All Your (Bogus) Quotes Are Belong To Us

Bogus Quotes On The Internet

Lincoln Joke Quote

It’s really not THAT hard Abe.

Bogus quotes are one of my biggest pet peeves.  Not everyone understands that, and there may be some people who think “the quote itself is what is important and if so-and-so didn’t actually say it then what different does it make?”

The difference is we assign trust and authority to people, so if Albert Einstein were to say “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” (Which he did not.  Yes this is one of those popular, yet bogus, quotes) then we tend to think that there is probably some rational basis for the quote if we trust Albert Einstein or if we value his experience.  However if the same quote just appears in a random YouTube comment we would not even waste time thinking about it.

Ugle Albert Einstein

Do you hate this picture as much as I do? Is Lazy And/Or Stupid And/Or Satan

One of the worst organized offenders is a website called which runs several Google+ accounts including +Albert Einstein and +Dr Seuss.  I’ve personally taken the time to check the quotes from these accounts and more than half the time they are either misattributed (someone else said it), inaccurate (the right gist, but not the exact quote) or Internet Fiction (the quote was made up and attributed to a historical figure).  This is pretty horrible for a website that specializes in quotations!


Digging Deeper

So, how do you verify a quotation, especially one that is pervasive on the internet like the genius fish Einstein example above.   One great place to start is which is the Wikipedia quote wiki where people do nothing but try to find the sources for various quotes.

For example with Albert Einstein quotes, the first place I look is, which is Wikipedia’s quote wiki for Einstein.  In addition to having a large number of verified quotes they also have the most popular misquotes and on the discussion page they have even more.  This handles about 80% of the cases and the other 20% require more research.

By using date ranges in Google you are able to narrow the first usage of a quote on the Internet, and often a physical book source if the quote is legitimate.  Sometimes the physical book is another book of quotations which can be a lead to verifying a quote but isn’t the end of the road.  In several of the cases I looked into there were fairly recent quote books that attributed a quote to Albert Einstein but did not provide a source for the quote.  In some cases their source appears to be the uncited attributions on the Internet which do not qualify as sources themselves.

You Can’t Prove A Negative

The mistake people make is that they believe that you have to disprove a quote source in order to invalidate it.  The opposite is actually true–it is the burden of the person using or repeating the quote to know where it comes from.  If you cannot find a real source for the quote than you should consider the quote to be bogus and bogus quotes should not be tolerated.  You can also contribute by adding your research to when you are doing the footwork on a quote and save some trouble for the next person.

Join The Cause

When you are quoting someone, know the printed source and then provide it.  Sure put a crazy photo with the quote spelled in balloons, but then in the caption cite your source.  This adds credibility and helps people verify your quotes.


2 Responses to “All Your (Bogus) Quotes Are Belong To Us”

  1. Darius Zilinskis

    Apr 03. 2013

    “Authenticity is the least important thing in the quote”, – Me


    Jul 22. 2012

    An example from just a couple minutes ago–an image posted on G+ with a quote from Kurt Vonnegut Jr.:

    “If God were alive today he’d be an atheist.”

    Which certainly sounds like something KV would say, and is in fact from one of his books but isn’t a complete quote. Shortening parts and then just putting a period at the end of the part that works as a soundbyte isn’t cool. The actual quote is:

    “If God were alive today, he would have to be an atheist, because the excrement has hit the air-conditioning big time, big time.” from a Man Without a Country (2005)

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