The type of question I'd like to ask is:

What is the origin of the following quote?

(not an actual quote) This is a quote or short passage from a book or elsewhere that sounds very pithy and wise. In my first search for this quote I found seemingly conflicting results and am not sure of the origin. After I have completed my search later when I have more time, I'd like to know if there's a place to ask this sort of question.

But I'm not sure English.SE is the right place.

  • This site might help, although I'd imagine they prefer investigating interesting quotes or those attributed to famous people: quoteinvestigator.com
    – herisson
    Commented Oct 30, 2015 at 21:58
  • If the quotation appears to relate to some specific domain of study, you might ask on the SE site for that domain (if there is one). And there are several sites on the web that serve as clearinghouses for quotations -- helping to verify them. And if you have a specific quote from a specific source and are doubtful of it's veracity, Skeptics SE might be amenable to helping you verify it.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Oct 30, 2015 at 22:16
  • If the quote contains what plausibly might be a very early instance of a proverb or idiom that you're interested in, you might ask whether it is the original instance of that proverb or idiom—and if not, what the earliest instance is. Answering such a question would naturally entail identifying the quotation you submitted. But in most cases involving a more-or-less random quotation, that approach wouldn't be appropriate.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Oct 31, 2015 at 0:00

3 Answers 3


No, English.SE is certainly not the right place for such a search: your question does not relate to any issue about the English language. It isn't really suitable for any Stack Exchange site, since 'quotations' like this buzz around the Internet at high speed, altering a word here and being rephrased there, until even the original author wouldn't recognize the popularised version.

You could try Philosophy.SE or another SE site in the field where you think this arose. Note, however, that I know of no site where a bald "where is this from" is welcome as a question: the best approach would be to join the site, gain a little reputation from sensible questions or good answers, and then ask in the chatroom.

Otherwise, you will have to rely on your search-engine skills. Even then, though, I would caution you against accepting the first answer you come up with; many such phrases turn out to have been invented by motivational speakers or so-called 'educators', who then felt the need to attribute the words to some figure well-respected in whatever field is under discussion, regardless of what this figure would have thought of the 'quotation'.

  • I thought it had been established long ago that determining the originating author of a quote is on topic, but now I can't find any link to that. But it does seem like if that is mostly LMGTFY instead of knowledge and off computer scholarship, then it is definitely off-topic.
    – Mitch
    Commented Oct 30, 2015 at 20:24
  • 2
    @Mitch; Oddly, I thought the opposite had been agreed, but likewise can find no actual evidence. Looks like a potentially good meta question, but the wording will have to be very precise. Commented Oct 30, 2015 at 21:42
  • More as a starting point for the potential question I referred to than anything else: the comments here, whoch frustratingly refer to an earlier meta discussion but without details. Commented Oct 30, 2015 at 23:41
  • hmm... maybe I remembered wrong.
    – Mitch
    Commented Oct 31, 2015 at 1:19
  • @Mitch: the comments Tim Lymington found link to the following questions; are either of these what you were thinking of? Are questions of the form “Did X say ”Y" on-topic?, Are “who first said”-questions on-topic? For the second question, while you were somewhat in favor of it, the more popular answer was firmly against it.
    – herisson
    Commented Oct 31, 2015 at 6:45
  • @sumelic whatever my thoughts then, those links obviously make this a duplicate.
    – Mitch
    Commented Oct 31, 2015 at 13:37
  • 1
    Re no site where a bald "where is this from" is welcome as a question. One of the most popular tags on Movies&TV.SE is identify-this-movie The big difference with questions based on text fragments is that's the way our primary search mechanism (Google) works, so it's usually trivial to do your own research. Even if you can accurately recall a scene from a film, there's no guarantee anyone else has ever described it using whatever words occur to you, so Google is often no real help. Commented Oct 31, 2015 at 19:05

The quickest source for this sort of thing is Google. Pasting the passage into the search bar provided a link to John Allen Paulos, A Mathematician Plays the Stock Market. Paulos writes there

Robert Aumann, who first defined the notion, proved a theorem which can be roughly paraphrased as follows:

and proceeds with exactly the passage you quote.

Paulos is a mathematics professor at Temple who has won prestigious awards for his writings, so I think you can safely assume that the paraphrase is his own. If you really want to know more you can pursue the writings of Robert Aumann.

  • 1
    Wait a minute... I didn't actually ask the question! I asked where this type of question should be asked. For all you know, this isn't my real question. Perhaps I have another quote in mind that I'm still researching and I want to ask. So the only useful part of your answer is the first sentence. Which is not much more than LMGTFY. And so not a very useful answer. Fail.
    – ErikE
    Commented Oct 30, 2015 at 18:41
  • 3
    @ErikE I know of no faster source than Google for questions of this sort, I said so, and gave an example of its use -- what more do you want? Of course if Google provides no answer, and you say so in your question (which SE sites by and large prefer you to do), then you've got a question of a very different sort. Commented Oct 30, 2015 at 18:50
  • I really did spend time searching and saw dozens of results. The first step on my quest was to find out if there was a place to answer that sort of question. I'm sorry for wasting your time.
    – ErikE
    Commented Oct 30, 2015 at 19:57
  • @ErikE Oh, my time's cheap! What did you search on? I just plugged the whole damn quote into the search bar, and the book was the first of only 3 hits. Took me maybe 6 seconds. Commented Oct 30, 2015 at 20:02
  • Wow you keep persisting. Like I said in a now-deleted comment, it looked to me like the book was published in 2007 and there were hits from years before that. I was at work and didn't want to spend a long time. So I asked a question on the way to finding out where to get more information. Is that so bad? I asked it on meta. See my edit to this question in a few minutes. Maybe that will help?
    – ErikE
    Commented Oct 30, 2015 at 20:05

A good place to ask that sort of question is the English.SE chat. While it may not be on topic for English.SE per se, the chat room is open to just about anything and you might well find someone there who can help you with the research.

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