Says Who?

Four months old, she was on the run, and desperate. Leaping from a seven-year-old’s casual grasp, she headed for the shrubbery, fueled by adrenaline and pursued by three equally adrenaline-addled boys. The spreading clump of holly, prickly and stiff, might have saved her, but she chose the ligustrum: a bush good for privacy, but no protection at all against determined hunters.

Cornered between cedar fence on one side and brick wall on the other, her only means of escape had been blocked by the boys. In a frenzy of excitment, the youngest plunged beneath the ligustrum. Managing to grab onto her tail, he pulled. Hard.

It was a mistake.

Taking no thought for their companion’s flowing blood, the older boys ran for home. While the tail-puller wailed, the cat streaked up the stairs and cowered, trembling, behind the dwarf schefflera at my door.

Ten minutes later, all was quiet. The bloodied miscreant had been marched home, and the cat had stopped shaking. She didn’t seem inclined to move, so I brought out a little saucer of milk.  “Here,” I said. “Nothing like a drink at the end of a hard day.” Finishing the milk, she looked at me, then at the empty saucer. I brought more milk, and turned to go inside. As I did, she nearly sent me flying, scrambling under my feet on her own way to the living room, where she turned to plead with beautiful, green eyes.

“All right,” I said. “You can have a rest, but you can’t stay.” At the time, I didn’t understand that The Cat’s decision always trumps The Human’s decision, and The Cat had made her decision.

Dixie Rose, age four months

I’ve always enjoyed remembering that day. When I happened across a humorous remark about the dangers of inappropriate cat-carrying — The man who carries a cat by the tail learns something that can be learned in no other way — I recognized its truth, but couldn’t find its source. Attributed to Mark Twain, the saying appeared on animal rescue sites, blogs, quotation pages, cheap posters, and coffee mugs, but its place in Twain’s works seemed elusive.

Finally, a simple search combining the words “Twain” and “cat” took me to “ A Directory of Mark Twain’s Maxims, Quotations, and Various Opinions,” and thence to Tom Sawyer Abroad. In Chapter X, titled “The Treasure Hill,” Jim and Tom discuss lesson-learning, and the cat tale appears in its original context:

Jim said he’d bet it was a lesson to him.
“Yes,” Tom says, “and like a considerable many lessons a body gets. They ain’t no account, because the thing don’t ever happen the same way again—and can’t. The time Hen Scovil fell down the chimbly and crippled his back for life, everybody said it would be a lesson to him. What kind of a lesson? How was he going to use it? He couldn’t climb chimblies no more, and he hadn’t no more backs to break.”
“All de same, Mars Tom, dey IS sich a thing as learnin’ by expe’ence. De Good Book say de burnt chile shun de fire.”
“Well, I ain’t denying that a thing’s a lesson if it’s a thing that can happen twice just the same way. There’s lots of such things, and THEY educate a person, that’s what Uncle Abner always said; but there’s forty MILLION lots of the other kind — the kind that don’t happen the same way twice — and they ain’t no real use, they ain’t no more instructive than the small-pox. When you’ve got it, it ain’t no good to find out you ought to been vaccinated, and it ain’t no good to git vaccinated afterward, because the small-pox don’t come but once”
“On the other hand, Uncle Abner said that the person that had took a bull by the tail once had learnt sixty or seventy times as much as a person that hadn’t, and said a person that started in to carry a cat home by the tail was gitting knowledge that was always going to be useful to him, and warn’t ever going to grow dim or doubtful.

I know at least three boys who would agree: either with Twain himself, or with the multitude of others who happily quote an imagined Twain, using words he never wrote.

A few years ago, advice to “Google Before You Tweet” became a tongue-in-cheek alternative to the entirely old-fashioned “Think Before You Speak.”  Unfortunately, Google search results aren’t always a trustworthy source of information, particularly when it comes to quotations. In this internet age, two sources, or three, never are enough. Even when multiple sources agree, it’s entirely possible that the information they’re providing is wrong.

Nigel Rees, presenter of BBC Radio’s Quote … Unquote” program since 1976, and author of Brewer’s Famous Quotations, acknowledges such modern difficulties, noting that:

The Internet is stuffed with misinformation about who said or wrote whatever it is we may decide to quote. Precise wording is never a priority. Errors of attribution get repeated a hundredfold. Relying on the Internet for…quotation research requires infinite patience, shrewd judgment and a determination not to believe what is presented as fact, just because a thousand Web sites say it is.

Misquoting someone unintentionally is one thing, of course. Reshaping their words to make them more appealing or understandable (or to make them fit on a coffee mug) is another.

Yet another problem, misattribution, can be both extremely interesting and extremely difficult to unravel. Rees terms a particular sort of misattribution Churchillian Drift: a process described in the New York Times as one in which any particularly apt quotation is mistakenly attributed to a more famous person in the same field. Britons tend to ascribe anything vaguely political to Churchill; Americans credit anything folksy or humorous to Mark Twain or Yogi Berra. And of course there’s Shakespeare, who’s been credited for words spoken by everyone from Christopher Marlowe to Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

A recent example is instructive. When I read that poet Maya Angelou was being honored with a stamp bearing her likeness and a phrase often associated with her, I paused.

Cropped image of Maya Angelou stamp

The phrase does evoke Angelou’s well-known book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, but the words on the stamp belong to another author: Joan Walsh Anglund. Queried on the matter, Anglund said, “Yes, that’s my quote.” As the Washington Post reported, the line appears on page 15 of Anglund’s book of poems titled A Cup of Sun, published in 1967. (On the stamp, Anglund’s pronoun of choice –“he” — has been changed to “it”.)

A statement from Postal Service spokesman Mark Saunders initially said that “numerous references” attributed the quotation to Angelou. He went on to add that “the Postal Service used her widely recognized quote to help build an immediate connection between her image and her 1969 nationally recognized autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”

Later, after being told that Anglund had confirmed the quotation as her own, Saunders said, “Had we known about this issue beforehand, we would have used one of [Angelou’s] many other works… The sentence held great meaning for her and she is publicly identified with its popularity.”

Though late to the Anglund/Angelou discussion, I sent a note about the matter to the estimable Quote Investigator, a researcher as approachable as he is erudite.

Finding his work had sensitized me to the complexities associated with quotations, and I’d been impressed with his analysis of one of my favorite quotations: “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”  I’d always assumed the words belonged to Anaïs Nin, but the Quote Investigator’s findings were rather different:

In conclusion, this saying has been used by Anaïs Nin, H. M. Tomlinson, Steven Covey, and others. However, its origin is not known, and it is not possible to provide a precise ascription. Hence, the expression should be labeled anonymous. The assignment to the Talmud does not have strong support. Perhaps future discoveries will help clarify matters. [Click here to read details of the investigation.]

In his replies related to the Anglund/Angelou matter, the Quote Investigator noted two precursors. One, which he termed a precursor variant, is found in The Sage of the Hills: Life Story of the Reverend W.G. “Bill” Lucas. Written by J.M. Gaskin and published in 1949, the book includes the line, “It should be remembered that the Nightingale does not sing just because we listen; it sings because it has a song in its heart.”

An even earlier precursor/partial quote was found in John B. Robbin’s 1889 book titled “Christ and Our County.”

I have no confidence in any theoretical system for reaching the masses. The Good Samaritan way is the only one in which it will ever be done… The whole question will be solved by that comforting yet subtle philosophy underlying the life of Christ which helps because it must help.
A bird sings because it has a song and must sing it.

After Benjamin Dreyer, Executive Managing Editor & Copy Chief at Random House, opined on Twitter that following the Quote Investigator might have profited the Postal Service, QI responded, “Anyone who makes an error of misquotation or misattribution has my sympathies. It’s a difficult, error-prone domain.”


Rain showers have stopped for the time being, and I’ve raised the windows. Dixie Rose is lying on a chair next to me, sleeping in the light, northerly breeze. Her tail’s within easy reach. Should I reach out to run my finger along its length, she only would stretch, and sigh. If I dared take hold of it with a firm grasp, she’d come to full attention, give me her “look,” and perhaps even dole out a paw swipe or nip.

Does she remember her seven-year-old tormentor? Perhaps. Is she determined not to be bothered? Absolutely. When she turns to warn me, another bit of wisdom comes to mind: “Mess with a sleeping cat’s tail,  and you’re in for a world of hurt.”

Mark Twain might have said that, too — but don’t quote me.

Comments are welcome, always.

113 thoughts on “Says Who?

  1. That Dixie is as wise as she is charming. They are all very possessive about their tails (although I did desperately grab RC Cat’s shortly after we moved in and she made a break out the front door – that I had the nerve to touch her tail shocked her so badly she took a breath and I was able do grab her up and pitch her back inside and shut the door. She’s not forgotten or forgiven that incident. The indignity. Cats are not lizards or fish – which apparently maybe pinched by tails in a pinch.)

    I saw that stamp and was saddened by the whole thing. Research before doing something that will be costly in terms of money and credibility.

    The internet is wonderful and dreadful. Predicting a horrid year of misquotes and reorganized words during the presidential campaign. Already getting my bubbling fountain ready.
    Enjoyed the visit!
    (Big storms in Bay City which will give us heck tonight if they hold together….would be so nice to have a water view today/tonight.) Paw waves from here to there!

    1. She still isn’t fond of being picked up, Phil. The process of getting her shoved into her carrier for a trip to the vet or a hurricane evac is a sight to behold.

      I had seen some suggestions online that they reprint the stamp, but that’s cost-prohibitive. Since it seems Ms. Anglund isn’t unduly distressed, it’s probably best to simply let it be. Besides, the episode probably will introduce Anglund’s work to people who weren’t otherwise aware of it.

      If misquotations are the worst of it in the coming year, we’ll be lucky. The name-calling and denigration already have begun, and surely there will be lies to follow. It does seem social media can play a useful role in debunking falsehoods. We’ll just have to see how it goes.

      I wouldn’t be averse to a good storm, but it looks as though they’re all tracking north. Perhaps tomorrow.

      1. And more rain coming today.
        Always wondered how Dixie picked you. We had to haul RC out from behind a couch when the German arrived a few days ago – had forgotten the cat wasn’t in her inner loft area….She was quite determined to stay put in a difficult to reach spot..took lots of cat nip powederpuffed on her nose and a very thick towel and quick dash to toss on the bed before she wormed her legs and claws out to protest…only a bit of blood.
        Yep, lots of blood before this campaign is over. I’m already turning the tv off except for weather and recorded shows. And grabbing books to fill the time….although Molly feels walks are better use of time (until mosquitoes and summer heat is constantly blazing)
        Oh, off to boring stuff. Like mud covered floors….

    1. Labyrinth is a good word. As many twists and turns as there are in some of these quests, they’re fully as engrossing — and entertaining — as any good mystery!

      Thanks for stopping by, and commenting. You’re always welcome.


    1. And there are many, many rivers I’d not want to step into twice: not the least of which would be smallpox. But, yes. It’s a good connection: one I hadn’t thought of, and which I very much like.

  2. It’s common on the Internet for people to misquote things and to attribute sayings to people who never said them. That’s a reality in our copy-and-paste age, alas. Nevertheless, I expect better research—oh, how naive of me—from an institution like the USPS, which in the case of the quotation about the bird not only misattributed it to Angelou but also apparently felt entitled to change the wording (he to it, presumably for “inclusivity”).

    1. I took note of that pronoun change myself. It seemed curious in light of general agreement that male birds do most of the singing, in order to attract a mate.

      I did find a few current articles hypothesizing that female birds sing more frequently than has been believed in the past, or that they had a song, and lost it. This one is representative. Coming to conclusions about what “must” have been in the past by studying the literature can be a little squishy, but of course science always is in danger of being subsumed by ideology.

  3. Thanks for this. I learned a great deal! Alas, it isn’t only in popular culture that such mistaken attributions exist. I vividly recall sending a paper to a journal for possible publication and commented, as an aside, that Luther’s famous curvatus in se as a definition of sin was inherited from Augustine, as I had been taught in seminary.

    A reviewer asked for a reference to substantiate the claim. I thought it would be no problem, and in fact it wasn’t a problem. People the world over make this claim, but I couldn’t find the phrase in Augustine. Most likely because I discovered that Augustine describes sin as being turned to earthly things instead of heavenly things. It was a good learning for me, but a bit startling because the mistake I made was to be found in many a historical theologian of repute.

    1. This really is interesting, Allen. You’re right that the Augustine/Luther lineage is everywhere, from newly-published books, to historical volumes, to obscure student papers. And, yes: I was taught the same thing.

      Even the Latin phrase seems subject to some dispute. I would have said “incurvatus in se.” Both versions are all over the web. I wonder why there’s a difference? My Latin’s pretty rusty these days..

      What I do remember is a professor in Berkeley using “Moby Dick” as an illustrative text for the concept. I never will forget his description of Ahab as “a man with an infinite grudge against the universe.” It was an unusual way of putting it, but we got the picture — and, in fact, I know a few people carrying those infinite grudges even today.

  4. I was delighted to read the story of Dixie Rose’s appearance, and yes, cats do choose their ‘owners’. As for quotes, I admit to concerns at times when I match a quote with some of my photography, wondering if I’m making the correct attribution. But then again, ‘a rose by any other name would smell as sweet’ – which leads onto the dispute about whether all the works attributed to William Shakespeare are in point of fact his or not. :-)

    1. I thought you’d enjoy the little tale of Dixie Rose, eremophila. I don’t have nearly the number of animal tales to share as do you, but this is a good one.

      It may be true that a rose would smell as sweet even if it was called an orchid, but in the end — it’s not an orchid. Accurate naming, correct spelling, correct attribution — all are ways of combating today’s rampant tendency to say, “Oh, whatever.” Or so it seems to me. “Trust, but verify” works for the internet, too. I don’t always get things right, but I’d rather try and fail than not try at all.

  5. Dixie Rose looked like she marched into your life with about as much flare as her name. Great story.

    Quotes are an interesting thing, to be sure. I always try to source the quote myself, but it’s hard, especially when the work is translated, or was never initially in print.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the story, Alex. She’s quite a creature, even though, at fifteen, [4/18: just checked the records, and found she’s fourteen!] she’s slowed down a bit.

      It is hard to source many of the quotations that float around in the ether. But the first step, for many of us, has been coming to the realization that sources need to be checked. Spell-check is a great tool, but until fact-check comes along, I suppose we’re going to have to keep doing that manually!

    1. They sure are, Terry. Not only that, they can do a good bit of teaching from the comfort of their cushions, without having to muddy a paw. To be fair, they can be good students, too. I have friends who can’t believe Dixie Rose is so well behaved, but of course they weren’t around to hear me utter those famous, parental words: “This hurts me more than it does you.”

  6. When I see quotes attributed to several sources, I generally assume the one with earliest date is most likely right. However, it is certainly possible that I am assuming too much. Sometimes I just blame Google, as in “a google search indicates (name) made this statement in (date)” even though that is not a very scholarly thing to do!

    1. Doing a Google search (!) using the phrase “is the earliest citation always the best?” I turned up a wonderful piece by Ralph Keyes, author of “The Quote Verifier.” I was going to quote from his article, but good lines kept piling up, so I’ll just provide this link . It’s not long, it’s fun to read, and it helps to explain why, in the end, Keyes concludes that sourcing quotations is both “hell” and a good bit of fun.

      What tickled me most were his examples of collections of quotations (like “Barlett’s Familiar Quotations” and “The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations”) that contain their own errors. Knowing that isn’t an excuse for not getting it right when we can, but it is a bit of a comfort!

  7. Darling Dixie Rose. She knew she would be safe with you.

    As for misquotes, I am always wary of information/quotes I find on the internet. I treat them as ‘guidelines’ only. The USPS blunder is disturbing, but, as QI says, misattribution is an error-prone domain. On a slightly different theme, that of misuse, not so savvy marketing ‘experts’ (friends of USPS perhaps :) ) caused a furore this week in Australia, with an inappropriate use of the term Anzac. Our world could do with a few more Quote investigators or Heritage Preservers.

    1. I was surprised to find this in the midst of the article: “Under the Protection of Word Anzac Act 1920, hefty penalties can be imposed for any use of the word ‘Anzac’ without official permission in circumstances that are deemed inappropriate.”

      Not meaning any disrespect, but I have mixed feelings about official penalties for use of a word. Of course, if a word is nationally/culturally significant, and people agree that it should be honored, clear guidelines would be useful. It’s certainly better than the way we do it in this country, where any group can declare themselves offended by a word, then set about shaming or destroying the people who use it.

      What really surprised me was coming across Woolworth’s. I didn’t realize they still are in business. The first big five and dime in my home town was a Woolworth’s, and I spent many happy hours there. I found this at the Wiki, which explains things a bit:

      “Retail chains using the Woolworth name survive in Germany, Austria, Mexico, and, until the start of 2009, in the United Kingdom. The similarly named Woolworths supermarkets in Australia and New Zealand are operated by Australia’s largest retail company Woolworths Limited, a separate company with no historical links to the F. W. Woolworth Company… However, Woolworths Limited did take their name from the original company, as it had not been registered or trademarked in Australia at the time.”

      Here’s a nice photo of “my” Woolworth’s. The store’s at the left of the photo — it wasn’t big. There are two other things of note on the card. At the right end of the building was the Jasper County Savings Bank, where my dad took me every week to deposit my ten or twenty-five cents in my Christmas Club account. And at the lower left, you can see “Tyler Studio.” I had more than a few formal portraits taken there, beginning when I was about six months old.

      1. I am sure it would be difficult to introduce similar legislation today for a particularly significant word. It’s sad that it was considered necessary to legislate the word Anzac but, as the Woolworths incident shows, perhaps it was a prescient move. I expect Woolworths was genuine in its attempt to commemorate the Anzacs but, in its enthusiasm, forgot to stay well away from any hint of self-promotion/commercialisation. This may happen more often as time goes by. This year, for the first time, our Anzac Day will be Mondayised. We will still celebrate Anzac Day on April 25th but because this is a Saturday we are to get a public holiday on the Monday. Many of the veterans were not pleased about this, as they feel that the Anzac commemoration will simply become an excuse for a long weekend, and will lose its significance. I am inclined to agree. Anzac Day is April 25 and that’s the only day I want to honour it.
        The history of Woolworths is interesting isn’t it? Even though our Woolworths doesn’t have a connection with yours, when I was growing up we certainly considered them in the same light as a 5 and dime type store. Woolworths today is a different beast and consumes a goodly number of my dollars. Lovely to see ‘your’ street. When you had saved your cents, did you spend them at Woolworths?

        1. If I was spending money on myself, Woolworth’s was a good choice, along with the small gas station three blocks from home that had a penny candy counter. For Christmas shopping, I tended toward higher-class establishments. Nollen Drug had a gift shop on its second floor, and Mom got more than a few gifts from there. Dad was harder to shop for, but I still have a few things I purchased for him, including a lovely cribbage board. We played at least a couple of times a week — either cribbage or chess.

          We’ve suffered that same transformation to the three-day weekend and I don’t like it, either. Washington’s Birthday was celebrated on February 22 — his actual day of birth — but the holiday became known as Presidents’ Day after it was moved as a result of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, an attempt to create more three-day weekends. Now, half the kids in the country don’t know who Washington, Lincoln, Hamilton, or Jefferson are, but they know who’s having Presidents’ Day sales. Sigh.

          1. Lovely that you still have a few of the gifts you purchased for your father.
            And sigh, indeed! If we must have more 3 day weekends, why can’t they just be, Everyone is tired and needs a holiday, 3 day weekends. Or this is your Mental Health Refreshment weekend. Then there is always the possibility of making every weekend a 3 day weekend. Make 4 days a week very productive and the weekends very enjoyable. ;)

            1. Of course, one of the interesting side notes about my work is that the very concept of “weekend” has eroded, if not disappeared. If the weather allows, I work. If it doesn’t, I don’t. If it rains on Wednesday but is sunny on Saturday — well, so be it. I stay fairly well grounded in “normal” time, but do have occasions when I wonder precisely what day of the week it is.

  8. Most a good common sense phrase might be attributed to Mark Twain, or Will Rogers, or any number of clever folks. All wrongly, I reckon. Still, it’s easy to imagine them saying it.

    As to cats carried by the tail…we had over 30 cats on the farm. They were subjects of humiliation and torture by us kids. Did you know that a cat with a small paper bag of pebbles tied to the tail can run about as fast as light? Quite an amazing thing.

    1. Several people I read mentioned that phenomenon, Jim. Someone hears a good line, thinks, “Well, that sounds just like [fill in the blank],” and then goes ahead and makes the attribution.

      Another interesting distinction that came to me today is the difference between quotations and proverbs. My grandparents enjoyed proverbs; my parents would mix proverbs and quotations, and (apart from weather) I’m a fan of quotations. Interesting. Maybe more schooling, formal and otherwise, makes a difference.

      As for your farm cats — I never would have imagined you could tie a bag of pebbles to a tail! On the other hand, I did have a friend who was given to dressing her cat up in doll clothing. If I was a cat, I might prefer the pebbles.

        1. I did see that post. I’m not sure what it is about cats, but they lend themselves to humor — everything from Simon’s Cat to those crazy LOL cats. Thank goodness we have the internet, to provide us our cat videos.

          1. They are a source of great amusement. We had about 30 on our farm. Too many. One day, my sister tried to put them all into a chicken crate. Then she hoisted them up about 10 ft into the air with a rope.

  9. Here’s a quote of similar wisdom for you, Linda. I often think of Will Rogers when I think of humorous quotes.

    “There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.” Will Rogers

    Now you have me wondering if Will really said that.

    As for a sleeping cats, I am more familiar with “Let sleeping dogs lie.” Almost got me bit once. In fact it almost got me bit twice. Slow learner, I guess. :) –Curt

    1. After a five minute search, I can neither confirm nor deny the validity of the Will Rogers quotation, but I’m pretty sure of this, Curt: the person who attributed it to Roy Rogers got it wrong.

      Actually, I learned that lesson myself, although no electric fence was involved. I was washing down a boat very early in my new career, and suddenly felt tingles in my arm and hand. It took a minute or two, but I figured out that shooting a stream of water from a hose over an unprotected 120v outlet wasn’t the smartest thing in the world. To be fair to myself, I didn’t really expect the outlet to be hot.

      I wonder if bears have any sayings about letting sleeping campers lie?

      1. First, Linda, I knew you would go on a search. It is in your genetic make up!

        Roy might have peed on a fence. He stuffed his horse. You can actually go see Trigger. Too bad they didn’t stuff Roy as well. That definitely would have been a roadside attraction.

        I’ve taken a few volts over the years. When we were kids, we had one of those old crank up telephones. (My dad was an electrician for a lumber company that hauled logs in from the mountains on a narrow gauge railroad. It used the telephones for communication between the mountain camp and the lumber mill.) Anyway, that old phone could really crank out the volts, which of course we had to demonstrate to/on our friends.

        As for bears, if you have food in your tent, they are quite ready to wake you up! When I was in heavy bear country, I sometimes camped next to boy scouts. The bears always hit the boy scouts before they hit me. You could track the bear’s progress by the sounds of the screams. :) –Curt

        1. When I read your comment, I remembered another good one: a customer of mine who found a solar-powered channel marker floating around the bay, and decided to give the panel itself a lick with his tongue. That was years ago, but the story still surfaces from time to time.

  10. The misrepresentation of the quote does not matter in the greater scheme of things if Ms. Anglund is not offended. I reckon we can chalk it all up to folks that don’t bother to do their homework. It does seem a shame though but then what about the other folks with a similar quote?

    In my little ole way of thinking, a bird sings because it’s happy and it sings to show it’s territorial claim. They also sing to attract a mate. Writer’s are given to take something plain and dress it up

    I think Dixie Rose was blessed the day that you rescued her and showed compassion. But in the end maybe you are the one who is blessed with her companionship. She is after all a beautiful cat and queen if the household.

    1. I agree with you to this extent, Yvonne. If I were to list the top twenty-five problems facing our country today, the postage stamp kerfuffle wouldn’t be on the list. But, on the other hand, if we can’t get the little things right, perhaps it’s no wonder we do so poorly with the large. Maybe I’m just turning curmudgeonly in my old age. The stamp story gives me the same feeling I got when I heard a public school teacher say, “We pretty much let the kids spell words however they want. If they’re recognizable, we accept them.”

      I don’t know whether my mockingbird’s happy, or if he wants a mate, but it’s pretty clear he has his territory staked out. I think it may be the same bird who was around last year. He’s in the same tree, and he starts singing at 4:15 sharp. He’s such a beautiful singer, I don’t even mind that he wakes me.

      Dixie’s pretty regal, that’s so. But right now? We’ve got a humdinger of a thunderstorm moving in, and she’s turned scaredy-cat. She doesn’t mind the lightning, but the thunder makes her nervous – and triples the size of that tail!

  11. What a great post, and story. You are both so lucky to find each other, Dixie and you… Blessing and happiness, dear Linda, Thank you, you also took me into a wonderful voyage of literature… I love your writing style… Love, nia

    1. Now you know why I enjoy your photos of the kitties, Nia. Dixie has taught me to appreciate cats of all sorts, even though she never, ever would allow another one to live here.

      Thank you for your kind words — and have a wonderful weekend!


  12. This makes me wonder what other quotes I have been misquoting, and misattributing. :) And when does a mistake become plagiarism? Lovely Dixie Rose, she reminds me of my former kitty, Sassy.

    1. That’s an interesting question, Susan. It seems to me that plagiarism wouldn’t enter the picture unless we formally claimed someone else’s words as our own. It is true that I’ll sometimes use familiar quotations, like Yogi Berra’s “if you come to a fork in the road, take it.” In conversation, I don’t source. If I were writing, I would. It’s worth thinking about.

      I’ve never known a cat named Sassy. Her name reminds me of the expression I never heard until I moved to Texas: “Don’t you sass me!” And then there’s this. Personally, I think it and its personalized pink limo are a horror, but that’s just me.

  13. I’ve found great examples of quotes misattributed to Ogden Nash and Mother Teresa. It probably happens from the “I don’t know, but it sounds like…” phenomenon. Worse than that is those who are corrected and don’t care. But I’ve long known some people don’t care about facts.

    Lucky Dixie Rose. Lucky Linda. :)

    1. Melanie, just as I began to respond to your comment last night some truly extravagant thunderstorms showed up. I’ve not seen sustained lightning like that for several years. It was even more impressive once the power went out. I have a strong sense that Dixie Rose was feeling pretty lucky to be inside before it all was over.

      You’re right about Ogden Nash having quotations misattributed to him. For years, I assumed he was the author of “Behold the might pelican; his beak holds more than his belly can…” It wasn’t until I wrote a post that included the poem that I discovered it actually was written by Dixon Lanier Merritt. Live and learn, as they say.

      1. Ha! That’s the same way I found out about Nash — through the pelican. :) I love a good thunderstorm, but they’re best when no one gets hurt. Hope everything is okay there.

  14. I really enjoyed this post.

    Context. It so easy to lift a sentence, phrase or few words and fit it to our needs, but what about the context? There are zillions of examples of folks misquoting the Bible out of context. For example, “I can do all things.” “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” — Philippians 4:13 (NIV) the Bible tells exactly where to find the context by giving the proverbial “chapter and verse.” Context: Paul is content even though he writes this in prison. Unfortunately, many quotes don’t give “chapter and verse” but just a plausible author to whom they can attribute the words.

    Still, it doesn’t bother me that at least folks are getting closer to articulating their thoughts by using a quote out of context. Over time, they may just grow into the intended insight. Guilty… I have been guilty of using quotes not fully understanding their context, and then over time I have an ah-ha moment. A discerning reader or listener can come to his/her conclusions about its accurate use.

    Thank you for the context in which you explained the quote from Ch 10 of Tom Sawyer abroad giving author, title, chapter and “verse.”

    If this is the anniversary of you and Dixie adopting one another, Happy Adoption Month.

    The misquote attributed to Maya Angelou makes me think about all the famous lines written by speech writers and the like, where the quote is attributed to a particular president while the speechwriter stands in the wings.

    1. You know, Georgette, I had to go back and check Dixie’s vet records to see precisely when this all took place. Her first visit to the vet was April 20, 2001, so this couldn’t have been posted much closer to our “anniversary.” I didn’t have that in mind, but it’s interesting that it happened, especially given the fact that I’ve had the photo with the Twain quotation in my files for a couple of years.

      Another interesting aspect of writing this post was realizing the shift that’s taken place when it comes to the words “quote” and “quotation.” I was taught that you share a quotation (noun) but quote a person (verb). And yet, we have the QuoteInvestigator. Type “Goodreads quotations” into a search box, and you’re taken to links for “Goodreads quotes.” I always think to myself, “Who is Goodreads quoting…?” but that’s just me, channeling my various English teachers.

      That’s an interesting point about speech writers, too. Like ad agency copy writers, their role is to promote their product, and stay in the background. But it must be slightly irksome from time to time, particularly if a good line moves into public consciousness, attached to someone who didn’t come up with it at all.

      In the end, I suspect we’re all guilty of embroidering or misstating another person’s words. Sometimes, it’s nothing more than remembering words that have moved us, and wanting to pass them on. In the process, even if we get the source right, we often paraphrase rather than quoting. Awareness is the key.

      As for Biblical quotations, have you ever used a book called “Gospel Parallels”? Seeing the synoptic Gospels laid out side-by-side is interesting, and makes clear there was a little quoting going on back then , too!

  15. Oh, Linda. As you can imagine, I love this post. I didn’t know how you and Dixie Rose came to be connected. So that just warms my heart — hearing her story, your love and care — and of course your observation that in the conflict between cat and human it is far more likely cat will win. She was as adorable then as she is beautiful now. That’s about the age Gyp was when he came inside. Oh, those rescues. How they love it. (Interestingly enough, neither Gyppy or Lizzie seem to have the tail issue. Perhaps they never had “bad tail” so when I pet or even gently tug tails, they just turn and purr!)

    The quote thing is very interesting. (Love Joan Walsh Anglund). I’m thinking at this point in time about the best one can do is broadly attribute — how many quotes have been pulled out and said in a speech and then associated with the speaker, even if given attribution. Or in writing. There are a million quote books and even those aren’t accurate.

    I think the main thing is that they ARE quoted, that they are given an attribution (even if it’s just “I heard once — ). But poor Joan and her others — there on the stamp for all to see..

    1. It’s nature vs. nurture again, Jeanie. I’m completely certain Dixie isn’t a lap kitty, and hates to be picked up, because of that early experience. A couple of the boys were in the family who had the mama cat and her four kittens, and I’m just sure what I saw that day was only the tail end of some sustained harassment. Because they were neighbors, I consulted with my apartment manager, who said, roughly, “If that kitten were to suddenly disappear, I wouldn’t have the slightest idea what happened to her. Keep her indoors.” So I did.

      I mentioned the shift from “quotation” to “quote” as a noun, in my comment to Georgette. Another shift (at least in my experience) is the way quotations are accessed and used. When I was in junior high and high school, we used “Bartlett’s” a good bit. But after finding a quotation, we generally went to the original source, to understand more about it. Today, people often start with an assumption, then head off to find quotations that support their point. It tickles me no end to see the proof-texting parallels between those who turn to the Bible and those who turn to Buzzfeed.

      1. Bible to Buzzfeed. That’s great!

        I think I love your landlord.

        Lizzie isn’t a lapper, either. We practice and I can get her up to maybe five or six minutes, but I feel badly when I hold her too long! Although, she will voluntarily get on Rick’s lap. This, as you can imagine, has been a subject of discussion…!

  16. Ahhhh….I’m SO glad Dixie Rose found you, what a sweetheart she is!
    I dislike misinformation too….what a shame that stamp mis-quoted Maya Angelou….one of my favourite authors!
    As always, an interesting and engaging read!xxx

    1. I don’t mean this to sound picky, but after all: it wasn’t the stamp that misquoted Ms. Angelou. It was a person, or a panel made up of people who did the designing, chose the quotation, and didn’t do their research. To put it delicately, the message coming down from the highest reaches of our government and its bureaucracies these days is that facts don’t matter, so it’s little wonder that such errors are made.

      I know, I know. I sound like a grump. I’m not, really, but I can become grumpy under certain circumstances! That’s one reason it’s so good to have Dixie Rose around. She’s the very essence of anti-grump!

  17. I’m reminded of the Quotation: ‘Golf is a good walk spoiled’ that is often attributed to Mark Twain but almost certainly isn’t his. It’s one of my favourite quotes because I then re-write it to read: ‘Photography is a good walk spoiled’. And that is undoubtedly true – if you want to enjoy a good un-interrrupted walk leave the camera behind, or go out on your own with a camera, in which case the only person’s walk that will be ruined is your own!

    1. I’m laughing, Andy, because that very “Twain” quotation is one I came across while I was writing this post.

      Your revision is spot-on. In turn, it reminds me of a bit from Annie Dillard’s “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek,” which I can quote accurately because I have the book here beside me. In her chapter titled “Seeing,” she says;

      “The difference between the two ways of seeing is the difference between talking with and without a camera. When I walk with a camera I walk from shot to shot, reading the light on a calibrated meter. When I walk without a camera, my own shutter opens, and the moment’s light prints on my own silver gut.”

  18. Children can be very cruel, and small animals sometimes bring out the worst in small boys. I’m happy Dixie Rose found you.

    Maya Angelou was a wise and interesting woman. Early hardship sometimes breeds strength.

    The comment about the camera is certainly true. The mind can only be fully occupied by one thing at a time. no matter what they say about multitasking.

    1. I had another “animal” encounter last week that tickled me. I found a tiny snail making its way up the side of a very big boat. How it got there, I can’t imagine, but it was a long way from shelter. I pulled it off and carried it up to the grass, and put it under some well-watered bushes. I can’t say it was looking at me, but it did poke its antennaed head out of its shell. Those boys probably would have stomped on it. I just don’t get that kind of response, but it’s been around as long as we have.

      Look at the quotation I added from Annie Dillard, just above. I was going to say that her words are a nice, artistic variant on “sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug,” but then I looked up that quotation, and found it attributed to Mark Knopfler and his song, “The Bug.”

      I don’t remember hearing “The Bug,” but I laughed at the video. There’s a very important role played by a woolly caterpillar — which doesn’t get smashed!

  19. Linda, I do love the story of how Dixie Rose came to choose you! I suppose that’s another difference between cats and dogs — most dogs will put up with an abusive owner, hoping things will improve, whereas cats tend to pick up their mat and move on if not treated to their liking!

    It’s rather frightening to think we’re raising a generation of youngsters who care not a whit WHO said something, as long as what’s said fits their need. Must be fun being a teacher these days, having to go behind kids and “prove” the quotes they used weren’t said by those they attributed them to.

    Yeah, I’m glad you’re seeing a break in the rains! I’ve been thinking about you and wondering how you can get any work done when the skies open up. Hope they’re nice and sunny again soon!

    1. I mentioned “any port in a storm,” Debbie, but there’s also that old saying about “the lesser of two evils.” At that point in her young life, it may be that either saying — or both — crossed Dixie’s mind. On the other hand, it may simply have been the saucer of milk that did it. She’s not stupid.

      The younger generation has been driving me crazy of late. I can’t imagine what their teachers go through. I still haven’t recovered from reading this. I know people in their 20s and 30s, and I know not to generalize. Still…

      It would be an improvement to have them quoting someone — anyone! — rather than imagining they’re the measure of all things. Take a look at the sign in the third photo. She either needs a comma, or she needs to substitute “fewer” for “less.” Honestly. (I followed the link to her twitter feed and some of her poetry, but I’m going to forego putting a link here.)

      We’re ready for sunshine, believe me. Some of the local creeks are bank-full or over, and they just issued a new flood advisory because of more rain. It’s going to be a good evening to stay in, that’s for sure!

    1. Thanks, Lisa. Dixie’s not as unusual as your frigates or monkeys, but she’s pretty sensitive herself, and fun to have around. She knows when a storm is coming, too — sometimes well before her human companions. As you’ve so often said, there’s a wisdom there we would do well to heed.

  20. A terrific source for misattributed quotes is the ever-reliable Facebook. I cringe at what comes through my feed. What caught my eye in this post, however, was the pronunciation of chimney in “Tom Sawyer Abroad.” Many old-time Southerners pronounce it “chimbley” too.

    1. Barbara, I’ve only known one person who used the word in conversation. She wasn’t precisely Southern, having been born in Missouri, but she always sounded as though she might just have dropped into the neighborhood from Tara.

      What surprised me even more is that chimbley’s still around. There’s a band from Portland called The Decemberists who apparently have a thing for Britishisms, and they’ve recorded a song called “The Chimbley Sweep.” You can hear the song, along with an animated video, here. Third surprise? They’ve been on NPR’s Tiny Desk concert series. Clearly, I’m not keeping up with popular culture!

      1. I LOVE The Decemberists. Have been listening to them on SiriusXM for some time now. “Make You Better” and “Down by the Water” are two favorites. And I’ve listened to “The Chimbley Sweep” twice now this morning. It’s growing on me! Thanks, Linda.

  21. While the internet may be a terrific research tool and with a lot less sneezing than spending time in a library stacks, you really do have to double check for accuracy. But, the interesting thing to me is how much we LOVE quotes and the intensity of our desire to have the perfect one which makes our point perfectly….as if someone else’s wording is cooler or has more value than the way we might think of to say a thing.
    I laugh at myself all the time for such searches and why don’t just say it and leave it at that.

    But, I guess it is simply that the perfection of the thought is so linked to our sense of rightness that it is embedded in our very thought process and we must have that quote!!

    It is also interesting that the perfection of the quote itself might transcend who did say it. Misattribution is bad but maybe someone having put out words that take on their own life is some sort of compliment in itself. Not, of course, that we want to excuse sloppy attribution or lazy information gathering or anything.

    1. This is unrelated, Judy, but when I turned on our local Outdoor Show this morning, they were talking about Burmese pythons in the Everglades. Apparently someone had mentioned lion fish being found in Texas waters, and that got the discussion going. One of the callers had been over to your part of the world and sounded as though he was pretty well informed. So, word of the problem — and its relevance to other locations — is spreading.

      I think there might be something else playing into our love of quotations. If I make a statement, using my own words, people can applaud, disagree, evaluate, ridicule — but they’ll be responding to me. If I quote someone else, it tends to deflect responses: to point “over there.” In that sense, they function in the same way as expressions like, “some have said…” or “everyone knows…” They’re a strange sort of appeal to authority, as though if Mark Twain, or Churchill, or Buddha, or Jesus said it — well, who are you to argue?

      It also occurs to me that the selection of a quotation actually may say as much about us as about the words themselves. A quotation that I respond to may not evoke anything at all in a reader. I first began noticing this at craft fairs, where there’s always an abundance of signs with quotations or aphorisms painted on them. The ones I respond to most strongly are the ones that reflect my own experience. For example, there was a time when “all hat, no cattle” wouldn’t have made sense. Now, with a few decades in Texas and a lot of experience with all-hat-no-cattle people, I don’t buy, but I do smile, and think of people who should hang it in their house.

      1. I agree that the attraction to quote, like perhaps the attraction to art, does reflect back something about ourselves. I even find in appreciation other peoples photography, that I am attracted often to things I could see myself wanting to do rather than the things I would have no interest in doing. Not that all appreciated is related into doing it myself of course.

        I love the ‘all hat, no cattle’ quote! Cute way to put the concept.:)

        Yes the pythons are a problem and the lion fish and the introduced melaleuca trees etc. It is one thing if nature arranges things for the dispersement of species, but I have no understanding for the release of pets into the wild just because they got too big or you didn’t want them anymore. Personally, I think its criminal to screw up an environment that way…completely preventable. The fight with the melaleuca trees is our own fault as they were brought in intentionally to stabilize soil on levees and to soak of water to drain wetlands. Guess what they LOVE Florida and are massively taking over and attempts to eradicate them are not going well. Fields of destroyed trees have lovely young healthy new green growth coming up. It is a mess!

        When I was diving in the Philippines I thought Lion Fish were very cool, but they belonged there.

  22. Quite a tall tale/tail you’ve told us here! Well, actually not, because you only write the truth! Tracking down quotations is definitely a perilous business, even if you do your best to confirm through various sources. The key, always (though not always achievable) is to trace back until you find the primary source. More than once, I’ve spotted an instance where a misquote takes on the life of a confirmed quote by being re-quoted. All that said, it’s stupefying that the US Postal Service didn’t manage to do a better job of choosing the quotation for the Angelou stamp. Why pluck a quote from a secondary source, as appears to have happened here, rather than from Angelou’s own work? Looks to me as if no one charged with obtaining a quotation bothered to read either Angelou’s poems or her memoir.

    1. I do indeed try always to write the truth, Susan — even when the facts may not accord perfectly with what took place in the past. Ah, the trials and complications of memoir and creative non-fiction! But that’s another whole post (or book, for that matter), and a subject for endless debate. In the end, I think the boys were seven, nine, and ten. But if they were eight, ten, and eleven? In reporting, it would make a difference. In story-telling, perhaps not so much.

      When it comes to quotations, “say it, and they will believe” may be analogous to “build it, and they will come.” The same thing happens with facts that are less than factual: the so-called Big Lie. Repeat something often enough, and people will believe what you’re telling them, even if it has no basis in fact.

      That does raise an interesting question. Would the same people who casually allow misattribution on something so public as a postage stamp also lie about matters of public policy? If facts don’t matter, perhaps they would. It’s one of the better reasons to demand accuracy wherever possible, and to point out inaccuracies when they’re discovered.

      1. What? People with a vested interest lying about matters of public policy? Okay, enough of my feigned disbelief. The most egregious instance I ever witnessed was during an interview on a television news show. I no longer remember the specific issue, but the political operative who was being interviewed claimed that if Congress passed a certain bill, some dire thing that I’ll call X would follow. To the eternal credit of the moderator, who had done his homework, he asked the political operative to hold on a minute while he, the moderator, pulled out a copy of the proposed bill. He then read the exact wording of the relevant section, which clearly showed that X would not be permitted under the proposed law. In spite of that, during the rest of the interview the political operative repeated his now-demonstrated-false claim several times. People like him, of whom there are too many, alas, have no shame or decency.

        1. Though I’m a little late in responding, the days between your comment and my response have brought us the Clinton Foundation, Uranium One, Rosatom, and the rest of that sorry mess. I’m sure you would have seen the article in the NY Times.

          Now, Media Matters has popped up, noting that the allegations against Mrs. Clinton don’t hold water for a variety of reasons. In the process, they’ve made clear that the deal would, after all, have to have been cleared by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US, which includes Secretaries of Defense, Treasury, etc.

          If I have this right, the argument is, “You can’t pin this on one person. They all were involved.”

          If we’re lucky, someone, somewhere, is going to be able to emulate that moderator and produce the relevant documents.

  23. This post is cleverly linked together. Is Dixie a linx? (j/k)
    I’ve just finished Boris Johnson’s (he’s the Mayor of London) book on Churchill, in which, he debunks a number of quotations assigned to but not spoken by Churchill.

    1. I’ve heard good things about Johnson’s book, Cheri. Beyond the reviews in general, I found it referenced several times as I was poking around in the Twain-Churchill-Berra quotation piles.

      And then there’s this, from Twain’s “A Tramp Abroad,” which I think you’ll like:

      “You may say a cat uses good grammar. Well, a cat does — but you let a cat get excited once; you let a cat get to pulling fur with another cat on a shed, nights, and you’ll hear grammar that will give you the lockjaw. Ignorant people think it’s the noise which fighting cats make that is so aggravating, but it ain’t so; it’s the sickening grammar they use.”

      1. ;)
        As you know, I have taught grammar for many, many years…I also portrayed a character named aardvark on Grammar Girl’s grammar website Quick and Dirty Tips. I volunteered my time during my menopausal years when I was up at all times during the night. Pretty funny, heh?

        Mignon Fogarty went to Stanford as a biology major and then hit it big with her podcasts about grammar.

        1. I’ll be darned. I consult that site regularly. The last time around, it was italics vs. quotation marks for titles that was my issue. I remember stopping by to check out the subjunctive, too.

          Of course, grammar tips can be as much of a thicket as quotation-sourcing, but it can be fun, with so many good sites available.

          Aardvark,huh? That’s just funny. I’m glad Mignon switched, however it happened. There are a lot of good biologists, but good grammarists? Those are to be treasured.

  24. Not only was it a delight to read about how Dixie Rose chose you, I appreciated the lesson on the correct attribution of quotes. I’m prone to take the first attribution I find, rather than relying on two or more sources. Thanks.

    My son chose all our cats–and then left three for me to care for when he left home 14 years ago. One lived to 19, one lived to 17, and we are on the last one, Penny, who is 18. Once an outdoor cat, she now eats the best food for senior kitty, has a litter box (that I despise), and gets cradled like a baby. She howls in the night (as I’m told aged cats are prone to do) and is still cranky about anyone touching her tail, flicking it here and there when anyone strokes her backside.

    1. When it came to accepting the first attribution, I did much the same as you, Martha. I might double-check a quotation, just to be “sure,” but I wasn’t internet savvy enough to realize how easily misinformation gets passed about.

      What the internet lacks, of course, is an army of editors and fact-checkers behind every posting. I was lucky enough in the early days of my blog to have a reader who was willing to point out errors of fact. It sensitized me to several issues, and helped me understand that being my own editor could be more complicated than I’d realized.

      Just out of curiosity, what are you feeding Penny? I’m looking for a lower-carb food for Dixie, particularly since she refuses to eat any human food. Chicken, salmon, steak? She won’t touch it. I’ve finally managed to get her to eat some canned food, but we’re still on the hunt for something that’s healthier and acceptable.

      I was interested in that note about howling, too. Dixie’s begun wandering the house about 3 or 4 a.m., not precisely howling, but meowing loudly enough to wake me. We’ve had several discussions about it, of course. I think she should be more quiet, and she thinks I should be more of a party animal.

      1. Linda, I forgot to click the follow-up link, thus my late reply. It suddenly occurred to me this morning that, like you always do, you must have replied.
        I feed Penny Hill’s Prescription Diet, known as “k/d feline renal health”. The emergency vet (when she was having renal problems) and my regular vet–recommended the food. Since starting her on the diet, she is healthier and happier, even at 18. She likes the dry food best and occasionally I give her wet food. I wait for her to ask for it. I give her a tablespoon and she pushes it around the plate and manages to eat some. Ocean fish is the favorite. She pushes chicken all the way off the plate where it dries to jerky.
        When Penny’s son died at 17 about a year and a half ago, I realized that he had been harassing her for years and once he was gone she became more affectionate and content. I was regretful that I had tortured her with him for so long.
        It’s interesting how they change–and how we change with them. Once exclusively an outdoor cat, Penny spends much of her time indoors on a heat pad–yes, a heat pad used to warm sprouting seeds that Ben set up for her. Good for the achy joints, I guess. But she is also going outside more now that it’s spring, which makes me smile.

        1. See? You’re not the only one who can be a little late in responding. Let’s just say it’s been one of those weeks.

          I’m really glad to hear that Hill’s is what you’re using. I have Dixie on a half-and-half combo of their Science Diet and a high-protein something or other. Given a choice between Hill’s and anything, she’ll take the Hill’s every time. I have finally gotten her to eat some canned, too, but we’ll see how the Prescription Diet goes. It’s just about time to stock up, so it’s a convenient time to make the change.

          The heat pad’s a good idea, too. I’ve noticed over the past few months that she’s often nestled next to the computer’s power strip, and she’s taken to lying in the sun. Her old bones may be feeling a bit of a chill. She clearly is having some problems with arthritis or something, but she so hates the vet that I don’t want to take her in for just anything. The vet says that, as long as she’s still jumping up on the bed and chairs without any problem (she is) that it probably isn’t anything to be really concerned about.

  25. Misquotes and misattributions spread like wildfire on the internet. Sometimes it seems that quotes are shortened or recast to fit the twitter character limitation, then they take on a life of their own. That’s innocent enough I suppose. More irksome to me are quotes offered to give support to some political position, then falsely attributed to a person universally respected, in order to gain credibility for the position. After all, if Jefferson said it (for example) what right-thinking American can disagree with it? I’m sure I’ve been guilty of misattribution too (perhaps even with the supposed Maya Angelou quote) but I try to be careful, I never do it intentionally, and I try to avoid using quotes whose sources I’m not confident of as political ammunition.

    In my research I’ve come across plenty of quotes misattributed to John Wesley. They appear on hundreds of websites (and twitter of course) but also even in lots of respected books. But never do the books cite to a primary source (because there isn’t one). It annoys me that an author wouldn’t take the time to confirm the validity of a quote before putting it out there like that. A pet peeve. I’m probably going to write an article about it.

    On a completely unrelated note, I smiled at Tom’s word “chimbley.” Around here we use a variation of it: “chimley.” Anyone who says “chimney” either isn’t from around here, or is speaking with effort. A friend who moved here now works in the library. Recently I asked her if she has learned to say “liberry.” She groaned.

    1. I ended up going off on a significant tangent last night as a result of reading your comment. I thought I’d seen somewhere that DARE (Dictionary of Regional English) is in danger of going away, for lack of funding. That’s true, although my hope is someone (or, more likely, some foundation) will show up to rescue that fine recorder of variant pronunciations and unusual words. I do know about liberries. Those are the places where you aks the nice lady for books.

      Luther’s had plenty ascribed to him that shouldn’t have been, too. I happened across “Here I stand, I can do no other” as one of those fictional quotations. I hardly could believe it. Even one of his best biographies uses “Here I Stand” as its title. More research is needed on that one.

      But the most fascinating case study I found is this one, where a properly punctuated Facebook post had its quotation marks moved, and voila! A new Martin Luther King, Jr., quotation was born.

      I just skimmed a few reports of unfortunate trigger warning/safe space stories from those institutions that more and more seem to be functioning as four-year kindergartens, and I find myself understanding the temptation to falsely attribute. Didn’t Simone de Beauvoir say, “Life doesn’t offer trigger warnings?” No? Well, maybe it was Maya Angelou.

  26. What a gal, Dixie Rose! As you say, the decision of cats trumps ours… Always! :)

    It continues to amaze me the wealth of misquotes out there, but it’s easy to see how they’re perpetrated. Someone mis-assigns or simply CREATES a quote, places it in a lovely little image, and bam! Pinterest lovers and FB-goers everywhere re-post the mistake without thought. It’s a shame. I recently saw a radically casual quote attributed to Sophocles. It was truly awesome.

    1. You know what’s awesome, FeyGirl? That someone out there knows enough about Sophocles to attribute a quotation to him!

      I don’t know what it is that so appeals about the combination of images and words, but it’s real. Beyond that, the entire concept of “curation” has spread so widely, thanks partly to sites like Pinterest and Tumblr, that no one gives a thought to where the words or images come from. It’s almost as though it’s beside the point — anyone who worries about attribution is unbearably 1990s.

      I’m always amazed when I find that someone has come to my blog via Pinterest. When I follow the referring link, I often find whole pages filled with my photos. Since I’m not really a photographer, I decided to put that in the “Things not to worry about” pile.

      1. Hahahah!! So utterly true. I love it, it’s just so frightening. I once sent a fellow (photog) blogger an image that had been meme’d (I just created a new verb, I think) — on BuzzFeed! As you say, the lack of attribution is incredibly rampant… and so ’90s (love it!!). It’s pretty appalling.

  27. As seen on Facebook:
    “You can’t trust quotes from the internet … You never know when they’re fake.” – Abraham Lincoln
    I usually try to source multiple sites before posting something. Google, Snopes and Fact Checker help from embarrassing myself. Even with those, as you mention about Google, there is always the chance for bad information. Wikipedia is a good place to look, but since anyone can edit anything…….
    Dixie Rose is an adorable cat. I think we made the Dixie Rose Lee comparison a while back.

    1. I just came across that “Lincoln” quotation on another blog a few weeks ago, Steve. It makes the point, in a humorous way.

      Now you can add QuoteInvestigator to your list of resources. The site is so handy, because all of the people he’s dealt with are lined up along the side of the page in alphabetical order. You can either use that list, or enter key words in the search box. Thoreau is another fellow who’s had every sort of wisdom ascribed to him. I’ve checked out a few of his supposed quotations with QI: some were real, some not.

      You did mention Dixie Rose Lee, and quite appropriately, I’d say. Now that’s it’s springtime, the amount of fur I find around the house suggests that she’s devoting quite a bit of time to the feline version of “stripping.”

  28. Those lovely eyes in Miss Dixie Rose’s charming face. You’ve made that scene quite vivid when she reacted to having her tail pulled.

    The misquote on the new stamp reminded me of another quotable statement: “false but accurate.” I love the idea of a Quote Investigator!

    1. You’ll love the nom de plume of the Quote Investigator, too: Garson O’Toole. And his avatar is wonderfully Sherlocky.

      “False but accurate” made me laugh. I can’t quite figure out what it means, but it clearly applies to much that shows up on television and comes out of our state and national capitols!

  29. Thank you for this immensely interesting and entertaining essay, Linda. From little Dixie Rose to misappropriations is a long jump, but one that was made with grace and charm.

    This reminded me of a reason why we should never attempt to edit our own writings either, as we only see what we thought we had written. And so we all stumble onward!

    1. It’s the longest jump Dixie’s made in some time. She used to love to jump up on the perch atop her scratching post, but the years seem to have taken a toll, and she’s content now to jump onto her chair or the bed.

      I’m always being reminded of the truth of what you say about the way in which “we only see what we thought we had written.” No matter how careful I am, there are times when I forget to close html tags in comments, and there it is: proof for all to see that I wasn’t as careful as I should have been. In one way, I mind. In another, I like the way those errors stand as reminders to pay attention.

  30. Cats know a cat person when they see one. Thank goodness Miss Dixie spotted one when she needed one.

    If what we are told made as big an impression on us as what we experience ourselves, there would be a lot less grief in the world and a lot more people would be wiser than sadder.

    I wish the word “humane” was applicable to humans a whole lot more often than it is.

    1. Shoot, WOL. I didn’t even know I was a cat person until she showed up. She certainly had plenty to teach me. What I don’t know is whether she made a kitty-conscious decision to be a “good girl” to avoid getting kicked out. What’s a fact is that she never clawed, never jumped up on tables or kitchen counters, and never, ever made a dash for outdoors. (I think I understand that one.)

      I take your point about the value of what we’re told, but on the other hand, there are a good many people in this world trying to tell us things I know to be false. Better to trust my own experience, than to accept falsehoods.

      And by the way — happy San Jacinto Day!

    1. Who knows, BW? Maybe one day Dixie Rose will do for me what your nutria has done for you! I’ll be by with a longer comment, but congratulations for your great honor. When I got the emails asking for nominees, dumb me never, ever thought of nominating you. It’s a good thing someone was “with it,” and got the job done!

      Light-hearted and lessons can go together nicely — again, as you proved. I do get a little tired of being lectured to instead of engaged. :)

  31. How embarrassing for the postal service.Ha!

    Dixie Rose is so photogenic. She must love posing for photos.

    Twain was quite the sharp one.

    1. Bella, I made a big mistake about two years ago and used a flash while taking a photo of Dixie. That was the end of any photos for a long, long time. Now, we’re doing better. This one had to be taken ten years ago — she was lounging atop her favorite chair, watching the birds.

      My dad used to collect postal oddities, along with his other stamp collections. He spent his whole life looking for an “inverted Jenny.”

      I went looking for more postal embarassments, and found this:

      “The largest run of an error on a postage stamp is the 2011 United States ‘Forever Statue of Liberty Stamp’. The stamp shows the replica of the Statue of Liberty in Las Vegas rather than the original Statue of Liberty in New York. The stamp was released in December 2010 and the error was not noticed until March 2011.”

      Oh, whoops.

  32. I had to laugh about how Dixie Rose came into your life. And such a appropriate quote for the boys’ experience – whoever first created it. And, yes, attributing the right quote to the right person is a very difficult process. Only goes to show that we have to be careful – as the Postal Service discovered. Great post, again, Linda.

    1. I certainly never had planned on having a cat, Otto. I’d been the keeper of a fox squirrel and a prairie dog previously, but she’s been my first real pet, and has taught me a good bit. Patience comes to mind: not to mention a few lessons about boundaries.

      When you get right down to it, so many projects could profit by an increased attention to detail — not to mention a willingness to question our own assumptions. I understand why the Postal Service choose as they did, but it’s worth pondering whether another, less-well-known quotation might have been even more interesting. In any event, it’s been a good lesson for all of us.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post, too!

  33. I had never been a cat lover until my son’s girlfriend gave him one several years ago. Now they’ve broken up, he’s moved into his own place, and the cat and I are best of friends. Perhaps she came into my life as your Dixie Rose did, not initially wanted, but now just try to take them away!

    What a marvelous story about the misquotes. A word of caution to us all, and especially those who are not well read and would have difficulty attaching the correct quote to the correct author on a good day! Not that I’m not in danger of making the same mistake.

    By the way, I loved my Angland little books. The illustrations were as charming as the books to me, and I rarely hear them mentioned any more.

    1. Isn’t it funny how these things happen? I never, ever, would have gone looking for a kitty as a pet (or a dog, either), but once the universe had arranged it for me, it turned into an adventure, a learning experience, and a delight.

      One of the things I’ve found about quotations is that even sources I would have trusted more rather than less, like Goodreads, don’t necessarily get it right. I think I assumed in the beginning that Goodreads was populated with people like you and Arti, who would get it right, but that certainly isn’t the case. Just because it’s not a site with advertisements for weight loss pills and dating services surrounding the quotations doesn’t make it more trustworthy.

      I’ve never read an Anglund book. Isn’t that strange? Of course, I had to wait to begin blogging to be introduced to Maurice Sendak and E.B. White. I’m old enough that many of the most well-known children’s authors of today weren’t popular when I began reading, and by the time they came along, I’d moved on. Even Dr. Seuss wasn’t a part of my childhood, except in the form of Gerald McBoing-Boing, whom most people today don’t remember.

  34. I am very late but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy your post as much as I enjoy all of them. Everything you write is interesting, amusing, informative and a pleasure to read because of your easy and flowing style.

    It is good to be able to get back to my favourite people in the blog universe.

    1. As I like to say, Friko, there is no “late” around here. That’s one reason I leave comments open on all my posts — people sometimes will show up on a years-old post through a Google search, and they deserve the right to leave a comment, too, if they’re so inclined.

      It must be a real pleasure to be back “up and running” again. I was forced to spend a little time at the local electronics emporium yesterday. My monitor has developed a tic, and now turns itself off for no apparent reason. It’s been going on for some time, and I had developed a way of coaxing it back into action, but yesterday? Nothing worked. So, I became the proud owner of a new monitor.

      Of course, once I got home, ye olde one was functioning just fine. Perhaps it realized it could be replaced. I decided to put the new one in the closet and keep using this one until after my cataract surgery, just to see how much of my grumping about unreadable light blue and gray text actually is due to poor eyesight.

      It’s good to see you roaming around, and especially nice to know that you enjoy dropping by here.

    1. Thanks, Jean. You’d enjoy Miss Dixie, too. She’s not exactly a fan of new people in the house, but she has so many creative ways of rejecting you, it’s quite entertaining.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the piece.


  35. I find it funny that when Googling Joan Walsh Anglund, Google mistakenly has her being born in 1958, which would have her writing the Maya bird quote at 9! Fortunately, further investigation cleared up my confusion!

    Glad to see Dixie is still doing well; hope you are, too!

    1. I can’t remember now what it was, but I found a funny error on Google recently, too. I don’t fault them for an error here and there — that’s a lot of information they’re compiling! — but it’s a good reminder to double-check.

      Dixie always does well, and I’m fine, too. In fact, I came over the other day and at least looked at the feeder cam. I managed to make it by beell’s place, and intend to make a few more visits from time to time. So much to see, so little time!

  36. Another of your fun posts.

    You are so right about finding quotations on the web. I only use them if I can confirm the attribution.

    As regards cats it is certainly true that their decisions always trump ours. They are remarkable creatures. Some days I’m convinced our little Zeke (a sweet tabby who’s giving me the eye as I write this) understands everything I say but won’t let on unless it suits his purpose. Other days I think all cats are alien anthropologists sent here to study us.

    1. Michael, I’ve also learned the lesson about internet “facts.” Sometimes they’re accurate, and sometimes they’re so far off the mark it’s amusing. When it comes to quotations, I try — but sometimes all we can do is add a note like “attributed to…” Even specialists like the Quote Investigator can’t always pin them down.

      I like the thought of cats as alien anthropologists. They certainly have the art of insinuating themselves into our culture down pat!

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