Quotes That We All Get Wrong

"If you don't read the newspapers, you are uninformed. If you do read them, you are misinformed.
Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay 

This post was inspired by MIchelle of From Famine to Feast, who recently posted this quote that didn’t come from Benjamin Franklin, no matter what the internet might think (although I like it anyway):

“We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.”

Here are a few more examples where the quote is wrong, the person is wrong, or some combination thereof. And the quote in the image above? Yeah no, Mark Twain didn’t actually say that. Not that I would have recognized that dude as Mark Twain anyway, but that’s beside the point.

Elementary, my dear Watson.

This was never, in fact, said by Sherlock Holmes. (Wikiquote)

Good things come to those who wait.

The only one who said this was a Guinness beer commercial (Wikiquote)

The British are coming!

Even non-Americans like me know that Paul Revere shouted this as a warning … except he did no such thing. I guess he didn’t want to warn the British that he knew they were coming. (Wikiquote)

Beam me up, Scottie.

We all know Captain Kirk said that, right? Apparently not. (Wikiquote)

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

This was not, in fact, said by Albert Einstein. It appeared in a book by Rita Mae Brown, which I thought was the name of Whoopi Goldberg’s character in Ghost, but that was Oda Mae. (Mashable)

Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.

This didn’t come from Dr. Seuss; the actual source is unknown. (Readers Digest)

An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.

Gandhi? Nope, but used in 1915 by a Canadian parliamentarian. Another non-Gandhi: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” (RD)

Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing, after they tried everything else.

I hadn’t heard this before, but I like it! It gets attributed to Winston Churchill, but, while he should have said it, he didn’t. (RD)

"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

This is regularly attributed to Victor Frankl, and while it sounds like something he might say, there’s no indication that he did. Stephen R. Covey popularized it, but he didn’t come up with it. He said he read it in a book about Frankl, but he couldn’t remember the name of it, and it remains a mystery. (Quote Investigator)

Can you think of any examples that you’ve come across?


47 thoughts on “Quotes That We All Get Wrong”

  1. It actually doesn’t take much to be a difficult woman. That’s why there are do many of us.

    I know who said this (if I believe the internet) but it gets misquoted at times. 😀
    (Jane Goodall)

  2. I hate reading the news (because it’s so negative), but I also hate not knowing what’s going on in the world (being ignorant)… it’s a double edged sword 🙁

  3. There’s a meme that goes around that’s a misquote of something said in The Matrix. The misquote was “what if I told you…” which was never actually said in the movie. That’s the only misquote I can think of.

  4. I can’t think of any right off the top of my head. But I do know that most memes with clever quotations and some image of a dead and allegedly very intelligent individual or somebody who was greatly admired, are usually mash-ups and the person pictured did not say whatever clever quote they’re credited with. I try to find clever quotes that have pleasing landscape images instead.

    That is Mark Twain or Samuel Clements. That’s how he looks in every images I’ve ever seen in any case. What does he look like to you?

    1. I don’t know, I feel like he reminds me of someone, but maybe it’s just that I’ve seen pictures of him before without realizing it.

  5. Such a great post! I also laughed out loud the first time I saw the so-called Abraham Lincoln quote mentioning the Internet.

  6. Shakespeare is mis-quoted all the time – but you’re talking about misattributions here – anything slightly cynical but witty gets attributed to Mark Twain (such is his reputation, well deserved.He was my favorite author when I was a little kid. As was James Thurber, and by the time I was a teen Ambrose Bierce got added to the list – I was a weird kid.) What struck me most about this post was that you didn’t know who Rita Mae Brown was! Why I would think that everyone knows and likes the same writers I do, is another question LOL

  7. I think the boredom I feel when I think back to US history in school can be attributed to my innate bullshit detector. Yes, yes; we are gods chosen people and Abraham Washington Carver used his robotic arms and army of genetically modified bald eagles to single handedly burn London to the ground.

  8. A favourite quote of mine is Latin. “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.” I first came across it in The Handmaid’s Tale (the book, years ago) and have seen it elsewhere. It’s so inspiring – don’t let the bastards grind you down. Except, it turns out it isn’t real Latin. It means nothing at all, it’s made up. Ah well.

    1. I just looked it up on Wikipedia, and they say “It is known in the Western world primarily due to a 19th-century retelling of Persian fable by the English poet Edward FitzGerald.”

  9. These are brilliant! Well done finding them, Ashley. I’ve got to admit, the insanity one irks me because I really want to know where it came from if not Einstein.

    As for “be the change you wish to see in the world”, I really like that one because it’s empowering. If you type it into Google you see images with Gandhi, clearly others believing that’s where it came from, too. In looking deeper into the quote, I came across someone’s article on LinkedIn, where they’re oh so confidently rattling off their inspiration and whatever else by talking all about Gandhi. If only someone would point out to that person they’re whole pitch is based on a lie… I know he said something like “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change”, as part of a longer paragraph. So maybe this “be the change” quote was an almost paraphrased and more punchy way of summing up his thoughts?

    “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” – That’s a widely misattributed one, too. No idea where that actually comes from. There are actually quite a few but of course as they get repeated, put on more inspirational memes and quote posters, they seem to solidify as though fact. xx

    1. Quote Investigator said this about the pseudo-Gandhi quote: “Gandhi died in 1948, and the earliest close match known to QI appeared many years later in 1974 within a book chapter written by educator Arleen Lorrance.” Still, it sounds wise and like something Gandhi would say.

      Mind over matter was said by a lot of people, but according to Quote Investigator, it first appeared, in slightly modified form, as a quote from an anonymous scientist in a newspaper article in 1968. I think I need to ask Quote Investigator if he needs a sidekick.

      1. Very true.
        But internet is one way helpful.
        I understand there is a website excusively which talks about which quote was said by whom.
        Anybody interested and find time can check the original authour of the quote

  10. I’ve heard Ben Franklin often misquoted as “Those who would sacrifice freedom for security deserve neither.” What he actually said was: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” His context was a lot more specific than the misquotes.

    I’ve never heard the quote about Americans either, but it seems true, at least in my experience. I do believe that there is more “common sense” up here than there was down in California. Interesting theme.

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