and that Voltaire did not say
 I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.
Today I was hunting around for a source for the well known:
It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.
There appears to be an even split in opinion between Mark Twain and Lincoln, but they are all unsourced. Everything witty is eventually attributed to Twain, so these are always doubly suspicious, and if Lincoln had said it, surely there would be a source available somewhere?  More googling landed me at the Quote Investigator, a remarkably well-researched and well-referenced resource, putting my puny efforts to shame.  This will definitely be my first port of call from now on.

The correct attribution for the quotation?  Neither Twain not Lincoln, it seems.  It appears to have evolved over the years into its current form.

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