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Paraphrasing causes problems in new King monument

By Michael Margavitch, Columnist

When someone begins a game of telephone, the end result is a manipulation of what the speaker said. By changing a single word, the meaning and intention is altered. This altered quote could lead to unrest, hurt feelings, and even conflict that is completely unnecessary. If one is to be quoted at all, then the messenger should pass the complete unedited message along rather than creating confusion with paraphrasing.

Friends or roommates can spread the wrong messages behind each other's backs. Setting up dorm furniture could be carried out incorrectly because one skimmed the instructions instead of reading them thoroughly.

Quotes are used enhance essays and papers that students write. The quoted researcher or author's point is unmistakable as their direct words are included. However, there are some instances where paraphrasing is necessary. However, through this practice, the quote can accidentally be misinterpreted by a student.

Paraphrasing can also cause issues on a larger scale. For example, nearly 50 years after Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired millions with his "I Have a Dream" speech, his national memorial was recently unveiled in Washington, D.C., with all of the makings of a historical moment. Over $120 million dollars and 25 years had gone into the construction of this memorial, the first one to honor an African-American on the National Mall. However, the problems of paraphrasing are overshadowing a moment of historical significance.

On the side of the 30-foot-tall King statue is a quote, reading, "I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness." But renowned poet Maya Angelou is taking issue with this etching, because she thinks the paraphrasing makes King appear as an "arrogant twit." Angelou believes that the direct quote presents a more correct, humble representation of King.

The actual quote, according to Angelou, is "If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice, say that I was a drum major for peace." The important word missing from the new quote is "if," even though it may seem insignificant.

But in the view of others like Angelou, King is misrepresented through paraphrasing. The quote on the side of the memorial could be seen as arrogant, and, according to Angelou, "minimizes [King]." The direct quote seems more humble and paints King as the humanitarian that he was.

The problems of paraphrasing appear minor when friends or coworkers have a misunderstanding. However, when important figures of historical significance are represented incorrectly through the faults of paraphrasing, it is an issue that needs to be examined more thoroughly in our everyday lives.

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