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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. Which I felt more than a little self-conscious about when the movie rather conspicuously highlighted the quote at the end of the film; because what’s the fun in sharing a favorite quote with a millions of other people?

I currently have a list of some of my favorite quotes thumb tacked to my cubical wall here. Some are inspirational, others witty, but most of them are simply there to remind me that I am not alone in my weirdness. Here are a few of my favorites:

“Reason is greatly indebted to passion. The human race would long since have ceased to be, had its preservation depended only on reason.” – Jean-Jacques Rousseau

“An intellectual snob is someone who can listen to the William Tell Overture and not think of The Lone Ranger” – Dan Rather

“Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal”. – Albert Camus

“You know what charm is: a way of getting the answer ‘yes’ without having asked any clear question.” – Albert Camus

“Weekends don’t count unless you spend them doing something completely pointless” – Bill Watterson

“If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there’d be peace” – John Lennon

“[S]tatistics will always lie. That I mean statistics can be made to say anything.” – David Simon (creator of The Wire)

“Cut the deck right in half; I’ll play from either side.” – Mary Chapin Carpenter

“The covers of this book are too far apart” – Ambrose Bierce (and every student who has ever lived)

And finally,

“A witty saying proves nothing” – Voltaire

Now, I turn to you. What are a few of your favorite quotes? When and where do you use them? What makes an awesome quote awesome?

If you can’t think of any, or you’re in the market for quote upgrades, might I recommend Quotes Every Man Should Know by Nick Mamatas, 1001 Smartest Things Ever Said by Steven D. Price, or Great Quotes from Great Women by Peggy Anderson.

Also, if you’re like me and made it into early February without yet acquiring a desk calendar for the year, you might take a peek at the 365 Quotes Page-a-Day Notepad and 2014 Calendar.

*Title from the quote by Ambrose Bierce, The Unabridged Devil’s Dictionary.

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