40 Famous Quotes the Internet Got Wrong

How many did you believe?
Britt Britt (111)
0

Over the centuries, many words, phrases, and proverbs have become famous and used widely all over the world. However, as you’d expect with any language, their meaning or original statement was lost with time. Obviously, short phrases are much easier to share (especially before the internet or even physical writing).

We’ve assigned quotes into one of three categories:

  1. Unknown Source - Quotes that are attributed to someone, however don’t have a confirmed accurate source.
  2. Wrongly Attributed - Quotes attributed to someone incorrectly, but have a confirmed accurate source.
  3. Incorrect Quote - These quotes are attributed to the right person, but either have missing or changed wording.

Be prepared to question your entire education and life. But don’t worry! You’re definitely not the only one to be duped by pretty Instagram images featuring a sunset or a quick-witted Twitter post.

Read on for 40 famous quotes that the internet got wrong!

Posted in these interests:
h/history18 guides
Pop Culture
h/popculture59 guides
age is an issue of mind over matter

Wrongly Attributed

Mark Twain, Jack Benny, or Muhammad Ali

Source

Unknown. The earliest evidence of this quote is within a 1968 research article about aging.

good men do nothing

Wrongly Attributed

Edmund Burke and President John F. Kennedy

Source

Unknown. Similar wording was used in Charles F. Aked's 1916 speech, however, nothing exact can be dated.

c.s. lewis

Wrongly Attributed

C.S. Lewis. It’s also not confirmed to originally be from the 1993 film Shadowlands.

Source

Unknown

george washington

Wrongly Attributed

George Washington

Source

It actually was fabricated by the former president’s 19th century biographer.

well behaved women rarely make history

Wrongly Attributed

Marilyn Monroe

Source

The originator of this quote is historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, writer of “Well-Behaved Women Rarely Make History." The quote originated in 1976 in an issue of American Quarterly in reference to colonial women who weren’t featured in history books.

ends justify means

Wrongly Attributed

Niccolo Machiavelli

Source

While Machiavelli argued for this point in The Prince, it actually is from Roman poet Ovid. In “Heroides II”, Ovid wrote, “Exitus acta probat,” which translates to “the outcome justifies the means.” While Machiavelli may have made a similar point, he’s not to be credited for it.

it’s not the years in your life

Wrongly Attributed

Abraham Lincoln

Source

Most think it was former president Lincoln, even the GOP got it wrong in 2017 when they tweeted the quote and attributed it to Lincoln. However, it was Edward J. Stieglitz, writer of The Second Forty Years. An advertisement for the book had the phrase, "The important thing to you is not how many years in your life, but how much life in your years!"

Walk softly and carry a big stick.

Wrongly Attributed

Teddy Roosevelt

Source

While he did say it, Teddy wasn’t the original speaker. It was actually an African proverb.

red sanders

Wrongly Attributed

Vince Lombardi

Source

This quote was said by a football coach, but it wasn’t Lombardi. Henry Russell “Red” Sanders was actually the first player and coach to say the quote.

Evelyn Beatrice Hall

Wrongly Attributed

Voltaire

Source

This was actually Evelyn Beatrice Hall, who wrote a biography of Voltaire under the pseudonym Stephen G. Tallentyre.

Marianne Williamson

Wrongly Attributed

Nelson Mandela

Source

This was not spoken by Nelson Mandela, instead it was from a 1992 tome by self-help guru Marianne Williamson.

captain kirk shakespeare

Wrongly Attributed

Captain Kirk

Source

For those poetry lovers, this quote is clearly from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. However, many believe it to be from Captain Kirk, who misquoted it. The correct quote is, "That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet."

mark twain

Wrongly Attributed

Mark Twain

Source

There have been many who this quote was attributed to, however, the earliest version of it dates back to 1716 in Christopher Bolluck’s The Cobbler of Preston.

andrew jackson israel putnam

Wrongly Attributed

Andrew Jackson

Source

Many believe that General Andrew Jackson said these words, when in fact it was a soldier named Israel Putnam who was relaying orders to Colonel William Prescott.

confucius lao tzu

Wrongly Attributed

Confucius

Source

Not only was it Lao Tzu who actually said it, but the correct quote is, “A journey of 400 miles begins beneath one’s feet”. While not as catchy, it is just as valid.

ginger rogers

Wrongly Attributed

Ginger Rogers

Source

Ginger Rogers refuted that she said this quote in her autobiography, My Story. Apparently the quote came from a newspaper comic.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau Marie Antoinette

Wrongly Attributed

Marie Antoinette

Source

That’s right, she never said anything remotely like this. In fact, it was French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau who did, and he wasn’t actually talking about Marie or cake. The original quote is, “Let them eat brioche!" Which is arguably just as delicious as cake.

thomas edison kate sanborn

Wrongly Attributed

Thomas Edison

Source

Let’s start with who actually said the original quote, Kate Sanborn, a 1890s academic who had been exploring the topic of genius. Within her lectures, she stated that genius was a mix of inspiration and perspiration, though didn’t state any percentage required of either. Edison did say something similar, however, he stated “2% is genius and 98% is hard work.” He also stated, “Genius is not inspired. Inspiration is perspiration.” Thus, the incorrect quotation and origination was born.

Muriel Strode ralph waldo emerson

Wrongly Attributed

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Source

This quote became famous courtesy of an academic periodical reprinting the original quote and crediting Emerson. It was Muriel Strode’s 1903 poem “Wind-Wafted Wild Flowers” that stated, “I will not follow where the path may lead, but I will go where there is no path, and I will leave a trail.”

narcotics anonymous quote

Wrongly Attributed

Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, and Mark Twain

Source

This famous and commonly used quote actually belongs to Narcotics Anonymous, a nonprofit group for addiction recovery. It first made an appearance in their November 1981 handbook. It wasn’t until the ‘90s that it began being attributed to others. No matter who said it first, this is still an inspiration quote for the ages.

thomas cronin misquote

Wrongly Attributed

John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Audrey Hepburn

Source

This one belongs to political scientist Thomas Cronin in 1987. No one knows how it became associated with President Kennedy or his wife. Audrey Hepburn held similar views, which is probably why she was wrongly attributed.

Maurice Switzer misquote

Wrongly Attributed

Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain

Source

While it’s not 100% confirmed, historians claim this quote to belong to Maurice Switzer. In their 1907 book you’ll read, “It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt of it.”

Christopher Poindexter quote

Wrongly Attributed

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Source

No, the Great Gatsby writer didn’t come up with this one. Christopher Poindexter is the creator in his 2013 poetry collection. This quote went viral with the wrong attribution, courtesy of Twitter user @SirJayGatsby.

john of salisbury quote

Wrongly Attributed

Isaac Newton

Source

While Newton did use this quote in a letter to his rival Robert Hooke, he wasn’t the originator. That title belongs to John of Salisbury, a twelfth-century English author, philosopher, educationalist, diplomat and bishop of Chartres.

john paul stapp

Wrongly Attributed

Depending on whom you ask, this Edward A. Murphy quote has different origins. A few claims are:

  1. George E. Nichols: “If that guy has any way of making a mistake, he will.”
  2. Robert Nichols: “If there’s more than one way to do a job, and one of those ways will result in disaster, then somebody will do it that way.”

Source

However, the quote should be attributed to Major John Paul Stapp of the U.S. Air Force with the correct statement, “We do all of our work in consideration of Murphy’s Law.”

gandhi

Correct Quote

What Gandhi actually said was, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. ... We need not wait to see what others do.”

It holds the same sentiment, even if it doesn’t flow as well.

timothy

Correct Quote

According to the Literal Standard Translation of the Bible, the correct quote is “For the love of money is a root of all the evils, which certain [ones] longing for went astray from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows;” 1 Timothy 6:10

forrest gump
Allstar/PARAMOUNT

As catchy as this quote is, it is incorrect. In Forrest Gump, the main character actually says, “Life was like a box of chocolates.”

the evil queen snow white
Walt Disney Productions

Perhaps the diehard Disney fans will already know this one. The Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs doesn’t say “mirror” twice to talk to her bestie. She actually says, “Magic mirror.”

hamlet shakespeare

Correct Quote

In Hamlet, Queen Gertrude speaks a similar line in response to a play based on her family’s life. While not gravely wrong, it’s good to know what was actually said and written, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

william congreve

Correct Quote

This quote was adapted from William Congreve’s original, “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned/Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned."

darth vader
Lucasfilm Ltd.

Correct Quote

Many Star Wars fans know that this isn’t the correct quote. The quote should be, “No, I am your father.”

winston churchill

Correct Quote

There’s a bit more to this Winston Churchill quote, “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.” Certainly not as catchy, but a lot more descriptive.

bible

Correct Quote

This is another quote adapted incorrectly from the Bible. The original quote is, “The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb.” The meaning can be debated, however, it’s not directly referring to family (which we associate the quote with now).

tarzan
Walt Disney Productions

Surprisingly to most, Tarzan has never said this quote in any version.

ash cat
Meet Ash! The kitty who's curiosity is dangerous.

Correct Quote

This quote makes people think curiosity is bad, however, this is based on the incorrect quote. What it actually says is, “Care killed the cat,“ with care meaning worry or sorrow. A later version stated, “Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back.” Either way, a cat perishes, so it’s up to you which version you prefer!

chocolate pudding

Correct Quote

Originating from the 14th century, it was misquoted sometime around the 1920s. The original saying goes, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” It actually was meant to encourage a person to try the food before deciding whether it’s good or bad. Similar sentiment, but one version is less wordy.

sherlock bbc
BBC One/MASTERPIECE

Sorry, but this phrase never said by Sherlock. He has said both "elementary" and "dear, Watson", but never together.

silence of the lambs
Orion Pictures

If you watch back the scene in The Silence of the Lambs, Clarice introduces herself. Hannibal never actually says, “Hello, Clarice.”

ancient greece

Correct Quote

This Greek proverb was watered down over the ages. The original phrase was, “Great minds think alike, though fools seldom differ.” Thus, people may have the same conclusion, but might not be the geniuses you think they are. The original is more humorous than the one we all use and know!

These 1980s horror films that will make you quake, shake, and beg for more.
Odin Odin (98)
0

The 1980s offered the world a different type of horror than had been seen before, or since.