i often find that quotations are used in ways that ignore the context, or are selectively extracted to support ideas (quite different from what the original author intended).
For example, we read “The pen is mightier than the sword.” This conveys a particular meaning. Things get interesting when we read the preceding two lines (in the 1839 play by Edward Bulwer-Lytton, “Richelieu; Or the Conspiracy“):
“True, This! —
Beneath the rule of men entirely great”
This puts things in a completely different light 🙂
The whole set of lines tells us what Edward Bulwer-Lytton really intends to convey:
“True, This! —
Beneath the rule of men entirely great
The pen is mightier than the sword….”
i also often find quotations without citations of sources. This is worrying because, far too frequently, we find mis-attributions.
For example, a cursory search online will show that many many attribute the following lines to Nelson Mandela: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.” The lines are from a book “A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles” by Marianne Williamson.
A mis-attribution, repeated and spread over time, causes damage in various ways. False weight is given to ideas. An individual’s reputation or place in the history of thought is incorrectly coloured. People are misled; minds are misguided.
When we quote someone, let us cite sources. If we are uncertain about the source, let us indicate this. Let us also quote keeping the context (of the original) in mind.