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