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Discuss: The Bard of Pinterest

This isn’t so much a discussion post as it is an opportunity to tell a story about Pinterest, William Shakespeare and misattribution. 

If you’re on Pinterest or Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr, than you’ve probably seen this quote:

Now, it doesn’t take an English degree or a comprehensive study of the Bard’s many works to know that this quote was not written by William Shakespeare.  First off, it’s not written in iambic pentameter or any structured verse that I can see.  And secondly, it doesn’t even sound like Shakespeare.

Recently, Joanna Goddard from the blog Cup of Jo pinned this quote to one of her boards.  When a follower commented that it was not Shakespeare, she defended the quote saying that it was from a specific act and scene in Hamlet.  (The original pin has since been deleted.)  Now, I don’t know how many of you read the tale of the desperately-in-need-of-a-Zoloft Prince of Denmark, but this was not a guy who was running around smiling and falling in love. But who hasn’t been fooled by the Internet before?

If you Google this quote, you generate a murky soup of correct and incorrect attributions and it takes a little sifting to figure out that this quote was written by an Italian poet named Arrigo Boito.  So if you like the quote please give the gentleman from Padua his due.

Sadly, there are thousands of misattributed quotes posted on sites like Brainy Quote, ThinkExist and the like, and it’s easy to fall victim to them when using social media.  I usually Google quotes before I pin them to my Snark & Sentiment board on Pinterest, but even I make mistakes. 

I pinned a quote allegedly by Galileo, only to find out that it’s really from a poem about Galileo.  I just feel badly for the girl with the mistake tattooed on her body for all time.

I’ve seen people on Pinterest argue that having this quote associated with William Shakespeare makes it even more beautiful or meaningful or whatever, but that’s crazy talk.  Reading a quote that moves you might lead you to discover a new poet, author or historical figure, and expand your horizons a bit.  Having the quote incorrectly linked to Shakespeare just let’s you cast it aside as one of the Bard’s many memorable one liners, and sets up American teenagers for a lot of incorrect answers to exam questions about Hamlet.

So before you pin or share or tweet or post a quote to your social media account, head over to Google and let the Interwebs help you determine who the quote really belongs to.  You could learn something.  Or, at the very least, save yourself from being the rube who got tangled in the Interwebs.

“You can’t believe everything you read on the Internet”– Abraham Lincoln.



  1. Maggie says:

    “America is all about speed. Hot, nasty, bad-ass speed.”
    -Eleanor Roosevelt

    September 21, 2012/Reply
  2. BB says:

    Oh Belle, everyone knows the Lincoln quote is: “The problem with quotes found on the internet is you have no way of confirming their authenticity.”


    September 21, 2012/Reply
  3. Kelly says:

    The same goes for images used on the internet, too; they should all be credited back to their original source. It's just so rare that this happens.

    September 21, 2012/Reply
  4. Belle says:

    Thanks, BB. If I could get into the site right now, I'd change it.

    September 21, 2012/Reply
  5. Sarah says:

    @Kelly, I agree that images should be credited back to the original source. It can be really frustrating when you try to look for the source and can't find it.

    September 21, 2012/Reply
  6. JCC says:

    “Simplify, simplify.” – Henry David Thoreau via car commercial, 1990s

    September 21, 2012/Reply
  7. Emcie Kaye says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post, Belle. I'm an editor for an organization and am editing a very poorly-done newsletter, filled with plagiarized information (both correct and incorrect) and images from the Web.

    When I try to explain to the writer about the problems with her articles, she states, “But I found it on Google!”

    Since, you know, everything you find on Google is free for the taking and completely correct, right???

    September 21, 2012/Reply
  8. CH says:

    I saw this Cup of Jo fiasco on Get Off My Internets the other day. Just… what is her deal? I couldn't believe she actually cited an act and scene – as if no one on the Internet has ever read Hamlet or is capable or looking up the actual source of a quote that is obviously not from Shakespeare. I just can't with her anymore – she treats her readers like idiots.

    September 21, 2012/Reply
  9. ER says:

    I saw this on GOMI the other day and just about died. I don't read cup of Jo regularly, but I was floored that an actual literate, high-school-and-college-graduated adult would attribute this to Shakespeare (to say nothing of Hamlet). Now, perhaps it's because I was an English major and had to read Hamlet a number of times in my educational career, but…it just doesn't sound like early modern English in any way.

    But, at least most of Shakespeare's work is entirely available from publishers for free online…in my opinion it's the “newer” authors or poets with less readily available texts that are the most in danger of being misquoted. Lord knows how many misquotes Sylvia Plath and Kurt Vonnegut have floating around the internet. And those who'd like to check the source would have to actually GASP locate an actual book (or ebook) and find the quotation. I guess blindly pinning is just easier?

    PINgnorance is bliss?

    September 21, 2012/Reply
  10. Anonymouse says:

    For me it wasn't appalling that Joanna pinned the quote. She probably genuinely liked it. It was appalling that she retorted back with an actual scene and act citation. She has a degree in English! While I don't think it's fair to expect her to be a Shakespeare expert, she is a seasoned blogger whose blogging content comprises of her Internet searches. She should have the sensibility to google search before acting as an authority with “Scene 2, Act 2”. I was further peeved that she not only deleted the pin, but snarkily responded to someone about it on Twitter then deleted her snarky response a few hours later. Everyone makes mistakes. She doesn't need to apologize, but don't post or tweet something you'll only delete later because it doesn't go with your “blogging personality”. /end rant

    September 21, 2012/Reply
  11. J says:

    Most blogs (including this one…at times) are really really bad at not crediting the original image source. It's a shame. It just takes some Google searches to get it right.

    September 21, 2012/Reply
  12. Amadna says:

    My personal favorite Pintrest “quote” is one attributed to Marilyn Monroe. “”To all those girls who think they're fat for not being size 0: its not you who's ugly,it's society.” Um…right. Except that size 0 didn't exist when Marilyn was alive.

    September 21, 2012/Reply
  13. Emily says:

    I also hate when the pin “comment” doesn't match the article the pin is linked to. For example, there's a really popular pin that's a picture of a makeup brush in soapy water. The description is something along the lines of “How to get makeup brushes squeaky clean using vinegar and hot water!!' Then if you click through and read the article there is no mention of vinegar – just plain old baby shampoo and hot water. it drives me nuts!!

    September 21, 2012/Reply
  14. Cara says:

    I've seen the Monroe and Shakespeare quotes and found them suspect. I often wonder about the quotes I find. This MLK Jr. quote made the rounds after BIn Laden's death but ending up being wrong:

    “I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

    September 21, 2012/Reply
  15. Jessie says:

    Or, ya know, use the library. Librarians are qualified to take reference questions like, “Is this quote from Shakespeare & if so, where is it found?”. Google searches just don't cut it.

    September 21, 2012/Reply
  16. Melissa says:

    the one on pinterest that drives me crazy every time i see it, but is somehow still hugely popular isn't a quote, per se, but is still highly inaccurate: “the wedding ring goes on your fourth finger because it's the only one with a vein to the heart.” nope, sorry. if none of your other fingers had veins, they'd all drop off because they would be dead from lack of oxygen/other good things found in blood that keep your body working properly.

    September 23, 2012/Reply
  17. Morgan says:

    Just to add to the rant, I hate when actresses/actors are credited with the lines they say in movies. No. They didnt say that–their character did. It's the brilliant screen writer who should get credit. I love Marilyn and Audrey as much as the next girl, but to attribute all of the quotes their characters said to them, would be ridiculous.

    September 24, 2012/Reply