Happy Birthday, and You Can Quote Me
April 13, 2007
On the day of this blog’s birthday, here’s a fun post. Public circulation is what renders something a quotation. It’s quotable because it’s been quoted, and its having been quoted gives it authority.
Public circulation is what renders something a quotation. It's quotable because it's been quoted, and its having been quoted gives it authority. Quotations are prostheses. 'As Emerson/Churchill/Donald Trump once observed' borrows another person's brain waves and puts them to your own use. (If you fail to credit Emerson et al., it's called plagiarism. But isn't plagiarism just the purest form of quotation?) Then, there is a subset of quotations that are personal. We pick them up off the public street, but we put them to private uses. We quotations like amulets. They are charms against chaos, secret mantras for dark times, strings that vibrate forever in defiance of the laws of time and space. That they may be opaque or banal to everyone else is what makes them precious: they aren't supposed to work for everybody. They're there to work for us.I quote that lengthy passage from Louis Menand's terrific New Yorker article on the essence of quotations, in which he recommends the new Yale Book of Quotations. While there are several compilations of business quotations in print, I haven't yet found the final word in that regard yet. And so this seemed like a good excuse to share a few of my favorites, and to invite you to post the business passages that have moved you. Here's but a handful: "Knowledge work is not defined by quantity. Neither is knowledge work defined by its costs. Knowledge work is defined by its results. And for these, the size of the group and the magnitude of the managerial job are not even symptoms.