28 December, 2010

The Quote Detective

I love language, and what can be done with a well-turned phrase: metaphor, simile, analogy, a quip and a quote.  I love how language can evoke and expand.  And when something so good comes along that people feel compelled to pass it along, I love finding out where it came from.

That's not always easy to do. Things change in the retelling.  Origins get misty.  That was the case with the widely quoted and misquoted description of the Basin and Range as "an army of caterpillars marching northward toward out of Mexico."  It's been repeated in a variety of ways in a plethora of sources.  But who said it first?  Who looked at those wriggling mountain ranges and thought, "Hmmm, caterpillars!"?

Thanks to Silver Fox and her fellow investigators, now we know.  But this isn't just the story of a quote, but how the combined power of Google, Twitter, and a determined social network can uncover the 124 year-old truth in a day.

Go.  Read.  Delight!

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