Quotations about   originality

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What is originality? Undetected plagiarism. This is probably itself a plagiarism, but I cannot remember who said it before me. If originality means thinking for oneself, and not thinking differently from other people, a man does not forfeit his claim to it by saying things which have occurred to others.

William Ralph Inge (1860-1954) English prelate [Dean Inge]
London Evening Standard (1927)

Parallel to this, in James Marchant, ed., Wit and Wisdom of Dean Inge (1927), Inge is cited as saying, "Originality, I fear, is too often only undetected and frequently unconscious plagiarism."

The sentiment is, appropriately, not original with Inge; see here for more discussion and earlier uses.
Added on 14-Sep-20 | Last updated 14-Sep-20
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Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren’t very new after all.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) American lawyer, politician, US President (1861-65)

Recounted in the Pennsylvania School Journal, Vol. 46, #7 (Jan 1898) as an anecdote from a clergyman printed in the New York Tribune.
Added on 25-May-17 | Last updated 25-May-17
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Reading after a certain age diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking, just as the man who spends too much time in the theater is tempted to be content with living vicariously instead of living his own life.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) German-American physicist
“What Life Means to Einstein,” Interview with G. Viereck, Saturday Evening Post (26 Oct 1929)

Reprinted in George Sylvester Viereck, Glimpses of the Great (1930).
Added on 28-Jul-16 | Last updated 24-Feb-21
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The most original modern authors are not so because they advance what is new, but simply because they know how to put what they have to say, as if it had never been said before.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) German poet, statesman, scientist
“The Poet’s Year,” A Criticism of the Poems of J. H. Voss [tr. Austin]
Added on 22-Jul-14 | Last updated 22-Jul-14
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The original writer is not he who refrains from imitating others, but he who can be imitated by none.

[L’écrivain original n’est pas celui qui n’imite personne, mais celui que personne ne peut imiter.]

François-René de Chateaubriand (1768-1848) French writer, politican, diplomat
The Genius of Christianity [Le génie du Christianisme], Part 2, Book 1, ch. 3 (1802)

Alternate translations:
  • "The original style is not the style which never borrows of any one, but that which no other person is capable of reproducing." [tr. White (1856)]
  • "An original writer is not one who imitates nobody, but one whom nobody can imitate."
Added on 22-Apr-14 | Last updated 22-Apr-14
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When we are convinced of some great truths, and feel our convictions keenly, we must not fear to express it, although others have said it before us. Every thought is new when an author expresses it in a manner peculiar to himself.

Luc de Clapiers, Marquis de Vauvenargues (1715-1747) French moralist, essayist, soldier
Reflections and Maxims [Réflexions et maximes] (1746) [tr. Lee (1903)]
Added on 12-Dec-13 | Last updated 12-Dec-13
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Originality is the fine art of remembering what you hear, but forgetting where you heard it.

Lawrence J. Peter (1919-1990) American educator, management theorist
The Peter Principle (1969)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 3-Apr-20
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