List of misquotations

This page consists of things that many people think are correct quotations but are actually incorrect. This does not include quotations that were actually blunders by the people who said them (see, e.g., Wikipedia:Political gaffe).

See also: Quotations on misquotation.


Misquoted or misattributedEdit

  • "If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas."
  • "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore, Toto.", Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz (played by Judy Garland)
    • This phrase was never uttered by the character. What she really said was Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas any more.
  • "Not a lot of people know that.", Michael Caine, British actor.
    • Peter Sellers said this whilst doing an impression of Michael Caine and has become associated with the quote despite not having said it in the first place.[2]
  • “Nice guys finish last.” Leo Durocher (1906–1991), US baseball manager.
    • As reported in the biography, Nice Guys Finish Last, (by Leo Durocher, with Ed Linn, Simon & Schuster, 1975), Durocher's remark was his reply to being asked his opinion of the 1946 New York Giants. He actually said, “Take a look at them. All nice guys. They’ll finish last. Nice guys – finish last.” Elision of the subordinate conjunction in the final sentence turned an evaluation into a declaration that nice people are doomed to failure.
  • “The two most common elements in the Universe are Hydrogen and Stupidity.” Harlan Ellison (born May 27, 1934), US author.
    • Although stated by Ellison in a nonfiction essay in the mid-1960s, this quote has been frequently misattributed to Frank Zappa. In Zappa's autobiography, The Real Frank Zappa Book (1989), on page 239, Zappa makes a similar comment: "Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe."
  • "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" Voltaire
  • "To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize." Voltaire
    • Often used as justification for anti-Semitism, the quote is actually by Kevin Strom, a Neo-Nazi writer**
  • "If I can't dance I don't want to be in [or a part of] your revolution." (also: "If I can't dance to it, it's not my revolution")
    • Widely attributed to Emma Goldman, but according to Goldman scholar Alix Kates Shulman, it was instead the invention of anarchist printer Jack Frager for a small batch of Goldman T-shirts he printed in 1973. In her memoirs, Goldman remembers being censured for dancing and states:
      • "I insisted that our Cause could not expect me to become a nun and that the movement should not be turned into a cloister. If it meant that, I did not want it. 'I want freedom, the right to self-expression, everybody's right to beautiful, radiant things.'" – Living My Life (New York: Knopf, 1934), p. 56
    • See Shulman, Alix Kates 'Dances With Feminists, Women's Review of Books, Vol. IX, no. 3, December 1991.
  • "Just the facts, ma'am."
    • This, the best known quote from the Jack Webb series Dragnet, was never said by Sgt. Friday in any of the Dragnet radio or television series. The quote was, however, adopted in the 1987 Dragnet pseudo-parody film starring Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks in which Aykroyd played Sgt. Joe Friday.
    • Correct versions:
"All we want are the facts, ma'am."
"All we know are the facts, ma'am."
  • We trained hard... but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams we would be reorganized. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization.
    • Usually misattributed to Petronius Arbiter
    • Actually by Charlton Ogburn (1911–1998) from "Merrill's Marauders: The truth about an incredible adventure" in the January 1957 issue of Harper's Magazine
    • Actual quote: "We trained hard, but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams we would be reorganized. Presumably the plans for our employment were being changed. I was to learn later in life that, perhaps because we are so good at organizing, we tend as a nation to meet any new situation by reorganizing; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralization."
    • see Brown, David S. "Petronius or Ogburn?", Public Administration Review, Vol. 38, No. 3 (May – June, 1978), p. 296 [3]
  • "Elementary, my dear Watson" – Sherlock Holmes
    • This phrase was never uttered by the character in any of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's written works. Though "Elementary," and "...my dear Watson." both appear near the beginning of The Crooked Man (1893), it is the "...my dear Watson" that appears first, and "Elementary" is the succinct reply to Watson's exclamation a few lines of dialogue later. This is the closest these four immortal words ever appear together in the canon.
    • The first documented occurrence of this quote appears in the P. G. Wodehouse novel, "Psmith, Journalist", which was serialized in The Captain magazine (1909-10) then published in book form (1915) and contains the following dialog:
"That's right," said Billy Windsor. "Of course."
"Elementary, my dear Watson, elementary," murmured Psmith.
  • The end justifies the means.
    • Often misattributed to Machiavelli's The Prince, in which the idea appears, but not the phrase itself, and to many other writers who repeat this aphorism at least as old as Ovid, Heroides (c. 10 BC): Exitus acta probat. See also: Means and ends.
  • On the whole, I would rather be in Philadelphia.
    • Misattributed to W. C. Fields
    • Actual quote: "Here Lies W. C. Fields: I would rather be living in Philadelphia." Presented as one of "A group of artists [writing] their own epitaphs" in a 1925 issue of Vanity Fair, which may or may not have been written by the figures whose names appear with the epitaphs.
    • see Amory, Cleveland, and Bradlee, Frederic, Vanity Fair: Selections from America's Most Memorable Magazine, a Cavalcade of the 1920s and 1930s, Viking Press, 1960, page 103.
  • "I invented the internet."
    • Misattributed to Al Gore.
    • In fact, Al Gore did not claim to have "invented" the internet. This a distortion of statements in which Gore claims credit for his role within Congress in funding the internet's development. While popularized by Gore's political opponents as a quote from Gore, the initial use of the word "invented" in this context was by Wired News author Declan McCullagh, who in turn was paraphrasing House Majority Leader Armey's criticism of Gore's claims. The correct Gore quote from CNN's Late Edition: "During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country's economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system."
    • Finkelstein, Seth (28 April 2006). Al Gore "invented the Internet" – resources. sethf.com. Retrieved on 2011-6-16.
  • "Far from the maddening crowd"
    • This is a misstatement of a line from Thomas Gray's poem “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” (1751): "Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife, Their sober wishes never learn'd to stray." The line was later used by Thomas Hardy as the title of his novel “Far From The Madding Crowd”.
    • See http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/134150.html
  • "With great power comes great responsibility."
    • This is often erroneously assumed to be the quote of Ben Parker dating back to the original Spider-Man origin story as depicted in 1962's Amazing Fantasy #15. This statement appears as a caption of narration in the last panel of the story and wasn't a spoken line by any character in the story. In most retellings of Spider-Man's origin, including the 2002 film, the quote has been retconned [the alteration of previously established facts in the continuity of a fictional work] to depict Uncle Ben's final lecture to Peter Parker prior to Ben's tragic death and as the words that continue to drive Peter as Spider-Man.
  • "It's life, Jim, but not as we know it."
    • Attributed to Leonard McCoy from the run of Star Trek: The Original Series, but the phrase was never uttered. The similar phrase "not life as we know it" is spoken by Spock in the season one episode "The Devil in the Dark." The spurious phrase originated in the 1987 novelty song "Star Trekkin'."
    • See: The Oxford Dictionary of Modern Quotations, 2007 edition (Oxford University Press), entry by Elizabeth Knowles; ISBN 978-0-19-920895-1
  • "We sleep safely in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would harm us."
    • Alternative: "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."
    • Alternative: "We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm."
    • Commonly misattributed to George Orwell without citation. Sometimes also misattributed to Winston Churchill without citation.
    • Actual source: Quote Investigator found the earliest known appearance in a 1993 Washington Times essay by Richard Grenier: "As George Orwell pointed out, people sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." The absence of quotation marks indicates that Grenier was using his own words to convey his interpretation of Orwell's opinion, as seen in citations below.
    • In his 1945 "Notes on Nationalism", Orwell wrote that it was "grossly obvious" that "Those who 'abjure' violence can do so only because others are committing violence on their behalf.""Notes on Nationalism"
    • In an essay on Rudyard Kipling, Orwell cited Kipling's phrase "making mock of uniforms that guard you while you sleep" (Kipling, Tommy), and further noted that Kipling's "grasp of function, of who protects whom, is very sound. He sees clearly that men can be highly civilized only while other men, inevitably less civilized, are there to guard and feed them." (1942)
    • Similar phrase: "I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it." – Aaron Sorkin (A Few Good Men)
  • "Well, that escalated quickly."
    • Risen to popularity as an overnight Internet meme (an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture), this now-common phrase is almost always incorrect on the memes themselves. The correct quote is "Boy, that escalated quickly".
    • Was said by Ron Burgundy following a fight with local anchormen.
    • See: http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Anchorman:_The_Legend_of_Ron_Burgundy
  • "Please, Sir, can I have some more?"
    • Commonly thought to be said by Oliver Twist in the parish workhouse. The correct quote is "Please, Sir, I want some more".
  • "The harder he works, the luckier he gets."
    • Variations are frequently attributed to Donald Trump or his wife in interview, but the phrase originated with Samuel Goldwyn as "The harder I work, the luckier I get.", but he was believed to be paraphrasing the quote below.
  • "I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it."
    • There is no record that this was said or written by Thomas Jefferson. [4]. Its first print appearance is by F. L. Emerson in 1947.
  • "Ladies and Gentlemen of the class of 99, wear sunscreen."
    • The Wear Sunscreen speech is regular attributed to Kurt Vonnegut or Baz Luhrmann, but it was originally written in 1997 as a newspaper column by Mary Schmich as a semi-parodic "Guide to Life for Students".
  • "If the mountain won't come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain."
    • Often attributed to the prophet Muhammad but there's no evidence that he actually said this. This phrase actually originates in a retelling of the story of Muhammad by Francis Bacon in 1625:"Mahomet cald the Hill to come to him. And when the Hill stood still, he was neuer a whit abashed, but said; If the Hill will not come to Mahomet, Mahomet wil go to the hil."
    • The original phrase used the term "hill", but John Owen's 1643 translation used the term "mountain". This phrase is often misquoted due to widespread misunderstanding of the phrases meaning. It does not refer to "going after opportunity instead of waiting for it to come to you". Its meaning translates, "If one's will does not prevail, one must submit to an alternative."
  • "A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking real money."
    • Attributed to Everett Dirksen. Dirksen occasionally used the phrase "a billion here, a billion there" in his speeches, but the latter appendage was apparently the work of a newspaper reporter. Dirksen noted that although he never said the whole comment, he liked the misquotation and never seriously objected to its misattribution.

Unsourced, unverified, or other best guessesEdit

These may not necessarily be misquotations but catchphrases from popular culture, whose formation required slight alterations to put them into context and make them memorable."
  • "A house that has a library in it has a soul."
    • Attributed to Plato by Robert G. Ingersoll in "The Liberty Of All" (1877), but it does not appear in Plato's writings.
  • "No rest for the wicked."
    • Probably a corruption of Isaiah 57:21: "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked."
  • “Thus I progressed on the surface of life, in the realm of words as it were, never in reality. All those books barely read, those friends barely loved, those cities barely visited, those women barely possessed! I went through the gestures out of boredom or absent-mindedness. Then came the human beings, they wanted to cling, but there was nothing to cling to, and that was unfortunate – for them. As for me, I forgot. I never remembered anything but myself.”
    • Widely reblogged quote with no evident primary source allegedly originating with Albert Camus.
    • According to Goodreads, it is quoted from The Fall by Albert Camus.[5]
  • "Mate, how does it feel to have dropped the World Cup"
    • Allegedly by Steve Waugh to Herschelle Gibbs when Gibbs dropped a now infamous catch that eventually assisted in South Africa being knocked out of the 1999 Cricket World Cup. Although some Australian cricketers claim they heard this exchange, Waugh himself denies it was said.
  • "Because it's there"
    • George Mallory on why he wanted to climb Mount Everest. Questions have been raised about the authenticity of this quote. It may have been invented by a newspaper reporter.
  • "It's a funny old game"
    • Jimmy Greaves' autobiography "Greavsie" insists that, despite this quote regularly being attributed to him, he has never used it. The misquotation may arise from a trailer for the Central Television programme Spitting Image during the mid-1980s.
  • "Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely."
    • This misquote hearkens back to the British Lord Acton, a 19th century English historian who was commenting about tyrannical monarchs (Caesar, Henry VIII, Napoleon, various Russian Tsars, etc.). Lord Acton actually wrote: "Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."
  • "Damn it, Jim! I'm a doctor not a..." – Leonard McCoy
    • From the Star Trek science fiction television series. McCoy had several lines of this sort, except that he never said "damn it". Only one "swear word" was used on the original Star Trek series (prior to the movies): "hell." It was most famously spoken at the end of the episode entitled "City on the Edge of Forever": "Let's get the hell out of here" – J. T. Kirk.
    • Used in Star Trek (2009).
  • "All that glistens is not gold" / "All that glitters is not gold" – William Shakespeare
    • Correct quote: "All that glisters is not gold". Often (usually) misquoted.
    • Spoken by the Prince of Morocco in The Merchant of Venice
    • The line "All that is gold does not glitter" is the opening of a poem in "Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring", referring to the character Aragorn, who "looks foul and feels fair".
    • In the chorus of the Smashmouth song "Allstar" can be found the phrase "Not all that glitters is gold".
  • "Blood, Sweat, and Tears" – Winston Churchill
    • Correct quote: "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat."
    • The quote appeared in the book Metropolis, written by Thea von Harbou (wife of Metropolis director Fritz Lang), first published in 1926. The text, describing Freder Fredersen as he has just finished his first day working to keep the machines of Metropolis alive, states, "He tasted a salty taste on his lips, and did not know if it was from blood, sweat, or tears."
    • Notes: A similar quote from Winston Churchill can be found in a recorded speech he gave to the House of Commons where he says " I have never promised anything but blood, sweat and tears, now however we have a new experience. We have victory. a..a remarkable victory. A bright gleam has caught the helmets of our soldiers and warmed and cheered all our hearts."
    • The song from the movie The Longest Day says: " [...] Filled with hopes and filled with fears. Filled with blood and sweat and tears [...]"
    • Blood, Sweat and Tears is the name of the 1963 album from Johnny Cash, which inspired the name for the music group formed in 1967, and may be the source of confusion.
  • "God helps those who help themselves."
    • The saying is not biblical, but it is an ancient proverb that shows up in the literature of many cultures, including a 1736 edition of Benjamin Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanac. "There is a Rabbinic saying: "One who comes to be purified is helped." which is quite similar.
    • This is more or less identical to the message in one of the Aesop's fables, about a man praying to Hercules--the fable "Heracles and the Driver" The moral to this fable is "The gods help those who help themselves" This is a likely origin as the fable is well known and the moral is the closest to the actual phrase.
    • The saying is also found in Xenophon's masterpiece about Cyrus, Cyropaedia.
    • Pretty much the motto on the coat of arms of Huddersfield, England 'Juvat impigros deus'. Strictly speaking, God helps the industrious, but locally translated as "God helps those who help themselves".
  • "Lead on, Macduff"
  • "Bubble bubble, toil and trouble."
    • Correct quote: "Double, double toil and trouble." – William Shakespeare (Macbeth)
    • "Bubble bubble" was popularized in the hit Disney cartoon DuckTales – "Much Ado About Scrooge." The witches on the island chanted "Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble. Leave this island on the double." Here, the words from the Macbeth rhyming scheme are reversed.
  • "Methinks the lady doth protest too much"
    • Correct quote: "The lady doth protest too much, methinks." – William Shakespeare (Hamlet)
    • This quote comes from Hamlet, Act 3, scene 2, line 254 (line accuracy may differ in varying versions of the play). During the time of Shakespeare, the word "protest" meant "vow" or "declare solemnly" rather than "deny". In this manner, Gertrude is making a comment about the Player Queen's overzealous attachment to the Player King rather than a denial of guilt. The quote is Gertrude's response to Hamlet's asking her if she is enjoying the play.
  • "Money is the root of all evil."
    • In context: "For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." (1 Timothy 6:10) KJV (The King James Bible)
    • Many translations render what the KJV renders as "the root" (originally ῥίζα) as "a root" or "at the root" and "all evil" (πᾶς κακός) as "all sorts of evil" or "all kinds of evil". (See also translations in New International Version, New American Standard Bible, New Living Translation.) All translations agree that it is the love of money, rather than money itself, that is associated with evil.
  • "Now is the winter of our discontent."
    • In context: "Now is the winter of our discontent / Made glorious summer by this son of York." – William Shakespeare (Richard III)
    • Notes: This is not a misquotation but a selective quotation, because the grammar of the quotation is different from the grammar of the original, and hence the meaning may be lost on some. As misquoted, is is the main verb, and the phrase means, "The winter of our discontent is happening now." In the full quote, is is an auxiliary verb and might be rephrased according to modern usage, to clarify the meaning: "Now the winter of our discontent is made into a glorious summer by this sun of York." (This sun of York and not son, a punning reference to the coat of arms of Edward IV.)
  • "Alas, poor Horatio! I knew him well."
    • Correct quote: "Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio – a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy." – William Shakespeare (Hamlet, Act V, Scene I)
  • "Play it again, Sam"
    • Actual quote: "Play it once, Sam, for old times' sake, play 'As Time Goes By'." – Ingrid Bergman (Casablanca)
    • Actual quote: "You played it for her, you can play it for me. ... If she can stand to listen to it, I can. Play it." – Humphrey Bogart (Casablanca)
    • Note: Woody Allen paid homage to Casablanca under the title Play It Again, Sam, which is likely the source of much such misquotation.
    • The line first occurred in the Marx Brothers' film A Night in Casablanca (1946), another possible source of the misquotation.
  • "I'm ready for my close-up, Mr DeMille"
    • Actual quote: "All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up" Gloria Swanson (Sunset Boulevard)
  • "Greed is good"
    • Actual quote: "The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works." – Michael Douglas (Wall Street)
  • "Someone set us up the bomb"
    • Correct quote: "Somebody set up us the bomb"
    • The spoken words are "Someone set us up the bomb" in the flash animation, which made the phenomenon popular.
    • "somebody set up us the bomb" is a cheat code in Empire Earth to win the game automatically.
    • Notes: From a Japanese video game, Zero Wing, with a very unskilled and amusing English translation. The original Japanese - nanimonoka niyotte bakuhatsubutsu ga shikakerareta youdesu - is natural and unbroken, although it conveys much greater uncertainty about what has happened. Similar to "all your base are belong to us", which occurs in the same game.
  • "The rest is science"
    • Correct quote: "The rest is silence" – William Shakespeare (Hamlet)
    • Notes: This phrase may also be used as a play on words, or even plain prose, as when Steve Swallow, the jazz musician, said about jazz composition, "Eventually, an idea always comes, and then the rest is science."
  • "To gild the lily"
    • Correct quote: "To gild refined gold, to paint the lily" – William Shakespeare (The Life and Death of King John, Act IV, Scene II, line 13) (Shakespeare was himself playing with the biblical story that says that one does not need to add to what God has already done for the lily (Matt 6:28) "See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.")
  • "Why don't you come up and see me sometime?"
    • Correct quote: "Why don't you come up sometime and see me? I'm home every evening." – Mae West (She Done Him Wrong)
    • She switched the word order in her next film, I'm No Angel, where she says, "Come up and see me sometime", without the "Why don't you".
    • A mechanical mouse in a Tom and Jerry cartoon repeated, "Come up and see me sometime."
  • "I am not a crook" – Richard Nixon
    • Often attributed to his denial of any foreknowledge of the Watergate breakin, when, in fact, the question raised in a Press Conference was about his personal finances. Nixon's response, properly worded, was: "And I think, too, that I can say that in my years of public life, that I welcome this kind of examination because people have gotta know whether or not their President's a crook. Well, I'm not a crook. I've earned everything I've got."
  • "You dirty rat!"
    • Never said by James Cagney in any film. However, in Blonde Crazy (1931) he says that another character is a "dirty, double-crossing rat!"
    • In Taxi!(1932) James Cagney is ready to kill a man who killed his brother, (hence the full misquote in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, "You dirty rat, you killed my brother") and says, "Come out and take it, you dirty yellow-bellied rat, or I'll give it to you through the door!" This would be the closest true quotation in context and wording.
    • Also quoted in the 1934 Cole Porter musical Anything Goes
    • Also quoted in the 1990 movie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by the character Michelangelo in an attempt to impersonate James Cagney
  • "The only traditions of the Royal Navy are rum, sodomy and the lash."
    • Winston Churchill's personal secretary, Anthony Montague-Browne, said that although Churchill did not say this, he wished he had.
  • "The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crisis maintain their neutrality", or a variation on that.
    • This was stated by John F. Kennedy and attributed by him to Dante [6]. However, in the Divine Comedy those who "non furon ribelli né fur fedeli" — neither rebelled against nor were faithful to God — are located directly inside the gate of Hell, a region neither hot nor cold (Inferno, canto 3); the lowest part of Hell, a frigid lake of ice, was for traitors.
  • "A damn close run thing" – Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington, referring to his victory over Napoleon at Waterloo.
    • He actually said, "It has been a damn nice thing-the nearest run thing you ever saw..." with nice in the archaic meaning of "careful or precise" and not the modern "attractive or agreeable" or the even more archaic meaning of "foolish".
  • "Do you feel lucky, punk?" – Clint Eastwood as Harry Callahan in Dirty Harry
    • Correct quote plus context: "Ah-ah. I know what you're thinking: 'Did he fire six shots, or only five?' Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But, being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya, PUNK?"
    • Jim Carrey's character in The Mask paraphrased Harry Callahan by speaking this misquote.
  • "Whenever I hear the word 'culture' I reach for my revolver."
    • 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.
    • Baldur von Schirach, head of the Hitlerjugend, delivered this sentence in a public speech, circa 1938. A footage of the scene, with von Schirach actually drawing his gun, appears in Frederic Rossif's documentary "from Nurnberg to Nurnberg".
    • Notes: It is possible that this is actually a rather more felicitous phrase in translation than it is in the original. Both the original German and this English translation were juxtaposed by Howard Thomas in his review of an article by Nicholas H. Battey in the Journal of Experimental Biology, December 2002, as "the famous words of Hanns Johst: 'Wenn ich Kultur höre ... entsichere ich meinen Browning' – 'Whenever I hear the word culture, I reach for my revolver.'"
    • The phrase itself may be a play on words as the word Browning may refer to both a pistol and the English poet Robert Browning.
    • Additionally it should be noted that a Browning (most likely the M1935 High-Power) is not a revolver, but a magazine-fed semi-automatic pistol. However, at the time, the word "Browning" was used to refer to any pistol, much as "Colt" is used for any revolver in westerns.
  • "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned"
    • The correct quotation is "Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned/ Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned." by William Congreve in The Mourning Bride of 1697.
  • "Don't fire till you see the whites of their eyes."
    • This quotation is usually attributed to Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans.
    • In fact, it originates with Colonel William Prescott commander of George Washington's Continental Army, at the Battle of Bunker Hill. The full quotation is, "Don't fire till you see the whites of their eyes. Then, fire low!"
    • Source: George Washington's War by Robert Leckie
  • "Houston, we have a problem"
    • This phrase, supposedly uttered by Apollo 13 commander, Jim Lovell was, in its original rendering: "Houston, we've had a problem here. We've had a main B bus undervolt". However, the first notification to Houston that there was a problem was by fellow astronaut Jack Swigert, who used almost identical words. The official NASA chronology [7] lists the messages as:

      55:55:20 – Swigert: "Okay, Houston, we've had a problem here."

      55:55:28 – Lousma: "This is Houston. Say again please."

      55:55:35 – Lovell: "Houston, we've had a problem. We've had a main B bus undervolt."

    • However, in the movie Apollo 13, Tom Hanks says Houston, we have a problem,. [8]
  • "Kismet Hardy / Kiss me, Hardy" – British Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson
    • Nelson is rumoured to have said "Kismet Hardy" or "Kiss me, Hardy" whilst he was dying. Kismet means Fate. However, the OED gives the earliest use in the English language of "kismet" as 1849. On his deathbed, Nelson said Kiss me, Hardy to his Flag Captain, Thomas Masterman Hardy, but they were not his final words, and Hardy was not present at Nelson's death. Nelson's actual final words (related by HMS Victory's Surgeon William Beatty, who was with him when he died) were "Thank God, I have done my duty. Drink, drink. Fan, fan. Rub, rub".
  • "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing" – Edmund Burke
    • The above is most likely a summary of the following quote in Burke's "Thoughts on the Cause of Present Discontents": "When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
  • "We don't need no steenking badges!" – Bandit in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
    • The original quote is "Badges? We ain't got no badges! We don't need no badges. I don't have to show you any stinkin' badges!"
    • This quote is actually from the film Blazing Saddles, in an obvious spoof of the original source.
      • When the newly recruited Mexican Bandits are presented badges for their participation in the upcoming raid on the town of Rock Ridge, the leader responds with: "Badges? We don't need no stinking badges."
    • The line was again misquoted in the movie The Ninth Configuration, in which a group of mental patients spend their time playing a game called "Famous Lines from Famous Movies" where one person quotes a line and the rest must identify the movie.
    • This is also quoted in the Weird Al Yankovic film UHF, with 'badges' replaced with 'badgers'.
    • A varient of this line Was used by the Decepticon Starscream in the Transformers episode "Ghost in the Machine", where he is quoted as saying "Passes? We don't need to show you no stinking passes!"
  • "Spare the rod, spoil the child"
    • There are numerous proverbs dealing with the subject of discipline in childrearing, but this is the closest: "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes." – Bible (King James Version), Proverbs 13:24
    • This quote can be found in "Hudibras" by Samuel Butler a poem in the 1600s
  • "Crisis? What crisis?" – British Prime Minister James Callaghan
    • This was a headline from The Sun newspaper (11 January 1979) referring to Callaghan's reply at an improvised press conference. Asked "What is your general approach, in view of the mounting chaos in the country at the moment?", Callaghan replied "Well, that's a judgment that you are making. I promise you that if you look at it from outside, and perhaps you're taking rather a parochial view at the moment, I don't think that other people in the world would share the view that there is mounting chaos."
  • "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."
    • This quote is often attributed to Sigmund Freud to show that even that a famous psychoanalyst can admit that not everything has a profound meaning; However, no variation of this quote ever appears in his writings. It was probably falsely attributed by a journalist, long after Freud's death.
    • Actually, the quote is "Sometimes a pipe is just a pipe." The story goes that Freud was lecturing on oral fixation and one of his cheekier students asked about his ever-present pipe and Freud replied, sometimes a pipe is just a pipe.[citation needed]
    • An alternative from Rudyard Kipling, from his poem "The Betrothed":
"A million surplus Maggies are willing to bear the yoke;
And a woman is only a woman, but a good Cigar is a Smoke."
  • "Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words."
  • "Show me a young Conservative and I'll show you someone with no heart. Show me an old Liberal and I'll show you someone with no brains."
    • Often attributed to Winston Churchill ([9]). The phrase originated with Francois Guisot (1787-1874): "Not to be a republican at twenty is proof of want of heart; to be one at thirty is proof of want of head." It was revived by French Premier Georges Clemenceau (1841-1929): "Not to be a socialist at twenty is proof of want of heart; to be one at thirty is proof of want of head."
  • "I woke up this mornin' and I got myself a beer."
    • Correctly, according to the book "Light My Fire" by fellow Doors member Ray Manzarek, Jim Morrison was in fact singing "I woke up this mornin' and I got myself a beard", as the song allegedly tells of Morrison waking up after 3 weeks of drug induced sleep.
    • The line "I woke up this morning and I got myself a beer" was inspired by Alice Cooper. He and Morrison were talking at the recording studio just before Jim went to record this song. He asked Alice about his day and he responded "Ehh.. Woke up this morning.... got myself a beer." Morrison decided to use the line in the song. Repeated in many interviews with Alice Cooper over the years. [10]
  • Let them eat cake.
    • This was never said by Marie Antoinette. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in his 1783 autobiography Confessions, relates that "a great princess" is said to have advised, with regard to starving peasants, "S’ils n’ont plus de pain, qu’ils mangent de la brioche," commonly translated as "If they have no bread, let them eat cake!" It has been speculated that he was actually referring to Maria Theresa of Spain. (Rousseau's manuscript was written in 1767, when Marie Antoinette was only 12 and would not marry the future Louis XVI for another three years.)
  • You want the truth? You can't handle the truth!
    • While Jack Nicholson indeed says the second part of this line in the film A Few Good Men, the correct dialogue sequence is: "You want answers?" "I want the truth!" "You can't handle the truth!" Cruise's character, in response to being asked if he wants answers, responds that he thinks he is entitled; asked again if he wants answers, Cruise states that he wants the truth. This sets off the monologue from Nicholson that begins with "You can't handle the truth!" This misquotation is commonly used in parodies of the scene, including twice on The Simpsons.
  • Hello, Clarice.
    • This line, while occasionally used in parody of the film The Silence of the Lambs, was never once used in the film itself. However, Anthony Hopkins's character, Hannibal Lecter, does at one point utter a similar phrase of "Good evening, Clarice." On the other hand in the sequel Hannibal, when the doctor answers detective Pazzi's cell phone, just before he pushes him off the library balcony, Dr. Lecter greets Agent Starling with the following, "Is this Clarice? Well, hello Clarice..."
  • Well, here's another fine mess you've gotten me into
    • Attributed to Oliver Hardy, and often said after another one of Stan Laurel's mistakes.
    • The actual quote was "Well, here's another nice mess you've gotten me into!", which was said in the 1930's short The Hardy Murder Case, but there were several variations in subsequent films. The short, which followed The Hardy Murder Case, was Another Fine Mess, which is presumably the source.
    • Ray Stevens later recorded a song that quoted "Here's another fine mess you've gotten me into / another fine mess, ah well, what else is new."
    • Actually, first written by W. S. Gilbert in the operetta, "The Mikado" ("The Mikado" libretto, see pg 32, 1st dialogue line after the song), published in 1885. The original line is "Well, a nice mess you've gotten us in to..." spoken by the character Ko-Ko to Pooh-Bah, in reaction to a lie the two of them, and another character, have told to get out of trouble, but which has resulted in them getting into even more. The ubiquitous popularity of some of Gilbert & Sullivan's works (specifically The Mikado and HMS Pinafore) has led to any number of phrases from their operetti entering into the common lexicon, frequently no longer recognized as quotes (see this review by H. L. Mencken of the Baltimore Evening Sun, November 29, 1910, or this one, same journalist, same paper, 1911).
  • I'm out of order? You're out of order! This whole court's out of order!
    • Actual quote: "You're out of order! You're out of order! The whole trial is out of order! They're out of order!"
    • Character of Arthur Kirkland in ...And Justice for All in response to Judge Rayford saying "Mr. Kirkland, you are out of order."
  • I am the devil, and I have come to do the devil's work.
    • Usually misattributed to Charles Manson, in regard to the murders at the home of Sharon Tate. Manson was not present at any of the murders known to have been committed by his followers. The actual phrase, though not as said above, was uttered by Charles "Tex" Watson to Wojciech "Voytek" Frykowski.
    • "I'm the devil, and I'm here to do the devil's work" is spoken by the character Otis (Bill Moseley) in Rob Zombie's film The Devil's Rejects, most likely as a tribute or homage of some kind to the original quote.
    • Actual quote: "I'm the devil, I'm here to do the devil's business. Give me all your money."
  • Music hath/has charms to soothe the savage beast.
    • A misquotation of William Congreve's play, The Mourning Bride, (1697).
    • Actual quote: "Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast. To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak."
    • See Wikipedia listing for William Congreve
  • Only the Dead have seen the end of War.
    • Attributed to Plato, but actually written by George Santayana in his The Life of Reason (1953). It was first misquoted in one of retired general Douglas MacArthur's farewell speeches and then crept into popular use.
  • "A rose by any other name smells just as sweet."
    • Actual quote: "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet."
    • Act II, scene ii of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet
    • Captain Kirk misquotes the line in the original Star Trek series episode "By Any Other Name."
  • "If you build it, they will come"
    • Actual quote: "If you build it, he will come" from Field of Dreams.
    • Possibly a confusion of the Wayne's World 2 quote "If you book them, they will come." Said by the spirit of Jim Morrison.
  • "'Step into my parlor,' said the spider to the fly."
    • Actual quote: "Will you walk into my parlor?" said the spider to the fly" from "The Spider and the Fly".
    • Also referenced on the song "Spider to the Fly" by the Paper Chase
  • "Nul points"
    • The French phrase is often attributed to the annual Eurovision Song Contest in the media and elsewhere, most notably in the episode of Father Ted, "Song for Europe". However, only points from one to twelve (un – douze) are given during the song contest. The phrase refers to the final score after a country has received no votes at all.
  • "Mirror, mirror, on the wall..." – The Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
    • There is no correct source for this quotation, because it originates in a folk tale, and therefore by definition has no author and no known source. The 1937 film has "Magic mirror on the wall” (followed by "who is the fairest one of all?" and, later in the film, "who now is the fairest one of all?"). The Grimms' version of the story has "Spieglein, Spieglein, an der Wand, Wer ist die Schönste im ganzen Land?" (literally: "Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the most beautiful in the whole country?") – but of course the Snow White story existed before the Grimms collected it.
  • "Fe-Fi-Fo-Fum, I smell the blood of Englishman, Be him alive or be he dead, I'll grind his bones to make my bread."
    • Should this be quoting from Joseph Jacobs' English Fairy Tales it should say "Fe-Fi-Fo-Fum, I smell the blood of Englishman, Be him alive or be he dead, I'll have his bones to grind my bread."
  • Luke, I am Your FatherDarth Vader in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
    • The correct quote is:
      • Darth Vader: Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father.
      • Luke Skywalker: He told me enough! He told me you killed him!
      • Darth Vader: No. I am your father.
      • Luke Skywalker: No... that's not true! That's impossible!
  • Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.
    • A misquotation from the poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1834).
    • Actual quote: Water, water, every where, / And all the boards did shrink; / Water, water, every where, / Nor any drop to drink.
  • "Brace yourself, winter is coming"
    • Attributed to Eddard (Ned) Stark (a character from George R. R. Martin's book series 'A Song of Ice and Fire'), but never in the series does he say the two phrases sequentially.
  • "And I would have gotten away with it if it hadn't been for those meddling kids!"
    • Commonly attributed to various Scooby-Doo villains after being apprehended and unmasked at the end of the mystery.
    • This quote is a pastiche of the various lines delivered by villains. Some villains would come close to uttering the line but would substitute "meddlers" or "pesky kids" or some variation. Some villains would use the "meddling kids" part but only a part of the rest of the line. Many villains remained silent upon arrest. This line, however, was used in a Direct TV commercial featuring Scooby Doo.
  • "There is no way to happiness; happiness is the way."
    • Commonly attributed to Buddha, but not said by him. The source is likely to be either modern Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, or Calvinist clergyman Abraham Johannes Muste. The phrase appears in Thich Nhat Hanh's writings; but it also appears in a volume of US senate hearings from 1948, when Thich Nhat Hanh had not yet been ordained as a monk. Muste is known to have used a variant of the phrase – "'peace' is the way" in 1967, but this was not the first time he had used it, and he had a connection with the 1948 hearing. (Citation is at fakebuddhaquotes.com/there-is-no-path-to-happiness-happiness-is-the-path/)
  • "Eppur Si Muove (And Yet it Moves)."
    • While attributed to Galileo during his trial with the Inquisition, there is no actual evidence to support the claim that he actually made this statement.
  • "Lights, Camera, Action."
    • Has never actually been used as a standard cadence in film-making. The call of "lights" would refer to burning lights, which had to actually be prepared, and then lit to function, and they would be irrelevant in modern times. There is no evidence that a call of "camera" was ever used at all: the call from the camera operator would be "speed", indicating that the film in the camera had reached the correct speed for filming.
  • "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind"
    • Said by Neil Armstrong while walking on the moon.
    • Due to static interference during transmission Armstrong's message was misinterpreted and consequently has been misquoted. Armstrong actually said, "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."
  • "640k ought to be enough for anyone."
    • There is no actual reference to this ever being said by Bill Gates [11]. The earliest reference to Gates saying something like this appeared in the 1985 (not 1981) issue of InfoWorld magazine, and was regretful of the past rather than predictive of the future: "When we set the upper limit of PC-DOS at 640K, we thought nobody would ever need that much memory.". However even this was without a precise reference and not part of an interview.
  • "Do you want to play a game?"
    • Does not appear in any of the Saw film series. Jigsaw's catchline is "I want to play a game."
    • The question "Shall we play a game?" is said by the computer in the movie War Games
  • Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the Earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.
    • This may be the most famous aviation quote that is not verifiable. It is attributed everywhere (including in some Smithsonian publications and the Washington Post) to Leonardo da Vinci. The probable author is John Hermes Secondari (1919-1975), who was a writer for the 1965 TV documentary I, Leonardo da Vinci. There's a more detailed discussion of this on the Leonardo da Vinci "Talk" page.
  • Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible
    • Often attributed to Lord Kelvin, sometimes to Lord Rayleigh or Simon Newcomb. It is a fact that Kelvin didn't believe in heavier-than air flight [12], but there is no reliable source that he or another physicist from 19th century said it was impossible from a scientific point of view.
    • The oldest known source is the book from Chris Morgan "Facts and fallacies: a book of definitive mistakes and misguided predictions" (1981)
  • Good Morning, Dave.
    • Attributed to HAL 9000 (a character in the movies 2001: A Space Odyssey and 2010) but is never actually spoken by it. Two quotes of HAL 9000 that are very similar to the misquotation are Hello, Dave. in 2001: A Space Odyssey and Good Morning, Dr. Chandra. in 2010.

Commonly misquotedEdit

PeopleEdit

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Because they are well-known wits, sages, or malapropists, certain people are commonly given credit for statements they are not known to have made. Among the more common false authors:

Last modified on 9 April 2014, at 00:11