In Cold Comfort Farm, by Stella Gibbons, Aunt Ada Doom claims to have seen ‘something nasty in the woodshed’. Now, the book never reveals what the ‘something nasty’ was, but I’m strongly inclined to believe that it was a nefarious collector of quotes with a penchant for misattribution. I picture a wall sporting pictures of famous people, pages torn out of books, hand-written notes, and strands of red wool connecting them in random fashion, much like the collages favoured by serial killers. After years of dedicated hoarding and scrambling, our villain finally releases a mass of misinformation so cryptic, so evil in its genius, that not even Wikiquote can unravel it.I saw something nasty in the woodshed Click To Tweet
The result? An interweb full of stuff Albert Einstein never said. Funny how he has so much attributed to him in comparison to other scientists, psychologists, Nobel prize winners, and other people who chose pensive facial expressions for photographs. But as Einstein himself said:
Here’s a popular Einstein misquote:
Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.
Nope, not something Einstein would have said. Because Einstein was smart. Which means he knew how many people were not geniuses. Also, a fish attempting to climb a tree would be dead within 10 minutes. And it would not be thinking about society in general’s opinion of its intelligence in those final seconds. It would be thinking about not being dead.
My favourite Einstein misquote, and the one that seems to turn up most often, is this:
Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.
Now this quote is wonderful for two reasons. One, it was not said by Einstein, or any other famous person, but appears to have originated in a Narcotics Anonymous Pamphlet from 1981 (according to quoteinvestigator.com). This purported origin is even more entertaining when you consider reason two, which is as follows:
This is not the definition of insanity. Take, for example, serial killers (of the type described earlier), drug addicts (who hopefully end up at Narcotics Anonymous), obsessive-compulsives (I can say that because I am one (officially, that is; I didn’t self-diagnose (I really am one; ask my psychiatrist))), taxidermists, and Harry Potter fans. All known for inane repetitive behaviours from which they expect the same result.
According to law.com, the legal definition for insanity (used to determine a defendant’s ability to discern the difference between right and wrong in the case of a crime) is, ‘a mental illness of such a severe nature that a person cannot distinguish fantasy from reality, cannot conduct her/his affairs due to psychosis, or is subject to uncontrollable impulsive behavior.’
Now if that doesn’t perfectly describe arboreally-obsessed marine creatures and Harry Potter fans, I don’t know what does.
How about: ‘Luke, I am your father.’
What old Vader actually said was: ‘No, I am your father.’
Ok, less catchy, but we’re going for accuracy here.
But why? Why is accuracy so important? Well, Bob, (you don’t mind me calling you ‘Bob’, do you?) the reason is this. If you forward an ‘amazing’ quote you read on Pinterest or Tumblr and it says, ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world – Ghandi’, well, I’m going to think you’re about as smart as those suicidal limbless kippers and anything further that spouts from your mouth or fingertips will be regarded as so much common senselessness.
And that’s why Survivor Bunny is approaching the dilemma from two sides:
- Quotes used on the site that seem authentic have been confirmed as such.
- Quotes that sound completely ridiculous definitely are.
In fact, if you follow us on Pinterest, you’ll find two different boards: Quotable quotes – only verified quotes pinned here – and Missing Misquotes – misquotes that had not previously been made, but should have been.
Because a true genius always verifies her sources. You can quote me on that.A true genius always verifies her sources. Click To Tweet
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