Why We Quote

Jose Vilson Jose

Neil Patrick Harris on Jeopardy

Neil Patrick Harris on Jeopardy

On Twitter a few hours ago, I asked a simple question:

Here’s a good question: who’s the person you quote the most? Why?

I got a myriad of responses, all of which I’d like to share with you:

Dr. King. He’s timeless and relatable. – @missprofe

Emerson. Radical (for his time), individualist, remained true to self when other belittled or failed to understand. Churchill is 2nd, though, only as it pertains to politics & acumen. I’ve found a few of his beliefs to be offensive. – @reinadenyc

musicians of various genres. cuz, well. i love music. – @O_riginal_sin

Bazoume’s Dad. Funny. – @chneux [Ed. Note: my brother means our father.]

Oscar Wilde. Everything that needs to be said in a humorous package. – @problemchylde

Jack Handey! Dude was wise! Very wise. – @tamarapagan

Bob Marley. I learned many important truths at a young age from his music. They spring to mind like well loved verses, maxims. – @nezua

Thoreau b/c he went to the woods to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life. & Twain b/c golf is a good walk ruined! So so true! – @kdawg1313

A child cannot be taught by anyone who despises him, and a child cannot afford to be fooled. –James Baldwin (ALL DAY) @elprofe316

I quote many enjoy Oscar Wilde, Socrates, George Burns, DaVinci cant pick a fav. Actually I can’t lie my mother is the one I enjoy quoting the most though growing up it meant little to me but as an adult she rite. Charles M. Schulz – don’t worry about the world coming to an end today. It’s already tomorrow in Australia. – @mciscart

Anyone notice a theme? My personal favorite people to quote are Robert Burns, Carter G. Woodson, Michael Jackson, Jay-Z, The Beatles, and Kanye. That’s a pretty diverse crowd of gentlemen. What do all these people have in common?

Well, my first thought came in the form of Sonia Sanchez, who visited Syracuse University sometime in 2002-2003, and she said something to the effect of “Stop quoting everyone. Make up your own words. We already had a Malcolm and a Martin. We need new words.” For a good 1/2 a decade, I stopped quoting people more, especially as quotes became more accessible through the World Wide Web. This conflicted with (I believe) American History X, where Danny says, “end a paper with a quote. He says someone else has already said it best. So if you can’t top it, steal from them and go out strong.”

Then it occurred to me that I do quote all the time, even when I don’t mean to, and it usually comes from someone whose successes I either admire or pique my interest in some fashion. Lots of people have quotes, and make themselves out to be the swamis and avatars of the present generation of thinkers, when their actions haven’t reflected the words that come out of their mouths.

Thus, I look at the lives that many of the people mentioned led (or probably led) and it says lots about a person who quotes someone who’s done a lot in their own lives. It says plenty about their ambitions, their desires, and their intelligence. While I feel too many people quote everyone to death to substitute for their lack of personal creativity, I also see how just having a person who’s succeeded and lived to document their history in a single blurb can mobilize many an individual.

So what do you think? Do you quote people too much? What’s your favorite quote and does it apply to my quote theory? What say you?

Jose, who’s in an asking mood …