A good quote uplifts and raises eyebrows, inspires and impresses, gets reused, rehashed, and remembered, and you can quote me on that! But why are some better than others, do some last longer than others, and some get used more often than not?
There doesn’t seem to be any hard and fast rules about what makes a good quote, but trawling through some websites, the biggest quota of quotes tend to be succinct, insightful, memorable, relatable, clever, and often humorous.
Great quotes come from great people from all walks of life, all corners of the world, and from all demographics, but the most prolific quoters tend to be political and religious leaders, authors, performers, and artists – probably because they get a lot more air time, have probably reached their position by being articulate, witty, charismatic, and most importantly, many have a team of excellent speech writers behind them.
The power of a quote is not to be underestimated. We’ve all heard the classics like John. F. Kennedy’s “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”, Mahatma Gandhi’s “Be the change that you wish to see in the world”, and Martin Luther King’s “Seeing is not always believing” – but these quotes are not only well known for being good sound bites, they also made an impact on the ways of the world, and it was with words like these that helped their speakers achieve great things.
England’s had its fair share of great orators, but the best would have to be the cantankerous, but always witty, Winston Churchill. These two exchanges alone should cement his position in the hall of fame for best one-liners ever!
Bessie Braddock: “Sir, you are drunk.”
Churchill: “Madam, you are ugly. In the morning, I shall be sober.”
Nancy Astor: “Sir, if you were my husband, I would give you poison.”
Churchill: “If I were your husband I would take it.”
Well known writer/actor/director Woody Allen has over 300 quotes attributed to him, perhaps planned, perhaps unintended, but either way, he’s always funny and insightful, which is reflected in his hundreds of filmmaking credits.
“I'm not afraid of death; I just don't want to be there when it happens.”
“I took a test in Existentialism. I left all the answers blank and got 100.”
“I'm not anti-social. I'm just not social.”
It’s not surprising that poets and authors rack up a huge amount of quotes too, with Shakespeare being the most prolific of all time, followed closely by Mark Twain “Sing like no one's listening, love like you've never been hurt, dance like nobody's watching, and live like it’s heaven on earth”, and the insightful “If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything”.
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
“Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.”
“One should always be in love. That is the reason one should never marry.”
“I can resist everything except temptation.”
Buxom blondes are famous for a few good quotes too, with Mae West’s sharp wit well ahead of her time:
“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”
And poor, sweet, Marilyn Monroe proved to be not quite as ditzy as the studios portrayed her to be:
“What do I wear in bed? Why, Chanel No. 5, of course.”
“I've been on a calendar, but I've never been on time.”
“Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius, and it's better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”
A good quote makes you think, laugh, get motivated, change your attitude, challenge your beliefs, and sometimes, all of the above – what are your favourites, and why?