I Love Me a Good Quote

English: Royal Monogram of Queen Marie-Antoine...

English: Royal Monogram of Queen Marie-Antoinette of France (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“What is a quote? A quote…. is a cut, a section, a slice of someone else’s orange. You suck the slice, toss the rind, skate away…..To loot someone else’s life or sentences and make off with a point of view.” ~ Anne Carson, “Foam (Essay with Rhapsody)” (from Decreation)

I love quotes. I looted this one from David Kanigan, but in the true spirit of the quote, I only took the parts that I wanted to illuminate, and left out some of the original quote, hence the dot dot dots……..

You can take quotes out of context and use them for whatever purpose you choose. The Bible, Shakespeare, and Hemingway all come to mind (those three in the same sentence is almost barbaric…)

As a journalist of sorts, I report on all manner of things, and know very well how to make someone sound stupid and mean, or intelligent and trustworthy—yet I do not use my powers, at least not consciously.  I try to be objective—and have to admit that in being objective, sometimes I am not subjective enough. Sometimes people deserve to see their words highlighted so they can see how others see them, to see the effect their words have, to see that sometimes they assess a situation incorrectly, callously, with no compassion to their fellow man or woman.

I will never stop using quotes—but when I do use them, I keep in mind that I generally use words frozen out of their original context and moulded to meet my circumstances and put forth my perspective. What did Marie Antoinette really mean when she said “Let them eat cake”? In a cursory search of this phrase I found out that she never really said it. According to Wikipedia: “Let them eat cakes was said 100 years before her by Marie-Therese, the wife of Louis XIV. It was a callous and ignorant statement and she, Marie Antoinette, was neither.” This was from the 2002 writings of the Queen’s best-selling English language biographer, Lady Antonia Fraser.

Let that be a lesson to me. I will be careful not to “skate away” without forethought when I deign to quote other’s words in an attempt to “make off with a point of view”.

Do you ever think about the fact that in quoting someone, you are putting your mark on their words?

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17 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I love to use quotes, but I never thought of it like this! Thanks for the fresh look on the way I use quotes! Great post!

  2. Not wanting to quote you out of context, I have nominated you for an award instead! Feel free to share the appreciation of well-written blogs and interesting topics through acceptance by going here:

    http://catlumb.com/2013/08/20/awards-round-up-check-out-these-blogs/

    No pressure. This is just my way of thanking you for sharing your thoughts.
    Take Care, Cat x

  3. I see what you’re saying. Though it is hard to see how you can absolutely eschew quotes. If you merely report, the reportee can simply rebuff you with ‘That’s not what I said.’ Even with a quote, there’s the oldest defence in the world. ‘That’s not what I meant. i’ve been quoted out of context.’ I simply don’t know if these are two reconcialble differences.
    BTW thanks for scotching the Marie Antoinette ‘quote.’ I tell anybody who listens that she didn’t say it.

  4. I commented on David’s post this morning..I think when someone has been able to string together words in such a way that they are both memorable and quotable, there is always an element of personal interpretation when cited. And I think that’s totally ok – and encouraged, for it provokes thought (as you just did with your post today). The red flag is to assume one knows the intent of the original author/speaker, etc – and to spend one’s energy opining about the person and not the thoughts their words evoked. I hope this makes sense..

    • makes total sense – thanks Mimi — I do love quotes and what they provoke–guess I was just being devil’s advocate today

  5. I love quotes…..not being a writer, those I quote seem to say exactly what I want to say when I can’t.

  6. I love quotes too, but mine tend to be much less cerebral. My best quotes come from Seinfeld, Stephen Wright, and Woody Allen.

  7. Quotes are the best, sometimes you yourself just do not have the words :P

    Cheers
    CCU

    • you are right–sometimes someone else has said the absolute perfect thing and you wonder if you have a twin or two

  8. Absolutely. You can change just about any quote and make it mean the exact opposite. This is a major problem in history. Every heard of the book Hitler’s Willing Executioners. The author manipulated his quotes and made every German in Europe guilty for the Holocaust. I read a book that showed what quotes he used and how he left out key parts. Scandalous.

    • it can be — some people can manipulate words to make them say something they were not intended to say

  9. You’re right that often people take the ‘part’ of the quote in order to make a point but it is so misleading to do that intentionally and really nullifies what they said/wrote (unless explained that it is only part for a reason ) Diane

    • it is a good jumping off point–but sometimes we use a quote to make it say what we want it to — which can be either good or bad


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