Do you use the technique of starting an article or blog post with a quotation? It’s a fine way to generate content quickly. With the quotation, you already have the main idea and theme. And if you use a template with it, you can almost “fill in the blanks” without a lot of effort. (If you haven’t picked up my free template for writing with quotations, go get it here.)
I’m quite fond of using quotations and I came across one today that I wanted to use:
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
It was attributed to Albert Einstein. But I was skeptical. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve found misattributed quotations online. Including on quotations sites, which apparently don’t check them. I probably have a few in past articles and posts that I wrote before I caught on that nobody was doing any fact checking on the quotations sites.
These days, I check the quotation source myself. If I can’t find the origin, I’ll publish the quotation as “attributed to.” Or, if it’s fairly certain that the most usual attribution is in error, I might mention that the origin is unknown but usually “mis-attributed to.” After all, a good quotation is a good quotation, regardless of who originally said it or wrote it. So I don’t throw away a perfectly good idea.
But, back to the supposed Einstein quotation. I did some searching and found many instances of the quotation. With the same attribution. And I found some sources that questioned if Einstein was the author of the quotation. Then I found a tool that I’m recommending to you today.
QuoteInvestigator.com is Garson O’Toole’s website. He meticulously researches the origins of quotations and publishes his findings in detail. He also has a “resources” page with links to other tools and sites.
I’ve added the site to my own resources. I found it by using my usual method of simply typing the quotation into a search box with the words “who said” or “did x say.”
But, it’s a good idea to start with specialized sites like O’Toole’s. A “who said” search on your favorite engine usually turns up a lot of hits, but it takes time to research them. If you start with a site like his and find he’s already done the investigation, you may be all set.
If you don’t want to investigate the origin of quotations, at least start using “attributed to” instead of declaring authorship that you don’t know for certain. If you are trying to build trust and authority with your content, you want to keep your facts straight.