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NPR Arts & Life

Deathless Prose Added To Our Collective Memories In 2017

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

As 2017 draws to an end and we try to assess it, one measure is, what deathless prose has been added to our collective memories over the past 12 months? Well, Fred Shapiro has assembled the top 10 quotations of the year from interviews, speeches, tweets and more. Shapiro is the editor of "The Yale Book Of Quotations," and he joins us now. Welcome to the program.

FRED SHAPIRO: Thanks for having me.

SIEGEL: You have a whole range on your top-10 list - French President Emmanuel Macron saying make our planet great again, the owner of the Houston Texans, Robert McNair, saying we can't have the inmates running the prison, the inmates being professional football players kneeling during the national anthem. We can't get to all of them, but let's start with number eight from Hollywood and the Academy Awards.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

WARREN BEATTY: For Best Picture...

FAYE DUNAWAY: You're awful. Come on - "La La Land."

(CHEERING)

SIEGEL: Yeah, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announcing the wrong film for best picture. It was actually "Moonlight," not "La La Land." Why did you choose that one?

SHAPIRO: Well, that was an unprecedented flub. It wasn't really Beatty's or Dunaway's fault I don't think, but it led to a chaotic scene and something that's not likely to ever be repeated hopefully.

SIEGEL: (Laughter) Let's hope. Sticking with Hollywood, I'm going to jump to your number four. And I want to ask you why you chose for the Harvey Weinstein story. And there has been so much fallout across many professions. But you picked this line. (Reading) With respect to any women who have made allegations on the record, Mr. Weinstein believes that all of these relationships were consensual - those words from Sallie Hofmeister, who is a spokesman for Weinstein, saying it back in October. Why that one?

SHAPIRO: I try to reflect the major themes of the year in news and culture. And clearly the sexual harassment issue was a very big theme. And I also try to pick striking lines. And this was a...

SIEGEL: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: ...Dramatic line.

SIEGEL: How do you gather these quotes, by the way, and how do you winnow them down?

SHAPIRO: Well, I follow the news during the year, looking for remarkable and important quotes. But I also have correspondents all over the world who email me with suggestions - people that have used "The Yale Book Of Quotations" and are aware of these lists and are constantly feeding me with suggestions.

SIEGEL: Finally, number one and two on your list are a pair here. They come from a discussion between White House adviser Kellyanne Conway and interviewer Chuck Todd on his show "Meet The Press" following the inauguration. We hear Conway first.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MEET THE PRESS")

KELLYANNE CONWAY: Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that, but the point remains that there is...

CHUCK TODD: Wait a minute - alternative facts? Alternative facts - 4 of the 5 facts he uttered...

CONWAY: Hey, Chuck, why - hey, Chuck...

TODD: The one thing he got right was Zeke Miller. Four of the 5 facts he uttered were just not true. Look; alternative facts are not facts. They're falsehoods.

SIEGEL: Alternative facts are not facts. They're falsehoods. Sean Spicer gave some alternative facts. Do you think alternative fact has entered the vocabulary?

SHAPIRO: Yes. And in some ways, the most striking quotes are the ones that introduce new words, terms, phrases into the language, into our discourse. And this I think did introduce alternative facts into the English language.

SIEGEL: Were there any quotations that didn't make the top 10, something from number 11 through 20 that came close and that are remarkable to you?

SHAPIRO: Yes. I have a - kind of a runner-up list. There was Betsy DeVos talking about guns in schools to fend off grizzly bears. President Trump had a number of statements, such as, nobody knew health care could be so complicated. There was me too as the slogan of the movement against sexual harassment. I kind of like Rex Tillerson's line. It was not my first sword dance. There's something poetic about that to me.

SIEGEL: That was from Saudi Arabia, where he as an oil man had had some experience.

SHAPIRO: Yes.

SIEGEL: Fred Shapiro is the editor of "La La Land." No, he's not really. He's editor of "The Yale Book Of Quotations." Thank you very much for sharing your take on the top 10 quotes of 2017 with us.

SHAPIRO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.