Quotes that never were

There are a number of well-known ‘quotes that never were’:

  • Alas poor Yorrick, I knew him well
  • Elementary, my dear Watson
  • Play it again, Sam
  • Beam me up, Scotty
  • It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it

and so forth

But I was distressed to find the other day that one of my favourite quotes was bogus.

We trained hard . . . but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams we would be reorganised. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganising; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralisation.

It is attributed to Gaius Petronius Arbiter (c.27-66 A.D.) who is believed to be the author of the Satyricon.

Alas, it ain’t so. A complete and entertaining deconstruction is given by Jim Reeds at www.dtc.umn.edu/~reedsj/petronius.html.

I mourn its departure from the lexicon but, as Reeds so pithily puts it, "if mankind lost the Petronius quote we could repair the damage by clipping out Dilbert cartoons". Hmm. Maybe I could attribute it to Scott Adams?

Or maybe I’ll continue attributing it to Petronius regardless. A good myth deserves to be perpetuated.

This entry was posted on Monday, November 10th, 2008 at 4:25 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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