“A struggle for life is constantly going on among quotations in academic writings. The better, the shorter, the easier forms are constantly gaining the upper hand and they owe their success to their own inherent virtue.”
Sounds familiar? Perhaps because it’s a variation on a bon mot attributed to Charles Darwin that you may have seen in any of a range of recent papers on how language evolves.
I just published a brief piece on this mutant quotation over at Diversity Linguistics Comment, the group blog initiated by Martin Haspelmath. Read it here.