[Ads-l] Request for Modern Examples of Misquotation

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Fri Dec 18 20:31:34 UTC 2015

The book I am currently composing will include a discussion of the
genesis of misquotations, and a variety of conjectural mechanisms will
be presented.

Do you, dear reader, know of any examples of misquotation that were in
some distinctive way facilitated by modern communication networks,
social networks, and/or the manipulation of electronic text?

Note: The information being gathered here may be placed into the book.

For example, one modern form of misattribution is engendered by
twitter. When a well-known figure retweets a message from a
lesser-known person the message is sometimes reassigned to the
retweeter. The authorship of the following statement was reassigned to
the award-winning science fiction writer William Gibson after he
retweeted it:

Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self esteem, first
make sure you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes.

This episode was discussed on the Quote Investigator website here:


The message from Gibson was not deceptive. A careful reader who
examined the retweet would have been able to determine that the
message did not originate with Gibson. The twitter handle of another
person was displayed together with the tweet. Indeed, the retweet
mechanism was designed to preserve information about the source of a

However, another behavior occurs on twitter which I will call
"lifting" tweets. To "lift" a tweet one copies the tweet text and
tweets it again while giving no indication of the original source of
the tweet. Arguably, this is a modern form of plagiarism.

If you, dear reader, know of any interesting examples of misquotations
(via retweets or lifting) in the twittersphere please let me know
on-list or off-list.

Here is another example of a modern misattribution: I am currently
researching a quotation that has been incorrectly ascribed to the
prominent painter Frida Kahlo. The statement was first distributed
anonymously via the website PostSecret in 2008, I believe. The words
were superimposed on artwork that displayed an image of Kahlo and that
probably induced the misattribution.


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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