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Occasionally, someone asks us at the Reference Desk to verify a quotation. It may be a commonly known phrase, something a famous person said, a proverb from another land, or something pretty (okay, terribly!) obscure. What to do? Google, right! But hold onto your Googs; if you try Google, you’ll often find that the exact same quote – whether correct or not – ping-pongs and pinballs and pachinkos its way from blog to website to Facebook to Pinterest and back to blog ad infinitum with no authoritative source to ground it until nobody really knows whether the quote is accurate, where it originally came from, or whether it’s coming or going. Of course, that might not matter if you share the philosophy of the Bandar-Log Monkeys in the chapter on Kaa’s Hunting in the first book of Kipling’s The Jungle Book:
We all say so, and so it must be true….
But we rely on accuracy rather than popularity here, and having to plow through an endless number of parroting web pages just makes it all the harder to verify the authentic text and its original source. That’s why we have what you might call the Un-Google: a good half dozen or so shelves of quotation books and related dictionaries and sources in the Reference Collection in the P6000’s. It requires patience, sure, and it’s far from perfect — finding an accurate quote with a confirmed provenance can be a very lengthy and difficult affair, especially when the quotation is inaccurately or only partially remembered — but at least when you find one, the source is usually given.
There are general quotation compilations, such as Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, as well as ones on very specific subjects. (Throwing Monkeys at the Coconuts, for instance, is a collection of travel quotations, although that’s one we don’t have.) And the indexing of quotes inside the book will vary: some will be indexed by author, some by date or theme, some by the first line of the quote, and others might be by language or country. Here are a few examples from several quotation books and specialized dictionaries in this part of the Reference Collection:
REF PN6080 .C57 2001
The Concise Dictionary of Foreign Quotations (p. 113)
Si nous n’avions point de défauts, nous ne prendrions pas tant de plaisir à en remarquer dans les autres.
(If we had no failings, we would not be so pleased to notice them in others.)
(La Rochefoucauld: Reflexions)
REF PN 6084 .W6 B47 1996
Women’s Words: The Columbia Book of Quotations by Women (p. 251)
… people are almost always better than their neighbours think they are.
(George Eliot, Middlemarch, chapter 72)
REF PN 6231 .W64 B43 2015
Spin-glish: The Definitive Dictionary of Deliberately Deceptive Language (pp. 82, 232)
Section 1: Spin-glish to English definition:
Health care procurement specialist: Insurance salesperson
Section 2: English to Spin-glish definition:
Undertaker: After-death care provider; bereavement care expert; post-health professional.
(This recent spin-quote will unfortunately have to wait for the 2nd edition:
“empowering a culture of controversy prevention.”
REF PN 6371 .D65 1996
I Love Me, Vol. I
Now, this title sounds rather like a multi-volume ode to narcissism, doesn’t it? Anyone you know? Can’t wait for Vol. II to come out? Then try reading it backwards: it’s a dictionary of palindromes! Many entries are rather forced – after all, palindromes are difficult! – but some are rather charming (p.231):
Norma is as selfless as I am, Ron
Nor are palindromes restricted to English (p. 219.):
Nisumaa oli isasi ilo aamusin
(Finnish: The field of wheat was your father’s joy in the morning)
Hmm, I think I’ll let you figure out what that one means! There are full word palindromes, too, not just letter-by-letter ones (p. 139):
Girl, bathing on Bikini, eyeing boy, finds boy eyeing bikini on bathing girl.
And for those who don’t care for Hawaiian music (p. 250):
Oh, no! Don Ho!
But if someone comes up and tells you this practically cliché palindrome: “A man, a plan, a canal: Panama!” you can offer the perfect rejoinder given on p.227: “No, it’s a banana bastion.”
Sometimes, everyone knows the quotation and who said it – except when that’s not the case. Like what? Well, like this popular and insightful quotation from Petronius Arbiter in about 210 B.C.:
We trained hard – but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams we were reorganized. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing, and what a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while actually producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization.
But there’s no note of who translated it into English – or did it even need to be translated? Did Petronius even write it? Jim Reeds looked into it and noted that Petronius Arbiter was alive in Nero’s reign over 200 years later – a rather Biblical lifespan! Beyond that, Reeds couldn’t find any citing of the quotation before 1945 or so (and that’s A.D., mind you, not B.C.!). But what about the provenance of this revisionist information, much less the quotation itself? I’ve seen the relevant web page myself, but All Things Must Pass (à la George Harrison’s album title), and so has that web page! Fortunately, the Wayback Machine (www.waybackmachine.org) can come to the rescue, so here’s a preserved version of the page:
(You can close the banner message that appears at the top.)
There are plenty of variants and translations given in the beginning, so you’ll need to scroll down a bit to get to the source information about the quotation.
A recent book has even been written on the subject of mistaken quotes:
Hemingway Didn’t Say That: The Truth Behind Familiar Quotations by Garson O’Toole
Still, not every good quote is collected in a quotation book, so until next time, I’ll leave you with this bit of wisdom from a long ago fortune cookie:
A little madness,
A little kindness
Makes for happiness
Next week, the library’s display table (near the main circulation desk) will feature information on student and personal finance. Along with books and pamphlets, you’ll find posters with information about investing, fraud, saving for retirement, and more. These posters are part of an educational program called DASH for the STASH. Read the posters and answer questions for a chance to win a $1,000 contribution to an IRA. The posters will be available October 8-15, 2017.
UAA’s Office of Financial Aid hosts workshops throughout the year to help students take charge of their finances. Here are links to their calendars for workshops focused on personal finance and financial aid.
Take a look at the new arrangement of the Library’s Research Guides. Many are new, others have been completely revised, and the rest have been rearranged to make them much easier to find and access.
A special section called Get Help highlights selected How-to Guides, where you’ll find step-by-step instructions and other helpful information on many of the tasks you may encounter as you do your research.
We welcome suggestions for other Guides to add, so feel free to let us know what else you’d like to see on the list.
Are you looking for some help with Writing or Math. Good news, the Library has a partnership with the Learning Commons Writing Center and Math Labs to provide tutors during evenings and weekends.
Hours in the Library:
Writing Tutors available in Rm 110: Mon – Thurs, 6-9pm and Sat – Sun 12-5pm
Math Tutors available on the 3rd Floor of the Library between Rm 309 and 307: Sat – Sun, 2-8pm
Additional tutoring services are available in the Learning Commons and online via Live Homework Help
Have a great semester!
Fall semester is almost upon us and if you are looking to acquire textbooks for your classes, remember that the library does not purchase textbooks. Luckily, there are some alternatives for you to consider:
1) Stop by the circulation desk to see if the book has been put on reserve by your professor for your class. Make sure you provide the people at the desk the instructor last name and the title of the book. Or you can check yourself by going to Course Reserves and looking for the course by instructor name, course ID or title.
2) Rent the textbook through the UAA Campus Bookstore or purchase a used copy.
For additional options: check out our Textbook guide .
The topic of fake news is frequently in the “news” these days. Sometimes the stories are truly “fake” and other times they are misleading. How can one tell the difference? The Consortium Library has a library guide that provides information about identifying and navigating fake news and misleading information.
Did you know there are over 3 million lakes in Alaska? Only 3,000 or so have official names. Celebrate one this July, when the North American Lake Management Society celebrates Lakes Appreciation Month.
The Consortium Library and ARLIS have a plethora of material on Alaska lakes, including information on water quality, fish populations, potential waterpower, maps, and much more. See a sample of the list here.
The website from the Library of Congress called America’s Story states that the first Memorial Day took place in 1868. If you are curious about the origins of Memorial Day, then there are many great government resources that you can consult. The Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs has an extensive collection of resource links listed on their Memorial Day website for helpful information. Also, the Consortium Library has numerous reference and government sources having to do with Memorial Day. Some examples include The Encyclopedia of War and American Society, and American Civil War: The Definitive Encyclopedia and Document Collection. To search for sources from the main Consortium Library homepage, type “Memorial Day” History into the QuickSearch box. You can then, for example, select Reference listed under Content Type on the left side of the screen. Feel free to ask a librarian for assistance in locating additional resources.
Anchorage will host a number of activities for the North by North (NxN) Festival on the sidelines of the Arctic Council Ministerial gathering in Fairbanks. Events include an arts, crafts, & culture expo, a circumpolar film festival, and a local food and beer tasting. Many of these unique happenings are free, others have a fee, or you can buy a pass for $20.
You can also register for Innovate Arctic at the Anchorage Museum, a full day of TED-style talks, interactive exhibits, and topic-driven breakout sessions on Arctic topics including cold climate housing, northern agriculture, tourism, renewable energy, telecommunications, and education.
To see the full schedule and for much more information, go to the NxN website.