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"I wish I'd said that."
—Oscar Wilde, to a witty remark by James McNeill Whistler
"You will, Oscar, you will!"
—James McNeill Whistler, in riposte
There Is No Such Thing as Notability, but There Is Such A Thing As Quotability.
You've probably encountered these authors. They are the ones whose sayings adorn the inside pages of books, who appear on t-shirts, whose appearance is almost guaranteed on any Quote Overdosed page or series that makes use of Epigraphs. They will have the largest section on Beam Me Up, Scotty, in fact Beam Me Up, Scotty will form their best known quotes for a lie can travel halfway round the world while the truth is putting on its shoes (Mark Twain). Somehow these authors have managed to be inherently quotable. Their words tug on the imagination, perhaps more than they do on fact but hey, imagination is more important than knowledge (Albert Einstein). They also tend to be people to look up to for their intellect; people want to seem witty not just for saying something witty but also for saying something said by someone witty even though a witty saying proves nothing (Voltaire). There is also the fact that people depend on Small Reference Pools so once someone gets into the popular consciouness, they will circle around it for infinity.
Studies have been done on the ultimate master list of quotable authors but there are still more out there but there are still those who can gain infamy for a delightful epigram. They face a problem of saturation though for it seems that every poetic piece of wit gets attributed back to the same stock Authors of Quote when people are unsure of who really to acknowledge.
- The Bible, especially Jesus.
- Ask yourself what would an intellectual do? What would Plato do?
- Marcus Tullius Cicero, granddaddy of oration, "Let the punishment match the crime" and expressed admiration for the literature of...
- Gaius Julius Caesar: "The die is cast", "I came, I saw, I conquered".
- William Shakespeare. In fact it now considered polite to not say "As the Bard said..." because it seems like you're trying to sound impressive for knowing some Shakespeare which is in fact very unimpressive.
- There is in fact a famous comedy sketch entitled “For You Are Quoting Shakespeare”. It focuses not on the iconic lines of his works, such as “to be or not to be”, but the lines which are so absolutely popular that they have entered every-day vocabulary. There’s a surprisingly large number.
- There seems to be a law that any famous quote by an obscure person has a 50% chance of being assigned to Napoleon.
- Voltaire whose writings inspired countless writers and were used in two revolutions. Look him up, he is a source of endless fun quotables.
- Benjamin Franklin
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: "Forest Primeval", "Shot Heard Round the World", etc.
- Oscar Wilde: Most people in the world have probably read more of his quotations than of his books.
When, with the literate, I am
- Friedrich Nietzsche. His quotes have even become a Kanye West song.
- Abraham Lincoln
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
- Lewis Carroll. Alice in Wonderland is the third-most quoted work in the world, apparently.
- Karl Marx
- Mark Twain
- Alfred, Lord Tennyson
- Groucho Marx.
- GK Chesterton: "Anything worth doing is worth doing badly." "A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it." "Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere." "I believe in getting into hot water; it keeps you clean."
- Albert Einstein
- George Orwell
- Sigmund Freud (but only when he was right).
- There also seems to be a law that any famous quote by an obscure person has a 50% chance of being assigned to Winston Churchill.
- Yogi Berra (who never said half the things he said).
- Terry Pratchett
- Noam Chomsky
- Douglas Adams
- Robert Heinlein: This is mostly due to the fact that The Notebooks of Lazarus Long, a collection of quotes from the character (who appeared in several books) was published independently of the novels, but he ranks up there with Pratchett and Adams in terms of quotable sci-fi authors.