Weekend Words: Plagiarism

Federico Zuccaro, “Taddeo Zuccaro Copying the Antique Statues in Rome” (n.d.), pen and ink and wash, 183 x 425 mm, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence (image via Web Gallery of Art) (click to enlarge)

“Nobody,” according to Maggie Haberman and Michael Barbaro in The New York Times, “seemed more startled than Mr. and Ms. Trump, who arrived in New York on Tuesday morning after a flight from Cleveland to find themselves at the center of a bizarre uproar over authenticity, plagiarism and a knotty question: Why did the wife of the Republican nominee borrow passages from the wife of the current Democratic president?”

Plagiarize! Let no else’s work evade your eyes,
Remember why the good Lord made your eyes.
So don’t shade your eyes,
But plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize.

—Tom Lehrer, “”Lobachevsky”

Art is either plagiarism or revolution.

—Paul Gauguin

I hate like death the situation of the plagiarist; the glass I drink from is not large, but at least it is my own.

—Alfred de Musset, La Coupe et les levres

If you steal from one author, it’s plagiarism; if you steal from many, it’s research.

—Wilson Mizner, The Legendary Mizners

The only “ism” Hollywood believes in is plagiarism.

—Dorothy Parker

The ethics of plagiarism have turned into the narcissism of small differences: because journalism cannot own up to its heavily derivative nature, it must enforce originality on the level of the sentence.

—Malcolm Gladwell, What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures

I don’t like composers who think. It gets in the way of their plagiarism.

—Howard Dietz

God loves the plagiarist. And so it is written, ‘God created humankind in His image, in the image of God He created them.” God is the original plagiarizer. With a lack of reasonable sources from which to filch – man created in the image of what? the animals? – the creation of man was an act of reflexive plagiarizing; God looted the mirror. When we plagiarize, we are likewise creating in the image and participating in the completion of Creation.

—Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything Is Illuminated

Man is an idiot. He doesn’t know how to do anything without copying, without imitating, without plagiarizing, without aping. It might even have been that man invented generation by coitus after seeing the grasshopper copulate.

—Augusto Roa Bastos

Plagiarists, at least, have the merit of preservation.

—Benjamin Disraeli

Originality is nothing but judicious plagiarism.


Man hardly comes in more than two varieties, wherever he is, whatever he does: workers and pimps … they’re either one or the other! … and inventors, the worst kind of jobholder! … they stand condemned! … the writer who doesn’t pimp along, peacefully plagiarizing, who doesn’t pump out the pop stuff, he’s had it! … everybody hates him!

—Louis-Ferdinand Celine

The human plagiarism which is most difficult to avoid, for individuals… is the plagiarism of ourselves.

—Marcel Proust, À la recherche du temps perdu

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