Best Of Not By Shakespeare

AI Shakespeare

A significant portion of my traffic – I’m talking strong double digits here – is related to my collection of Not By Shakespeare posts. Once upon a time, I started collecting those social media posts that you see all the time with quotes like “When I saw you, I fell in love, and you smiled because you knew.” And they’re attributed to Shakespeare, and you know perfectly well Shakespeare is not the author. You can never find a reference to what play (or sonnet or poem) the original came from because there isn’t one.

Then again, traffic’s traffic, so I might as well lean into it!

Top Ten Not By Shakespeare Posts

  1. I love thee, I love but thee With a love that shall not die Till the sun grows cold And the stars grow old. I personally love this quote and have used it on occasion. Just because it’s not by Shakespeare doesn’t mean it’s not a nice sentiment. I’m surprised to see it so low.
  2. When a father gives to his son, both laugh; when a son gives to his father, both cry. I honestly don’t even understand this one.
  3. If you love and get hurt, love more. If you love more and hurt more, love even more. This is what we in the computer programming business call an infinite loop.
  4. Everyone I meet is in some way my superior. In that I learn from him. This one’s got some actual credentials – it’s from Ralph Waldo Emerson.
  5. New friends may be poems, but old friends are alphabets. Do not forget alphabets, because you will need them to read the poems. What does this even mean?
  6. Expectation Is The Root Of All Heartache I would have thought this to be the most popular since it’s the simplest to search for. But I suppose it comes in too many generic variations for them all to find their way here.
  7. Love me or hate me, both are in my favor … This one brings serious “If you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best” vibes.
  8. Do not go gentle into that good night. I feel like this could have worked its way into Shakespeare’s work at some point. But Dylan Thomas gets credit for this one.
  9. I Would Challenge You To A Battle Of Wits, But I See You Are Unarmed This is a stubborn one. It pops up everywhere. I’m doing a project right now where I asked ChatGPT to generate a database of Shakespeare quotes for me, and sure enough, I had to pluck this one out — five times. It may remind you of Beatrice and Benedick, but she had something different to say about Benedick’s lack of wit.
  10. You say that you love rain, but you open your umbrella when it rains. Far and away the winner, there are weeks where my entire first page of search results is just variations of this quote. I’m happy that years after first posting it, we finally tracked down the original author. That probably helps!

I’ve got about thirty posts in the Not By Shakespeare category, but ninety percent of the traffic lands on one of the above. By listing them here, I hope that this page will get some traffic of its own. People can bookmark it for future queries.

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!)

Not By Shakespeare : Little Candles and Weary Worlds

I’ve been auto posting a bunch of Shakespeare quotes to Twitter lately, and watching the analytics to see which ones people seem to like most.  A popular one was:

How far that little candle throws its beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world. – Merchant of Venice (Act V, Scene I)

I thought I’d make a new t-shirt out of it. But the more I looked at it the more I thought, “Wait, did Shakespeare really use the word naughty?  Let me double check.” Because if there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s when I make a mistake on a Shakespeare quote.

I start typing “So shines a good deed” into Google and helpful Google pops up in autocomplete “in a weary world.”

Oh! Ok, that makes more sense I suppose.  Then I thought, shoot, did I tweet the wrong quote?  So I force Google to search “in a naughty world”.  Sure enough, hits for that one too!

What’s going on?

When in doubt, off to the First Folio we go!

Interesting! It’s the same in Q1 (I like to check there as well because sometimes it changed!)

So then where did weary come into it?  Though this may not have been the first example of the mistake, you’ll soon see why it’s so popular:

Mr. Wonka’s not the only one weary of this naughty world. Google tells me that “weary” is actually the more popular of the two!

Bardfilm’s got a theory that “naughty” was simply edited down for a the kids’ film.  From what I can tell, he’s not wrong. He’s a 2005 “Straight Dope” post about the topic:

It goes on to say that Setzer tweaked the line, probably to be less archaic and more reflective of Wonka’s character.

(The original link the researcher found is dead.)

I’m ok with this answer – it’s better than, “They changed it because they felt like it.”  The movie is over, and this is the big climactic moment for Wilder’s character.  Is his primary thought that the world is a naughty place?  Or is he just so very tired of it being that way?  Not to spoil the ending but he’s about to make some decisions that answer that question.

Explore more Not By Shakespeare posts!

Not By Shakespeare : An Empty Barrel Makes The Most Noise

Last week there was a bit of nonsense in the news when some politician called another politician and “empty barrel” making the most noise.  I do know the names of all parties involved, but we’re not here for the politics so why get into it?  The comment probably would have gone unnoticed, like so many idioms might, if it were not for the fact that woman on the receiving end of the comment immediately said, “That’s racist.”

Many people, myself among them, would be quick to point out that it’s not racist, it’s Shakespeare.  Henry V, Act IV Scene 4:

I did never know so full a voice issue from so
empty a heart: but the saying is true ‘The empty
vessel makes the greatest sound.’

I even repeated on Twitter that Shakespeare is the source of this quote.  But, for the record, he’s not.  It even says so right there in context if I’d been paying attention — “the saying is true”. It was already a saying when Shakespeare wrote it down.

The saying seems to date all the way back to Plato, although I can’t find any specific references as of yet.  Anybody got one, so we can make it official?

What I’m finding interesting is that the more I look into it the more I’m not sure I know what it was originally supposed to mean.  These days it’s used to imply that the people without anything intelligent to say (the empty barrels) are precisely the ones that won’t shut up.  But I’m not sure that’s what Plato would have meant?  I could just as easily imagine it as more complimentary — “The person who is always open to learning new things is the one who will make the biggest impact in the world.”  That’s pretty much the opposite.

There’s supposedly a second half to the quote, “So they that have the least wit are the greatest blabbers,” which would clearly suggest the first meaning is the intended one.  But I learned a long time ago not to simply believe something is true because it shows up in a quotes database on the internet.


A Light Heart Lives Long

Saw “A light heart lives long” today and immediately thought, “Nah, that doesn’t sound like Shakespeare.”  Did some quick googling, and it looks like something more in the “old Irish proverb” category (“Maireann croí éadrom i bhfad.“)

But guess what?  If we allow for the words to evolve a little bit over the centuries, however, look what I find in Henry IV Part 2, Act V, Scene 3:

A light heart lives long, a merry heart lives long
Light, merry, same difference.

Conclusion: “A Light Heart Lives Long” is Confirmed

So it looks like we can give Shakespeare credit for this one, after all! It’s a drinking song.

Now, whether or not he’s the first one to say it that’s a whole different story. But we’ll let all those Instagram and Pinterest posters get off easy this time.