#21. Assemble your own personal book of quotations

IDEA #21. Assemble your own personal book of quotations. As sources you can of course use favorite books as well as library and Internet resources, but don’t forget the favorite sayings and wisdom of those closest to you. If you have a friend or relative who has a special quotation, try making a beautiful copy of it and giving it to them, framed; you can even make the frame yourself.

The Internet is full of great quotation sites, and any library will have at least one exhaustive collection of great quotations. For some young people, finding the words of famous men and women that resonate with their own ideas about life is an extremely important affirmation—especially when the child might not feel as though his or her own point of view is quite like other people’s.

School yearbooks often seem to trade on quotations, and student pages are filled with the words of rock stars, television characters, and other popular figures. Many of the lines chosen by students for inclusion on their yearbook pages are more than familiar—they are clichés and catchphrases as much as significant commentaries on the human condition. While there is nothing wrong with this—indeed, cultures thrive on shared knowledge of just this ephemeral sort—it is worth the trouble for the student to dig more deeply into history’s store of apt observations and pointed witticisms.

Some young people find that this exercise itself resonates with their own need to find validation in the words of Churchill, Thoreau, Lao Tzu, or Dorothy Parker. They become quotation or aphorism collectors, digging into volumes of familiar quotations and roaming the Internet for just the “zinger” to take as a personal motto or e-mail signature line. There are ways to search quotations by individuals with whom one shares an important interest or characteristic, or ways track and sort all quotations on a particular topic. The point is for the young person to explore the ways in which people can use and have used language to precisely frame a viewpoint or a judgment.

It is also important for the quotation-seeker to look close to home. There will no doubt be a family member, a friend, or even a teacher who is locally famous—or notorious—for a particular turn of phrase, and what better way to celebrate that individual’s take on life than by crafting a “suitable for framing” version of that phrase.

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