Talk:List of misquotations

From Wikiquote
Jump to: navigation, search

Most of these are either a) not actually a quote, but a proverb or common saying or b) not misquotes but misinterpretations.

Star Trek[edit]

Um...yes actually Bones does indeed use this line. Where in the world is the author getting his material for this list???

More on Star Trek: Several websites say that William Shatner, playing Capt. Kirk in a cameo on Mork and Mindy, does say "Beam me up, Scotty".

Neil Armstrong[edit]

Who wrote that? Wikipedia describes in great detail how it was not static.

defend to the death his right to say it[edit]

Does anyone know the originator of the "defend to the death his right to say it" quotation commonly misattributed Voltaire? And should it be clarified that the "stuff that dreams are made of" line in The Maltese Falcon is a garbled allusion to The Tempest and that Nathan Hale's "one life to live for my country" quotation, if he actually said it, to an Addison play? -Alex

This is an English historian (a woman, I think) summing up Voltaire’s idea. I can’† find it off-hand and I know I never knew more that her initials.Vrykolaka 10:48, 20 September 2006 (UTC)
You're thinking of Evelyn Beatrice Hall for the Voltaire quote. - InvisibleSun 11:04, 20 September 2006 (UTC)

Voltaire states this

What makes a misquote?[edit]

In this section we need to know what makes a misquote. Does it simply mean the wrong words being applied, the words taken out of context, the words being said by the wrong person, or what? -Adrian

It would be nice to distinguish types:

  1. Misattribution: Mark Twain didn't say "Lies, damn lies and statistics" (he did not, although it is uncertain who originated the saying; see
  2. Quotation out of context: "Now is our ...discontent made summer" morphing into "Now is our winter of discontent"
  3. Slip of the tongue interpreted as major policy shift: "We can't defeat them militarily (like conquering a nation) but we'll stop them anyway" => "We can't win the war on terrorism"

I hope we can be objective enough to be accurate and unbiased. -- 18:31, 13 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Actually the most thorough research available indicates that the origin of "Lies, damned lies, and Statistics", lies with neither of the famous wits to whom it is most often attributed, but the much more obscure Leonard H. Courtney, who ironically went on to become the president of the Royal Statistical Society. Twain attributed it to Disraeli in his Autobiography (1924) in a passage probably written in Florence in 1904, but it is thought that he mistook a rather ambiguous reference by Courtney to "the Wise Statesman" as a definite reference to Disraeli, who is not known to have ever said it, or written it. ~ Kalki 20:22, 13 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Thanks, Kalki. There are a considerable number of 'attributed sayings' which scholars have been unable to pin down as to who "really said it" first. I hope WikiQuote can deal with this issue. --Ed Poor (was "208" above)
As far as I'm concerned, "Quotation out of context" is not misquotation. It's just... well, quotation out of context. -- 22:50, 30 October 2006 (UTC)

Someone set up us the bomb[edit]

Regarding the All your base-quote. The voice says "Someone set up us the bomb" (a bomb?) but the text reads "Somebody set up us the bomb". Which is the correct quote?

Whose father?[edit]

The infamous quote from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back has been misquoted more than any other that I have ever seen.

Common misquote variations:

"Luke, I am your father. "No, Luke, I am your father. "I am your father, Luke."

The correct quote:

"No. I am your father."

Ask almost anyone, fan or not, and they will immediately tell you that the quote includes Luke's name in it. My theory on why it's so misquoted is because without Luke's name in the phrase, there is less of an impact or realization without the prior setup. Simply saying "No. I am your father." is not as easily recognizable without the pretext. And, for that sake, here is the pretext:

Darth Vader: Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father.

Luke: He told me enough. He told me you killed him!

Darth Vader: No. I am your father.

The quote on Star Wars page has also been corrected.

--Nufy8 19:48, 23 Sep 2004 (UTC)

I think quite a few of these aren't really misquotations as such, but rather just reasonably reformulating them to make sense outside their original context. I guess you could analogize to when reporters change the words of other people, in that case normally using square brackets to show where the quote actually isn't exactly what the source said/wrote. -- 21:20, 10 January 2014 (UTC)


From the article:

  • "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

The original Hebrew is hosekh shivto, son'e b'no (lit. "saver of rod, hater of child"). The English version probably tries to do away with that lengthy pomposity so usual on KJV, and transmit the original rhythmic, one-two punch. I am unsure that an alternate translation (especially when the original translation is widely acknowledged to be hideous) qualifies as a misquoation. ~ MosheZadka (Talk) 16:10, 22 August 2005 (UTC)

A brief google seems to indicate that the quote originated from a Samuel Butler poem... anyone want to verify this?

Sigmund Freud[edit]

I'm pretty sure that this misquote is falsely called a misquote, see the main wiki article, he had been asked about his addiction to cigar smoking and a cigars phallic nature.

Yes, that's one rumor, but a completely unsubstantiated one at best. Unless someone can provide an acceptable source, this should remain as it is: a misquotation. -- 13:49, 26 August 2006 (UTC)

We don't need no stinking badges[edit]

Actually, this quote is from the Humphrey Bogart film "Treasure of the Sierra Madre" "Badges? Badges? We don' need no stinkin' badges!" Spoken to Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston and their campadre by Mexican banditos bent on robbing them.

--- Actually, the quote as typed above is the allusion to the original from the movie, "Blazing Saddles". The correct wording from "Treasure of the Sierra Madre" is, "Badges? We ain't got no badges. We don't need no badges. I ain't got to show you any stinkin' badges!"

---I propose this one is taken out. As most people are probably referencing Blazing Saddles as opposed to the original source upon which the parody was based.


I thought, initially, that the original "A language is a dialect with a Navy." quote was supposed to be in German, but apparently it's Yiddish (though it was said by a linguist, so who knows?). Is there a transliteration standard for Yiddish, because that looks pretty haphazard. --Tydaj It was apparently either linguist Max Weinreich or his student Joshua Fishman, who actually said "A shprakh iz a diyalekt mit an armey un a flot" (in English: "A language is a dialect with an army and a navy.")

Orwell: rough men[edit]

I'd like to know where this apparent misattribution started. Okay, so George Orwell didn't say it--then who did? _Somebody_ wrote it down first.

Here are two known variations:

We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm. - Winston Churchill

People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf. - George Orwell

Franklin: liberty/ security[edit]

“Those who would give up Essential Liberty, to purchase a little Temporary safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety" is, I believe, the correct quote but it is often quoted as, "Who give up liberty for safety, deserve neither"

This expression seems to have mutated over time. Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989) cites it as:
  • Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
    • Benjamin Franklin, "Pennsylvania Assembly: Reply to the Governor", November 11, 1755; as cited in The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, vol. 6, p. 242, Leonard W. Labaree, ed. (1963)
It shows up four years later in a slightly different form, according to Bartlett's Familiar Quotations (1919):
  • They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
    • Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania (1759); included in the work and displayed as the motto of the work, according to Rise of the Republic of the United States, p. 413, Richard Frothingham (1873)
Back to Respectfully Quoted, we find yet another version inscribed in a famous monument:
  • They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
It's possible that Franklin said this in different ways at earlier times, but so far, the 1755 letter is the earliest source I've found. ~ Jeff Q (talk) 04:14, 19 April 2006 (UTC)

Fix suggestions[edit]

I think this article would be much clearer, if it would

  • state the quote source on the first line with the misquote itself
  • link to more quotations and information about the incidences
  • not include such unexplained (or unlinked) terms as "OED."

I might start cleaning the article up myself later (or then just add some points to this list =). w:en:User:Jacques Antoine 02:24, 23 April 2006 (UTC)

"The only traditions of the Royal Navy are rum, sodomy, and the lash."[edit]

"Winston Churchill's personal secretary, Anthony Montague-Browne, said that although Churchill did not say this, he wished he had." Is that to say that Churchill wished he had said it, or Montague-Brown wished Churchill had said it? I have STFW a bit without having this clarified.

Let them eat cake...or not[edit]

The French is Qu'ils mangent de la brioche (a fancy egg-based bread the French word for cake is gateau). The line is thus not a reference to the thing with candles at birthdays at all, but to price regulation and market effects.

French law obliged bakers to sell certain standard varieties of loaf at fixed weights and prices. (It still does, which explains why the most expensive patisserie will sell you a baguette for the same price as a supermarket.) At the time when this quotation originated, the law also obliged the baker to sell a fancier loaf for the price of the cheap one when the cheap ones were all gone. This was to forestall the obvious trick of baking just a few standard loaves, so that one could make more profit by using the rest of the flour for price-unregulated loaves. So whoever it was who said "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche" was not being wholly flippant. Like saying "enforce minimum wage laws" the idea was that the bread shortage could be alleviated if the law was enforced against profiteering bakers.

Moreover, Queen Marie-Antoinette did *not* say this. Jean-Jacques Rousseau attributed the words to "a great princess" in book 6 of his "Confessions" a book published when Marie Antoinette was only 10 years old and still living in Austria.

The Proof of the Pudding is in the Tasting[edit]

Not "The Proof is in the Pudding" as at least 100 different politicians have said on television in the last couple of weeks. It is from the novel Don Quixote written by Miguel de Cervantes. It is from William Camden's Remaines of a Greater Worke Concerning Britaine, 1605 and should be "All the proof of a pudding is in the eating."

"Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words."[edit]

  • "Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words."
    • Often attributed to Francis of Assisi, the origin of this quote is unknown, but it certainly is concordant with St. Francis's theology.

There is nothing here to say why this is a misquote. Shouldn't it be removed?

We trained hard...[edit]

"I read this in latin in high school and it was part of Caesars tales of the Gallic Wars (Julius Caesar)" Why is this here? I don't see the relevance of this, so I'm just going to delete it if that's okay with everyone.


FTA: "given Caesar's legendary reputation as a womanizer". What the hell? This ruined it for me.

Gender of Browning[edit]

Is it really meinen Browning? Firearms are usually feminine in German. German sources disagree over this. de:wikiquote:Hanns Johst has meine and it says "checked", whatever that means. de:Hanns Johst has meinen. Also, is there any source for the idea that it could be an allusion to the poet named Browning? Seems a little far-fetched.

Gender of firearms in the German language depends on what you speak about. 'Die Pistole' (the pistol) is female form, 'der Revolver' (the revolver) or 'der Colt' (the Colt-revolver) are male and 'das Gewehr' (the rifle) is neuter. When manufacturer's names are used usually the type-specific gender is retained. 'Ich ziehe meinen Browning' (I draw my Browning) would indicate a revolver, where 'Ich ziehe meine Browning' would indicate some other type of firearm.

It don't mean a thing[edit]

The following discussion is an interesting theory, but since this quote is no longer in the main article it seems superfluous. Also, I think the claim itself is 'patently false', just read the lyrics and it obviously refers to the swing rhythm as the necessary ingredient to make the song complete. The quote 'all you have to do is sing' might make you think otherwise, but that phrase is then followed by a repeated "doo-wah" in an exaggerated swing rhythm.

Also note that two of the three links are dead, no search located the articles at this time (7/28/09)

Removed the following erroneous claim from the article:

"It don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing"
  • Although this is the correct quote from the song of the same name, its meaning is often misinterpreted by those not familiar with it. It is first assumed to mean "the song is worthless without the swing," but it actually means "you don't need the swing to make the song."
  • This meaning is better portrayed when the quote is accompanied by the next line, "It don't mean a thing, all you have to do is sing."

This assertion is patently false. It mentions the context of the other lyrics, but one glance at the lyrics in their entirety makes the meaning clear:

What good is melody, what good is music
If it ain't possessin' something sweet
It ain't the melody, it ain't the music
There's something else that makes the tune complete
It don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing
It don't mean a thing, all you got to do is sing
It makes no diff'rence if it's sweet or hot
Just give that rhythm ev'rything you got
It don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing

Please see also a scholarly article by Donald Keefer about the semantic intent of this song, another scholarly article about this song's role in defining swing, and a question-answer session at The International Association for Jazz Education (search the text [Ctrl-F] for "mean a thing") -- Thisis0 00:52, 7 November 2007 (UTC)

Kennedy's Quote[edit]

It's not a missattributed quote. The idea was around before Kennedy used it yes, but Kennedy did not use Kahil Gibran words. Also, A Tear and a Smile is a book of poems and songs not an essay. I am unsure if Gibran really did use a similar quote; however, the JFK Library does not list him in their deviations[1]

Blood Sweat and Tears[edit]

While Winston Churchill used the phrase "blood, toil, tears, and sweat" in his speech of May 13, 1940, he was not the first to use the phrase. When he published a collection of speeches in 1941, he entitled the volume "Blood, Sweat, and Tears" (G. P. Putnum, 1941). So unless someone has found and earlier appearance of THAT phrase, it IS an original Churchill phrase.

 apples and oranges... Cannot stress it enough.

So what?[edit]

Whether these are exact quotations or paraphrases is completely irrelevant. There is no purpose in attempting to "debunk" popular aphorisms.

As to the accuracy of their sources, this may be of interest to a pedantic minority (of which I am occasionally a member), but it is not Earth-shattering information. Just a waste of bandwidth _____ AMEN.

Agreed; nearly half of the Shakespeare items are simply "things people say", not active attempts to quote Shakespeare.-- 22:02, 1 December 2012 (UTC)

Double, double, toil and trouble[edit]

Apparently: "The quotation is also often mispunctuated, with a comma after the second "double". This alters the meaning, as in the original (which lacks this comma) the word "double" is fairly clearly intended as an adjective rather than a verb imperative."

Wrong. It's true that the second comma alters the meaning, but -- just as with the mysterious second apostrophe in the title of Love's Labours Lost -- we don't know which meaning Shakespeare actually intended. We don't have the original text of Macbeth, only the Folio text. Quite aside from the fact that Macbeth shows signs of having been adapted by someone else (perhaps Middleton) from a Shakesperian original, we simply don't know if the punctuation in the text is Shakespeare's or an editor's. Sadly, the only complete Shakespeare I own is the abysmal Oxford edition, but it will serve as an example of an edition prepared by professional Shakespeare scholars that does include the second comma. 10:19, 16 April 2009 (UTC)

You come to me, on the day of my daughter's wedding...[edit]

A very common misquote in parodies and general conversation: the line from The Godfather: "You come into my house on the day my daughter is to be married and you ask me to do murder - for money" Is frequently misquoted as "You come to me on the day of my daughter's wedding" One of the several lines prior to this are also added after it, eg: "You come to me on the day of my daughter's wedding, and you do not even think to call me godfather"

Lincoln misquoted?[edit]

Shouldn't Abraham Lincoln be included on the list of people who are very frequently sourced for things they never said? I don't understand how that list was determined, though I do agree with the other names on it. Shanen 08:21, 2 June 2010 (UTC)

My favorite Lincoln misquote: "The problem with quotes on the Internet is that it is hard to varify their authenticity" - A. Lincoln ;) 14:31, 10 November 2011 (UTC)


The source of the "genius, power, and magic" quote misattributed to Goethe has finally been found at It's a bit of a complicated story.

Religion is the opiate of the masses - Marx[edit]

Removed the following from section Unsourced, unverified, or other best guesses:

"Religion is the opiate of the masses." – Karl Marx

  • Correct quote, but often misinterpreted: "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people."
  • In Marx' mother tongue, German, there is also a difference between what he said – meaning the people chose religion as opiate – and a popular quote of Lenin – religion is given to the people as an opiate. This meaning cannot be translated into English.

For the following reasons:

  • Was not misquoted, so doesn't belong here. This quote is sourced (Marx said it), and is not unverified (we have the original reference). In addition, some of the follow-up comments are a matter of opinion or wrong, so even if the quote belonged in that section the follow-up opinions would not:
  • Correct quote, but often misinterpreted:
Often misinterpreted, according to your opinion or original research? Doesn't cut it.
  • Lenin's quote was made years later, and obviously alludes to Marx's quotation, of course it's different. How is this relevant here? It's not.
  • This meaning cannot be translated into English.
That's just silly, for anyone who understands what translation is.

Want more? There's an entire wikipedia article about this quote. Mathglot 20:51, 19 December 2011 (UTC)

One swallow does not make a summer[edit]

I suggest this phrase as a possible addition to the list of misquotations. What Aristotle wrote was "One swallow does not make a spring". It is also misquoted in your Aristotle page.


Suggestion: Carl Sagan's "Billions and billions." (ChozoBoy) 03:18, 19 April 2012 (UTC)


The quote from Alice in Wonderland is not "Curiouser and curiouser.." It's "curious and curiouser"

My printed copy says "curiouser and curiouser", and so does every copy I can find online (eg Suspect yours has a misprint? - 12:16, 21 April 2015 (UTC)

Gump entry absolutely does not belong here[edit]

It isn't by any stretch a misquotation; the note even refers to it as a change. If you really want to get into it, the entire movie is a misquote. -- 22:06, 1 December 2012 (UTC)

Hairsplitting versus exposing important distortions, manipulations and lies[edit]

Quite a few of these "misquotations" are only so because of some pretty egregious hairsplitting.

"Water, water, every where, / Nor any drop to drink." "Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink."

OK, the exact wording differs, but not only is the sense exactly the same, it even fits the meter!

On the other hand, here's one that's not on the list where a subtle word change makes an important distortion of the meaning:

Widely circulating on Facebook by The Tea Party: "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both." Actual words: "Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

It comes from the Historical Review of Pennsylvania - a work which Franklin supervised, but only wrote parts of himself. It appeared anonymously in 1759, as part of a brouhaha in the then colony of Pennsylvania about the ill doings of the rather corrupt leadership of the colony, known as the Proprietaries. Franklin never claimed that he wrote this phrase, though he may have; he did explicitly state that other hands than his own were involved in large parts of the work.

It is interesting and instructive to see how the alterations made in the quotation both alter and, to some degree, distort the original thought. The actual contrast is not about incremental surrender; it is about giving up something lasting and important - "essential liberty" - for something small and unimportant - "a little temporary safety" - and there is no mention of loss of either.

That's the kind of misquote we should be focusing on. It's not just a trivia game. It's about the tremendous spread of distorted, manipulated, and even outright false "information" on the web, often using misquotation as a strategy. Poihths (talk) 01:49, 23 January 2013 (UTC)

things intentionally misquoted to clean them up for publication[edit]

This would include Vice President Garner saying that, "The vice presidency isn't worth a pitcher of warm spit." - He actually said, "warm piss" Or the quote about Bob Dole that, "he's so unpopular he couldn't sell beer on a troop ship." -Actually, "He couldn't peddle his ass on a troop ship." There are quite a few of those out there as politician's quotations(and easily referenced), but I'm not sure if they really qualify, or are well known enough. How many people even know who old cactus Jack was nowadays?Fydorpetrovich (talk) 03:08, 7 November 2014 (UTC)


"Alas, poor Horatio! I knew him well."

I've never heard this misquoted. Citation? 15:20, 14 June 2015 (UTC)

The misquote is actually "Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him well." I have now fixed this. —Psychonaut (talk) 13:46, 12 July 2015 (UTC)

Crazy Russians[edit]

Here there is a great article about a Madeleine Albright misquote attributed to a KGB seer! It also mentions a Churchill misquote popular in Russia. Malick78 (talk) 12:58, 16 July 2015 (UTC)