Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Quotes

I'm probably about to alienate a few people, but I have to be honest. I don't like quotes. There's something about them that drive me up the wall. Maybe they sound too much like poetry. LOL!

But seriously now, quotes sound, or are meant to sound like universal truths, and they really aren't. Things are said in context and by mortal and fallible humans. Taking them out of context and attributing to them absolute wisdom doesn't make sense to me.

Don't get me started about "motivational quotes" for example. Mostly, I don't even understand them. It's not that I'm a cynic, far from it, but quotes rarely "do it" for me.

And I especially hate it when people use quotes to prove a point. So what if Einstein, Twain or Churchill said something? Like they were always right. As if just because they're famous and dead makes the saying absolutely correct, true and eternally wise.

Here. Allow me also to quote someone to prove my point:
It is unbecoming for young men to utter maxims.
                                            Aristotle
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19 comments:

Jack Slyde said...

You really shouldn't be so down on poetry melly, I'm sure if you gave it a chance it could enrich your life beyond your wildest dreams. ;)

Jennifer said...

LOL - I like quotes, but not as absolute truths, more as when it fits the moment.

:D

Julia said...

"Quotation, n: The act of repeating erroneously the words of another."
Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary
US author & satirist (1842 - 1914)


Sorry, I couldn't help myself!

Julia said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Deborah said...

I can take or leave quotes, along with poetry. Neither do much for me.

Chris Howard said...

I don't like quotes either, and what's worse, with the older fellows like Aristotle, you get inferior paraphrases of bad translations of what he actually said.

However, I don't think you took the alienation thing far enough. Let me have a go. I'm not sure people place quotes in emails, web pages, etc. to stand them up as "true and eternally wise" but rather as a way to express some sort of sham erudition. (How about that for alienation?) Of course, those who place quotes and have read Einstein, Churchill and Aristotle, I'm not talking about you. Quote away.

Quote away? Wait a minute! I feel a killer app idea...How about an email client plug-in that strips all quotes from email footers? And I even have the perfect product name: Quote Away.

And because I cannot end this comment without expressing my sham erudition, here goes:

Anaxagoras of Clazomenae, when asked "who is the happiest man?" said "None of the people you think; He would seem a strange person to you." Anaxagoras answered in this fashion because he saw that his inquirer supposed that it was impossible for anyone who was not powerful and beautiful, or rich, to win this appellation; whereas he perhaps thought that it was the man who lives by the standard of justice without pain and in purity, or participates in some enlightening contemplation who is happy. (Aristotle, Eudemian Ethics, 1215b6)

redchurch said...

Melly, I agree that quotes are a bit... what is the right word... Desperate?

Quotes are like the stupid inter-office email jokes that get sent around; Most of them aren't that funny. Most of them are stupid. Some of them even make you wonder why the person bothered to send it.

Quotes are the same way. They're like small-talk. I hate it when people talk about the weather. Why? Because I know nobody truly cares about the weather. The weather is probably the last concern and priority in their life. So why are they devoting time and energy to talking about it?

Yes, quotes fall into that category. They are often a meaningless, desperate form of communication--a random stab at reaching somebody or someone. Of having a daily mutual connection with somebody.

But because they are usually trite, taken out of context, or used in such a superficial fashion, they lack the meaning and depth, and sense of social connectedness that the Quoter is probably hoping to acquire.

It's more sad than annoying. But it's annoying too. :)

I especially dislike films that introduce with a quote. It screams, "The filmmaker is making a philosophical statement here! Listen up everyone! When this movie is over you will be profoundly moved by the filmmaker's wisdom, provided you can remember the quote at the beginning!"

Jennifer said...

Wow, I didn't realize what a dislike there was to quotes.

In my email I have a quote from a tv show :) Not quite a famous person...just imaginary. It's actually just a quote from my favorite episode for no other reason than I love that episode.

I guess I've gone down in status, huh. :D Oh well, I still love that quote and it's still staying in my emial signature :D

Carter said...

Right on, Jennifer! Us quoters got to stand up for our rights.

I love quotes, and I love poetry. So there!

I don't like or use quotes for displaying my erudition, which is certainly not sham. I like quotes that express a thought in a unique or humorous manner. It's just a way to give myself, and possibly someone else, a little nudge. Plus, most of the time, someone else has said it better than I ever could.

And so, I shall end my diatribe with a quote:

Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
--Matthew 7:1-2

Melly said...

Oh gosh, I couldn't stop laughing reading all your comments. You guys are the best, quote lovers and not :)

So let's see:
Jack, I'll start reading poetry when you start writing it :) :)

Jennifer (#1), when a quote really fits the moment, I can live with it. So we're good :)

Julia, LOL. But of course you couldn't. I expected nothing else :)

Deborah, I guess I should have started with a short explanation why all this came about. I just finished reading a book that made such an annoying and improper use of comments that it really got to me. Most of the time, I'm more like you, just ignore quotes.

Chris, I must say, well done. I can stand to learn a thing or two from you on the alienation front :)
I do think you should immediately copyright and patent your Quote Away idea. I already used it on your comment ;) LOL!

Eric, you forget who you're talking to here. A Canadian. And us Canadians are very concerned about the weather and talk about it often. And with great real interest. I do not want to hear any more disregard for weather talk! LOL!
You are too funny and like Chris, much better at that alienation thing :)
I can't stop laughing.
You mention films, don't forget books. This whole post started because I was reading a book full of quotes.

Jennifer (#2), your status has indeed fallen. And how :)
Just kidding of course. And to quote Chris: "Quote Away!"
My belly's aching from laughter.

Carter, you're one of the few persons I believe can actually quote in style and that I know has enough knowledge that it isn't "sham erudition" :)
As for your quote, let me answer with one of mine:
Let he who cast the first stone have not sinned Himself.
Or was it:
Let he who cast the first stone, not live in a glass house.

Carter said...

Not the first time I've had to replace the front of my house! ;-)

rdl said...

You might be on to something with the poetry and quotes thing; I like both - but they have to speak to me. And why watch the weather - they're always wrong - well here anyway.

Melly said...

Carter, you're hilarious :)

rdl, I don't watch the weather, only talk about it. Although other people in my household like the weather channel's music. LOL.

Jean said...

What an interesting time to stumble onto this post. A few months ago, I slapped a quote page up on my blog, but over the last two weeks or so, I've considered deleting it. Not because I don't like quotes, but because I slapped some quotes up there to get started, meaning to sift them and replace them with quotes I particularly like or feel an affinity to. I haven't made the time to do that yet, and I've been thinking I may not find the time, and I haven't found a way to hide the page until I do.

I like quotes when they strike a chord in me. I doubt they are universally true. They certainly are all out of context from their original usage.

But, like the weather, which can be vitally important to be informed about at certain times but is usually more mundane, a quote can help someone maintain focus or provide a thread to sustain them during times when they might otherwise despair.

Melly said...

Oh, Jean the wise :)
I always say that about you and I certainly missed your balanced take on this . Thanks.

Nienke said...

LOL - you're funny Melly.
I like quotes. I find them motivational and good as affirmations. Makes me feel like my experiences are universal.

Melly said...

Nienke, thanks for laughing and not taking any of this personally (not that anyone did).
As for universal experiences, I already know my experiences and feelings aren't unique...

dog1net said...

Melly,
Quotes too often are misused and often don't lend anything significant to the writing itself. I believe beginning writers should avoid them entirely because too often they end up being a terrible distraction. The only time a quote is effective is when it's used to create a context to help focus what it is the writer has chosen to write on.

Melly said...

Good point Scot. If a quote can help focus something in writing, then why not use it?
The question is, if one is a good writer - shouldn't he use his own words to the same effect?