May 24, 2018

Watch and Write . . . by Brendon Marks

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A guy once said, “Don’t knock the weather; nine-tenths of the people couldn’t start a conversation if it didn’t change once in a while.” It has been attributed to Kin Hubbard, but when you stop to think about it, who said it is not important. What’s really important is that somebody wrote down that somebody said it. Does the guy who wrote it down ever get any credit?

Mark Twain was another guy who was always saying pithy things like that and not once was it ever recorded that he said, “Hey, that was pithy. I guess I should write it down in case somebody wants to know who said it.”

The world is split into many pieces, there are doers, sayers, observers, and of course, guys who watch professional wrestling. The doers do things, some sayers say things and the observers watch the doers and other sayers report back to us folks who couldn’t be there in person.

The bad part about this process is the best things that are done and said are usually spontaneous. So, sometimes the observers get caught off-guard. The doers and sayers rarely say, “Now pay attention, because you’ll wanna write this down.” That’s why a few days later there might be a big debate about who did what and who said what.

I’ve also seen the same quotation attributed to at least three different men. All three could have said it, but who said it first? And if the second and third guys never knew the first guy said it, does that make it any less unique a thought? A famous composer once said, “The space between the notes is just as important as the notes.” Who said it? Was it Bach or Beethoven? Could they have said it? Do you think they ever thought it? Probably, but no one was there to write it down, so the rock star Sting gets the credit.

Accuracy of the observer is also important. If it were not for accuracy, “Four score and seven years ago…” may have been recorded as “A fur piece back…” Which brings up another point; there is little doubt that those words were Abe Lincoln’s original thoughts. But, in these days of speechwriters, how can we be sure that the right person gets the credit? “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” would be cool even if it were said by Kermit the Frog, but Kennedy gets credit because he said it on TV. Was it his idea?

We’ll never know, and that’s not the point. There is no doubt he said it, and because people don’t normally talk that way, there’s a pretty good chance he was the first to say it in public. The speechwriter might have practiced this line several times before even suggesting it to Kennedy. He might have even gotten some resistance about it. Kennedy could have read it and said, “I can’t say this, people don’t talk this way.” Or, “Hey this is cool. How much do I pay you?”

So, the bottom line is…the person who gets the idea is least important, the one who says it out loud is next, but the real star is he who writes it down.

From now on, I’d like to see every quotation attributed to who said it, and who says they said it. That should start some fights.

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