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The problem with quotes on the Internet

Don't believe everything you read on the Internet

The above was brought to you by Abraham Lincoln,
America’s first “selfie” President!

Lincoln Selfie


All joking aside, if you want to read what Lincoln really said and wrote visit the website of The Abraham Lincoln Association which offers The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln as a free, online searchable database.

Also, why Lincoln? Why has he become such a popular figure in the Internet age? He’s become associated with everything from vampire stories to legos to medical bandages. Yes, bandages! And why have no other US Presidents been given the same treatment or garnered a similar widespread appeal? I believe it’s because his family lineage has died out. He has no family members left to protest these uses.

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Albert Einstein on Intelligence

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Neil Gaiman and his dog, Cabal. Photo by Kyle Cassidy.

Neil Gaiman and his dog, Cabal. Photo by Kyle Cassidy.

I need to correct something. The quote at the top of this webpage–the source of the name for this blog–has been misattributed.

Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.

The above is not a quote by G. K. Chesterton but Neil Gaiman. It is from his 2002 novel, Coraline. This quote is apparently often misattributed to Mr. Chesterton because the sentiment is his. Here is Mr. Chesterton’s real quote on the topic:

Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey.

Mr. Gaiman was a fan of Mr. Chesterton’s works in his youth and rephrased the sentiment in his 2002 novel. But the actual quote used for this blog is Gaiman’s.

I suppose it’s one of those quotes that’s simply easy to misattribute like the famous “Play it again, Sam” from the movie Casablanca. That exact wording doesn’t appear in the movie though many people who’ve seen the film will swear it is. If you watch the film, you’ll see that it is in fact not phrased that way.

So, what do I mean by The Golden Rule of Apologetics? It’s a phrase I heard from a podcast I subscribe to called I Didn’t Know That! Perhaps you’ve heard of the Golden Rule often stated as:

Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

The apologetics version is:

Treat other people’s arguments as you would have them treat your own.

In this instance, they both mean attributing the quote to the right person. So to Mr. Gaiman I would like to say the following:

I’m sorry for any trouble this has caused. I really love the quote and wish I’d had it correct from the beginning. I hope you can forgive my error.

I was alerted to the problem while searching online when I came upon a quote page at Goodreads. It had the quote but a different attribution. I was confused until I noticed the tag, misattributed-to-g-k-chesterton. So I researched the matter, discovered the truth, and wrote this post.

Personally, I know what it feels like to be misunderstood and I hate that feeling. I imagine being misquoted or misattributed is similar. And as an aspiring writer, I would hate for something I wrote to be misattributed so I must correct this error. Again, my apologies.

One more thing. Apologetics, unlike many might think, has nothing to do with making an apology. Lest I unintentionally reinforce this common misunderstanding while trying to right a different wrong, I feel I must explain it too.

Apologetics is “the discipline of defending a position (often religious) through the systematic use of information [and logical argumentation]. Early Christian writers (c. 120–220) who defended their faith against critics and recommended their faith to outsiders were called apologists.” (Source: Wikipedia) It is an irony that this post is about an apology. Nothing more. But the podcast I recently listened to was about the Golden Rule of Apologetics, not merely the Golden Rule, so my source for the title of the post is the apologetic version of the rule. I hope that’s clear.

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People who deny the existence of dragons are often eaten by dragons. From within. – Ursula K. LeGuin

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Source: Joel Stein, the World’s Best Self-Promoter, on How To Be The World’s Best Self-Promoter

I wrote to just about everyone I knew who had more than 1,000 followers and asked them to tweet about my book, providing four somewhat clever pre-written tweets.

To my shock, people I barely knew or met once did it.

Also, about 90 percent of them used the pre-written tweets. The main barrier, it seemed, wasn’t annoying their followers, as much as the energy to come up with something reasonably clever.

– Joel Stein, author of Man Made: A Stupid Quest For Masculinity

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Source: The English Spelling Society

The Chaos

by Gerard Nolst Trenité

This version is essentially the author’s own final text, as also published by New River Project in 1993. A few minor corrections have however been made, and occasional words from earlier editions have been preferred. Following earlier practice, words with clashing spellings or pronunciations are here printed in italics.

Dearest creature in creation
Studying English pronunciation,

I will teach you in my verse

Sounds like corpse, corps, horse and worse.

I will keep you, Susy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy;

Tear in eye, your dress you’ll tear;

Queer, fair seer, hear my prayer.

Pray, console your loving poet,
Make my coat look new, dear, sew it! 10

Just compare heart, hear and heard,

Dies and diet, lord and word.

Sword and sward, retain and Britain
(Mind the latter how it’s written).

Made has not the sound of bade,

Say – said, pay – paid, laid but plaid.

Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as vague and ague,

But be careful how you speak,

Say: gush, bush, steak, streakbreak, bleak, 20

Previous, precious, fuchsia, via
Recipe, pipe, studding-sail, choir;

Woven, oven, how and low,

Script, receipt, shoe, poemtoe.

Say, expecting fraud and trickery:
Daughter, laughter and Terpsichore,

Branch, ranch, measles, topsails, aisles,

Missiles, similes, reviles.

Wholly, holly, signal, signing,
Same, examining, but mining, 30

Scholar, vicar, and cigar,

Solar, mica, war and far.

From “desire”: desirable – admirable from “admire”,
Lumber, plumber, bier, but brier,

Topsham, brougham, renown, but known,

Knowledge, done, lone, gone, none, tone,

One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel.

Gertrude, German, wind and wind,

Beau, kind, kindred, queue, mankind, 40

Tortoise, turquoise, chamois-leather,
Reading, Reading, heathen, heather.

This phonetic labyrinth

Gives moss, gross, brook, broochninth, plinth.

Have you ever yet endeavoured
To pronounce revered and severed,

Demon, lemon, ghoul, foul, soul,

Peter, petrol and patrol?

Billet does not end like ballet;
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet. 50

Blood and flood are not like food,

Nor is mould like should and would.

Banquet is not nearly parquet,
Which exactly rhymes with khaki.

Discount, viscount, load and broad,

Toward, to forward, to reward,

Ricocheted and crocheting, croquet?
Right! Your pronunciation’s OK.

Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,

Friend and fiend, alive and live. 60

Is your R correct in higher?
Keats asserts it rhymes with Thalia.

Hugh, but hug, and hood, but hoot,

Buoyant, minute, but minute.

Say abscission with precision,
Now: position and transition;

Would it tally with my rhyme

If I mentioned paradigm?

Twopence, threepence, tease are easy,
But cease, crease, grease and greasy? 70

Cornice, nice, valise, revise,

Rabies, but lullabies.

Of such puzzling words as nauseous,
Rhyming well with cautious, tortious,

You’ll envelop lists, I hope,

In a linen envelope.

Would you like some more? You’ll have it!
Affidavit, David, davit.

To abjure, to perjure. Sheik

Does not sound like Czech but ache. 80

Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, loch, moustache, eleven.

We say hallowed, but allowed,

People, leopard, towed but vowed.

Mark the difference, moreover,
Between mover, plover, Dover.

Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,

Chalice, but police and lice,

Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label. 90

Petal, penal, and canal,

Wait, surmise, plait, promise, pal,

Suit, suite, ruin. Circuit, conduit
Rhyme with “shirk it” and “beyond it”,

But it is not hard to tell

Why it’s pall, mall, but Pall Mall.

Muscle, muscular, gaol, iron,
Timber, climber, bullion, lion,

Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,

Senator, spectator, mayor, 100

Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
Has the A of drachm and hammer.

Pussy, hussy and possess,

Desert, but desert, address.

Golf, wolf, countenance, lieutenants
Hoist in lieu of flags left pennants.

Courier, courtier, tomb, bomb, comb,

Cow, but Cowper, some and home.

Solder, soldier! Blood is thicker“,
Quoth he, “than liqueur or liquor“, 110

Making, it is sad but true,

In bravado, much ado.

Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.

Pilot, pivot, gaunt, but aunt,

Font, front, wont, want, grand and grant.

Arsenic, specific, scenic,
Relic, rhetoric, hygienic.

Gooseberry, goose, and close, but close,

Paradise, rise, rose, and dose. 120

Say inveigh, neigh, but inveigle,
Make the latter rhyme with eagle.

Mind! Meandering but mean,

Valentine and magazine.

And I bet you, dear, a penny,
You say mani-(fold) like many,

Which is wrong. Say rapier, pier,

Tier (one who ties), but tier.

Arch, archangel; pray, does erring
Rhyme with herring or with stirring? 130

Prison, bison, treasure trove,

Treason, hover, cover, cove,

Perseverance, severance. Ribald
Rhymes (but piebald doesn’t) with nibbled.

Phaeton, paean, gnat, ghat, gnaw,

Lien, psychic, shone, bone, pshaw.

Don’t be down, my own, but rough it,
And distinguish buffet, buffet;

Brood, stood, roof, rook, school, wool, boon,

Worcester, Boleyn, to impugn. 140

Say in sounds correct and sterling
Hearse, hear, hearken, year and yearling.

Evil, devil, mezzotint,

Mind the z! (A gentle hint.)

Now you need not pay attention
To such sounds as I don’t mention,

Sounds like pores, pause, pours and paws,

Rhyming with the pronoun yours;

Nor are proper names included,
Though I often heard, as you did, 150

Funny rhymes to unicorn,

Yes, you know them, Vaughan and Strachan.

No, my maiden, coy and comely,
I don’t want to speak of Cholmondeley.

No. Yet Froude compared with proud

Is no better than McLeod.

But mind trivial and vial,
Tripod, menial, denial,

Troll and trolley, realm and ream,

Schedule, mischief, schism, and scheme. 160

Argil, gill, Argyll, gill. Surely
May be made to rhyme with Raleigh,

But you’re not supposed to say

Piquet rhymes with sobriquet.

Had this invalid invalid
Worthless documents? How pallid,

How uncouth he, couchant, looked,

When for Portsmouth I had booked!

Zeus, Thebes, Thales, Aphrodite,
Paramour, enamoured, flighty, 170

Episodes, antipodes,

Acquiesce, and obsequies.

Please don’t monkey with the geyser,
Don’t peel ‘taters with my razor,

Rather say in accents pure:

Nature, stature and mature.

Pious, impious, limb, climb, glumly,
Worsted, worsted, crumbly, dumbly,

Conquer, conquest, vase, phase, fan,

Wan, sedan and artisan. 180

The TH will surely trouble you
More than R, CH or W.

Say then these phonetic gems:

Thomas, thyme, Theresa, Thames.

Thompson, Chatham, Waltham, Streatham,
There are more but I forget ’em –

Wait! I’ve got it: Anthony,

Lighten your anxiety.

The archaic word albeit
Does not rhyme with eight – you see it; 190

With and forthwith, one has voice,

One has not, you make your choice.

Shoes, goes, does [1]. Now first say: finger;
Then say: singer, ginger, linger.

Real, zeal, mauve, gauze and gauge,

Marriage, foliage, mirage, age,

Hero, heron, query, very,
Parry, tarry, fury, bury,

Dost, lost, post, and doth, cloth, loth,

Job, Job, blossom, bosom, oath. 200

Faugh, oppugnant, keen oppugners,
Bowing, bowing, banjo-tuners

Holm you know, but noes, canoes,

Puisne, truism, use, to use?

Though the difference seems little,
We say actual, but victual,

Seat, sweat, chaste, caste, Leigh, eight, height,

Put, nut, granite, and unite

Reefer does not rhyme with deafer,
Feoffer does, and zephyr, heifer. 210

Dull, bull, Geoffrey, George, ate, late,

Hint, pint, senate, but sedate.

Gaelic, Arabic, pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific;

Tour, but our, dour, succour, four,

Gas, alas, and Arkansas.

Say manoeuvre, yacht and vomit,
Next omit, which differs from it

Bona fide, alibi

Gyrate, dowry and awry. 220

Sea, idea, guinea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.

Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean,

Doctrine, turpentine, marine.

Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion with battalion,

Rally with ally; yea, ye,

Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, key, quay!

Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, receiver. 230

Never guess – it is not safe,

We say calves, valves, half, but Ralf.

Starry, granary, canary,
Crevice, but device, and eyrie,

Face, but preface, then grimace,

Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.

Bass, large, target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, oust, joust, and scour, but scourging;

Ear, but earn; and ere and tear

Do not rhyme with here but heir. 240

Mind the O of off and often
Which may be pronounced as orphan,

With the sound of saw and sauce;

Also soft, lost, cloth and cross.

Pudding, puddle, putting. Putting?
Yes: at golf it rhymes with shutting.

Respite, spite, consent, resent.

Liable, but Parliament.

Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew, Stephen, 250

Monkey, donkey, clerk and jerk,

Asp, grasp, wasp, demesne, cork, work.

A of valour, vapid, vapour,
S of news (compare newspaper),

G of gibbet, gibbon, gist,

I of antichrist and grist,

Differ like diverse and divers,
Rivers, strivers, shivers, fivers.

Once, but nonce, toll, doll, but roll,

Polish, Polish, poll and poll. 260

Pronunciation – think of Psyche! –
Is a paling, stout and spiky.

Won’t it make you lose your wits

Writing groats and saying ‘grits’?

It’s a dark abyss or tunnel
Strewn with stones like rowlock, gunwale,

Islington, and Isle of Wight,

Housewife, verdict and indict.

Don’t you think so, reader, rather,
Saying lather, bather, father? 270

Finally, which rhymes with enough,

Though, through, bough, coughhough, sough, tough??

Hiccough has the sound of sup
My advice is: GIVE IT UP!

[1] No, you’re wrong. This is the plural of doe.

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Source: John Cleese, ‘A lecture on Creativity’ Video Arts, 1991

Thirty-six minutes of pure genius.

What follows are my notes on the lecture.

Five Factors to make your life more Creative
or, Five Requirements for an Open Mode Mindset

Creativity is associated with play. True play is experiment. And humor is an essential part of spontaneity, playfulness, and creativity.

An open mode mindset requires the following five requirements:

  1. Space – Create some space for yourself away from the normal demands of life.

“Create an oasis of quiet.” – John Cleese

  1. Time – Create space for yourself for a specific period of time. You need both a specific time to begin and a specific time to end.

“Play is distinct from ordinary life both as to locality and duration. This is its main characteristic: Its secludedness. Its limitedness. Play begins and then at a certain moment it is over. Otherwise it is not play.” – Johan Huizinga

“It’s easier to do trivial things that are urgent than it is to do important things that are not urgent (like thinking) and it’s also easier to do little things we know we can do than to start on big things that we’re not so sure about.” – John Cleese

Note that it takes about a half hour for your brain to race and then calm down once you begin getting into the open mode. Therefore, you should allot more than a half hour to this endeavor.

  1. Time – Give your mind as long as possible to come up with something original. If you are prepared to stick with a problem longer and don’t take the obvious and easy way out, then you will almost always come up with something more original. The most creative people tolerate the discomfort of having a problem without a solution far longer than less creative people.

“The people I find it hardest to be creative with are people who need – all the time – to project an image of themselves as decisive and who feel that to create this image they need to decide everything very quickly and with a great show of confidence. Well this behavior I suggest sincerely is the most effective way of strangling creativity at birth.” – John Cleese

“What I’m suggesting to you is that before you take a decision you should always ask yourself the question, “When does this decision have to be taken?” and having answered that, you defer the decision until then in order to give yourself maximum pondering time which will lead you to the most creative solution.” – John Cleese

  1. Confidence – Nothing will stop you being creative so effectively as the fear of making a mistake. You’re either free to play or you’re not. Know that while you’re being creative nothing is wrong. There’s no such thing as a mistake. And any drivel may lead to the breakthrough.

“You can’t be spontaneous within reason.” – Alan Watts

  1. Humor – Nothing gets us from the closed mode to the open mode quicker than humor. Things can be Serious – and thus involve humor, spontaneity, and play – without being Solemn.

“Creativity is like humor: In a joke, the laugh comes at a moment when you connect two different frameworks of reference in a new way. Having a new idea is exactly the same thing: It’s connecting two hitherto separate ideas in a way that generates new meaning.” – John Cleese

Finally, you also need to keep your mind gently resting against the subject. It’s very much like meditating. Allow your mind free reign to mull over a problem while you go about your normal routine. This leads to those Ah-ha! moments when solutions appear.

And make sure your creative friends are people you like and trust. Never say anything to squash them. Always be positive and uplifting. Try to establish as free an atmosphere as possible. If even one person around you makes you feel defensive, your creativity will be undermined.

Managers: How to stamp out Creativity in your Organization

  1. Allow your subordinates no humor.
  2. Don’t miss an opportunity to undermine your employees confidence. Be a fault-finder. Never balance negatives with positives. Only criticize.
  3. Demand that people always be active doing things. Never let them stop and think. Demand urgency at all times. Use lots of fighting talk. Establish a permanent atmosphere of stress, breathless anxiety, and crisis.

In a phrase, keep that mode closed!

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