Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Deep, or just Memorizable?

Quotes. They plague our society. No matter where you turn, there will be someone waiting to show how clever they are by repeating something someone else said.
As writers, though, that should be a good thing, right? I mean, the goal for the majority of us here is HAVE our words repeated for decades to come, and as a result, stay in the public consciousness. Well, that's all very well, but notoriety should not come as a result of being quoted.

This is not because quotes are somehow bad. They really are no more than snippets of someone's work, brought out of the metaphorical cigarette case, when relevant, to be waved around. It's not the idea of a quote that I object to, it's the way they come about.
Perhaps an example would be nice. Let's suppose that you recently came up with a nice little saying that is infinitely applicable and rolls right off the tongue. You naturally would like to share this insight, and hopefully have it become one of those things that your aunt tells you when you complain that you don't own a Labrador/parakeet mix.
The questions is, how do you get your quote out there? There aren't tons of options.
One way would be to slip it quietly into a different piece of writing, and hope that your Trojan Horse will be accepted into the public consciousness, and then, by proxy, so will your quote. That is really just another sort of luck, however, because getting one specicifc piece of writing to become popular is about as easy as enjoying a popsicle in The Hindenberg. There are ways to cheat (like writing about Chuck Norris and his incredible strength), but the sort of people your writing becomes popular with are not people you want quoting you anyway.
Or, you could start saying your quote to people, in the hopes that they will repeat it because of its sheer applicability. Think about that one for a moment. If someone used a completely new "saying" to you (For instance "A popsicle is best enjoyed outside of The Hindenberg") then your first reaction is not going to be a thoughtful nod. After all, since there is no one that could possibly be so arrogant as to quote themselves, you must assume that the quote is from someone of note, and that leads you to ask who it is. When this person tells you that they came up with it, then your Arrogant Prick deflector will kick in, and you will forget you heard about it.

So, if you can't try and spread a quote the natural way, then what can you do?
Well, we did not start quoting people before they became famous, unless that quote happens to be "don't taze me, bro!" or something equivalent. And no one wants THAT kind of fame.
So, the key to being quoted is being well-known. Shakespeare is someone that you may have heard of before. As is George Carlin. But they became famous before they were quoted. See how that works?

So, the very idea of having a quote is a frustrating one. It is an option that is open only to people that are already popular, and the very idea of a quote is that what remains important is the words, not who spoke them. (Spake them? Spaketh? I have no idea.)
If you have to be important before you are quoted, then the whole system is a little bit flimsy, eh? Worse still, there are those that says things specifically because they want to be quoted, not because they have any actual meaning. Suddenly, it becomes more important to be quoted than to say something with a point. It irritates me.
Just remember this:
When it comes to thoughts, it is far better to use your own than those stolen from another.

I am a tremendous wiseass.

--H.P. Pseudonym

1 comment:

  1. ...ooor you can use the internet to get your quote right out into the middle of everything, right?

    "Life is short, but that's no reason not to take the scenic route"
    -Eddy Delta