Published In The Great North Arrow, July 2020: Misquoted Celebrities

- jim Young

“I will gladly put my name to and accept responsibility for every piece of work I create, but I also expect to receive credit for everything I create as well.” - anon

As a writer, I choose my words carefully. At least most of the time. Sometimes I’ll sit down after a couple of beers and start spewing forth anything that pops into my head. The words are not always so carefully chosen then. The end result might be a page or two full of garbage destined for the recycle bin but surprisingly, more often than not, the results are refreshingly rewarding even if they do require extensive editing and a more careful selection of words.

Regardless of how I end up with an article that I feel is worthy of publishing here at the Great North Arrow, online at DogOnARoot.com, Quora or elsewhere, I proudly sign my name and take ownership of my words - good and bad, right or wrong.

When I wrote in high school (mostly poetry) I used a series of pen names. While collecting poetry from other students for an anthology, I asked a fellow writer if he wished to use a pen name for his entry. As he signed his real name to his work he explained, “I have no need of masks.”

That caused me to think about my use of the several pen names that I employed at the time. I wasn’t really trying to hide from my work. 

Whenever I presented a piece of poetry to one of my friends for review, they were reluctant to hurt my feelings. I quickly discovered that, according to my friends, everything I wrote was “really good” which I correctly suspected was not true.

Attributing my poetry to an unknown pen name was the only way I could conscript any kind of honest critique. 

This backfired when it came time to publish our high school yearbook when I was in grade 11. A poetry contest was held with the only prize being bragging rights in our yearbook.

I lost first place to a grade 12 student but placed second, third and fourth. The yearbook staff however could not remember my real name so all my entries were published under 3 different pen names. Very few of my fellow students ever knew those poems were written by me.

So today I sign all my work as  “jim Young’. The lowercase “j” in my first name is an attempt to keep me humble. The uppercase “Y” in my last name denotes the pride of my family name.

But it’s all me.

Social media today, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest is riddled with literary quotes being misattributed to many different authors and celebrities.

A very common misuse is a quote falsely attributed to a celebrity, often with a political message. Sometimes it is not directly attributed to the celebrity but the inclusion of the celebrity’s photo is intended to suggest it was an endorsement from that celebrity.

Of course then other users see one of their favourite celebrities is endorsing their favourite politician and without a thought to fact-check it, the click of a button is all that is required to perpetuate the myth.

If I were a celebrity I would find this very upsetting even if the quote generally expressed my true feelings. While, as I said previously, I will gladly put my name to anything I write, I am equally opposed to being accused of writing something I did not write.

If your words are not credible on their own, what right do you have to suggest they are the words of someone else?

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