In the September Reader's Digest Quotable Quotes page the RD editors
included a Jimmy Buffett quote: "Wrinkles only go where the smiles have
If this sounds familiar, it's because Twain said "Wrinkles should merely
indicate where smiles have been." Not Twain's best quote, but if you are
Jimmy Buffett and thrashing around for one more maudlin lyric to pawn off as
your own, you might as well steal from the best.
I can't ever remember writing any magazine or book publisher about a
misattributed Twain quote, but I was amused by this one andI wrote RD and
suggested that Buffett was taking credit for something Twain said, and that
they ought to fact-check more carefully.
They wrote back emphasizing the difference between what Buffett wrote and
what "Mr. Twain said," attributed Buffett's quotes to his song "Barefoot
Children in the Rain" and concluded, "Although we make every attempt to make
sure our Quotable Quotes page is accurate, many people have similar
thoughts, and we feel that our readers prefer to read the thoughts of their
So there you have it, the official RD editorial standard: Plagiarism is OK
if you change a word or two, or as they might say "have a similar thought
eighty years after somebody else published that very same thought." And
quoitng Buffett's stolen corruption is preferable to quoting "Mr. Twain" in
Those of you to teach will want to pass this along to your students.
And the next time any of you find yourself on the verge of quoting Twain,
stop and ask yourself, "shouldn't I be quoting Jimmy Buffett instead?"
Anyone wishing to cross-post this message to the "Jimmy Buffett Forum" is
Kevin Mac Donnell