And I quote …

“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.”

~ Oscar Wilde

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I pay attention to words. As a writer, I am encouraged to scrutinize my words — and everyone else’s.

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And I have been known to give voice to animals, insects and inanimate objects purely because I am convinced they are trying to communicate. I will be their translator.

Oftentimes, it’s like converting African Khoisan clicking into Klingon and sprinkling it with a bit of Dothraki and Pig Latin. Yeah, that hodgepodge is probably not going to catch on.

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Even though I have a nerdish penchant for individual words, and when asked for the title of my favorite book, I awkwardly admit it is Roget’s International Thesaurus, the next level up on my scale of linguistic admiration is that of the quote.

I am addicted to adages, transfixed by truisms and wild about witticisms. In my opinion, reading the words that express other people’s wisdom in bite-sized format is an appealing approach to acquiring needed knowledge. The quotes I’m drawn to are powerful pearls of astute insight that have experienced countless retweets in the grand scope of the overall twittering universe we inhabit. Some have taken off like wildfire, a quick strike of a match that hungrily spreads from one combustible source to another, and others are smoldering embers—words that have been around like the coals of a dampened fire in the hearth—ready to be repeatedly brought back to heat-giving life in the morning, yet will continue a slow, hourly seep through the house of many minds.

Look through any bathroom in my house. You’ll find most of the reading material is short and quippy. I don’t encourage anyone to hunker down in there, but if you find it unavoidable, I hope the words invite you to ponder.

I’ve even taken to painting quotes on the walls of bathrooms and bedrooms because they’ve moved me to feel they deserve permanence within my humble abode.

Three quotes I feel worthy of daily reflection are:

Anyone can count the seeds in an apple. ~  No one can count the apples in a seed.

Do not follow where the path may lead … go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

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And most importantly,

If you didn’t see it with your own eyes, or hear it with your own ears, don’t invent it with your small mind and share it with your big mouth.

Okay, that last one is just another version of what was drilled in to me as a kid only in the less graceful form—You keep your nose out of other people’s business and they’ll keep their fist of your nose.

It worked for me.

As it is, everywhere I turn seems to sprout yet another worldly proverb or sagacious aphorism. Desperate to memorize these slick and savvy sayings, I’ve taken to writing them with a pen on my skin with the hopes that they’ll remain there long enough for the philosophy to penetrate before the ink departs.

If I went with the more indelible route–and tattooed myself with these many mottoes–I’d be a side show attraction at one of the county fairs. Plus, I’d rather not have small children run from me if I’m filled to the brim with all this wordy wisdom and no one to share it with.

I could start a Bookmobile that could rival my massive library system strictly with the number of volumes I possess that are only filled with the blunt, but brilliant quotes of others. They are everywhere around me: in my car, by my bedside, scattered across my desk, strapped to the belly of the dog for when we go take a walk and I’m in the mood to chew on a mouthful of metaphysics.


These quotes are at the bottom of people’s emailed notes, on the first pages of great novels, spray-painted across the arch of a bridge, on the tear sheets of all my calendars, etched onto my bars of soap—that one isn’t the most cunning use of marketing dollars, but oh well, I suppose the point is that the shower is a reflective place.

And of course, I find laudable quotations from the world’s greatest source for anonymous pithiness with a pen: the public bathroom stall.

I’m not fussed where all this acumen comes from, or indignant from Oscar Wilde’s slight that the majority of us will never realize an original idea and only spout those from the cool kids of the past.

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I am prepared to receive the world’s collective enlightenment as it comes and from whichever direction it blows. There are an inordinate number of clever folks out there, adept at stringing together a sentence or two that have touched me to the very core.

I leave you with two last quotes and hope you might have one to share with me. The first I’m guessing might have been the rough draft of a speech somebody in Congress was about to deliver, but then ditched. The second is simply one I would have loved to have penned myself.

We, the unwilling,

led by the unknowing,

are doing the impossible

for the ungrateful.

We have done so much,

for so long,

with so little,

we are now qualified to do anything

with nothing.

And lastly,

Some people are like a slinky … not really good for anything, but you still can’t help but smile when you shove them down the stairs.


 Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

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59 thoughts on “And I quote …

  1. I’m still chuckling. I so look forward to your posts.
    I came up with ‘It’s all swings and roundabouts. I just need a bigger playground’.
    I have no idea if that’s truly mine or if I heard it somewhere. I always said the swings and roundabouts thing when I’d saved a few pennies on one thing only for something else to have gone up, and never had any pennies actually left over!

    • I love it. The whole phrase has motion. Just curious though, apart from a roundabout being something you come across on the roads, is there the “equivalent” piece of playground equipment – like what we refer to as a merry go round? That’s what comes to mind for me.

      • Yes. Playground Roundabouts in my youth were like a spinning plate with metal upright handlebar type brackets pointing from the outside in that us kids used to lean against or hang from (or like my Great Gran fall off). Later, they evolved to huge cone shapes with a wooden seat all round but the metal bars went up to the top and met at a smaller circle. Merry go rounds for me are those wondrous carnival rides with the up and down horses.

          • Fascinating indeed.
            As for Great Gran? Oh she was. A real trooper, and very clever with a needle (post about dollies having matching dresses to us a while back). Having a bruised hip didn’t stop her getting back on though (she was in her 80s)!

  2. Love this. I’m very fond of my copies of Bartlett’s Quotations and Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. Lately I tend to search for quotations online, but it drives me batty that the online versions so seldom provide a detailed citation of the source!!

    • I have those very same books, Linnet – and have to agree that probably the most frustrating part of quote searching online is finding out the fabulous phrase is attributed to at least three individuals. I feel your ugh.

  3. Oh, I think we are kindred spirits, Shelley! I’ve been collecting quotes since I was 16, and now I have a quote book filled with all the ones I love best. It’s one of my most treasured possessions. I take comfort in the fact that I can turn to a page and read the wise words of those who have struggled with fear and worry, and who have found hope amid hardship. Trying to choose my favorite would be impossible; I find that different quotes resonate with me depending on what my personal experience is at the moment. However, I have my handy quote book here and will share a few of them with you:

    “The more faithfully you listen to the voice within you, the better you will hear what is sounding outside.” – Dag Hammarskjold

    “The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” – Nelson Henderson

    “If you treat every situation as a life-and-death matter, you’ll die a lot of times.” – Dean Smith (I love this one because I’m a perpetual worrywart.)

    “Keep quiet and people will think you a philosopher.” – Latin Proverb (No one is ever going to mistake me for a philosopher.)

    “Live your own myth.” – Bumper sticker

    Oh, and I have a magnet with that quote you shared, beginning with “We, the unwilling…” I used to keep it in my office cubicle at my previous job; my supervisors were not amused.

    • Wow, Miranda, it’s almost like having a literary doppelganger. (Although our writing styles are hugely different and I would not place my piffle next to your prose – I think you get my point. 😉 ) I love each one of your quotes and now believe I may have to build on an addition to the house to make wall space for the new brilliant bits. Or … I could use the fifth wall and the floor. I’ll give it some thought. (And maybe someone will think me a descendant of Themistoclea.)

      Thanks a million for the new inspiration!

  4. Love the quotes! Especially the apple one and the slinky one! That made me laugh. 😀 I think my favorite quote is from Eleanor Roosevelt. “Do the thing you think you cannot do.”

    • I love Eleanor Roosevelt–and the mighty strength that woman had. Clever, pithy woman – sharp mind, sharp tongue. And I’d have to agree, that particular quote is one I use as a mantra everyday when my alarm clock goes off. It mainly applies to just physically getting out of bed. 😛
      Thanks for sharing, Melissa!

    • Wow, Mark. Many thanks for thinking of me, but a big kudos to you for standing out in a sea of fantastic female bloggers. You’ve obvious broken down the barriers and made a big impact. And a most worthy one at that. You go girl – I mean cheers, bro!

  5. Loved this post. I loved the word choices in your post… Of course, I’m a bit of a word-lover, even if they never seem to stick inside my head long enough to become part of my vernacular… hm.

    And of course, as always, the illustrations rocked. 🙂

    • Thanks, Alex. I love the word choices in this post too – sadly, the ones I love most are attributed to other people. But still, the sentiment in shared.

      Maybe the inking on the arm trick might work for you too? If nothing else, it’s a conversation starter at the grocery store or bank line.

      And yes, Rob’s renderings of my writing rules. 😛

      • Oh me, oh my! I couldn’t get a tattoo, not over in Japan. They’d never let me into another hot spring! (Tattoos equate to mafia, still, over here.)

        I think I just need to make a larger effort to use what I read… I don’t know how people find and keep all of these awesome quotes to memory, though!

        • Whoops. I didn’t mean to suggest a permanent one – just a pen, a magic marker, lipstick. And if you’re quick about leaping into the hot spring, it’ll all wash off before anyone has a chance to size you up as someone who’s going to offer them a deal they can’t refuse. 😉

  6. Well that is entertaining and lightened my spirit while avoiding the thing I should be doing which is grappling with a small mountain of ‘data’. It might not be your style but as statistics has been bothering me for a while “The plural of anecdote is not data” Roger Brinner; and when someone is using statistics to support their agenda ” Lies, damned lies and statistics” I don’t know who came up with that but it is well known.
    Cheers, Graeme

    • Wow, Graeme. This one made me think. And then research. And while I love sleuthing for increased understanding of most head scratching subjects, I came to the realization that I would be one of the individuals someone would throw this quote at. A small mountain of data to me is the nearest thing to a natural sleep aid as I can find. I admire folks whose brains are capable of decoding and latching on to facts and figures, but I am not one of them. Everything I truly learn has come in the form of story. Dry data must be bathed in the gravy of a story arc for me. I’m a little saddened to realize my brain won’t adapt, but I’m relieved to find out the learning modality that works best for me.

      And your second quote is said to have been the words of Benjamin Disraeli – and made well-known by Mark Twain. It’s brilliant and I’ve always admired the with within the words.

      Thanks for joining in. I learned something new today. 😉

      • Thanks Shelley. Benjamin Disraeli new a thing or two then.
        As for the other, well sounds like we have something in common, I have a mound of data which may yet turn out to be an anecdote, which is why I have that quote pinned on the wall. Still, good research is often founded on anecdotes we just need to be careful about leaping to conclusions on the strength of anecdotes and the only point of data is to indulge in that activity that is worse than damned lies.
        Now the sun has risen in a cloudless sky and Cyclone Lisa is due in 2 days so I’d better get on with outside jobs.

        • Be careful out there, Graeme. And I leave you with one word of advice from Lee Trevino (famous American golfer): If you are caught on a golf course during a storm and are afraid of lightning, hold up a 1-iron. Not even God can hit a 1-iron.
          Stay safe. Cheers

          • I like that Shelley, but in that unlikely event, I’ll be making a lightning dash for the clubhouse.
            Just listening to an update on Cyclone Lucy (not Lisa). Vanuatu getting hammered now and sea temperature is 30C. And an apt but depressing quote “New Zealand is a fluvial country” Geoffrey Palmer. Interpretation – expect floods.
            From “Outlook for Thursday” “Tuesday is a thunder day” DD Smash. We are a weather obsessed nation – does it show?

            • Indeed it does. I’ve seen first hand how one Maori doing the haka can make me believe he is the god of all things great and small — the weather being one of the most trivial bits he controls. Totally impressive.
              Fingers crossed Lucy loosens up and finds herself unlucky. Stay safe, Graeme!

              • Where would you be on the receiving end of a wero (challenge)? If it was Te Maori in New York then you were privileged. So I will leave you with a traditional whakatauki (proverb). Ko te reo te kākahu o to whakaaro, te huarahi i te ao tūroa o te hinengaro. Language is the cloak which adorns the myriads of one’s thoughts.

                • I was in the middle of a meal on a sheep’s station not far from Arthur’s Pass. And it was nose to nose. Although I spent a whole day at Te Puia in Rotorua and happily watched from a distance. UNBELIEVABLE.

                  And I have now fallen head over heels in love with your new proverb. I must find a blank wall – and a large patch of skin. It is as true to the bone as ever I’ve read.
                  Thank you, Graeme. 🙂

  7. Shelley — Definitely into the quotes. Before I list a few favs, I want to suggest a book. “The Joy of Lex” by Gyles Brandreth. The copy I have was published in 1980 so I don’t know if it’s still in print. It’s a delightful read for anyone who enjoys words — playing with them and having fun. The author goes from A to Z back to A again. Chapters include Brave New words, Graffiti-The Greatest, and Xerxes Zzyzzs among others.

    I think my all time favorite quote is
    ~No amount of darkness can extinguish the light of a single flame. (Variation of quote by St. Francis of Assisi?)

    Others include:
    ~Embrace the chaos. (Susan Elizabeth Phillips)
    ~If life were fair, people would fly over pigeons. (Heard at a convention.)
    ~When you pray for rain, expect some mud. (Unknown)
    ~If you want to do something a second time, you have to do it a first. (A wise child.)
    ~Trust the Universe to give you what you need when you need it. (Folk saying)
    ~Something has to matter, but not everything. (A wise child.)

    My favorite “truism” is:
    ~If you don’t ask the answer is always no. If you do ask, the answer may still be no, then again it may be yes.

    • Terrific sounding book, Tana. I’ve appealed to my library to make the purchase, but they’ve got a rule about not purchasing anything older than three years. So I shall hunt it down myself because it sounds exactly like the kind of text I need and crave.

      Love your quotes – and the background of when you first heard them. It makes for a peek into our own timeline – to see the light bulb moment when someone’s words struck us in such a way that moved our heads and hearts.

      And having just watched the first episode of Cosmos with Neil Degrasse Tyson, I’m especially drawn to the quote about the universe. Thanks a million for sharing, Tana! 😛

          • Slinky Slasher, thank you (I was trying to do some alliteration with the word ‘slinky’, so Slinky Slasher it is.
            And no, you have not gone too far: I very much liked the drawing of Oscar Wilder, but it only made me curious to see what Oscar Wildest would be like;)

            • I’m going to make a “wild” guess and say he’d probably have applauded your snarky essays and asked for an invitation to your next dinner party. We can always make an appeal to Rob to pencil in a trio to complete the picture.
              There. I’ve sent out the request on your behalf.

              • This is the most generous gesture since Slimmy the Slim Slasher Slinky gave all his food (=human brains of course) to an orphanage full of even slimmer slasher slinkies! Thank you!
                Although I’m a bit ashamed to say I have yet to read anything penned by Oscar Wilde, the guy has always fascinated me. I would love to meet him, even if it’s only on paper.

    • It’s always such a pleasure to stumble upon other blogs that have a way of summing up the most perfect things in life. I know I shall enjoy yours for a long time to come.
      And thank you for such lovely compliments. Cheers! 🙂

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