Not By Shakespeare : Women Speak Two Languages, One Of Which Is Verbal

It’s been a long time since I did a “Not By Shakespeare”. But I’ve been looking around for material to put on t-shirts and merchandise and spotted this one, which just didn’t feel right.

The easiest way to tell a Not By Shakespeare is to ask, “Ok, what’s the citation?” What play or sonnet or poem does it come from? Surely when it’s so popular that there’s pages upon pages of Google results, one of them will have a source attribution. Once you have that, you can head to Open Source Shakespeare or something and check.

As you can imagine, I found none. Everywhere I find is just attributed to William Shakespeare.

Ok, second approach – look for the more interesting words in the quote, and search the text for those words. This is a little trickier because we have to allow for quotes to evolve over time, and take Shakespeare’s original spelling into account. First I went looking for “verbal“, which is easy – Shakespeare only used the word four times. None in a context that could be construed as the source for this quote.

Then I tried “language” and that’s trickier with 41 hits. But again, nothing useful. It’s at this point that I judge this quote Not By Shakespeare.

But then we have to ask, “Can we figure out where the quote does come from?” That’s where Google does sometimes help. I originally searched “women speak two languages” and found this:

“All women speak two languages:
the language of men
and the language of silent suffering.
Some women speak a third,
the language of queens.”

Mohja Kahf, “E-Mails from Scheherazad”

Cool. This appears to be dated 2003. Then we ask, “Were people using this quote before 2003?” If so, maybe the poet got her inspiration from that. If not, maybe the reverse. The quote here isn’t exactly the same thing as the one attributed to Shakespeare, but it’s the closest we’ve got to a lead.

Which leads us here, to a “fortune file” – ancient Unix speak for “quote file”. Google dates this file in 2000 but right in the URL it says 2013 so I’m doubtful. However, it attributes the quote to a Steve Rubenstein so now I have something else to Google.

And then I found this article from 2010 that tells me to stop Googling for the night.

Because it’s me. I’ve already been down this rabbit hole. Gives “googling yourself” a whole different meaning! (Although I guess that definitely proves it didn’t come from the 2013 poem!)

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