Who said it first? Or did they say it at all?
I read about two books last week that I'm adding to my Christmas list:
The first is "The Yale Book of Quotations," released Oct. 30, which I read about at the Freakonomics blog. It is by Fred Shapiro, the editor of "The Oxford Dictionary of American Legal Quotations." From its description at Amazon:
In many cases, new research for this book has uncovered an earlier date or a different author than had previously been understood. (It was Beatrice Kaufman, not Sophie Tucker, who exclaimed, “I’ve been poor and I’ve been rich. Rich is better!” William Tecumseh Sherman wasn’t the originator of “War is hell!” It was Napoleon.) Numerous entries are enhanced with annotations to clarify meaning or context for the reader.Shapiro describes some ways his book is better than the oft-used Bartlett's Quotations here. (One of the things mentioned is the breadth of subject. He has "mirror mirror on the wall," for example. Bartlett's doesn't.) Of course, what's not mentioned is that Bartlett's is online and searchable; "The Yale Book" is not.
In a similar vein, the second is "What They Didn't Say." It is by Elizabeth Knowles, who edits "The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations" and will be released Nov. 30.
She catalogs how commonly known quotations have morphed over the years. There was no "Beam me up, Scotty" in "Star Trek," no "Elementary, my dear Watson" uttered by Sherlock Holmes. From a piece in the Guardian:
Ms Knowles, who introduced a misquotations section into the latest Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, said: "Again and again we see misquotations flourish because they catch the tone of a personality more than the original remark. Collecting them is a fascinating exercise, and in a lot of cases it also gives the real authors their due."