hello friends! let me take you on a journey. a journey about how i unknowingly, and very much unintentionally, released a fake terry pratchett quote into the wilderness of the internet, where it’s been roaming free for nearly 3 years.
the v. short version: in january 2016 i reblogged a post and commented in the tags that it reminded me of something terry pratchett said about the use of satire. terry pratchett said something to that effect somewhere that i can’t source because i didn’t stop to write it down, it’s just something that stayed with me. it could have been an interview, or a non-fiction piece, or even a scene in one of the discworld books. i honestly don’t know. but he never said those exact words. i made a throwaway comment in the tags of a tumblr post, which later got picked up and reblogged, eventually hit twitter and has been thrown around social media as a legit terry pratchett quote since.
before i move into the long version where i try to document how this happened, i want to clarify two things:
1. i’ve been aware that quote was on twitter for a while, but never realized the extent to which it had spread – for reasons i’m going to explain in a bit. it first came to my attention in october 2016 when i got an ask about the origin of the quote. the problem is by then i’d lost track of the original post, so i had no hard evidence that my tags were the source. you can see how going around all ‘yeah i accidentally made up a terry pratchett quote and now it got famous but i have no proof to back up my claim’ wouldn’t fly with most people. now that i found that post again, i can try to fix the situation.
2. i feel very guilty about this. i realize there’s no way for anyone to control how things spread on social media, but all the same, i want to make it clear: this was not intentional. i admire and love terry pratchett, and the discworld series was formative for me as a teenager and young adult. misattributing a quote to him – a quote that doesn’t even sound like it came from him – is just about the worst thing i could think of doing as a long-time reader and fan. so, while i realize that this wasn’t something i could have predicted or controlled, i would like to apologize all the same.
1. january 2016: i reblogged this post and commented in the tags about how it reminded me of terry pratchett’s idea about the object of satire – again, the one i can’t source because i never wrote it down or bookmarked it. all i can say clearly is that he did not say those exact words. they come from my tags:
my tags were later copy-pasted by someone into their own reblog of that post, and made their way into the reblog stream (note that the post has nearly 400k reblogs/likes). this is a pretty common practice on tumblr.
2. march 2016: here’s a tweet that picked up the tags as a direct quote and got some 2.7k retweets. there might be earlier ones too, i don’t know if this is the original post that carried the quote to twitter. at this point i was not yet aware of what was going on. there are some comments already questioning whether the quote came from terry pratchett himself because, well, it doesn’t sound like terry pratchett. at all.
3. october 2016: i got a message asking for the source of the quote. this is the first time it came to my attention that it had reached twitter and was seeing a bit of traffic, but again, since i’d lost the original post i had no evidence to show that it came from me. all i could do at that point was to admit that yes, i did make a comment about it, but it wasn’t a direct terry pratchett quote.
i kind of. left alone it after that. partly because i felt couldn’t explain it any better than i already had without solid evidence, and partly because i never realized it would later take off as much as it did.
4. january 2018: quote started circulating a lot more. as far as i can tell, this tweet may have started the upsurge in traffic, with 23k retweets (again, there might be others, this is just the first thing that shows up when you google the quote).
5. between january 2018 and now: it’s spread to facebook, reddit, pinterest, several tumblrs and wordpress/blogspot blogs (here’s one trying to source it) and even linkedin, for cryin’ out loud.
i found this out recently, after i decided on a whim to check if there was still something going on with the quote. then a friend here on tumblr helped me finally track down the original post/tags so i could put all of this together.
hey vrabia, what do you plan to do about it?
after posting this, i’m going to try and get in touch with shaula evans and ask if she’s willing to tweet about this explanation. unfortunately there’s nothing much i can do aside from that. i’m not on twitter and don’t have an especially large following on tumblr. i’m going to put this in the terry pratchett/disworld tags, in hopes that more people see it, and i would appreciate if you reblogged it.
finally, a small reminder:
what happened here was the internet equivalent of a post-it scribble that fell behind my desk being picked up without my knowledge and published on the front page of a newspaper. please understand that, while i do feel uncomfortable about the whole thing for personal reasons, i’m not responsible for what gets shared where.
i wanted to make this post out of respect for terry and what his work means to me. if you feel like commenting/messaging me about this at any point, please keep the ‘it wasn’t intentional’ bit in mind and be considerate.