The Old Man pointed out to me that though my last post contained a photo of Rodney King adorned with the words “Can’t we all just get along?,” in the text I shortened the quote to “Can we all get along?”

There is a reason for this. Like many people, I’ve been carrying the quote around in my head all these years as “Why can’t we all just get along?” But as I discovered to my chagrin yesterday, if you go to the video tape, “Can we all get along?” is the actual phrase. This is too bad, because while the former is more pleasing to the ear and the sensibility, all the latter has going for it is that it is accurate.

If you wanted to get real semantic about it, you could read things into the addition of the words “why” and “just,” and the inversion of “can” to “can’t.” I suspect that it is just normal fact slippage, similar to the way many people now believe that Sarah Palin actually said she could see Russia from her house. (Sarah has said a lot of dumb things in her time, but that was not one of them. She did cite the proximity of Russia to Alaska as proof of her foreign policy credentials — that’s bad enough — but “I can see Russia from my house” is pure Tina Fey.)

While we’re at it, did you know that Hermann Goering never said “Whenever I hear the word ‘culture’ I reach for my revolver.”? According to The Wikipedia:

  • The actual quote is “Wenn ich Kultur höre … entsichere ich meinen Browning!” This translates as: “Whenever I hear [the word] ‘culture’… I remove the safety from my Browning!”
  • This quote is often mistakenly attributed to leading Nazi Hermann Goering, or occasionally to Julius Streicher, a lower-ranking Nazi. This misattribution may date from the famous Frank Capra documentaries (Why We Fight) shown to American troops before shipping out.
  • In fact, it is a line uttered by the character Thiemann in Act 1, Scene 1 of the play Schlageter, written by Hanns Johst. The association with Nazism is appropriate, as the play was first performed in April 1933, in honor of Hitler’s birthday.

Does that now make it OK for me to paraphrase this line in polite company, by way of explaining how I feel about Facebook? Or should I refrain?