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Quotation, n: The Act of Repeating Erroneously the Words of Another*

I once heard a professor quip that “to win a debate in any given subject, you needn’t be correct; you need only be able to quote the most authorities on the matter.” I frankly hope that isn’t the case, but his point is well taken. We love a good quote. We plaster them on our walls, our Facebook pages, the bumpers of our cars, and in nearly every paper we write. Often we use quotations in order to show our agreement or disagreement with someone of some sort of authority or renown. Many of us use quote from poems, novels, or biographies to stir emotion, inspiration, or insight.

I was recently asked to cite my favorite quote. Feeling a bit bookish at the time, I chose one of the more obvious, albeit poignant, quotes from Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. More...