In the pre-Internet days, “Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations” and “The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations” were the gold standards, although sometimes misattributed quotes found their way into those volumes.
Much of this material is now online, but the best source of accurate quotes today is the “Yale Book of Quotations,” edited by the rigorous and charming Fred R. Many of the most frequently misquoted historical figures have websites devoted to keeping the record straight for their heroes.
These range from one established by a conscientious amateur Twain aficionada named Barbara Schmidt to Winston Churchill.org, which is run by the Churchill Centre and Museum in London.
The latter site even has a section called “Quotes Falsely Attributed.” In his anthology, Shapiro goes the extra mile in tracking down the origin of erroneous quotes.
(He often mentioned death, but not as something to be dreaded. 15, 1871, letter to his wife, Olivia, he described death as “a great leveler . Receiving such missives, even if they are only 140 characters long, presents an ethical dilemma.
Although no one likes being branded a scold, does a failure to correct them connote acquiescence? What is a journalist covering the 2012 election supposed to do when iconoclastic presidential candidate Buddy Roemer tweets (as he did last March), “Let the people know the facts, and the country will be safe – Abraham Lincoln.” And is it best to keep silent when Cory Booker, Newark’s charismatic mayor, tweets out inspiring quotes on a daily basis -- even if they are of equally dubious provenance?Yet, Twitter also lends itself to one of the Internet’s most noxious features -- the dissemination of bogus and misattributed quotations.My “friends,” to use the nomenclature of another social networking site, know phony quotes to be my pet peeve.” On the occasion of his 70th birthday party, Twain amplified on this idea.“I have made it a rule never to smoke more than one cigar at a time,” he said.“Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. It was first applied to smoking, and to Twain, by the Journal of the American Medical Association and Reader’s Digest in the 1940s.] 10. The “Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs” traces similar lines to the 14th century.] 13.I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.” [Not Twain; this is a variation on an old joke -- told by W. “Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.” [True] 11. “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” [Not Twain.31, 1914, edition of a South Carolina newspaper.] 8.“Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.” [Probably Twain; found in “More Maxims of Mark,” a 1927 collection of quotes considered mostly reliable.] 9. “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.” [Not Twain; Oscar Wilde said something close to this, but variations of this sentiment predate Twain by centuries.Goose, Her Book.” The point of this example is that lists of quotes without specific and verifiable citations -- where and when it appeared -- are useless, and invariably rife with errors.Websites with names like “Brainyquote” and “Thinkexist.com” are essentially Internet compost piles.