I was inspired to do this blog post after seeing one from the New York Public Library turn up in my Twitter feed. http://www.nypl.org/blog/2013/11/22/how-to-research-quotations
A lot of the resources they give in the post require subscriptions, although the list of quote books is a good one and the titles you should be able to access in most medium to large public libraries. So I decided to put together a list of sources available for anyone. Before you pass on a quote, check and make sure it isn’t false.
There are many reasons people create false quotes. Sometimes they know they are making them up and attribute them to someone or some other time to help prove a point they are making. That’s the case with things like the Rules for Teachers 1872. Other times reporters help a quote along to make it sound better or worse depending on your point of view. For instance, former GM President and Chief Executive Charles E. Wilson’s quote “I cannot conceive of one, because for years I thought what was good for our country was good for General Motors and vice versa. The difference did not exist. Our company is too big. It goes with the welfare of the country.” became “What’s good for General Motors is good for the country.” And sometimes people think something sounds better when someone important and well thought of said it, like quote magnets George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, or Mark Twain. Here’s a small round up of very popular misquotes:
To find out for yourself whether someone actually said something or not check out these web resources:
Search for a quote on the Quote Investigator. The search box is kind of hard to see, but is in the black line under the header. Also, you can check under the person’s page (linked to in the right hand column on their website) if you see someone whose quote you want to confirm or disprove.
Check out the Spurious Quotes pages for institutions that represent famously misquoted people and from others including:
- George Washington
- Thomas Jefferson
- Abraham Lincoln
- Mark Twain and much more complete Mark Twain
- Harriet Tubman (Scroll down)
I’m going to post a version of this at a later date on the Kirkwood Community College Library blog, so if anybody has some additional resource links I’d be glad to share them.
Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+,LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. She is currently acting President of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.