Don't quote me on that — unless I said it

"You learn to be your best self by sometimes being your worst self."

Who said that first?

As far as I know, I did, and I said it for the first time Tuesday, the day I decided to run a little experiment in misattribution in the quote-happy land of Facebook.

I made up a "quote" that offered a little bit of Oprah-era uplift. I attributed it to 19th-century English poet William Wordsworth. I posted it.

And I waited for someone to tell me I should have my college degree revoked.

Before I go any further, let me apologize.

To all of you who clicked "like" on that quote when I put it on my Facebook page, forgive me. You should be able to trust what I post.

And I apologize to Mr. Wordsworth, too, for linking him with words that were more fitting for a BuzzFeed list.

But my duplicity was for a worthy cause, a way to fortify my plea:


Let's all stop and think before we quote again.

Before we re-post that quote by Mark Twain or Nelson Mandela or Eleanor Roosevelt or whoever is inspiring us with a quotable quote today, let's take a deep breath and ask: Who really said this?

There's a decent chance that it's not Mark Twain or Nelson Mandela or Eleanor Roosevelt.

I've ranted about misattributed quotations before and was provoked to whimper again after recently discovering this quotation floating around on Twitter:

"Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society."

The author of those words, according to the tweeter?


But I never said that. Mark Twain did. I think.

I also didn't say, "If you think guns are the worst legal weapons out there, think again!" — another line that is roaming around with my name attached.

I have no idea who did, but whoever said it would surely prefer that I not get credit.

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