What are we talking about today?

Some days have themes. I don't necessarily post something in each of these topic areas every week.

Sunday: Church-related or spiritual things.
Monday: Running.
Tuesday: Books.
Wednesday: Transportation.
Friday: Green living.

07 July 2016

Who Said It?

This is one of those things that absolutely happened before the internet, but now that we can all send poorly researched information to one another at the speed of tweets, I see it a lot more often. And it makes me very stabby.

What is it? Poor attribution.

I'm not talking about poorly cited (or nonexistent) sources, although seriously, please don't share posts with that nonsense in it. No, this is about taking a quote from a book (or movie, or whatever--I'm talking fiction here) and attributing that quote to the author who wrote it, rather than the character who said it.

I know, I know, it's an easily justified practice, and at times when you need a quote in a hurry but can't remember the character, the author may be close enough. Except that doing so is imprecise at best and misleading at worst.

Why? Because the author who wrote the good guy also wrote the villain. Because dialogue is for moving a story. Because it's fiction. And because without a definitive word from the author, pulling a random quote from her book and presenting it as her quote may not be reflective of what she really believes or thinks.

Here's my least favourite example (and it shows up on Twitter approximately 516876 times per day):
What's wrong with it? Gimli is the one who said it, in the midst of an argument with Elrond about whether or not the Fellowship should be bound by pledges to stay with Frodo until the bitter end. And Elrond says:

Another incorrectly attributed quote, but strangely enough, this one tends to show up on Twitter a lot less often. Whatever you think Tolkien was driving at in this passage, surely we can all agree that Elrond is intended to be the wiser character? And perhaps that, since his word prevails over Gimli's objections, this is a better reflection of Tolkien's true thoughts on the subject? At the very least, that attributing both quotes to him with no further explanation makes Tolkien sound a bit confused?

We have Google now. Please, please, please use it when you're quoting something and you can't remember who said it. And (gently) encourage others to follow suit. To kick us off, I made a small adjustment to the quote we started with:

Want to make one? I use quozio.com.


Hart Johnson said...

I tend to only share quotes about writing, which typically are more directly attributable, so I hadn't noticed this, but if you went on an intentional spree of this, you could make a bunch of authors out to be all kinds of monsters, eh?

Sharlan Proper said...

Thank you. Never crossed my mind how it should be attributed. It makes a world of difference how I receive the quote in the graphic. Cool!

Su Wilcox said...

@Hart: Yes! That's a big reason it drives me crazy. Or just makes the writer sound silly-- when people attribute Polonius' goofy and contradictory sayings to Shakespeare, for example.

@Sharlan: Indeed it does.