"I certainly never write a review about a book I don't think worth reviewing, a flat-out bad book, unless it's an enormously fashionable bad book." --
says, John Gardner in Conversations with John Gardner
Quoted from 'Dictionary of Library and Information Science Quotations'     Edited by Mohamed Taher & L S Ramaiah. ISBN: 8185689423 (New Delhi , Aditya, 1994) p.150. Available @ Amazon.com

Friday, October 27, 2006

Unheard history: Who didn’t say what

PS. This is not from my desktop

Unheard history: Who didn’t say what

London, Oct. 26: Mr Spock never uttered the words, “It’s life Jim, but not as we know it” to Enterprise captain James Kirk. And Napoleon did not coyly plead, “Not tonight, Josephine” to his lover. A book published by Oxford University Press this week explains how many of the most famous one-line quotations from history are either fiction or adaptations of the original. “We’re not trying to be clever and tell people that what they believe is wrong,” Ms Elizabeth Knowles, an editor of the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations who wrote What They Didn’t Say, told AP on Wednesday.

“We are interested in the how these expressions have developed,” she said. “It’s language on the move.” Sherlock Holmes, for example, who is widely credited with saying “Elementary, my dear Watson” to his sidekick, only managed “Elementary,” once, in creator Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1894 short story The Crooked Man. The full phrase was coined 21 years later by the hero of P.G. Wodehouse’s Psmith, Journalist, Knowles says. Former Conservative Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, asked to name the greatest challenge of his leadership, replied, “The opposition of events.”

That was changed to “events, dear boy, events” by someone whom Ms Knowles has yet to identify. During an interview marking his engagement to Diana Spencer, Prince Charles was asked whether he was in love, and replied, somewhat diffidently, “Yes, whatever that may mean.” In common usage, that has been changed to “Whatever ‘in love’ means.”

“Given the sad history of the marriage, it takes on a new resonance,” said Ms Knowles. Misquotations often flourish, she said, “because they catch the moment better than the original. When we remember things, we all edit them.” According to her book, what the Star Trek hero Spock actually said was “No life as we know it.” It was changed in Star Trekkin’, a song released in 1987 by British band The Firm. What’s more, Captain Kirk and other members of the Enterprise crew did not issue the famous “Beam me up” order until the fourth Star Trek film when what Kirk said was, “Scotty, beam me up.”

The book adds that there is no record of the French queen, Marie Antoinette, speaking of the French peasantry, ever saying, “Let them eat cake.” “This is a case where someone who seemed to epitomise the thoughtless frivolity of the time comes together with a well-known phrase from later years,” said Ms Knowles. Similarly, “Not tonight, Josephine” came from the title of a 1915 song and was later mistakenly attributed to Napoleon, she said. [source: Deccan Chronicle on the web]

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