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View Full Version : David Brooks "borrows" from Woody Allen


DavidGrinspoon
08-29-2008, 12:56 PM
Surely I am not the first to notice that David Brook's smarmy column today rips off a joke from Woody Allen.

Brooks: "One path before us leads to the past, and the extinction of the human race. The other path leads to the future, when we will all be dead. We must choose wisely."

Woody: "More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly."

bjkeefe
08-29-2008, 04:13 PM
Surely I am not the first to notice that David Brook's smarmy column today rips off a joke from Woody Allen.

Brooks: "One path before us leads to the past, and the extinction of the human race. The other path leads to the future, when we will all be dead. We must choose wisely."

Woody: "More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly."

Whoa. Good catch.

It's always a little bit of a tough call on these things. At some point, a line is well enough known that literate readers are expected to catch the reference. We do not feel compelled to add a footnote every time someone riffs on "to be or not to be," to pick an extreme example.

But, especially when writing a "humorous" piece, you have to be careful about ripping off other comedians' lines. My own sense is that the Allen line is not well-enough known to borrow without attribution.

You're right about "smarmy," too. Some of it is even tasteless, e.g.,

We must bring together left and right, marinara and carbonara, John and Elizabeth Edwards.

and

And in Denver, we Democrats showed America that we have cute daughters who will someday provide us with prestigious car-window stickers.

(Verification links for the skeptics: Brooks (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/29/opinion/29brooks.html) | Allen (http://www.google.com/search?q=More+than+any+other+time+in+history%2C+ma nkind+faces+a+crossroads.++One+path+leads+to+despa ir+and+utter+hopelessness.++The+other%2C+to+total+ extinction.++Let+us+pray+we+have+the+wisdom+to+cho ose+correctly.))

bjkeefe
08-29-2008, 11:57 PM
No Mister Nice Blog (http://nomoremister.blogspot.com/2008/08/plagiarism-or-hommage-david-brooks.html) noticed this, too.

nikkibong
09-02-2008, 07:03 AM
hey, i'd rather hear the Woody Allen's musings than the "thoughts" of David Brooks.

in my mind, an improvement!