December 19, 2007

Don't tase Larry Craig, bro

In a New Yorker review of the Yale Book of Quotations, Louis Menand remarked on how "quotable quotes are coins rubbed smooth by circulation." That is, the quotes that people known — "Greed is good," "Play it again, Sam" — aren't necessarily exactly what was originally said.

Menand went on to write that Yale editor LarryFred Shapiro goes "to considerable trouble to track down the original utterances that became famous quotations."

But not always. Today, Shapiro released his list of 2007's most memorable quotes. Number 8: "(I have) a wide stance when going to the bathroom."

But as those parentheses indicate, Sen. Larry Craig never actually said this. That was the paraphrase by the arresting officer. An audiotape captured Craig's actual words: "I'm fairly wide guy."

Of course, I'm still gonna make "wide stance" jokes, just like I'll never say anything but "nice guys finish last." Still, if nothing else, it would be nice to see a little credit go to Sgt. Dave Karsnia who actually put "wide stance" into circulation, even if it was in error.

[Thanks, Eric Effron]

Posted by Daniel Radosh


Whether Louis Menand knows it or not, he was paraphrasing Friedrich Nietzsche with that first quote. From On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense (1873): "truths are illusions about which one has forgotten that this is what they are; metaphors which are worn out and without sensuous power; coins which have lost their pictures and now matter only as metal, no longer as coins." The Nietzsche quote was itself an allusion to Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan.

It's Fred Shapiro, not Larry Shapiro.

Is Larry "Fred" rubbed smooth by circulation?

And how might that apply to Larry Craig?

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