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Identify a Quote
Most people have a favorite quotation that they use whenever they can. Few people, though, have the answer to that oft asked question: Who said it?

Identifying a quote is fun and interesting. Sometimes it's as easy as a simple search, and other times it takes more elbow grease. The following is the best procedure to tracking down a quote.

Step I. Question your wording.
It's almost impossible to remember something you hear verbatim. And what you do remember often changes in wording over time - the thing that you remember is the essence of the remark.

In order to track down the quote, you need to be open to the possibility that the wording, or even the entire quote, is utterly different than how you remember it. This is even more true of exceptionally common quotes. For example:

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."
Is actually a paraphrase of a statement by Plato:

"Remember how in that communion only, beholding beauty with the eye of the mind, he will be enabled to bring forth, not images of beauty, but realities (for he has hold not of an image but of a reality), and bringing forth and nourishing true virtue to become the friend of God and be immortal, if mortal man may."
-Plato, Symposium

Step II. Run a search.
The Quoteland search engine will often help you track down the words you're looking for with ease. Select one unique word or word root from your quote for which you can search. In the above example, "beauty" would be a good one, as would "behold" (a word root). "Beholder" would not succeed, as it is not in the original quote. Enter that word into the search box below, and see what you find.


If the search engine had no related results, either we don't have your quote or the word as spelled does not exist in the quote. Check your spelling, and try again. Then try another word. If you still haven't found the quote, it's time to move on to the next step.

Step III. Ask the discussion groups.
Quoteland has a unique community of literary scholars who love to do research on difficult quotes. They are not paid workers, but simply kind people who enjoy the challenge of attempting to find the origin of an obscure line. They help as many people as they can, and can often provide an answer in time.

Click here to proceed to the "Who said it?" discussion board.

The first step to using the discussion groups is to search through previous posts. Take a look through the last six weeks' posts to see if anyone asked the same thing and received an answer. If the research has already been done, take advantage of that fact.

If your question has not been answered in the recent past, there's no time like the present to ask it. If you have not already done so, go through the free registration process by clicking on the "register" icon (upper right, under the words "Quotations Forum"). Now you are fully able to post your question.

Head for "Who said it?" and then select the "Post New Topic" button. Enter in the username and password you created when you registered. Then politely pose your question.

You have now posed the question to the world. Check back every day to see if you've been answered. This is not all you can do, however. While you are waiting, or if you do not receive results, the old-fashioned library is a good place to go.

Step IV. Go to the library.
Most libraries will have a text capable of providing the source of any quote. Go to the nearest library and pose your question to the reference librarian. The librarian will be able to direct you to several good places to check, and will help you do your research.

This should answer almost any quotation question. And remember, don't rush the process - research takes time. If you need to know for an article, speech or paper, begin the research well before the deadline. That way, you'll always be high and dry.

Good luck, and have fun! :-)


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