In Your Own Words!

  • 10 July 2012

A lot of people, including me, are fond of quoting song lyrics, TV shows, films, books, graphic novels, pieces of poetry and the random rambling of celebrities and their counterparts. Search engines, fortune cookie databases and online collections facilitate to maintain your own personal library of words and phrases you are fond of. There’s nothing wrong with this – until you use someone else’s words to express yourself. That’s when things go wrong.

If you use a quote you will most probably miss the context. „Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker.“ was used by John McClane fighting his way out of a building captured by criminals. If you use it on Twitter, as your ring tone or in an e-mail, the context is definitely different (and arguably wrong). Song lyrics are worse. Take the song „The Riddle“ by Nik Kershaw for example. I liked the song back when it was in the charts. I instantly loved the lyrics. The trouble is that they weren’t supposed to make any sense. In this case you cannot even hope to get the context right, because there is no correct situation. Of course, you can always find phrases that match a certain situation and describe it well. This belief is widespread in religious circles where quotations of the Bible, the Qur’an and other writings, holy or otherwise, run rampant. Too bad „Personal Jesus“ by Depeche Mode isn’t about religious at all. No cookie for you.

 There’s really nothing wrong with borrowing someone else’s words. Just make sure you use your own when expressing important things. And in case you read someone using quotations, be careful. It’s either out of context, right on topic, smoke and mirrors, or something completely different.

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