Friday, June 12, 2009

The Search for Good Ideas

I wanted to use the quote, "No good deed goes unpunished," in a story, and it occurred to me that although I use the phrase from time to time, I had no idea of its origin. I pulled my copy of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations from my bookcase and found the phrase first in the index under "unpunished."

When I followed the page reference back to the quotations, I was disappointed. The source is anonymous. That piqued my interest, however, and I found almost twenty pages of song verses, sayings, proverbs, and rhymes for which the authors are not known.

These seem especially relevant for the times:

"Keeping up with the Joneses."
.....Popular saying

"A fool and his money are soon parted."
.....English proverb

"Use it up, wear it out;
Make it do, or do without."
.....New England maxim

"You can't use tact with a Congressman! A Congressman is a hog! You must take a stick and hit him on the snout!
.....Remark -- Made by an unidentified cabinet member (possibly Secretary of the Interior Jacob Dolson Cox (1828-1900), quoted by Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams, ch. 17.

"It is a newspaper's duty to print the news and raise hell."
.....The Chicago Times (1861)

If you have a copy of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations in your own reference library, you can find a lot of good article and essay material. For instance, did you know that Henry David Thoreau is credited with this:

"Nothing is so much to be feared as fear."
.....Journal [1906], September 7, 1851

But in similar words, so is the Bible (Proverbs), Montaigne, Francis Bacon, Wellington, and then, finally, Franklin Roosevelt.

The ideas from all this? Articles on personal finance and why people should pay attention to those old sayings. An essay on fear, or simple truths that survive centuries of change. Or a political blog about congressmen who need to be smacked on the snout.

Have a great weekend.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I love quotations! Thanks for sharing these. There are some good websites that also list some great ones.

The one about the Congressmen is hilarious. :)

Mystery Writing is Murder

Karen Walker said...

I love quotes as well, so thanks for these.
Karen Walker

Anonymous said...

I've incorporated a number of quotes from the Bible in my book Breakthrough to give the reader a sense that something of significance was on the immediate horizon.

Case in point, I used, "You cannot put new wine into old wine skins" as a message in an email to a state senator who was about to be murdered for attempting to impede a particular progressive breakthrough. He preferred traditional and to keep the status quo.

So using quotes is a great way to place emphasis on a particular section or idea, or to let the reader know something big is about to happen.

- Stephen Tremp

Galen Kindley--Author said...

So, here's another for you from the a master of one-liners, "I always pass on good advice." Oscar Wilde. I managed to work this into my first book.

Best Regards, Galen

Patricia Stoltey said...

Bartlett's is fun to crack open once in a while, just to see what gems catch my attention. It's one more place to find a great idea for a story, too. And it makes an interesting answer to folks who ask, "Where do you get your ideas?"

Helen Ginger said...

Is there a congressman who doesn't need to be smacked on the snout?

Straight From Hel

Patricia Stoltey said...

Can't think of one offhand, Helen. Sigh.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

I love quotes and sayings and finding out where they originated. "It is a newspaper's duty to print the news and raise hell." I sure wish this is what newspapers still did. Maybe they'd be more popular today if they didn't simply spew their owner's political beliefs.


Patricia Stoltey said...

I agree, Jane. And that goes for televison stations/networks, too.

Terry Odell said...

My favorite quote: Eagles may soar, but turkeys don't get sucked into jet engines.

N A Sharpe said...

I love this! Quotes give us so much to think about and the comments have brought out even more - great fun post!

Nancy, from Just a Thought…

Anonymous said...

I'm a big fan of quotes. I keep a bookmarked page of great quote sites - one of my favorites to quote is Mark Twain - he has a whole book of great ones. :)

The Old Silly From Free Spirit Blog

The Practical Preserver said...

Here's one that fits with what I write:

"Use it up, wear it out, make it do, do without."