Yale University

‘The New Yale Book Of Quotations' Offers Reflection on 2021's Memorable Moments

Librarian Fred Shapiro names the top 10 most notable quotations of the year.

NBC Connecticut

A librarian with the Yale School of Law has become well-known for summing up the year in short snippets.

Each year, Fred Shapiro selects the top 10 most memorable quotations of that year.

The most notable quotation of 2021 was spoken by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell January 6.

“The voters, the courts, and the states have all spoken,” Sen. McConnell said.

That was just hours before rioters stormed the Capitol.

“This was a very important quote. He is a major Republican leader, but even he was acknowledging that the election was decided,” Shapiro said.

It tops the much-anticipated list, published in “The New Yale Book Of Quotations” each year. The book was first published in 2006, and it covers 5,000 years and countries all across the globe.

“About 13,000 of the most famous quotations of all time,” Shapiro said. People ask me, ‘what's my favorite quote?’ But I don't answer that question. It's like, ‘what, who's your favorite children?’”

Shapiro doe not pick the quotations because they are eloquent or because he agrees with them, but because these short phrases capture poignant moments of history.

“What was important, what was meaningful,” Shapiro said.

An ominous statement from President Biden makes second on the 2021 list.

“The likelihood there's going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely,” Biden said.

“But that, of course, that is what did happen,” Shapiro said.

On privacy, there is a noteworthy comment from whistleblower Francis Horgan.

“I believe Facebook's products harm children, stoke division, and weaken our democracy,” she said.

However, it is not all politics.

There is one from Britney Spears testifying in court.

“This conservatorship is abusive," Spears said.

And Duchess Meghan Markle, opening up in an interview to Oprah Winfrey.

“We had concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he's born,” Markle said.

“So she was complaining that the royal family was actually worried about the skin color of her children,” Shapiro said.

These quotations reflect a theme this year: contemplations on control and mental health.

There is one quotation from Cleo Smith, the 4-year-old child kidnapped in Australia, at the dramatic moment when she was found.

“’What’s your name?’ And she said, ‘My name is Cleo,’” Shapiro recalled.

With environmental activist Greta Thunberg, Judge Tanya Chutkan, and tennis pro Naomi Osaka, eight of the top ten statements were made by women.

“This year, it seemed to be women that were making a lot of the news and being in the spotlight,” Shapiro said.

Despite the constant anxieties spurred by a pandemic, recession, insurrection and climate change, Shapiro said these quotations take a more positive tone than in years past.

Like the words spoke at the President’s inauguration by young poet Amanda Gorman: “When day comes, we ask ourselves: Where can we find light in this never-ending shade?”

Reflections of the times, but also glimmers of hope.

“That's really what I think what we're all trying to do at this point in history, is to find some light in a dark time period,” Shapiro said.

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