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Don’t Quote Me on That

| September 10, 2018
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How important is it to get quotes “right”?

“Never give up.” I was recently corrected by a loved one who wrote “Never, never, never give up” to my exhortation “Never give in, never give in.” Who was right?

Anyone can write anything one wants, of course, but when she put quotation marks around the phrase, she implied she was quoting someone worth quoting. In this case, that someone would have been Winston S. Churchill – painter, brick layer, and, oh yes, just the Prime Minister of Great Britain, who, through the force of his indomitable will, saved civilization. But what did he actually say to the young men of Harrow that afternoon at the beginning of World War II?

“…this is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.

By the way, he said a lot more that day in one of his greatest speeches, steeling his country to the great struggle ahead and resuscitating his countrymen’s spirit to fight on, despite the initial shock of the Nazi attack. But for the purposes of the quotation, sticking to the matter at hand, you may never give up, but when quoting Churchill, you must “never give in.”

Along those lines: As a dear friend used as a postscript, “We make a living by what we get. But we make a life by what we give.” -- Winston Churchhill (sic). It takes a bright, learned person to quote Churchill at the end of her emails, and an even more learned one to use an actual Churchill quote and not just something that sounds good enough to have been Churchillian.

The best way to be sure about a quote is to look it up before using it. And don’t rely on the first source either. As the late President, Abraham Lincoln, once said, “Not everything you read on the internet is true.” Well, that’s not actually correct either. What he actually wrote was, “The problem with quotes on the Internet is that they are often not true.”

You can look it up.

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