Day 275: Look it up

One of my favorite classes during my undergrad years was a course on Mark Twain. I studied all kinds of literature, and read widely in those days. I had a class on Anton Chekhov, and one on Shakespeare. But I loved the local color writers that ranged from 1865 to 1900 in American literature.

The local color writers focused on the details that made a certain region or a certain class level stand out. They wrote in the dialect of the people and used different dialects depending on who the characters were. They painted such vivid pictures with their words so you could see the landscapes and the homes these people lived in; you could feel the poverty, or the rich snobbery of the characters. You could smell the food cooking on the fire, and feel the stickiness of the heat. There were many stories that I loved from that era in American literature, but I especially loved Mark Twain. His sarcasm and wit fit with my personality and in the midst of his storytelling, he taught valuable lessons.

But there’s a lot attributed to Mark Twain that he never wrote or spoke. Or maybe he quoted others and the quotes ended up being attributed to him because he was more famous than the original speaker. Here’s one:

“Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” – Mark Twain

Nice sentiment, but Mark Twain wasn’t the first to say it. I think that’s part of the problem we have today with the ease of Google and Wikipedia being our Encyclopedia Britannica. A bunch of the information we have at our fingertips is just not credible. Sure, maybe some of the articles in the Encyclopedia weren’t accurate, but it used to be a lot harder to plagiarize someone’s information because you could track it down in print in some nearby library. Today, you really don’t know who to attribute things to, and for sure, since there’s nothing new under the sun, you’ll be hard-pressed to come up with something original. If someone can sue a musician for imitating a beat and a feel of an original song, then there’s very little that can truly be claimed as unique these days. I think that leads to people feeling like everything is free game because nothing is easy to trace. It’s a vicious cycle that makes us believe in everything we see or read, or makes us believe in nothing we see or read. With a little digging, you can be more educated and share more accurate information.

DAY 275 HOMEWORK: Before you believe anything you find on the internet, find a way to trace it back to its origins. I found that gives some insight on various attributed quotes. Don’t accept something at face value until you know the context, and stop the cycle of spreading false knowledge. We can make the internet more accurate if we’ll just start with ourselves.




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