I therefore formulate and offer to the world the following Principles for Quotations, two for quoters and two for readers, which, if universally followed, would make an immense improvement to the reliability of the information available on the world wide web.
- Principle 1 (for readers)
- Whenever you see a quotation given with an author but no source assume that it is probably bogus.
- Principle 2 (for readers)
- Whenever you see a quotation given with a full source assume that it is probably being misused, unless you find good evidence that the quoter has read it in the source.
- Principle 3 (for quoters)
- Whenever you make a quotation, give the exact source.
- Principle 4 (for quoters)
- Only quote from works that you have read. —Martin Porter —Four Principles of Quotation (Martin Porter’s Home Page)
Porter launched a detailed study of a quotation often attributed to Edmund Burke, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
One of my students chose, as the title for her portfolio, a quotation that she identified as being from Shakespeare: “We know what we are, but know not what we may be.” This is from Hamlet, and the speaker is Ophelia, who is at this point mad, and who will soon be found drowned in the pond. (I told the student I hoped she ended up better off in life.)
Thank goodness for Clueless, which has a brief exchange in which Cher corrects a snobby would-be intellectual who misattributes “To thine own self be true.”
I also like Porter’s close reading of four lines from Hamlet, “Doubt thou, the stars…“