Most Notable Quotations of 2010

Ronald Butters ronbutters at AOL.COM
Tue Nov 23 15:02:00 UTC 2010

And in support of the first reason, there has never been a time in history in which people did not think that the world was going to the dogs, the level of eloquence was getting scarcer, etc. But it also has a lot to do with what we define as "good," and a lot of stupid ones and inane ones continue, e.g., "History is bunk," "Tippicanoe and Tyler too," "Thus ever to tyrants!" "Let them eat cake," "Religion is the opiate of the people") as well as dumb apocryphal ones ("Other than that, how did you enjoy the play Mrs. Lincoln").

On Nov 23, 2010, at 7:36 AM, Paul Frank wrote:

> On Tue, Nov 23, 2010 at 1:15 PM, Shapiro, Fred <fred.shapiro at> wrote:
>> The phenomena that Geoff points out could simply be artifacts of my particular approach to compiling "notable quotations of the year" list rather than being symptomatic of any larger trends. But in my own mind I do have some explanations for why my lists are turning out the way they are:
>> -- "They don't make quotations the way they used to" in the sense that eloquent lines from literature, movies, song lyrics, political speeches are scarce nowadays. Even if this were not true, it usually takes some years before eloquent lines from literature and other art forms become obvious, and such lines would be unlikely to make a "quotations of the year" list.
>> -- Our political discourse and celebrity culture are nowadays dominated by stupidity and venality, and the lines that are memorable tend to be memorable because of their stupidity or venality.
>> Fred Shapiro
> I reckon your first reason is closer to the mark. Throughout most of
> human history, political discourse everywhere has been dominated by
> stupidity and venality. But time is a sieve that separates the fine
> from the coarse. The reason we still read the classics is that time
> has allowed them to survive and has confined the dregs of literature,
> which far outnumber the gems, to oblivion. So it is with quotations.
> The good ones survive a few years; the very good ones a few decades; a
> few of the very best may survive centuries. This is one of the reasons
> why I wish we had a great English dictionary such as China's Hanyu Da
> Cidian, which has some 1,500,000 citations, mostly from the classics
> (though, to be fair, Chinese lexicographers have a far bigger
> classical corpus to draw on than English-speaking ones and the OED
> aims to be a reflection of English as she is spoke, and has been
> spoken and written, and not as the best writers of the language have
> written it through the centuries).
> Paul
> Paul Frank
> Translator
> Chinese, German, French, Italian > English
> Espace de l'Europe 16
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