Nothing about everything

A few posts ago, talking about the way quotations are (mis-)attributed to people, I said:

Sometimes, an idea is stated in different ways before someone creates the most-quoted form of it, so it’s hard to say who should get the credit.

I have been thinking about the quotation, in probably its most familiar form:

A specialist knows more and more about less and less until he knows everything about nothing. A generalist knows less and less and more and more until he knows nothing about everything.

Quote Investigator traces the quotation from the first attested “We are getting to know more and more about less and less” (reported as the saying of “a distinguished Scotsman”) to various expanded forms. The exact originator depends on which exact form you use.

I am definitely a generalist. Although my blog posts are mostly about language(s) and (because I’ve most recently studied linguistics and been working as an ESL teacher and/or magazine or legal editor during this time), I’ve also posted about music (my first study), geography/travel/tourism, science/maths, history, bible study/theology and photography (my dabbles) (and probably more). If I had set out to be more general in my blog posts, I might have named it Nothing about everything. In fact, there are blogs with titles very close to that, and the Urban Dictionary has:

a genre of blogs in which the content means everything to the author but nothing to most everyone else; often abbreviated as “e/n”

(I wouldn’t say that the content of this blog means everything to me, but obviously I put some time and effort into it.)

The main reason I’ve been thinking about this quotation recently is that I’ve had a burst on inquiring about PhD study (again), and one of the problems is that PhD study is expected to be specialised; maybe one particular aspect of one particular language. I’m just not interested in spending four to six years of my life doing that. Unfortunately, universities don’t seem to give PhDs in general studies. Universities expect me to know what I will find by my research. I thought the point of research is not knowing what I will find.

Realistically, this study is less likely to happen, but I need to find out for sure. I might be able to do the same research as an armchair scholar, but there’s less incentive, mostly because there would be less (if any) recognition at the end.

PS WIkipedia has a page about misquotations/misattributions.


Behind every (great/successful) quotation is a mis-attribution

A Facebook friend shared the following:

Winston Churchill loved paraprosdokians, figures of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected.

1. Where there’s a will, I want to be in it.
2. The last thing I want to do is hurt you, but it’s still on my list.
3. Since light travels faster than sound, some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
4. If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong.
5. War does not determine who is right – only who is left.
6. Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
7. They begin the evening news with ‘Good Evening,’ then proceed to tell you why it isn’t.
8. To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.
9. I thought I wanted a career. Turns out, I just wanted pay checks.
10. In filling out an application, where it says, ‘In case of emergency, notify:’ I put “DOCTOR.”
11. I didn’t say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.
12. Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street…with a bald head and a beer gut, and still think they are sexy.
13. Behind every successful man is his woman. Behind the fall of a successful man is usually another woman.
14. A clear conscience is the sign of a fuzzy memory.
15. You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.
16. Money can’t buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to live with.
17. There’s a fine line between cuddling and…holding someone down so they can’t get away.
18. I used to be indecisive. Now I’m not so sure.
19. You’re never too old to learn something stupid.
20. To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.
21. Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.
22. Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.
23. Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.
24. I’m supposed to respect my elders, but now it’s getting harder and harder for me to find one.

Continue reading