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Let’s Get Something Straight. I DO Mind.

(Update: I found the true source of the quote, “Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard,” and it wasn’t Kurt Vonnegut who said it. I was told I should put this first so it shows up in search engines — read on to find out who really said it.)

Today, already, even though the clock has not yet even struck 9, I almost made a mistake.

To many, it’s a mistake not very grave — not worth mentioning in this lighthearted niche in space.

But to me — to me — it’s important.

More important than everything currently comforting my cold-riddled head. More important than fuzzy red socks. More important than over-the-counter meds. More important, even, than Fresh Market’s Red Velvet coffee and let me tell you, my friends, that’s pretty important.

I was muddling around for inspiration this morning, as many of us do, sifting through blog posts and Pinterest pins like piles of fortunes minus the cookies, and I found this. A quote:

“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let the pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.”

And of course I instantly connected, as many undoubtedly have before, and I felt a certain pride in discovering the words and felt they should be shared, almost as though they were my own, as though I deserved as much credit as the writer for spreading the wisdom to the masses.

It’s easier, after all, than doing my own work.

Than creating my own inspiration.

So I actually re-pinned it, just for a minute, and noticed the words were attributed to one of my personal literary heroes, Kurt Vonnegut.

And just as I was about to spread the word all over Facebook, I stopped.

Because something was wrong.

I have not read the complete works of Vonnegut. Not even close. But I’ve read enough of his works and his transcripts from speeches and the opinions of others on the man who faced life with such adoringly contemptuous disdain to know, deep down, that this wasn’t him.

It was too… puffy.

Too inspiring.

So not his style.

Where’s the sardonic undertone? Where’s the pinching cynicism? His uncanny ability to make you feel restless and ignorant and not quite able to understand the punchline but dammit, you’ll go down trying.

No vagina doodles (that link is P.G. I promise. Except for the use of the word ‘vagina.’) for miles around.

It’s too clean. Too sweet.

Drizzled with honey and served with a side of whipped cream.

What I’m trying to say is that it doesn’t have Vonnegut’s je ne sais quoi.

His particular brand of word umami is missing.

(Apparently my knowledge of the English language is insufficient to describe his work.)

So. I deleted the pin. And I set out to do something almost unheard of in today’s social networking frenzy.

I researched.

And it didn’t take long to discover that there was no actual concrete evidence — at least not anything I could discover via a 20-minute internet search — to attribute the quote to Vonnegut. It certainly wasn’t in any of his books or short stories, and, as far as I could tell, it didn’t appear in any of his lectures.

Then, as my impatience started to flare and exasperation started to set in (I know — Vonnegut would’ve been so disappointed in me after 20 whole minutes), I found it.

This teensy little blog post dated 16 August, 2007, from this not-so-teensy little blog called, I Wrote This For You.

The post is called “The Fur” and it consists only of the aforementioned quote and a beautiful black and white photo of a cat. I’m not really sure how the cat is relevant — I guess because it’s soft — but it’s there, and that’s it.

And there, in the comments, one recent reader asks if “I Wrote This For You” is where the quote originated, stating that it seems to be attributed to Vonnegut elsewhere on the web.

The author replies, quite humbly, with, “It’s an honour to have something I wrote attributed to Kurt Vonnegut. I don’t mind.”

Now. After a bit more mild research, I discovered that the author of the site — and the quote — appears to wish to remain anonymous.* Referred to with the pronoun “he” on Amazon.com where you can buy his book, he writes under the pen name “pleasefindthis”  and works closely with a photographer named Jon Ellis. According to Amazon, he is a writer and “new media artist,” whatever that is, and his work “focuses on non-traditional, intimate communication in all its forms.” The blog started as a “project” back in 2007, was published as a book in 2011, and, according to the numbers on his Facebook fan page, has reached quite a few people.

*****

*Update (4/1/2014): So it appears as though this post has gone about as viral as I could ever expect a post from my blog to go, and I’m SO happy more people are realizing the misattribution of this quote. Since I wrote this post one grumpy morning back in 2012, the author, Iain Thomas, has emerged from anonymity. You can find him on Twitter with the handle @iwrotethisforyou. And, since we now know his name and I was even able to find a photo (I hope he doesn’t mind), I did what should’ve been done long ago — created a meme with the right credit for the words. So what are you waiting for? Pin it!

IainThomas

*****

It all seems a little hokey to me — especially as someone who admires the works of Vonnegut — but. I understand the need for the persona. His entire project reads as though your conscious — your you — is speaking to you. It starts with the words,

“I need you to understand something. I wrote this for you. I wrote this for you and only you. Everyone else who reads it, doesn’t get it. They may think they get it, but they don’t. This is the sign you’ve been looking for.”

The typo (or is it?) in that first entry, titled, “Thank God You Found This” using the word “celebratory” instead of “celebrity” is distracting. And humanizing.

So while I may not understand or fully appreciate the entire project, I still love the quote.

And I certainly can’t deny that he’s a writer.

So. Let’s get one thing straight.

Writers deserve to be heard.

And they deserve to be credited for the gifts they give when they speak to us.

Directly to us.

Now I feel the need to check everything I’ve shared. To make sure I’m giving credit where credit is due.

How about we all, in the future, do the same?

*steps down from pedestal*

Katie

Thank you for reading Domestiphobia! This post might contain affiliate links. Knowing you stopped by totally validates the time I spend here, so leave a comment. Preferably a nice one. I'm also on Facebook, Twitter, and sometimes Instagram if you want to connect.

Comments

Sara @ Russet Street Reno
Reply

I’ve been seeing a lot of quotes incorrectly attributed to writers, Shakespeare, etc…it’s nice to see someone research before blindly sharing/pinning something. It is important! You know what is weird? I’m not on Pinterest. I just don’t get the appeal. I think I’m the only woman in the US that doesn’t pin. Oh well!

Katie
Reply

Haha, that’s crazy! I never really got into Twitter, but I was immediately hooked on Pinterest. It’s this fantastic way to finally organize all of those ideas I find online. If I bookmark them, I never go back. So this is perfect!

Stephanie
Reply

Oooh!! Well done, you!

Katie
Reply

Thanks. :)

Andrew Wells Douglass
Reply

Thank you! I knew at first sniff this was not KV, though I come at it from the other direction as a non-fan.

Suggestion: I like your detective work and commentary but could you indicate up top that you debunked the attribution and found the true source? The misquote is EVERYWHERE (doubtlessly worse than when you searched) and that way your statement might make it into the search engine preview for the other picky people out there.

Katie
Reply

You’re not a KV fan?

Get off my blog.

Ha! Kidding. :) I added a note at the top. I’m not sure how all of this internet SEO stuff works, so let me know if you don’t think that will do the trick. Thanks for stopping by!

Shane
Reply

Are the author and Jon Ellis the same person? The domain name was registered by Jon Ellis…

Katie
Reply

Ooh, you might be on to something! Or at least a couple of possible real names for him… Way to go on your detective work!

Christine
Reply

Ironically I found this quote in a FB post by Huffington Post and went searching to see if it really was KV.

Katie
Reply

Haha, HuffPo misquoted it??!

Sandy
Reply

Well I just set some admin on a Facebook page straight. Quoting those lines and putting their name at the bottom. The author is Iain Thomas, the pictures are taken by someone else in Japan, Jon Ellis if I’m not mistaken. Iain has written a book, Intentional dissonance and btw, portions of I wrote This For You found itself in a hard copy. yes, a book. can you tell that I’m a fan? LOL

Katie
Reply

You found his name! Your research skills far exceed mine. :) Thanks for sharing!

Iain Thomas
Reply

This was incredibly kind of you, thank you.

Katie
Reply

You’re very welcome. You write beautiful words and, humble as you may be, you should receive the credit for your gift. Vonnegut gets enough. :)

Sandy
Reply

LOL no worries Katie, Glad I found your site too

Elizabeth
Reply

So nice to see someone take the effort to credit this properly and also note why doing so is important. As an artist I feel the same about images incorrectly credited (or no credit at all). If I am going to share something, I want to be respectful and make sure I credit it. Thanks for our post and it’s good to see comments from others who get it!

Katie
Reply

So true! I’ve been guilty of not taking the time to find the proper source for images – something I’m working on doing better and more often! Much of the time people aren’t “stealing” art or providing improper sources to be spiteful — they just don’t want to take the time to hunt down the source. It’s just about trying to be a little more respectful. :)

Elizabeth
Reply

“your post” (sorry, typing too fast!)

rdww2011
Reply

Great research!

As a fellow Vonnegut fanatic… I’ll note that there are plenty of inspiring quotes out there actually written by him —> e.g. http://www.avclub.com/articles/15-things-kurt-vonnegut-said-better-than-anyone-el,1858/

(There’s also a chain email about some commencement speech by Kurt Vonnegut, not spoken by him… for me, I just stick to the books with his name on it… there is plenty of great stuff there!)

“We must be careful about what we pretend to be.”

Katie
Reply

It’s funny you linked to that page – I’ve read that article and pinned it on Pinterest. Love it!

I still stand by my original assertion though that this misquote does not sound like him, which is why I decided to research it. It’s too flowery. So maybe “too inspiring” was the wrong phrase to use, because you’re right – he can certainly be inspiring. Just not in this quite so obvious, in-your-face way. Know what I mean? :)

Amy Michelle Barry
Reply

Thank you for doing this research.
I just saw a cute baby pic with this quote attributed to Vonnegut and, although the words were sweet, they did not ring true to me as being from Vonnegut.

Katie
Reply

Not Vonnegut, but beautiful words! I’m glad you found this. :)

jd
Reply

I, too didn’t think it was Vonnegut, but do like the quote (poem?). KV’s plenty quotable, but it would be something a little more blunt, like this, maybe. Maybe not.

Be soft. Wait, don’t be too soft. People will take advantage of you and believe me, you don’t want that. The world will make you hard, if you let it. Don’t let it. Unless you want to be hard. Pain will suck the life out of you and maybe even cause you to hate and be bitter and steal your kindness. Pain sucks. Even though the rest of the world may spit in your cornflakes, know that they are wrong. And you are right. Or at least, not spitting in their cornflakes.

Katie
Reply

HA! Nicely done!!

jd
Reply

Oh and there would be doodles to go along with that, too, if it were Vonnegut (RIP).

anarchistmom
Reply

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I lose hours of productivity to this kind of thing. Like there is no way in hell Albert Camus ever wrote “blessed are the hearts that bend, for they shall never break.” He didn’t. It was quoted from a Catholic saint in a 19th century book by Jean Pierre Camus. I knew Vonnegut hadn’t written this one either–wrong “umami” as you said so well!

Katie
Reply

You’re welcome! Just a few minutes ago I pinned another meme supposedly quoting Flannery O’Connor. I wasn’t able to find the direct source for that one – maybe we should start a new standard where you not only need to credit the person’s name, but the book/speech/etc. in which he/she said the phrase. And I definitely love the “umami” of this quote, but yep. It’s not Vonnegut’s. :)

Stephanie
Reply

Another person thinking that this was just too sweet to be KV. Glad I found this!!

Katie
Reply

I’m glad you did, too! There are SO many misquotes floating around out there — I’m not sure why people take the time to put the wrong name on a meme. It boggles my mind.

Alana
Reply

Landed here after seeing the quote on Pinterest & also not believing it was Vonnegut…interesting read! Thanks!

Katie
Reply

Thanks for taking the time to comment! You inspired me to update this post yet again — I created a new meme with the right attribution. Feel free to pin and maybe we can slowly weed out all of those misattributed Vonnegut memes. :)

EDK
Reply

Thank you. It was in doing the same research, for the same reasons, that I discovered this information. So happy I’m not the only one who wants to attribute to proper sources.

Katie
Reply

I’m so glad you found this! You’d think if people were going to purposefully slap the wrong name on a quote, they’d at least pick one that’s believable. ;)

Tiana
Reply

Thank you for posting this! Authors bleed on paper. They shouldn’t have their words taken. I’m such a snob it bothers me when people attribute lines from movies to their actors. Excuse me, how deep do you really think Audrey Hepburn was? A writer put his heart and soul into that. Audrey hepburn didn’t spout poetry to the paparazzi.

Katie
Reply

Ha, that is SUCH a good point — and one I’d never really thought of! I have to admit I’m guilty of that, though I guess subconsciously I was aware I was attributing to the wrong source because I’d always include the movie as well — not just the actor’s name. I suppose screenwriters have to get used to the fact that someone else usually gets the glory for the brilliant lines they write. Thanks for putting that in some perspective!

ramonlp4
Reply

Ha Ha! Nice article I was JUST questioning this “Vonnegut Quote” on facebook and it only confirmed my gut feeling that the attribution was rubbish. These kind of viral misattributions are my biggest pet peeve on sical media ever since last year when my band released a 7″ with a title that we attributed it to the author (Kinky Friedman) from whom we not only quoted but asked permission to use the quote. Yet, despite the formal attribution, people would tell us how much they loved this “Bukowski quote.” To our surprise we found that people kept saying this because the internet had a misattribution that had gone viral to the point where sites like Good Reads had attributed it to Bukowski without question. It was very,very tiresome to correct people repeatedly on this and the experience left me never, ever trusting these kinds of posts again.

Anyhow thanks for posting.

Katie
Reply

No problem! Isn’t it crazy how people just slap a name on something rather than looking it up? It blows my mind. Good Reads should be required to post a source with their quotes since the site makes itself look like an “authority” on quotes. Ah well… Thanks for taking the time to look this one up, and congrats on the release! “Find What You Love and Let It Kill You” is an excellent title. ;)

jgnels13
Reply

thank you! i was on Pinterest, too, as I discovered the quote! Then seeing Vonnegut as the author it seemed exactly as you described… simply, it didn’t add up. your research is much appreciated! to know the true author and spread his words.

Katie
Reply

And they are definitely beautiful words! (Just not Vonnegut.) :) I’m glad you took the time to find the real writer! The internet needs more people like you.

lostinliterature108
Reply

This quote showed up on my facebook feed this morning and I thought…..uh, no way that is Kurt Vonnegut. I’ve only read one of his books, Slaughterhouse Five, and I think I learned enough about him then to know he was quite cynical. Then I thought, maybe he softened in old age…
Anyway, I googled RIGHT AWAY after seeing the meme and found your post.
Great job on the research.
I’ve got a couple more Vonneguts loaded on my Kindle.

Katie
Reply

Haha, good catch! Especially after reading only one of his books. But yeah… he’s pretty transparent about his cynicism. It really makes you wonder who takes one person’s words and just randomly sticks a different name on them. Why?? Enjoy your other Vonnegut readings! A particular favorite of mine is the short story, “Harrison Bergeron.”

Wendy
Reply

THANK YOU!!! I have not read Kurt Vonnegut to any great extent. However, when I read this quote, I thought to myself, where did he write THAT? I have to find the text, because it has to be more positive than Cat’s Cradle… I hit on Iwrotetha’s website first and was going to have to return due to time constraints… the I found you!!! So thanks for blogging about this.

Katie
Reply

You’re welcome!! It’s funny that without having read much Vonnegut, it’s still very obvious this wasn’t him. A very talented writer, but definitely a different tone. I’m glad I could help give credit where it’s due!

velveteen
Reply

Excellent job — we should all remember that. I was thinking the exact same thing when I saw that — it just wasn’t Vonnnegutsy enough. I’ve read practically every word the man wrote and I appreciate what you’ve done.

Katie
Reply

I think “Vonnegutsy” is my new favorite adjective. :) Thanks for the nice comment!

KatherintheSky
Reply

I totally understand one’s need to research in order to correctly attribute quotes – but not if it causes needless stress or even a sense of superiority over those who just “blindly” share a misattributed quote. Sometimes I got that from this article and from some of the comments.
What about if people just see a quote that just powerfully resonates with them and they can’t wait to immediately share it with the rest of the world (or at least within their own social media circles) that they fail to do their research? Not everyone will do research. Should we kill off the positive vibe garnered from the wisdom itself by being superior? Or gracefully correct the misattribution and move on, because the most important thing is the wisdom itself.

Katie
Reply

I completely understand what you’re saying — sometimes a piece of writing resonates with us so profoundly that we simply must share it. But that’s exactly why I feel so strongly about making sure it has the correct attribution. When a talented writer does his job and speaks to us in a way that, like you said, sends a positive vibe, it’s almost criminal to continue blindly spreading it while giving credit to another author. And I’m certainly not coming from a place of superiority — after all, I say right up front that I almost did the same thing. (And I most definitely have done it plenty of times before, and will probably do it again.) But can’t you agree that while we might not take time to research the true source of every quote that comes our way, it’s important that when something strikes us as feeling “wrong,” we should pause for a second and find out why? Especially if it’s a quote that makes you immediately want to share it. As a fan of someone’s work — another person in this world who moved you through words — the best (and most gracious) thanks you can give is credit where it’s due.

KatherintheSky
Reply

Thanks for your reply. I understand your point. I do agree that we must give credit where credit is due – but at the same time I also believe that if someone does fail to give proper credit then the other person who has done research should take care not to adopt a condescending attitude when pointing out the mistake, thereby creating a negative vibe and sense of division to an otherwise positive shared experience. This positive shared experience then gets lost in the process of figuring out who came up on top in terms of being research-savvy.
It still doesn’t change the actual message – which I think is much more important than the author, or the social media messenger, the next time we are tempted to feel “better” than the “blind” masses.

The mistake should simply, gracefully be pointed out in order to remember what brought us together in the first place: the message, no matter how flawed its package (in this case, a well-meaning error in author attribution).

Katie
Reply

I suppose we’ll have to agree to disagree. If you choose to focus on the negative aspect of me expressing my belief that giving proper credit is incredibly important (for the reasons I listed and the reasons ramonlp4 lists below), I can’t help it. I think by voicing my own mistakes when it comes to this, it makes it clear I’m not trying to be condescending — just stern. Because I believe it’s important. And even though the original author is incredibly modest in this case, I’m going to go ahead and guess he’s relieved to finally have his work correctly attributed to him.

I also don’t believe that the original person who attributed it to Vonnegut was necessarily “well-meaning.” Knowingly slapping the wrong attribution on a meme is deliberately spreading false information and taking something away from the original author, and I just can’t get behind that. I’m sorry I lessened your happy vibes from the original message — sincerely — but I stand behind my choice in helping the true author gain recognition.

ramonlp4
Reply

I don’t think the point in this is to be superior but for people to think twice before they re-post something. I’ll give you an example. A friend of mine posted a quote from Abraham Lincoln that felt just “too good.” I looked into it and almost immediately it showed to be a fabrication. When I mentioned it to my friend (in a private message) they said that he didn’t care because the wisdom was far more important than the attribution and this gets to the heart of this type of thing. Do we care about history and do we consider wisdom to simply be something that reaffirms our own beliefs?

I suggest that there is value in history, who said things, and most importantly, the context in which they are said which will provide greater wisdom than a feel good excerpt. By not attributing the proper source, you are robbing someone of the ability to look at the quote in a fuller and more valuable context be it the work from which it originates or the author’s full scope of work.

Katie
Reply

Thank you — this is very much the point I was hoping to get across. Unfortunately, I couldn’t send the unknown creator of an inaccurate internet meme a private message, and in my grumpy, cold-induced state one morning, this is what I wrote. I’m glad most people seem to be understanding the main message — even if I unwittingly come across as superior. :)

George
Reply

“And so it goes.” – Kurt Vonnegut

John Cantrell
Reply

Listen: Thanks for making this research EASY for me. I have read everything KV has written — mainly because I find him interesting because I don’t relate to his extreme cynicism of the ultimate fate of man at all, so his books give me a well written and enjoyable view into that mode of thinking. I knew this quote couldn’t possibly be his, unless he was using it to set up some cataclysmic dystopia. Thanks for finding the real author. Poo-too-weet!

Katie
Reply

Ha, you’re welcome! And that’s officially the most interesting reason I’ve heard for reading Vonnegut thus far. ;)

Amanda
Reply

I was actually about to go research the quote because of something similar. It’s afternoon here and i went to check fb, saw the quote with the flowery image (I’ve seen it many times) and I enjoy that quote. But this time i stopped, and remembered all the times I’ve heard vonnegut being called a pessimist. I also hazily remember writing a letter to him with my class in elementary school (his response wasn’t this fluffy either, if i remember correctly). So i went to look and found this post, so yeah. Thank you much =,D As i’m not that great with research, and left to my own devices i might’ve never discovered the real author. Thank you!!

Katie
Reply

I’m glad you found this, then! Thanks for commenting. :)

Rain
Reply

I had to google search this, because like you, I haven’t read all of Kurt Vonnegut’s books, but had read enough of them to know he wouldn’t have said this. Thanks for researching it.

Katie
Reply

You’re welcome!

RJ
Reply

thank you for this. Cheers!

Katie
Reply

You’re welcome! :)

Haekal
Reply

Thank you, Katie!

Katie
Reply

You’re quite welcome. :)

djvin
Reply

so it goes…

Stay soft, my friend. - Chic Seraphim
Reply

[…] some way, by others who have something to gain from making you look bad, or just pure stupidity, like what happened to the actual guy who wrote that quote up there. (Thank goodness for people who love truth, and do the research for you!!!) But, then you got up […]

Barb H.
Reply

Just to let you know – this was the first link that showed up when I googled the first line of the quote with ‘vonnegut’, so you must be doing something right. Thanks for introducing me to Iain Thomas.

runslikesnail
Reply

Thank you for this. It matters to me too.

Zaheen
Reply

Thanks for this Katie. Like the rest, I too came here doubting KV’s authorship on that quote. I like how this post of yours has become a watering hole for all those who don’t take things for face value, for those doubt, and for those value authenticity and originality.
Because I do and I think the rest of us here do too. Even you.

Thanks. :)

Katie
Reply

What a nice comment. :) Thanks Zaheen!

michelle
Reply

Just posted this on my Facebook page with a link to your post: While I refrain from correcting the misinformation I see others post, I am more than happy to correct myself. Yesterday I posted a quote. It was attributed to one of my favorite authors but even as I clicked “share” something felt off. This morning I woke up certain this was not a Kurt Vonnegut quote. I did a little research and found this blog post. So thankful someone did the research on this!

Katie
Reply

I’m encouraged by the fact that so many others have bothered looking, and happy to provide a fast answer. Good for you for looking further. :)

snddmnd
Reply

Thank you for digging into back story of this lovely quote. Made my morning.

Katie
Reply

You’re welcome. :)

Minahaaj Shaikh
Reply

Hi, somebody please elaborate it. I’m not getting the right meaning of this quote

Christen Evenson
Reply

Just the answer I was searching for! I use this quote quite often, while thinking about my dear mom in Heaven and remembering how she lived. Now I will know to whom I should thank for speaking to me with the words that I’m most certainly sure my mom wanted me to hear.
I was, in fact, the one Iain was speaking to. ;)
For myself…I will be soft.

Lee G
Reply

You are a kindred spirit. I shared the misattributed quote, last year. I was about to do so again when… I stopped. I am famous in my little circles for finding where things had come from (somewhat coincidentally, the latest one was a vagina quote misattributed to a sassy Betty White), so I thought I should double-check this one. It didn’t “feel” right. Thank you very much.

Cathy Savage
Reply

The timing seems off. I wonder, Kurt Vonnegut died in early April 2007 many weeks after a serious fall and brain injury. Iain Thomas says he began his project (that this quote was a part of) in 2007.

Vonnegut did say this – “Some of you may know that I am neither Christian nor Jewish nor Buddhist, nor a conventionally religious person of any sort. I am a humanist, which means, in part, that I have tried to behave decently without any expectation of rewards or punishments after I’m dead. I myself have written, if it weren’t for the message of mercy and pity in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, I wouldn’t want to be a human being. I would just as soon be a rattlesnake.” – Kurt Vonnegut, God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian, 1999

Anon Y. Mous
Reply

Wow, this is really cool! I definitely have to check out his blog.

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