Is this a form of plagiarism, or am I reading into it too much?

Hi all,

I really need your help. Recently Carrie at ED Bites posted: “Overheight Epidemic.” Of course, many of you will remember my “The Tall Epidemic” post from March.

While my post is longer, with many more links, hers seems like merely a summary of mine, with nearly identical phraseology in parts (especially in how it begins. Hers:

“My friends, we are in the midst of a tall epidemic.”

(notice saying “tall epidemic” instead of “overheight epidemic”), and mine:

“We are in the midst of an epidemic.

I’m not talking about the Obesity Epidemic…no, I’m talking about the Tall Epidemic.”

And while she brings up a few different examples (I never mentioned basketball players), underfeeding children, the genetics of height, surgery to “correct” tallness, are all included in my post, at about the same points. The satiric voice is nearly indistinguishable. Even my mention of people breaking bones from being too tall because they’re farther from the ground — included in a *comment* on my post, not in the body — was nearly hijacked word-for-word.

What do you think? Is it paraphrased plagiarism? It seems way too close to a summary of my post with a few different “In your own words” moments, like how a teenager would paraphrase Wikipedia for a report.

Please check out my post, and then read what I’ve quoted below (just in case Carrie changes it at some point, I wanted to have it quoted here):

Monday, June 9, 2008

Overheight epidemic

America is having a massive overheight problem. Our children keep getting taller and taller. Even just 50 years ago, adults were, on average, one to two inches shorter than they are today.

My friends, we are in the midst of a tall epidemic. Too many of our children are too tall. We must do something about this. All of this additional height is wasting thousands of yards of fabric as we try to cover these too-long limbs. Children are being injured every day as their too tall heads crash into doorways that were perfectly fine only a few decades before. Look at school photos. Kids were much shorter–and much healthier–when I was a student.

But don’t despair. There are real solutions to this overheight problem. Only mate with short people- tall people are contributing to this problem and your kids are much more likely to be overtall if your mate is also overtall. Height is contagious. Do not doom your potential offspring to a life of ridicule and ill health by having a child with someone who is tall.

Should you accidentally have a child with a tall person, feed them formula with supplements designed to slow the secretion of human growth hormone. This will keep them from getting tall, and give them all the benefits of being short. As well, if your child begins to show signs of becoming too tall, drastically reduce their food intake. A good supply of nutrients is associated with extra height. By not preventing the consumption of nutrients, this extra height should not be a problem.

If you or your child has already begun to suffer the ill effects of overheight, do not despair. Doctors have also researched various surgical options to combat this growing problem. Portions of your limbs can be surgically removed and then you will be sewn back together. You might not have the same mobility or quality of life, but you will not suffer from the health dangers of being too tall.

Insurance companies will be penalizing tall people for things like head injuries from walking into doorways, broken bones from falling further when they hit the ground, and sports injuries sustained by basketball players (who we all know are especially at risk for overtall disorder).

This is an epidemic that must be taken seriously. Too many of us are just accepting this extra height without considering all of the health risks that tall can bring. You can do something about this. You must. Our society can no longer afford an epidemic of tall people.

(And I’m not the only blogger worried about this epidemic. Recently Big Liberty posted about these worries here at her blog.)

EDITED to mention: Carrie only put a link onto her blog — her parenthetical statement at the end — after I requested she did so, and then denied she’d ever read my “Tall Epidemic” post:


Hey, great minds think alike, huh? I didn’t read your post, and if it seemed like I copied, it was totally inadvertent. Thank you for sending me the link, and I will add it to my post.

10 comments on “Is this a form of plagiarism, or am I reading into it too much?

  1. vesta44 says:

    It looks like she took certain phrases from your post to create her post, with minor changes in wording. She left out a lot of the links you had, and those links are an integral part of the satire of your piece. From a little research I did:
    According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, to “plagiarize” means

    1. to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own
    2. to use (another’s production) without crediting the source
    3. to commit literary theft
    4. to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.

    In other words, plagiarism is an act of fraud. It involves both stealing someone else’s work and lying about it afterward.
    They also had this to say:
    All of the following are considered plagiarism:

    * turning in someone else’s work as your own
    * copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit
    * failing to put a quotation in quotation marks
    * giving incorrect information about the source of a quotation
    * changing words but copying the sentence structure of a source without giving credit
    * copying so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not (see our section on “fair use” rules)

    So, if her post meets some, any, or all, of these points, then it’s plagiarism. She did say that you had posted about the “tall epidemic” earlier, but I don’t know if that counts as giving you credit for the original idea, at least as far as counting enough to duck the plagiarism question.

  2. BigLiberty says:

    Oh yes, and to note: She only posted a link to my post AFTER I requested she do so, and then she remarked that she hadn’t, in fact, ever read the post (and hence it couldn’t possibly be lifted).

    I don’t feel right about this at all. My DF read the two posts and he was like, “Hon, that was *definitely* lifted.” I know he likes me, but he’s also a very critical thinker and smart guy filled to the brim with integrity. 🙂

  3. BigLiberty says:

    Oh and, of course, thanks for the great comment about plagiarism — I think, from what you’ve researched, it seems like it definitely is. However, if the person afterwards is lying about it, how can you ever really know if they hijacked your work or not? I can’t understand why someone who’s perfectly capable of writing something great on her own would lift something of someone else’s, anyway.

    And did you see the bullying in the thread? I’m not whining about “stealing” instead of “sharing.” Intellectual property is important, and should be protected. Artists/writers/etc aren’t going to put tons of work into creating something beautiful/interesting/funny/etc if they think someone’s going to come along, lift their concepts, and call it their own.

    And, I’m sorry, but I did a shitload of research for that post, and I never came across another blog post that was remotely like my own, and now there’s this “Overheight Epidemic” post whose feel, concepts, flow, and phraseology is nearly indistinguishable from my own? Sorry, but going from zero posts like to two smells awfully funny, and is pretty much statistically impossible.

    Carrie, take down that post, please. Have a little respect for others’ works. If you want to add something, be original. There’s plenty of room for satirizing the Obesity “Epidemic” Moral Panic [TM]. I’d love to see what originality you could add, since it’s obvious you write well.

  4. limor477 says:

    Hmmm…I have to say that it doesn’t look good for Carrie. I have written posts inspired by other people’s posts but have always tried to make my writing reflect that fact, directed my readers to the original with a link, and of course gave credit to the person who did the inspiring. Carrie’s piece, as you have stated, appears to be a summary of your post, not an “inspired by” post, especially since she didn’t give you any credit until you requested it. I don’t know what advice to give you. If someone e-mailed me about a post, and had the same complaint you did, I would immediately apologize and remedy the situation. Maybe she’s too embarassed to admit her “mistake”.

  5. anniemcphee says:

    Heh I got annoyed enough that I posted a link to the sarcasticgamer’s WII Fit parody all over the fatosphere on every discussion and no one said a word – suddenly it made a whole blog post on (SP?) and everyone’s peeing their pants and saying how hilarious it is and what a genius that she found it lol. And I didn’t even make that.

    So I can see you being upset. I came across an article one time by accident that I’d written, reposted in its entirety, but it had my name on it so I wasn’t annoyed but flattered. Had it had another name on it I’d have been pissed. Though, admittedly, if it had had NO name on it, I wouldn’t have been pissed. If I write something of any value I prefer people to go ahead and spread it around, credit or not. At the same time I don’t want them putting someone else’s name on it…though I guess even then I could tolerate it, since the important thing is the message. So…I don’t know.

    And I *definitely* can’t say one way or another if it was lifted – others are much more able to tell things like that. Considering I used to make a lot of the stupider school reports that I did by merely paraphrasing the Encyclopedia, I sort of thought that made it a different thing than copying something word for word. But it’s a new world. I’m interested in the creative commons type thing.

    Let me ask you this, BL – had she linked to you originally, would you have a problem with it? Because I was thinking if so, then her adding the link after might have been enough? I don’t know – don’t take it the wrong way, I’m just asking.

  6. BigLiberty says:

    I think that if I’d been quoted instead of paraphrased, and then given proper linkage, I wouldn’t have had the slightest problem in the world with it. And there is the possibility, of course, that it is some freak coincidence, though I usually have a pretty good nose for these sorts of things (as you know from previous hullaballoos).

    I think what got to me *more* was that she posted that satire, and suddenly she was featured in other blogs as being fantastically original when, even if it was entirely coincidental, she wasn’t. However, seeing how closely some of what was written paralleled what I wrote (and in the manner I wrote it), made me pretty angry.

    I used to work myself to the bone in college, by myself, on all my homework sets and so forth for math and physics. However, there used to be this group of kids who’d “share” their ideas — mostly by relying on the one or two who knew what they were doing to do everyone else’s work, and it inflated the grades of the kids who didn’t do shit all. There was also outright cheating, though that wasn’t nearly as prevalent.

    I fought tooth and nail to be as highly ranked as I could, and I lost a scholarship by one place. Guess who got that place? Yep — one of the cheaters. Not one of the ones who everyone was cheating OFF, rather, one of the ones whose idea of doing physics problems was kissing ass and threatening the jobs of professors who gave her bad exam grades (no fooling…’nother story for ‘nother day).

    So I do not tolerate that sort of thing. At. All.

  7. anniemcphee says:

    Oh, I forgot to mention – that fucking anonymous comment – the long one that pretends to be supporting you (you know, the bitingly sarcastic one?) Gee, I have SUCH a feeling we know that person. Too bad they couldn’t just be open instead of making a shit-coward anonymous fucking post. To whoever you are: eat shit.

  8. anniemcphee says:

    “I think what got to me *more* was that she posted that satire, and suddenly she was featured in other blogs as being fantastically original”

    Yes, that happens, and it’s maddening. I don’t blame you there, at all. It’s happened to me too, in smaller ways. But that’s because we don’t count lol.

  9. BigLiberty says:

    Yeah, I prolly should just get used to it, or stop making such elaborate posts that require so much work. Then again, Sandy’s stuff gets lifted and rephrased all the time on certain blogs, and she pushes on.

    I stopped reading the comments after my last one. No point. I have better things to do than get too upset over this, really. Make no mistake, I’m pretty pissed. This kind of thing feels like such a violation.

    Oh, and the “one we know”? Is it a very cliquey person who is very certain of his/her intellectual superiority and uses that so-called superiority as retorts to any dissenting opinion? Oh yeah, and calls people names, or otherwise denigrates their intelligence, or mocks their words, instead of properly engaging in debate, because he/she is safely under the wings some sufficiently Big Dawgz?


    I might know someone like that.

  10. anniemcphee says:

    I also have a feeling that “Anon” would not EVER have made such a post to BrownFemiPower after the Marcotte thing, even though Marcotte said she hadn’t seen the original and it was merely a topic they both saw fit to write about, and having similar mindsets, etc. (And again I don’t claim to know if it was lifted or not; Marcotte’s a jackass and a loon, but I don’t know if she’s a blatant liar like that.) But you can’t maintain that you’re an elite progressive if you post such things about certain groups/individual members of such groups, regardless the situation. If you post them anonymously about white, libertarian, objectivist fat persons then it’s all good. (shrug.)

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