Friday, March 3, 2017

SearchResearch Challenge (3/3/17): Looking up quotes

It used to be that quotations were pretty easy. 

If you heard a quote you liked, you looked for it in one of those big books of quotations (such as Bartlett's Familiar Quotations or the Yale Book of Quotations), and if it wasn't in there, only the brave or intrepid would keep searching. 

Luckily, there are both brave and intrepid souls in the world, and they've made pretty massive collections of quotes... and their attributions.  

Now, of course, we have internet searching--which effectively opens up a LOT of books for access.... as well as a good deal of fake quotes, incorrect attributions, and general nonsense.  

Here's a good one in that vein:  


And as we learned in this week's post about 18th century fake news, it's sometimes hard to figure out who said something, especially if they're trying to cover their tracks! 

So this week, we'll tackle this topic head on, and see if we can't run down some famous quotes and figure out who actually said (or wrote) them in the first place.  

1.  Did Tom Peters, the guru of excellence, really say "The best search one can do today is the search for excellence"?
2.  Did Mark Twain say that one should "Put All Your Eggs in One Basket, and then watch that basket"
3.  Who said that "College contains daily exercises in delayed gratification. 'Discuss early modern European print culture”'will never beat 'Sing karaoke with friends' in a straight fight, but in the long run, having a passable Rhianna impression will be a less useful than understanding how media revolutions unfold"?  
4.  (Extra credit)  Who said or wrote that "It is better than 1000 guilty persons should escape than one innocent suffer"?  

As always, we're interested not just in the answer, but HOW you figured these out.  What special machinations of your brain and mind did you suffer to get to the bottom of the barrel of sources?  

What tips and tricks should one know when seeking out the truth about original sayings? 

 Teach us, and we'll all know! 

Search for those quotes.  Or as I always say (although it did not originate with me): 

"Search on!" 


  1. Quote Investigator has an article about that eggs quote. Looks like it was originated by Andrew Carnegie, who Mark Twain quoted (he credited Carnegie).

  2. Answer 1
    I don’t think Peters wrote that… because when I searched for:
    ["best search one can do today is the search for excellence"]
    only 1 result was returned ( LOL
    Lyndon B. Johnson said that The Noblest Search of Today Is the Search for Excellence

    Answer 2
    It was Andrew Carnegie who said it
    (Mark Twain heard about Carnegie’s remark and later he used it is as a chapter epigraph in his tale titled “Pudd’nhead Wilson”)
    Google search [Mark Twain eggs basket] - result nr 4

    Answer 3
    written by C. Shirky
    Google search
    [having a passable Rihanna impression will be]
    first result

    Answer 4
    Google search
    [1000 guilty persons]
    Showed link to wikiquote Wikiquote (double check: Volokh, Alexander, N Guilty Men (1997). University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Vol. 146, No. 2, 1997. Available at SSRN:
    It is better and more satisfactory to acquit a thousand guilty persons than to put a single innocent one to death.

    where it 100 instead of 1000 guilty persons, the answer would have been Benjamin Franklin.

  3. no.1 -
    Tom & Tim Peters… adjusted reality
    search is a loaded term
    no.2 -
    the Carnegie or the Twain?

    [the Carnegie or the Twain? eggs in a basket] produced:
    seems to explore it in detail…
    1885 eggs…Andy
    no.3 -
    piece of larger quote: [College contains daily exercises] then the name found…
    Clay Shirky
    @ NYU
    medium piece - 2014
    "Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution," and called it the "Shirky Principle"
    wiki, Shirky

  4. Good day, Dr. Russell and everyone.

    How the phrase Search On, originated? Searched but found nothing

    1. Did Tom Peters, the guru of excellence, really say "The best search one can do today is the search for excellence"?

    [" the search for excellence" phrase]

    [Tom Peters quotes search excellence intext:"best search"]

    And some others without results. So then thought about asking him

    2. Did Mark Twain say that one should "Put All Your Eggs in One Basket, and then watch that basket"?

    [ "Put All Your Eggs in One Basket, and then watch that basket"]

    On June 23, 1885 Andrew Carnegie...

    Answer: No.

    3. Who said that "College contains daily exercises in delayed gratification. 'Discuss early modern European print culture”'will never beat 'Sing karaoke with friends' in a straight fight, but in the long run, having a passable Rhianna impression will be a less useful than understanding how media revolutions unfold"?

    ["having a passable Rhianna impression"] Google corrected my Rihanna typo.

    Answer:Clay Shirky He is a professor of media studies at New York University

    4. (Extra credit) Who said or wrote that "It is better than 1000 guilty persons should escape than one innocent suffer"?

    Tried with the whole quote and then ["1000 guilty persons should escape"]result links to url (Benjamin Franklin Papers) in which "Thoughts concerning executive Justice" is mentioned with that quote.

    [Thoughts concerning executive Justice] in All and in Books

    Book 1785

    [Martin Madan 1000 guilty quotes]

    “It is better that ten guilty persons escape, than that one innocent suffer.” By Sir. William BlackstoneThe Anglo-American concept of “reasonable doubt” is reflected in this quote...

    From : UCLA. The ratio 10:1 has become known as the "Blackstone ratio." there ctr-f "Mardan" provides answer.

    Answer: Benjamin Franklin

    1. Remmij and Steven are correct. And I made a mistake. For some reason I got confused and after reading 10, 100 and 1,000 at the end eyes mixed all.

    2. About Q4: [" "1000" guilty persons should escape"]

      Philada. April 15. 1787. Benjamin Franklin "You were right in conjecturing that I wrote the Remarks on the Thoughts concerning executive Justice. I have no Copy of those Remarks at hand, and forget how the saying was introduc’d that it is better 1000 guilty Persons should escape than one Innocent suffer."

      [Louis-Guillaume letter to Franklin]

      [" "1000" guilty persons should escape" | "thousand guilty persons should escape"]

      [" "thousand" guilty persons should escape" marmonides]

      Although Blackstone gets most of the citations today, the directive
      to avoid the erroneous punishment of the innocent has much older

      Proportionality and the Rule of Law

      After checking the posts made in SRS and the new information, Moses Maimonides, was the first to mention 1,000 as Remmij said not word by word. And, Benjamin Franklin in 1787 wrote the exact phrase in this unpublished letter.

    3. Dr. Russell, Remmij and everyone. Do you agree with these sources being the more reliable? I didn't know snopes and C-Span but I agree the other 8, I trust.

    4. People can contest the ranking and the bias, but then, everything is biased--you just have to recognize what that bias is. If you understand that, you're in a much better place to do evaluation.

      But overall, this list is pretty decent (according to my progressive liberal biases).

    5. Thanks, Dr. Russell and Remmij. I like a lot your comment, Dr. Russell. And that is also a great SRS Lesson for me. Still need to check some links of you, Remmij.

    6. what would H.G. Wells made of the current state of the world brain?
      the beginning & the end…
      Atlas House?, 46 High St Bromley, Kent England
      Old Harry Rocks
      from Oz
      "Speaking as a teacher of sorts myself, to a gathering in which teachers probably predominate, I need scarcely dilate upon the fascination of diagram drawing. You will understand how reluctant I was to finish of at Grade D and how natural it was to extend my diagram to two more grades and make it a diagram of the whole knowledge organisation of a modern community. Here then is Grade E, the adult learning that goes on now right through life, keeping oneself up to date, keeping in touch with the living movements about us. I have given a special line to those reconditioning courses that must somehow be made a normal part in the lives of working professional men. It is astonishing how stale most middle-aged medical men, teachers and solicitors" Wells
      see: APPENDIX V. — THE ENGLISH-SPEAKING WORLD: "AS I SEE IT" Broadcast talk delivered December 1st, 1937
      he didn't imagine Google Translate…
      "We want a Henry Ford today to modernise the distribution of knowledge, make good knowledge cheap and easy in this still very ignorant, ill-educated, ill-served English-speaking world of ours. Which might be the greatest power on earth for the consolidation of humanity and the establishing of an enduring creative Pax for all mankind." the notion of Pax Britannica
      the Empire Broadcasting Service… forerunner of the BBC (11/39)
      "On 3 January 1938, the first foreign-language service was launched in Arabic. Programmes in German started on 29 March 1938, and by the end of 1942 broadcasts were being made in all major European languages. As a result, the Empire Service was renamed the BBC Overseas Service in November 1939, and a dedicated BBC European Service was added in 1941. These were financed not from the domestic licence fee but from government grant-in-aid (from the Foreign Office budget), and known administratively as the External Services of the BBC."
      international, started in 1932
      relay on the Island of Masirah
      Masirah Island
      surface access
      ➜ ✩ very interesting video with this article… worth watching for the landscape shots… & permafrost… & vodka…
      Pleistocene Park

  5. I went for no. 3 and searched for keywords in the quotation . One of the results was a blog page by Larry Cuban but when I clicked it the quotation wasn't on the page so I went back to the search results and clicked on the cached version, which brought up the relevant page with the quote. Then I scrolled up the page and found that the whole post was copied from a post by Clay Shirky. Maybe I should have just entered a whole phrase from the quote...

  6. 4. This concept has been around since Roman times. see for a very lengthy article. I assume your use of 'than' is just a typo.

  7. 3. The entire phrase finds THe originator is Clay Shirky.

  8. 2. Yes Mark Twain used it but it originated with Andrew Carnegie 1885. Whole phrase search finds QI is a reliable source IMHO. He gives a detailed history of the eggy quote.

  9. 1. Seems not. Whole phrase finds nothing in Peters book. However the last half finds this QI is a reliable source. The phrase The noblest search is the search for excellence. is attributed to one Lyndon Johnson (or his speechwriter April 1964.

    These were all satisfying searches. jon tU

  10. For each of the quotes, I tried a Google exact phrase search for the quote. For quotes 1 and 4, the only results on the SERP were from this blog- so they are either poorly remembered, poorly documented or falsely attributed.

    Quote 2 appeared to be equally divided between Twain and Carnegie as sources. Quote Investigator gave a thorough account with referenced sources, so I was inclined to believe the attribution to Carnegie. I set out to cross reference by searching for the same sources. The Twain version appears first in Puddenhead Wilson. According to Wikipedia, this was a serialized novel printed first in The Century Magazine in late 1893. A Google search returned Cornell University Library- the quote was found in Vol47(6) – published in April 1894. This matched the claim from QI. A Google Search <”Mark Twain’s Notebook”> produced several ebook versions. I selected Brigham Young University Library and searched the copy for Carnegie. This not only confirmed the QI claim that Twain attributed it to Carnegie about 1 year before it appeared in Puddenhead Wilson but the previous notebook entry confirmed that Twain had dined with Carnegie on the 6th April 1893.
    Quote 3 produced a number of hit attributing the quote to Clay Shirley. As this quote is recent, I used the custom range date tool to find the first occurrence. The quote appeared in an online article by Clay Shirley on Medium, followed shortly by an almost verbatim article in the Washington Post a few days later.

    For quotes 1 and 4, I removed the inverted commas to find similar sayings. For quote 4, it brought up Wikipedia article on Blackstone’s formulation. The article appeared well researched and gave a number of references that I explored further. A close match came from the writings of Maimonides (a 12th C Rabbi). A Google search < Maimonides translation> took me to the Chabad library. The negative commandment 290 states “it is preferable and more proper that even a thousand guilty people be set free than to someday execute even one innocent person.” The reference to “n guilty men”by Volokh gives a full account of the history as well as a way of calculating n. So the 2017 version of the saying should be 64 guilty people.
    For quote 1, Tom Peters regularly appeared in the SERP results but it is probably due to the title of his book. Searching the ebook available on OpenLibrary, I could not find the quote. A Google search < excellence url:> cites a similar quote from Lyndon Johnson- the original was found by a Google Search of the direct quote < "The noblest search of today is the search for excellence" >

    The main search techniques were to search for the direct quote. Then cross reference using well referenced sources and finally going to the primary source. I tend to be biased towards repositories in university libraries for sources. I also find Wikipedia is a good source for topics like this as the articles are often well debated and referenced. I am also biased towards sources that have proven to be rigorous in earlier searches.

  11. …more Shirky related…
    "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"—Upton Sinclair.
    The Shirky Principle
    April, 2010
    7 years down the road from it

    a Medium usage
    Google Stone, MX

  12. a similar quandary…?
    is this a fake photo? seems odd in the way it is focused, while the rest of the printed material is fuzzy…
    doesn't really matter, already is viral & in the wild… and any correction would be lost in the maelstrom…
    seems to be the source - used Google image search… facts v agendas*
    focus & story are coincidental?
    seems sketchy - claims not to be the actual photo source
    ≆ approximately but not actually equal to
    *Suspension of disbelief

    Henk's story in Arabic - seems to be getting some exposure –
    arabic translation
    The Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN)