Behind the Dictionary
Lexicographers Talk About Language
Quotable Moments of 2011
Fred R. Shapiro, the editor of The Yale Book of Quotations, is constantly on the lookout for new quotations that might make the cut for the next edition of his authoritative quotation dictionary. Below, find out what he thinks are the top ten quotations of 2011.
In 2006 I compiled The Yale Book of Quotations, published by Yale University Press. This book is the first major quotation book to emphasize modern and American sources, including popular culture, children's literature, sports, technology, politics, law, and the social sciences, and the first quotation book of any sort to use state-of-the-art research methods to comprehensively collect famous quotations and to trace quotations to their accurate origins. The research behind the YBQ enabled me to rewrite the histories of many of the most famous sayings. This research continues, aided by a cadre of talented contributors who e-mail me with their discoveries or post them on their own websites such as Garson O'Toole's great Quote Investigator.
One way in which I have supplemented my book is an annual list of the most notable quotations of the year, which has received widespread publicity through being disseminated by the Associated Press and commented on by various newspapers and broadcast media throughout the world. I present below the sixth such list, covering the year 2011. Please note that these are not necessarily eloquent or admirable quotations, rather they have been picked because they are famous or they are important or they are particularly revealing of the spirit of our times. Those who follow my lists will see that this year's has several quotations at the top that are different in nature from the usual Bushisms and Palinisms and celebrity gems.
- "We are the 99%."
—Slogan of the "Occupy" movement
- "There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there -- good for you! But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for."
—Senatorial candidate Elizabeth Warren, Remarks, Andover, Mass., Aug. 2011
- "My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress."
—Billionaire Warren Buffett, New York Times op-ed, Aug. 15, 2011
- "I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy."
—Presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, Tweet, Aug. 18, 2011
—Presidential candidate Rick Perry, after unsuccessfully attempting to remember the third federal agency he would eliminate, Campaign debate, Nov. 9, 2011
- "When they ask me who is the president of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan I'm going to say, 'You know, I don't know. Do you know?'"
—Presidential candidate Herman Cain, Interview by Christian Broadcasting Network, Oct. 7, 2011
- "I am on a drug. It's called 'Charlie Sheen.' It's not available because if you try it once, you will die. Your face will melt off and your children will weep over your exploded body."
—Actor Charlie Sheen, Interview by ABC News, Feb. 28, 2011
- "Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow."
—Businessman Steve Jobs, Last words, Oct. 5, 2011 (as reported by his sister Mona Simpson in her eulogy for him)
- "I can't say with certitude."
—Congressman Anthony Weiner, when asked whether a lewd photograph was in fact of him, Press conference, June 1, 2011
- "Instead of receiving the help that she had hoped for, Mr. Cain instead decided to provide her with his idea of a stimulus package."
—Lawyer Gloria Allred, on alleged sexual harassment of her client Sharon Bialek, News conference, Nov. 7, 2011
What quotations do you think were most memorable this year? Let us know in the comments below!
Yale Book of Quotations and a world-recognized authority on quotations and on reference in general. He edited the award-winning Oxford Dictionary of American Legal Quotations and co-authored the entertaining new book, Lawtalk: The Unknown Stories Behind Familiar Legal Expressions (Yale University Press).