Don’t you just love all of those quotes you read on Facebook? For once, I’m not being sarcastic here. I have come across some real gems that I’ve loved so much that I had to write them down in my journal. Though I’m not really impressed with the whole timeline thing or the enormous photos that are on our walls, I do enjoy sharing some of these things together. Pretty pictures also help, of course.
But I’ve noticed something about this trend that actually elevates it—only slightly so, and only in one area—when compared with actual textbook and other printed quotations, at least to me. When you read a quotation in a novel, a textbook or even a source you might consider of highbrow quality, how is it introduced? It’s always, “So-and-so once said…”
Firstly, this is laughable because it’s often used out of context, or featuring someone really ironic. I’ve seen socialists use Ayn Rand quotations not in jest or in a provocative way, but as if they are earnestly supporting an albeit ambivalent point, using a source they believe to be true to their cause. This is just funny, but I’m not going to be condescending here; we’ve all done it. I had no idea who Diane Ackerman was when I quoted her all of the time; now that I do, I adore her, but it’s the same thing.
No, what’s really funny is that introductory text, that “once said” stuff. We act as if we were there and heard this utterance during its only use, a solemn occasion to be remembered by all! It’s not like the quote could have been said at every rally that Martin Luther King, Jr. went to, or that some business icon actually said it over and over again during monthly Toastmasters club; no, it was honorably said, surely with an air of great austerity, one time and once alone.
I know I’m making a big deal about this, but doesn’t it just make you giggle when you think about it? I would like to say that I pledge henceforth to never use the phrase in my writing (or speech) again, but I honestly cannot do that. I know I’ll do it, especially if I have to write an essay. You will, too. All I want to do, then, is to call it out for what it is—which is sort of obnoxious and cute, something funny that makes you also smack your face, that won’t go away, the Britney Spears of essay devices—and maybe the next time you read (or write) the phrase, you’ll snort a little along with me.