Tag Archives: Quotes
Sometimes famous last words occur long before the individual dies; what I mean by that is that a pivotal statement is made, and thereafter (whether immediately, or down through history ever after) the person ends up eating their hat. Here’s an example:
Charles H. Duell, director of the US patent office 1899, is thought to have said, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”
But we should never judge a book by its cover; because he never said this! What he actually said was, “In my opinion, all previous advances in the various lines of invention will appear totally insignificant when compared with those which the present century will witness. I almost wish that I might live my life over again to see the wonders which are at the threshold.” ( The Friend, Volume 76, 1902) Quite a different matter.
It was, in fact, an earlier Patent Office Commissioner, Henry Ellsworth that may have been responsible for the sentiment: In a report to the 1843 Congress, Ellsworth states, “The advancement of the arts, from year to year, taxes our credulity and seems to presage the arrival of that period when human improvement must end.“*
Oddly, you will find the misquote in published books and all over the web; let that be a reminder to us to do a bit of investigation of our own. Don’t even trust news sources such as newspapers or television news, as they are known to hype up, propagandize, invent, or at the very least embellish events. This last link is a short talk about journalism in the US, and it’s an important reminder for everyone in the world that just because it’s in print or on the news doesn’t mean you can fully trust its veracity.
*Source: Wikipedia (Take even that source with a pinch of salt!)
History Undusted on 15 December 2015
Elmore Leonard, best known for countless novels and their film adaptations, such as Get Shorty, Jackie Brown and Out of Sight, was known for this gritty writing style and strong dialogues.
Here are a few of his gems of advice for writers (with my comments in parentheses):
- “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”
- “Try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.” (Think: thick paragraphs of prose; boring lists; role calls that seem to be there more to remind the writer who’s in the scene than to entertain the reader.)
- “If proper (grammar) usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative.” (This advice should follow the adage, however: First learn the rules; then you’ll know how and when you can break them.)
- “Never open a book with weather. There are exceptions. If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways to describe snow and ice than an Eskimo, you can do all the weather reporting you want.”
- “I never see my bad guys as simply bad. They want pretty much what you and I want: They want to be happy.”
- “At the time I begin writing a novel, the last thing I want to do is follow a plot outline. To know too much at the start takes the pleasure out of discovering what the book is about.”
- “It doesn’t have to make sense, it just has to sound like it does.”
I love quotes; good ones take an entire concept and condense it down to one or two lines. Some are pithy, some profound, some obscure and some obvious, but most always, they make you stop and think. They often relate universal conditions of the human existence, whether that quote comes from a present-day person or one that lived hundreds of years ago.
I often use quotes in my articles here, but I’ve never really had titled posts dedicated to them; I like to use alliterations, but “quote” doesn’t rhyme with anything practical in English – so (naturally) I went with Latin. [For the few Latin aficionados out there, please let me know if I’ve used the wrong form… there aren’t exactly Latin dictionaries floating around.]
I’d like to kick off with one of the wittiest writers I know of, Mark Twain. Here are five zingers (and I apologize in advance for the grammatical errors – I didn’t make the jpegs!); enjoy!
Challenge: Write a short paragraph (100 words or less) daily on a topic beginning with the sequential letter of the alphabet.
I collect quotes the way some people collect stamps; any time I come across a good one, I add it to my collection. I wish I had photographic memory so that I could pull them out at the drop of a hat, but perhaps such a gift would rather be a curse than a blessing in this age of information-overload. The exact quote in the right moment can sum up an hour’s lecture into one pithy point; they say brevity is the spice of life, so if you have something to say, make every word count!