Amy Tan

So now that I have sources for 53.39% of the quotes in the database, how come when I got to Amy Tan (born on this day in 1952, she’ll be the theme for today’s mailing) I only had sources for 12 out of 77 quotes? Easy, I entered most of those quotes before I got serious about entering sources. However, it wasn’t a real disaster, most of the quotes were from one of her five books or the extensive interview with Academy of Achievement when she was inducted there in 1997.

The first step is always to turn to one of my go-to sources for sourced quotes. For female authors, this is normally Rosalie Maggio’s excellent (i.e. comprehensive and mostly-sourced) Quotations by Women site. With Rosalie’s blessing, I calmly copied a number of the Amy Tan entries she had, formatted them to fit my structure, checked for dupes, and added them. How do I get away with this? Rosalie and I have slightly different standards for source citations, so after copying them I tend to research a good number of them. For example, if a quote is from the New York Times, Rosalie normally only has the year (a limitation of the book-oriented database structure behind her site) whereas I want the author’s name, the title of the article, and the exact date. So I frequently come up with more detailed sources, and every addition or correction I turn up goes into a weekly e-mail to Rosalie. Also, she has my permission to snag anything she likes from my site.

Once those are merged, I then start researching everything that’s left. In this case, two quotes were valuable additions to the site, but they weren’t from Tan. One was from Henry David Thoreau, the other from Edward Sapir. The final tally? Ninety-four quotes, only three of which are unsourced. And now the total is 53.47% sourced.

Abraham Lincoln drifted

What Nigel Rees of the BBC’s Quote …Unquote dubbed “Churchillian drift” has long been localized.

suspect Lincoln quote on quotes

NPR quoted Rees: “What I meant by that was, people — if they don’t know who came up with a remark originally or if they can’t be bothered to look it up — they automatically ascribe the quotation to somebody who likely said it. And obviously Winston Churchill is a very quotable person. He did say some marvelous things in a very special way.” In the US, the drift tends to be toward Benjamin Franklin (and why not, given how many of his beloved entries from Poor Richard’s were lifted from Thomas Fuller‘s Gnomologia?), George Washington, Mark Twain, and Honest Abe.

So when Lincoln’s natal anniversary rolled around last week it was with fear and trepidation that I reviewed the sources of my collection. As expected, there were plenty of duds, starting with “” which is still in place and the well-known (and well-loved) “You can fool some of the people all of the time …” which I had long-since hoiked.

In fact, I’ve been tossing such things when discovered for years, but I’ve changed my mind. If someone comes to QotD looking for one of these and don’t find it, they might note its absence and realize that when a reputable site doesn’t include it that it must not really be a Lincoln quote after all. Right, and I just might sprout a second head and double my intellectual horsepower. No, the only way this is going to work if the quote is present in the list and clearly labeled.

Don’t look for anything obvious immediately, but I’ve been working on a system to flag these entries and provide various indications warning visitors that it isn’t quite what they might think based on quotes circulating on Facebook.

For now, I’ll just be tagging them as I seem them. The fancy presentation will follow in due time.