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Thread: Goethe quote

  1. #1
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    Goethe quote

    I haven't read much of Goethe but I recently came upon a quote that doesn't seem like Goethe at all: "Why look for conspiracy when stupidity can explain so much?"

    There are plenty of web references attributing it to Goethe but I suppose they can all be traced back to an original poster that quotes it with the words "if I'm not mistaken". There is just one more reference attributing the quote to Lonnie Beckham, which seems much more reasonable to me.

    Is there anybody who could confirm that it's not a quote that can be attributed to Goethe?

  2. #2
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    It probably isn´t his.
    I looked it up in German and didn´t found it neither anything similar.
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

  3. #3
    The Gnu Normal Pompey Bum's Avatar
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    Probably a bad translation/paraphrase of this:

    https://ericgerlach.com/2014/08/22/t...hanlons-razor/
    And this from a man in a bunny suit.

  4. #4
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    PB is right!
    Here is the original text: "Und ich habe […] gefunden, dass Missverständnisse und Trägheit vielleicht mehr Irrungen in der Welt machen als List und Bosheit. Wenigstens sind die beiden letzteren gewiß seltener." - Die Leiden des jungen Werther - Am 4. Mai 1 ()771" (The Sorrows of Young Werther, May 4, 1771)
    Misunderstandings and laziness (Missverständnisse und Trägheit)= conspiracy
    mehr Irrungen in der Welt machen (were responsible for more errors in the world)=can explain so much
    Cunning and malice (List und Bosheit)=stupidity
    The above is not an attempt at translation. It´s only to show how far the quotation has outdistanced itself from is original meaning.
    Last edited by Danik 2016; 07-07-2016 at 11:35 AM.
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

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    Thanks so much for your replies. "Conspiracy" was what bothered me in the first place. The mistranslation or, probably, adaptation theory sounds plausible but I'd rather people stuck to faithful translations of the original especially when quoting phrases out of context.

  6. #6
    The Gnu Normal Pompey Bum's Avatar
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    You are welcome. It's ironic that those skeptical of conspiracies should be so uncritical about the attribution of a quotation, but I fear these are credulous times. Thanks for asking, though. I had fun figuring it out.
    And this from a man in a bunny suit.

  7. #7
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    You had the right feeling about the quote, emay. I think Goethe, who was so exigent with his own writing, would have turned in his grave
    at this interpration.
    Laurels to PB for locating the disfigured quotation!
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

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