Category Archives: Quotations

Definition of luck

Dear answer person, Finals coming up, wish me luck ok?  By the way, I want to know your definition of ‘luck’.  Thank you! [3593A]

Finals?!  Yikes!  I guess I’ve been on holiday all summer.

I’ve always liked the definition of luck offered by Seneca, who wrote, just before not very efficiently killing himself, that “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

How much wood indeed?!

How much wood could a woodchuck chuck (if a woodchuck could chuck wood)? [3572A]

[written in answer space: as much wood as a woodchuck could (if a woodchuck could chuck wood).

Absolutely none. An average maul weighs eight pounds. Even with a woodchuck’s seasonal weight fluctuation, do you think an animal that weighs maybe ten pounds itself (and that’s at its chubby autumn weight) without opposable thumbs (for goodness sakes!) could hoist an eight pound maul over its head and bring it down with enough force to split a log? That’s just silly!

What kind of person are you?

At the end of an old Woody Allen movie, the narrator (Woody himself) says “there’s two kinds of people; the horrible and the miserable. You’re lucky if you’re miserable”. Do you agree, and which are you?

I don’t believe there are only two kinds of people: the horrible and the miserable.  And while I generally think Woody Allen is funny, his weltanschaunng – or at least the one that emanates from his movies – is too pessimistic for me to consider for longer than the length of one of his films.

And, anyway, I know someone who’s both horrible and miserable!

Exciting graffito

While taking a break to use the bathroom in the library, I discovered written upon the stall door the exact text needed to pull my thesis together.  But, how do I cite it?  I looked through the MLA, APA and Chicago guides, but there is no listing for bathroom graffiti.  How should I cite this?

Well aren’t you a clever person?!  And thanks for informing us about this vandalism; I’ll relay the information to Housekeeping so they can remove it.  By the way, this is exactly the sort of question our reference librarians answer at Ask Us Now!

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I’ve been straining with this one, because of my strong urge to express myself with an answer worthy of your question, an answer of sufficient girth and gravity to allow you to easily plop the citation into your paper.

You’re correct that APA and MLA don’t offer guidance on citing graffiti specifically. I recommend checking The Chicago Manual of Style on Informally Published Material.

Reservation for two

How the hell did Paul Allen get that 8:30 res at Dorsia?  On A Friday!? [3556A]

As co-founder of Microsoft, owner of the Portland Trailblazers and Seattle Seahawks, and one of the wealthiest and most philanthropic men in America, Answer Person assumes Paul Allen has no problem getting a reservation at any restaurant.


Dear Sir:I have a question about plagiarism. My master thesis is an empirical comparison about two statistical methods. I need to address the mathematical theorems and definitions in the chapter of “research method” . Of course I did not invent these methods. I organize the theorems from my reference books so that what I am comparing can be understood. Also those theorems are not found by those authors. They only organize and write these concepts in their books. I copy the exact statement of those mathematical theorems and I cite that “The following sections are mainly cited from McNeil (2005) “. But I did not use quotation marks for those copied theorem statements. Is it acceptable? For example, I paste one short paragraph here.

The following sections are mainly cited from McNeil (2005).

Theorem 3.1: Extreme Value Theorem
Let X, Y be independent random variables. M =max{ X }………….

Sorry, but this isn’t the place for detailed answers to serious questions. Or, for quick answers. For any questions regarding proper citation style, you need to speak with your instructor or faculty adviser, since there are different ways of doing it and only they know what is acceptable to them. You cite the book, but in some cases you may need to cite a paper number on which the theorems can be located.

I'll hold up my end

What is the origin of the phrase “I’ll hold up my end”? [3351C]

If you’re carrying a heavy load with another person (e.g., a sofa), each of you is likely to be holding one end of the load, which can’t be carried by one alone. To AP, holding up your end can be extrapolated to doing your part on any project, not being a slacker and not trying to get away with having others do all the work.

Compass pointing to nothing save starry passion

where did the following line come from? if it doesn’t exist and i made it up, where is one kinda like it?

“compass pointing to nothing save starry passion”

ANSWER PERSON RESPONDS: In a letter to Charles Sampas, dated December 27, 1949, Jack Kerouac stated that Lowell, Massachusetts (his hometown), “like Winesburg Ohio or Asheville North Carolina or Fresno California or Hawthorne’s Salem, is always the place where the darkness of the trees by the river, on a starry night, gives a hint of that inscrutable *future* Americans are always longing and longing for. And when they find that future, not till then they begin looking *back* with sorrows, and an understanding of how man haunts the earth, pacing, prowling, circling in the shades, and the intelligence of the compass pointing to nothing in sight save starry passion … strange, is strange, how we be-dot infinity with our thoughts and poor rooftops, and hometown, then go away forever.” (Charters, Ann, ed. Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters, 1940-1956. New York: Viking, 1995. p. 221.)

Kerouac is commenting to Sampas, a columnist for the Lowell newspaper, about the upcoming publication of his first novel, *The Town and the City*, which is based on his experiences in Lowell.

The ellipsis is in the quote, so I suppose it was in Kerouac’s letter.