No, they didn’t say that

A brief book notice for an admirable volume from the Quote Investigator Garson O’Toole. From Ben Yagoda’s excellent review on the CHE’s Lingua Franca blogHemingway Didn’t Say That: The Truth Behind Familiar Quotations on the sources of misattribution.

Garson’s book is not just a collection of misattributed quotes — there are lots of those — but an inquiry into the sources of, reasons for, mechanisms of these misattributions: ten of them.

From the review:

The book grew out of a wonderful website O’Toole has been conducting since 2010; the title, Quote Investigator, describes the content. It in turn developed from O’Toole’s realization of a paradoxical truth about the internet. While it has been the prime culprit in the modern-day epidemic of fake quotes, it also offers at the same time tools undreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio, for determining actual quotation provenance. Not your basic Google search, which will yield more bad information than good, but such full-text databases as Google Books and the proprietary NewspaperArchive and ProQuest (accessible to most college and university employees), which let you search for exact wording in millions of published texts going back centuries.

… On the website, a good portion of the quotes are found to be genuine, such as “In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes” (Warhol) and “Eighty percent of life is showing up” (Allen).  O’Toole decided to make the book consist mainly of fakes, however, I suppose because they lead to better yarns.

… As for the title of the book and this post, it brings to mind a quote that surprisingly O’Toole does not cover on the website or in the book: “Murder your darlings.” (Often misattributed to Robert Louis Stevenson, the authoritative Yale Book of Quotations confirms it was written by Arthur Quiller-Couch.) That is, just as a writer is well-advised to delete his or her most treasured and “fine” flights of rhetoric, so one’s favorite quotes sadly often turn out to be bosh. And so it goes with that wonderful tale about Hemingway being challenged to write a short story in six words, and coming up with, “For sale: baby shoes. Never worn.”


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