They’re both frequently misquoted.
For some reason, I started getting more and more into the concept of misquotations this summer, which resulted in many late nights on the computer, googling and researching just where these popular sayings came from and why they’re falsely attributed to these influential figures.
The quote that really set me off on this not-quite-obsession was the quote attributed to Winnie the Pooh, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” It’s a beautiful statement and sure does sound like something our tubby little cubby would say to his dear friend Piglet. I connect with the sentiment quite a bit, as I feel the absence of people I love halfway across the country or even an hour away.
But A.A. Milne never wrote that. For that matter, Winnie the Pooh has never said that in any iteration of the character. It is actually a quote from a movie The Other Side of the Mountain, based on E.G. Valens’ book A Long Way Up. The often misquoted line appears in the last few minutes of the movie where Kenmont says, “I remember the words that Dick Buek said to me the last time I saw him: How lucky I am to have known somebody and something that saying goodbye to is so damned awful.”
A fun website that I found while reading about this is Pooh Misquoted, a website dedicated to debunking popular Winnie the Pooh quotes and attempting to find the real sources. Quote Investigator is another good website for this kind of purpose, and I have spent an embarrassing amount of time perusing the site when I find myself unable to sleep.
The next quote actually fell into my lap while I was looking for inspiration for creating my blog and continuing this little writing project. I wanted to read some wise words about the writing process that would hopefully keep me going in the inevitable times when I just don’t want to write.
The quote is attributed to Ernest Hemingway, and it states, “It is easy to write. Just sit in front of your typewriter and bleed.” I enjoy horrific and strange metaphors, so this quote was very suitable for my purposes.
But after my experience with A. A. Milne and Winnie the Pooh, I wasn’t about to tout about this quote without proper research first. So, I hopped onto Quote Investigator and to no surprise found out that there is much much more than meets the eye when it concerns this statement.
To summarise, there is some debate concerning the quote’s origins, but it seems that Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith, a newspaper columnist, seems to have said something similar to this sentiment in 1949. He was asked whether writing a daily column was a chore, and he replied that it wasn’t, saying, “You simply sit down at the typewriter, open your veins, and bleed.”
And another sportswriter, Paul Gallico, wrote in 1946 that “It is only when you open your veins and bleed onto the page a little that you establish contact with your reader.”
There are more quotes from more writers that establish the relationship between the blood of the writer and their words, and I appreciate them quite a bit. I think there’s something special about the sentiment. It connects the life and essence of a writer to their writing and portrays a sort of violence that doesn’t destroy, but creates something worth sharing.
But that matter aside, Ernest Hemingway definitely did not say anything of the sort (that we know of). It is possible that in Hemingway and Gellhorn, a movie concerning the relationship between Hemingway and his third wife, Martha Gellhorn, that Hemingway states the offending quote. I haven’t watched the movie yet, but I certainly will and I’ll update this post when I comb through the movie to make sure.
In all of this, I’ve learned a little bit more about the importance of citation and confirming the accuracy of what I read and write. I hope that it will serve me well for the upcoming academic year as I once again immerse myself in MLA format.
And if this doesn’t serve as some directly applicable lesson in citations, it will hopefully help to inspire me to keep bleeding.