Shapiro blegs for the Freakonomics blog

Clint1b Stephen J. Dubner of the New York Times’ Freakonomics blog invited “blegs” from the readers–or, “questions that the Freakonomics readership could collectively answer well.” The inaugural bleg–did Clint Eastwood’s ever say “Read my lips”–was answered with the help of Yale Press’ own Fred R. Shapiro, editor of the “wonderful” Yale Book of Quotations. Shapiro began by explaining the methodology of his work.

“Quotations research” is probably a new concept to most readers, but I have become one of the few people in the world who conducts extensive research about famous quotations. Even standard quotation books like Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations are based on surprisingly minimal research, but I set out eight years ago to create a new quotation book that would use state-of-the-art research methods — as well as extensive networking — to track down the accurate origins of well-known quotes.

Check back on the Freakonomics blog every Thursday to see Shapiro’s future blegs.

Yale Book of Quotations: Fred R. Shapiro This reader-friendly quotation book is unique in its focus on modern and American quotations.  It is also the first to use state-of-the-art research methods to capture famous quotations and to trace sources of quotations to their true origins.  It contains more than 12,000 entries not only from literary and historical sources but also from popular culture, sports, computers, politics, law, and the social sciences. With fascinating annotations, extensive cross-references, and a large keyword index, the book is a curious reader’s delight.

Read the rest of the blog post, including a lively conversation in the comments section.

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