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One of my pet peeves involves the way that many writers, bloggers, and others use quotations in their work. Quotations are great, but so is taking the time to track down the real source of the quote. “Martin Luther King once said” is somewhat helpful, but too often the quote has been altered since its creation, and taking the time to find a source (or at least clarify that the real source can’t be found) strikes me as an essential part of the process of creating content, both to honor the source of the quotation and to honor the time and attention of the reader. Even in cases where identifying the first use of a phrase is problematic, helping the reader to understand the context of the quote (the identity of the source, the overall context of their work, etc.) is very helpful in grasping the full meaning and, perhaps, to begin to understand the fullness of the intent of the words. 

So, as I do my work of writing and creating content, I sometimes come across a helpful quote that has been included in something that I am using as a source or inspiration. Generally, I try to track down the original source; when I find it, I include it here so that others might not need to duplicate my efforts. In some cases (i.e. Kevin Watson’s work on John Wesley quotes), I am simply directing you to others who have spent time on this kind of thing as well.

Enjoy, and I hope that this is helpful to someone out there. If you have corrections to any of this, please let me know!

Someone: The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled…

The 1995 movie The Usual Suspects has a great line in it, spoken by Kevin Spacey's character near the end: The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. Where did this come from? Was it Baudelaire? Sort of, but variants go back at...

The Methodist insistence on life vs dogma…

The Methodist insistence has not been so much upon opinion as upon life. Its distinguishing mark is not so much what men believe, as what they are, what they experience, how they act. The unique traditions of Methodism are, therefore, to be sought in patterns of...

Peter Senge: A collective IQ of 63…

...how can a team of committed managers with individual IQs above 120 have a collective IQ of 63? This quote comes from Peter Senge's book The Fifth Discipline (1990), page 9. It is in a subsection titled "Team Learning."

Thomas Merton: When I criticize a system…

Correctly attributed to Thomas Merton: When I criticize a system, they think I criticize them - and that is of course because they fully accept the system and identify themselves with it. The entire quote is provided in a book - Follow the Ecstasy: The Hermitage Years...

George Erasmus: Where common memory is lacking…

George Erasmus, former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations (in what we now refer to as Canada) and a member of the Dene Nation, offers this deeply insightful quote: Where common memory is lacking, where people do not share in the same past, there can be no...

Shakespeare: “Grace” in an ungracious mouth…

...that word "grace." In an ungracious mouth is but profane. This first came across my radar as: The word "grace," in an ungracious mouth, is profane... The quote comes from Richard II, Act 2, Scene 3. It's a nice quote, but in context it doesn't really mean what one...

Thoreau: …lives of quiet desperation.

Credited to Henry David Thoreau, the full quote is: The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. I've seen this attributed to a couple of his writings, including Civil Disobedience. The correct source for the quote is from his classic Walden, and it is found in...

Money is the Root of All Evil

This one comes up more often than you might think, and I've even heard it from seminary students: Money is the root of all evil. It's never a good idea to toss out quotes from the Bible (or, really, any other sacred writings - or perhaps any writings at all) without...