December 31, 2012

The Top Quotes of 2012 – and some of the top “top quotes” lists of 2012…


Every December, various pundits, writers and media outlets publish lists of what they consider to be the the year’s “top” or “best” quotations — either in general or within a certain realm, such as politics, sports or movies.

Recently, I’ve been perusing some of the lists of quotes from 2012.

The one that’s most widely cited is the top ten quotes of the year list compiled by quote maven Fred Shapiro, associate librarian at Yale Law School and author of the authoritative Yale Book of Quotations.

Now in it’s seventh year, Shapiro’s list gets reprinted by hundreds of newspapers and thousands of websites.

His 2012 list includes several quotes by President Barack Obama and two by his Republican challenger in the 2012 presidential election, Mitt Romney.

In this case, Mitt actually won.

He gained the #1 spot on Shapiro’s list for what became one of the most infamous, clueless and damaging political quotations ever uttered:

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what…who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims…These are people who pay no income tax…and so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

Romney made those remarks at a private fundraiser in Boca Raton, Florida on May 17, 2012. However, they didn’t hit the news until September 17, when a secretly-recorded video of what he said at the fundraiser was released by Mother Jones magazine.

When the story broke, it created a major political firestorm that the Obama campaign stoked to the max.

Romney’s “47 percent” gaffe is also cited by several lists of the top political quotes of 2012.

Many observers believe that quotation played a significant role in turning key swing voters against Romney, by making it appear (or maybe by making it clear) that he didn’t care about the opinions, votes or lives of nearly half of all Americans.

Shapiro’s list of the top 10 quotes of 2012 also includes another gaffe by Romney (“binders full of women”), three quotes by Obama (most notably his “you didn’t build that” quote), Missouri Senatorial candidate Todd Akin’s radioactive “legitimate rape” quote, South Korean rapper PSY’s “Oppan Gangnam style” video meme, a comment by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke that popularized the term “fiscal cliff,” and several others that are primarily of interest to political junkies.

Fred left out what I would count as one of the top 10 quotes of the year, but it did make the #1 position in ESPN Playbook’s 2012 “Sports Quotes of the Year” list.

It’s the memorable response by Washington Nationals outfielder

Bryce Harper when a reporter implied that the 19-year-old rookie might take advantage of Canada’s lower drinking age when he played in Toronto and have a beer.

During a a press event on June 13, 2012, a Toronto TV reporter asked Harper: “You got a favorite beer?” 

Harper answered drily:

      “That’s a clown question, bro.” 

It quickly became a viral meme and a popular new all-purpose retort to stupid questions.

There are actually quite a few lists of the top sports quotes of 2012 online.

Some are for hard core fans of certain sports — like the lists of top quotes by and about golfer Tiger Woods or the top quotes by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Swedish soccer star (i.e., star of the sport known as football in every country except the US).

As a movie buff, I was interested in reading the lists of top movie quotes of 2012. From what I can tell, almost none seem to have reached the level of being widely-repeated, long-lasting pop culture quotations.

There is one notable exception, mentioned in the list compiled by movie critic Chris Knight:

       “May the odds be ever in your favor.”

It’s a catchphrase from the hugely popular science fiction film The Hunger Games, based on the hugely popular novel by Suzanne Collins

Although you may not know that quote, millions of Hunger Game fans do and it’s cited on hundreds of thousands of websites. (Actually, it appears to be millions based on the Google search hit stats for the phrase.)

There are a number of lists of the “dumbest” or “stupidest” quotes of 2012 online. A large percentage of those are political in nature. So, whether you think the quotes they include are dumb or stupid depends largely on your political leanings.

I found many lists of top 2012 quotes by “celebrities.” They mostly include quotes by people from the realms of TV, movies, fashion or music and those “personalities” who are basically famous for being famous.

I guess such celebrity quote lists are of interest to people who know who the latest celebrities are and are fascinated by what “celebs” do and say. I don’t and am not. So, I quickly got bored reading those lists.

There are also some lists of 2012 quotes of interest to geeks and wonks. Having qualities of both, I found those more intriguing.

For example, there are two “Top Tech Quotes of 2012” lists I like: one on the New Yorker magazine site, complied by Nicholas Thompson and one on the C/NET website, compiled by Jonathan Skillings.

My favorite quote from Thompson’s is “Turn left into the water” — which he cites as the best line from a Tumblr page devoted to the epic failure of Apple’s map app.

My favorite from Skillings:

       “I'm safely on the surface of Mars. GALE CRATER I AM IN YOU!!! #MSL.”

That was the historic tweet by the Curiosity Rover when it landed in the Gale Crater on the surface of Mars on August 6, 2012.

As a kid in the 1950s, I wondered if there was intelligent life on Mars.

As I was reading some of the lists of the top political and celebrity quotes of 2012, I was reminded of the old joke about whether there’s any on earth.

Happy New Year from ThisDayinQuotes.com. And, good luck to all of us in 2013.

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Further reading, viewing and listening…

December 29, 2012

“Bury my heart at Wounded Knee.”


On December 29, 1890, about 500 U.S. Seventh Cavalry troopers gunned down more than 200 Lakota Indians — including men, women and children — at Wounded Knee Creek on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

The Army initially called it “The Battle of Wounded Knee.”

In truth, it wasn’t a battle.

Today, it’s generally called what it really was — the Wounded Knee Massacre.

The famous quote that’s now associated with this tragic event is “Bury my heart at Wounded Knee.”

But those words were not originally written with the infamous massacre in mind.

They come from the poem “American Names,” written by American poet Stephen Vincent Benét and first published in the October 1927 issue of the Yale Review.

Benét’s poem is a patriotic ode expressing his love for American place names.

As he explained in the first verse:

       “I have fallen in love with American names,
       The sharp names that never get fat,
       The snakeskin-titles of mining-claims,
       The plumed war-bonnet of Medicine Hat,
       Tucson and Deadwood and Lost Mule Flat.”

Books of quotations often include this first verse from “American Names” and the final verse, which contains the famous line about Wounded Knee.

They usually omit the fourth verse, which blithely drops the N-word:

       “I will fall in love with a Salem tree
       And a rawhide quirt from Santa Cruz,
       I will get me a bottle of Boston sea
       And a blue-gum nigger to sing me blues.
       I am tired of loving a foreign muse.”

Benét’s seemingly nostalgic use of the old racial slur “blue-gum nigger” and other lines in the poem indicate that he was enamored with the romantic sound of many American place names and was oblivious to (or didn't care about) any potential negative connotations they might have.

The poem’s mention of Wounded Knee is simply as one of those good old American place names, which Benét deems superior to “foreign” names.

In the last verse he suggests that the spirits of American soldiers killed in Europe during the First World War could not find peace in their burial grounds over there.

Speaking in the voice of a dead American soldier, Benét ended the poem with these lines:

       “I shall not rest quiet in Montparnasse.
       I shall not lie easy at Winchelsea.
       You may bury my body in Sussex grass,
       You may bury my tongue at Champmedy.
       I shall not be there. I shall rise and pass.
       Bury my heart at Wounded Knee.”

It was long after the publication of “American Names” that its final line became associated with the Wounded Knee massacre.

That literary connection was made in 1970, when American historian and novelist Dee Brown used Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee as the title of a groundbreaking book that tells the history of the American West from the Indians’ perspective.

Since the publication of Brown’s book, the phrase “Bury my heart at Wounded Knee” has been inextricably linked to the massacre that took place at Wounded Knee on December 29, 1890.

It has also been used to poetically encapsulate a broader sense of loss, sadness and outrage over the historic mistreatment Indians in North America.

Perhaps the most poignant use was by the great Canadian Cree singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie.

In 1990, she wrote a song titled “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” which comments on the continuing abuse of Indians and Indian rights by governments and big corporations.

The chorus goes:

       “Bury my heart at Wounded Knee
       Deep in the earth
       Cover me with pretty lies
       Bury my heart at Wounded Knee.”

I understand that Stephen Vincent Benét is considered to be a great poet and that many people like “American Names.”

Personally, I prefer Dee Brown’s book and Buffy Sainte-Marie’s song. If you read his book and listen to her song, you may understand why some people view Benét’s gushingly patriotic poem as “pretty lies.”


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Further reading, viewing and listening…

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