Language Log has an excellent entry about misquotation and how easy it is to happen:
The Post quoted Clinton Portis (Redskins football player) as saying:
“I don’t know how anybody feels. I don’t know how anybody’s thinking. I don’t know what anyone else is going through. The only thing I know is what’s going on in Clinton Portis’s life.”
Wise quoted him as saying:
“I don’t know how nobody feel, I don’t know what nobody think, I don’t know what nobody doing, the only thing I know is what’s going on in Clinton Portis’s life.”
The word for word transcription was:
“I don’t know how nobody feel, I don’t know what nobody thinking, I don’t know what nobody going through. Only thing I know is what’s going on in Clinton Portis life.”
Which one should go in the collection? Is this a class issue? Did the Post reporter clean up the quote to make Clinton Portis sound better? Is it a simple mistake?
I have written down a lot of quotes that are in our collection. They were things that were said at important events like SXSW or other conventions. Many times, I am able to get the audio recording of the event and check the quote to correct it.
EVERY time I have gotten something wrong. EVERY TIME.
Was I trying to make them sound better? Was it a class issue? Did I clean up the quote?
No, I just am imperfect. I can’t write or type nearly as fast as people can talk.
So, what’s the answer? Which quote should go into the collection? We try to be as accurate as possible. The only problem with that is there are a lot of quotations out there that are WRONG. Everyone remembers them as wrong. Samuel Goldwyn made a living being misquoted on purpose.
In the end, quotation is hard to get right.