Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Made-up Lincoln quotes "If I had six hours to chop down a tree"

One of my more amusing past times is tracking down made-up quotes attributed to famous people. I happened to come across one today that sounded so fake I just had to check it out.
The quote is "If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I'd spend the first four sharpening the axe."
It's cute, and it makes a worthwhile point, but as soon as I read it I doubted that Lincoln ever said it.
A very quick Google search (which anybody can do in seconds) finds a fair number of uses of the quote, but none that provide any actual citation. The uses all seem pretty recent, too, so I'd guess this made-up quote has a recent origin.
It's not uncommon to have quotes that a misattributed to some famous person. I guess the thought goes: I may make a good point, but if Lincoln made the same point it's even better. Lincoln is much more credible than little old me.
I'm sure this motivation prompts the initial creation of the misattribution. From there it takes off with the uncritical use by others and next thing you know, it's a "Lincoln quote."
Well, Abraham Lincoln said a great many good things, but this one wasn't one of them.
As this made-up quote seems to be in its early stages you can amuse yourself by being on the lookout for it and see how many time you spot it. It does have its usefulness, by the way. You can judge that anyone who does use the "quote" hasn't done even the minimal amount of homework required to legitimately use a quotation, and you can assess the rest of their work accordingly.

No comments:

Post a Comment