Remember, popular misquotes from politicians go in the Politics page.
"Not a lot of people know that" or "not many people know that" is a line frequently attributed to Michael Caine, but actually originates from a Peter Sellers impression of him on Parkinson:
"Not many people know that." This is my Michael Caine impression. You see, Mike's always quoting from the Guinness Book of Records. At the drop of a hat he'll trot one out. "Did you know that it takes a man in a tweed suit five and a half seconds to fall from the top of Big Ben to the ground? Now there's not many people who know that!"
According to Caine, also on Parkinson, Sellers also used his Caine impression, and "Not many people know that" as his answerphone message, "So everyone who phoned him heard me saying 'not many people know that'!"
Caine did, however, say "Not many people know that" in Educating Rita, but that was an in-joke because everyone thought he said it.
Similarly "And... why not?" wasn't originally said by Barry Norman, but from impressions of him on Spitting Image.
Norman later lampshaded this with the line "And, as Rory Bremner might say, why not?"
Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, is often claimed to have said "I don't see any God up here" during his space flight. Another common attribution is "The Earth was blue, but there was no God." Both versions and their many variants are a favorite of Hollywood Atheists, are listed in many quote repositories, and used in works such as Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater—but Yuri Gagarin never said either of them. In fact, the former was actually the words of Nikita Khrushchev—"Gagarin flew into space, but didn't see any god there"—said during a speech to the Central Committee of the Communist Party on the progress of the USSR's anti-religious campaign. The latter is a corruption of Yuri saying "The Earth is blue [...] How wonderful. It is amazing" during his space flight, blending his words with Khrushchev's.
Jim Lovell never said, "Houston, we have a problem" during Apollo 13. The actual line is "Okay, Houston, we've had a problem here." The misquote is so pervasive, it has even made its way into the movie starring Tom Hanks, which has been noted for being fairly accurate.
Jack Swigert actually said that line. Lovell followed with "Houston, WE'VE HAD a problem," which was actually misquoted intentionally by NASA in the years since because it sounds better, so the movie can only be held accountable for following NASA's Retcon.
On a related note, Gene Kranz (Flight Director for Apollo 13) never uttered the words "failure is not an option" during the course of the mission. He would, however, later appropriate the line as the title of his 2000 autobiography.
Word Of God says they changed the line because they felt the original statement implied that the problem had passed when, in fact, their troubles were just beginning.
An interesting twist happened during Apollo 11. Neil Armstrong's first words on the moon were scripted (yes, they gave him a script - they weren't about to have some flyboy say something less-than-momentous on the occasion) as "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." However, he flubbed the line. Urban legend maintains that it was a garbled transmission that dropped the article "a," but there's no such gap in the recording; the only pause comes after the first half of the line, when Armstrong realized his mistake and (unsuccessfully) tried to think of a way to cover it. "That's one small step for man... (pause) one giant leap for mankind." He admitted this himself after he retired. And fair's fair, he had a lot on his mind at that moment. But with the eyes of the world on them, the PR man at NASA felt they had to explain away this inconsequential hiccup.
Some scientist recently analyzed the recording with new technology and found that the "a" had in fact, been lost in the transmission from the Moon to Earth.
A number of people, including Bill Bryson, have quoted Mariah Carey as saying, "When I watch TV and see those poor starving kids all over the world, I can't help but cry. I mean I'd love to be skinny like that, but not with all those flies and death and stuff". In actual fact, this quote was taken from a satirical and fictional interview in an on-line magazine.
Groucho Marx is popularly (and persistently) claimed to have said to a female contestant on his show You Bet Your Life "I love my cigar, too, but I take it out of my mouth once in a while!" after being told that the woman has had eleven children. He didn't. People continue to insist that he has to this day, even after Groucho settled the matter in an interview with Roger Ebert:
I got $25 from Reader's Digest last week for something I never said. I get credit all the time for things I never said. You know that line in You Bet Your Life? The guy says he has seventeen kids and I say: "I smoke a cigar, but I take it out of my mouth occasionally"? I never said that.
Snopes does report, however, that Groucho said something similar to a female contestant who came from a family of seventeen; "Well, I like pancakes, but I haven't got closetsful of them ..."
Impressions of Jerry Seinfeld almost invariably use the phrase "Who are these people?". While Seinfeld actually said this once in a routine back in 1981, it was only once. The other time Seinfeld uttered this phrase was in a Saturday Night Live sketch parodying said phenomenon.
The popularity of the phrase may have also come from Gilbert Gottfried's impression of Seinfeld.
Also, while Seinfeld was famous for observational comedy, he never said "What's the deal with airplane food?" in any of his acts. Mostly because jokes about airline food were Deader Than Disco before he became a comic.
Popular belief holds that Columbine High School shooting victim Cassie Bernall was confronted by the killers if she believed in God, and said "yes" in response before being shot. Harris had actually confronted another survivor, Valeen Schurr, with this question, after she supposedly yelled out "Oh God," but she didn't even say yes—her actual words were "No—yes—no ... ?" Which caused Harris to laugh and walk away.
This phrase is also wrongly attributed to the late Rachel Scott, another victim, probably due to people finding out about her good deeds through her Rachel's Challenge foundation.
The quote being attributed to Bernall is not at all helped by the fact that her mother wrote the memoir She Said Yes, which assumed the popular interpretation of her death even after it had been confirmed that it was not the case.
P.T. Barnum did not coin the phrase "There's a sucker born every minute." The phrase was first said by David Hannum, a con man who exploited George Hull's Cardiff Giant hoax, and continued to make money off of it even after the hoax had been disproved.
Barnum is reported to have said that he wished he had said it.
Ironically, Hannum said this about the people who paid to see Barnum's version of the Cardiff Giant, which Barnum had made after Hannum refused to sell him the original.
After Dan White murdered San Franscisco mayor George Moscone and councilor and gay activist Harvey Milk trying to get his job back, his attorneys argued that he was incapable of premeditated murder due to severe depression. One of several pieces of evidence presented as to his state of mind was that White, a former fitness advocate, had taken to eating lots of junk food. After his conviction was reduced to voluntary manslaughter there was nationwide outrage due to many reporters acting as if the junk food itself had been the defining factor for the jury. Soon the term Twinkie Defense was coined for such a strategy, despite Twinkies themselves not even being mentioned.
The term "Twinkie defense" is a pre-Internet meme—it came from the press, after another politician gave a interview on the courthouse steps after the ruling, while waving a Twinkie around in the air.
This one could be cited in Radio or Live-Action TV here, but...comedienne Gracie Allen never answered her husband George Burns' "Say good night, Gracie" with a "Good night, Gracie" in any medium.
This can definitely be attributed to Laugh In fans, as Dick Martin always said "Good Night, Dick".
A quote often attributed to Dolly Parton: "When I was young, we had to wash in a basin. You'd wash up as far as possible, then down as far as possible; then you'd wash possible." She may have said it at some point, but it's a very old joke: appears in Ulysses.
Murphy's Law: Commonly given as "Anything that can go wrong, will [go wrong]", but Edward Murphy was a little more verbose: "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." See also Finagle's Law.
Referring to his assistant, Captain Murphy also once said, "If there's a way to do it wrong, he will." It was John Paul Stapp who recast this into a general "Murphy's Law".
The origins of the line "writing about music is like dancing about architecture" are a bit murky. Elvis Costello, Frank Zappa, Miles Davis and Laurie Anderson, among many others, are credited with it. Recent research has turned up a couple of late 1970s citations that attribute the line to Martin Mull (who started out as a comedic singer-songwriter before becoming better known as an actor). But, no one's found any examples yet of Mull using the line.
Blame the Osmonds for the misunderstanding if you must, but the real quote is, "One bad apple spoils the bunch," often with the logical follow-up, "but one good apple can't restore the bad ones." Anyone who says "One bad apple doesn't spoil the bunch" has clearly never been to a produce market.
Automobile manufacturer Henry Ford never actually advertised Ford Model T's as being available in "any color as long as it's black".
And to go even further, the car was initially not available at all in black at the initial launch. Several colors—green, gray, red, blue, but not black. In 1912 Ford started painting all Model T's in dark blue (switching to black two years later), apparently due to the lower cost and faster drying time of the darker paint.
Ford did, however, use a variant of the phrase ("Any customer can have a car painted any colour he wants so long as it is black") in his 1923 autobiography, My Life and Work.
Another popular Ford quote ("History is bunk") is a paraphrase of what he actually said ("History is more or less bunk").
M. Magnan never said that bees were incapable of flight. What he did say in "Le vol des Insectes" was that bee flight couldn't be explained by fixed-wing calculations. In other words, bees couldn't fly unless they moved their wings.
A further misunderstanding came when it proved difficult to explain how a bee's musculature could flap its wings as fast as it necessarily must. The answer is that bees (and many similar insects) flap their wings by "plucking" the flight muscle so that it resonates, rather than directly flexing and extending it hundreds of times per minute.
G. K. Chesterton never said "When people stop believing in God, they don't believe in nothing - they believe in anything."
It's an amalgamation of two quotes from the Father Brown stories: "It's the first effect of not believing in God that you lose your common sense and can't see things as they are", from "The Oracle of the Dog", and "You all swore you were hard-shelled materialists; and as a matter of fact you were all balanced on the edge of belief - of belief in almost anything", from "The Miracle of Moon Crescent".
Economist John Maynard Keynes said "When I change my mind I say so - what do you do?", not "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?"
Sigmund Freud didn't say "Dreams are the royal road to consciousness," it was "The interpretation of dreams is the royal road to knowledge of the unconscious activities of the mind."
Freud was allegedly lecturing on oral fixation when one of his cheekier students asked about his ever-present pipe and he replied "sometimes a pipe is just a pipe." It's more commonly quoted as "cigar", but the whole story's apocryphal: historians have pointed out that Freud always held precisely the opposite attitude, and speculated that the Hypocritical Humor quote evolved as a way for contemporary audiences to lighten the otherwise disturbing implications (at the time) of his theories.
Freud is sometimes quoted as describing the Irish as "the only people impervious to psychoanalysis", but the closest anyone has found to this is Anthony Burgess, in his introduction to a book of Irish short stories: "One of [Freud's] followers split up human psychology into two categories - Irish and non-Irish."
Charles Manson did not announce "I am the devil, and I have come to do the devil's work." Charles "Tex" Watson said "I'm the devil, I'm here to do the devil's business. Give me all your money." to Wojciech "Voytek" Frykowski.
Albert Einstein never said, "Astrology is a science in itself and contains an illuminating body of knowledge. It taught me many things, and I am greatly indebted to it. Geophysical evidence reveals the power of the stars and the planets in relation to the terrestrial. In turn, astrology reinforces this power to some extent. This is why astrology is like a life-giving elixir to mankind." He actually had no interest in astrology.
It's possible some one confused astrology for astronomy. To a lot of people -ology and -onomy are fairly close in meaning and get the two confused until you hear about both. If astrology wasn't popular at the time they might have meant the same thing.
To a lot of people today would confuse the suffixes -ology and -onomy, but the distinction was linguistically and culturally more observed prior to the 1980's and certainly mattered a great deal to scientists; not to mention that the quote itself makes it clear it refers to astrology ("the power of the stars and the planets in relation to the terrestrial"). This quote is made up by anyone wishing to give credibility to nonsense by giving it authority from an unquestionable genius, to an unsuspecting audience (presumably, people who are inclined to believe in astrology are not inclined to follow up on quote authenticity).
He also didn't say "We only use ten percent of our brain." This appears to have originated in Lowell Thomas' foreword to the massively popular book How to Win Friends and Influence people, where he stated that “Professor William James of Harvard used to say that the average man develops only ten per cent of his latent mental ability." In fact, Professors James and Sidis did research indicating that children who received a scientifically tailored diet and extensive tutoring were better at many intellectual task, and inferred from this that many adults might have been smarter had they received better food and schooling during their youth.
He also never said "Everything's relative."
Indeed, he didn't want to call his theory "Relativity" because he suspected people would say things like that.
Contrary to popular misconception, what Einstein's Theories of Relativity actually say about time is only that it is a fourth dimension; not that it is the fourth dimension, to the exclusion of all other possible candidates. If they said the latter, they would contradict at least one cosmological hypothesis, which holds that the universe is mathematically the 3D surface of a 4D hypersphere (and thus endless but finite).
Also, he never said "E equals MC squared" as many people attribute due to that being how one would read the equation. He said "E is equal M C square".
As his Wikiquote page shows, he probably didn't say "Two things are infinite: the universe and the human stupidity.".
Another quote attributed to Einstein is: "I do not know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." While he did say somthing similar, he used "rocks" instead of "sticks and stones". But similar statements using "spears" and "bows and arrows" and attributed to other people also exist.
As Snopes pointed out, Einstein didn't say anything about the death of bees meaning that mankind only has three or four years left.
He also didn't have a conversation with his teacher in school concerning believing in things you can't see to prove the existence of God (saying things like "there is no such thing as cold, just the absence of heat"). This is a quote of unknown origin that propogates the internet and is often attributed incorrectly to Einstein.
Bill Gates did not say, "Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one," it was Charles J. Sykes.
Nor did Gates ever say "640KB is all the memory you'll ever need" or any variation of that. Recent info has suggested that it was actually an IBM executive that originated the quote, and what he really said was more along the lines of "We believe that 640KB will meet the current needs of our customers." Regardless of whether it was Gates or someone at IBM, they most certainly did not intend to say that "No-one will ever require more than 640KB of memory," which is what the quote tends to be twisted into meaning.
"Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door." This now-common saying is attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, if anyone, but the closest thing he ever wrote was this: "I trust a good deal to common fame, as we all must. If a man has good corn, or wood, or boards, or pigs, to sell, or can make better chairs or knives, crucibles or church organs, than anybody else, you will find a well-beaten path to his house, [even if] it be in the woods."
Mark Twain did not say "Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated." he actually said "James Ross Clemens, a cousin of mine [...], is well now. The report of my illness grew out of his illness - the report of my death was an exaggeration." He said the line in response to hearing that his obituary had been published in the New York Journal. The newspaper had mistakenly reported his cousin's death as his own death - and his cousin wasn't dead either, it turned out.
Nor did Twain say, "I've never wished a man dead, but I read some obituaries with great pleasure." That quote comes from Clarence Darrow, who also later said, "I've never killed anyone, save for idiots attributing my goddam quote to Mark Twain."
There is no evidence whatsoever that Galileo muttered "And yet it moves" or anything like it after his trial before the Italian inquisition. The myth of him saying the phrase only appeared around a century after his death.
The other common attribution of that phrase is that Giordano Bruno screamed it while burning at the stake.
Kenneth Arnold, the pilot who "coined" the term Flying Saucer, never actually used the term to describe his UFO encounter. Rather, he said that they flew "like saucers skipping across water." He would later describe the shape of the crafts he saw as something similar to a stealth bomber.
William of Ockham (or Occam, Hockham, etc.) (1288-1348) never said "Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily" (Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem) — the closest he ever got was "Plurality must never be posited without necessity" (Numquam ponenda est pluralitas sine necessitate, "Sentences of Peter Lombard") and "It is futile to do with more things that which can be done with fewer" (Frustra fit per plura quod potest fieri per pauciora, "Summa Totius Logicae"), and it wasn't called "Ockham's Razor" until 1852. Ockham didn't really invent it either, versions appear in Aristotle, Alhazen, Moses Maimonides and Duns Scotus.
Aleister Crowley never said, "If a dog disturbs your meditation, shoot it." The actual quote in context (from Book Four - Part 1) is "Subsequent theologians have tried to improve upon the teachings of the Masters, have given a sort of mystical importance to these virtues; they have insisted upon them for their own sake, and turned them into puritanism and formalism. Thus 'non-killing,' which originally meant 'do not excite yourself by stalking tigers,' has been interpreted to mean that it is a crime to drink water that has not been strained, lest you should kill the animalcula. But this constant worry, this fear of killing anything by mischance is, on the whole, worse than a hand-to-hand conflict with a grizzly bear. If the barking of a dog disturbs your meditation, it is simplest to shoot the dog, and think no more about it."
Charles H. Duell never said, "Everything that can be invented has been invented." In fact, in his 1899 report, he optimistically hoped the U.S. could surpass or equal its foreign rivals in science, commerce, and industry, and urged the Fifty-Sixth Congress for support for the growing number of patents coming in.
Instead, that phrase came from an 1899 issue of Punch.
The Hippocratic Oath doesn't actually contain the words "first do no harm", it comes close with "abstain from doing harm", but "first do no harm" or "Primum non nocere" was never uttered until sometime between 1600 and 1900CE.
The official motto of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), a.k.a. the Mounties, is not "We Always Get Our Man" (though that's an unofficial one). It's "Maintiens le droit," which is officially translated as "Defend[ing] the Law."
The term "laissez faire" is often attributed to economist Adam Smith. He never used the phrase himself.
Andy Warhol never said that everyone gets fifteen minutes of fame. He said that "In the future, everybody will be world famous for fifteen minutes." Whether this fame is wanted or deserved is left as an exercise for the reader.
H. L. Mencken is often quoted as saying "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public" (with "taste" being substituted for "intelligence" in some versions). This is a paraphrase of what Mencken wrote in an article called "Notes on Journalism", published in the Chicago Tribune on September 19, 1926: "No one in this world, so far as I know — and I have researched the records for years, and employed agents to help me — has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby."
No hacker ever (unironically) made the taunt "I'm behind seven proxies." The actual quote is "I WENT THROUGH 7 PROXIES. GOOD LUCK." Note also that "good luck" comes after, not before.
John Tyner, the man that refused the TSA scanner and patdown, did not say "don't touch my junk." His actual quote is "but if you touch my junk I'll have you arrested."
The line "Here be dragons" was not common on early maps: in fact, it's only found on the Lenox Globe (from the 1500s): HIC SVNT DRACONES is written on the coast of eastern Asia, probably in reference to komodo dragons. Roman and medieval cartographers usually wrote HIC SVNT LEONES ("Here are lions") on unexplored areas.
There's an urban legend that when the infamous Zodiac Killer attacked Bryan Hartnell and Cecelia Shephard at Lake Berryesa, Hartnell pleaded "Please, kill me first! I can't bear to see her killed!" This was something made up by a news reporter trying make his story more dramatic than it already was. Bryan Hartnell never did say that to the killer. It does not appear in any interviews given to new reporters or police officers at that time. Also, in recent interviews Hartnell has denied that he ever said that. Still, the quote still appears in books and documentaries pertaining to The Zodiac Killer.
A meta version: J. Robert Oppenheimer is commonly held to have quoted from the Bhagavad Gita after the Trinity test: "Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." This comes from an interview where he said that the phrase popped into his head at the sight of the atomic explosion, but eyewitness accounts simply have him saying "It worked," or nothing at all.
Also, the original Sanskrit reads kalo 'smi loka-ksaya-krt, and the best translation is probably, "I am Time which destroys all things."
Also, it was not Oppenheimer but the Trinity site director Kenneth Bainbridge who said "Now we are all sons of bitches."
And recall that, like the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita was originally in a language other than English and has been translated into English in a number of different ways. So some accounts have Oppenheimer remarking: "I have become Death, the shatterer of worlds."
After Azaria Chamberlain disappeared, her mother never actually wailed "Dingos ate my baby!" or anything of the sort. (And although she was convicted of murder, she was later released when it was found that, actually, dingos did eat her baby.)
Rodney King didn't quite say "Can't we all just get along?" His speech during the LA riots was a bit longer; the closest phrase was, "People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get along?"
Stephen King never said, "I have seen the future of horror, and it is named Clive Barker." According to Douglas Winter (a friend of King's and author of Stephen King: The Art of Darkness), King actually said, "Well, I haven’t read this guy [Barker], but from what I understand, it’s like what Jann Wenner said: ‘I have seen the future of rock and roll, and his name is Bruce Springsteen.’ Sounds like Clive Barker might be the ‘future of horror fiction.’” Berkeley Books transformed that quote into their famous blurb.
Kurt Vonnegut is often quoted as saying "Everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt." It's actually "Everything was beautiful. Nothing hurt."
Bank robber Willie Sutton is often quoted as saying, in response to an interviewer's question, that he robbed banks "because that's where the money is." He denied ever saying it, and said that a reporter made it up.
J. K. Rowling never called Harry/Hermione shippers "delusional." The interviewer did, and she laughed before diplomatically veering the conversation into more neutral territory. However, many people still attribute the word to her.
She also never wrote the first Harry Potter book on a napkin. She did do it in a coffee shop, but she did it the normal way, too. When she heard that rumor, she laughed and said that they'll be saying she wrote it on teabags next.
When Jack Nicholson was informed of Heath Ledger's death, his reply was supposedly "I warned him." In actuality it was "Oh, that's terrible. I warned them.", "them" referring to the studio executives. To elaborate: Nicholson had known how psychologically tolling it could be to play The Joker (the role that Ledger had reportedly died from) and made this known to the executives before The Dark Knight began filming. They ignored him, allowing Ledger (who at the time was suffering from numerous personal problems) to play the role unchecked. It allegedly led to his death.
Like all controversial celebrity deaths, there's been disputes about this—many say he seemed perfectly normal and psychologically healthy on set.
According to this article he was talking about the pills, not the role.
Richard Brautigan killed himself (rather messily) in 1984, but his daughter says he really did not leave a note saying "Messy, isn't it?"
Dom Pérignon (namesake of the famed champagne) never said "Come quickly, I am drinking the stars!" upon inventing champagne. He actually worked to prevent wine in the champagne region from becoming sparkling wine, since it basically turned the wine bottles into grenades. According to The Other Wiki, that quote came from a 19th century print ad.
Carl Sagan never actually used the phrase "billions and billions" (until his book by the same name, which was a reference to the common belief that he had previously used the term), but did use "billions upon billions" at one point. Either way, he did like using the word "billions."
Adam Carolla never said "Women aren't funny." An interviewer asked him "who are funnier, men or women?" and he replied off-handedly "men." The story took a life of its own and he became the poster-boy for sexism in comedy.
Although Thomas J. Watson, CEO of IBM, is well known for his alleged 1943 statement, "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers", there is no evidence he ever made it.
The misquote is itself often misquoted, with fifty computers instead of five.
When the Titanic was being built, she was described as being "virtually unsinkable" thanks to the various safety features being built into her. At the time, everyone displayed a tendency to drop the "virtually" part and refer to her as simply "unsinkable", which came back tobite them hard when, following a collision with an iceberg, she did in fact sink. Thanks to the notorious nature of the disaster, the "unsinkable" label has tended to stick as an example of what happens if you get too cocky in the face of nature.
The infamous "wolf whistle", popularly depicted in American culture as the standard response to something titillating, usually doesn't sound quite the way it does in cartoons. Animated characters often draw it out, with a pause between the syllables and a rising pitch before the pause and a falling pitch after it, making the noise sound something like "WHEEEET...whoooo!" When the whistle is uttered in real life or in more realistic fictional media (and it isn't usually these days, as it's interpreted as rather rude), it is often only a single-syllable whistle ("Whoooo!") or is indeed two syllables but is pronounced much more quickly and with even stress ("Wheet-whoo!").
Similarly, the "Bronx cheer" (the sound made by humans and certain other primates to suggest derision, which is called a "raspberry" in places outside the New York area) is often exaggerated in cartoons and on kids' TV shows. Most people pronounce it quick and loud, like a fart—but in fiction it tends to be ridiculously drawn out and to decrease in volume, as if someone were slowly letting the air out of a large helium balloon. (Then again, maybe this is just to Get Crap Past The Radar.)
W.C. Fields actually never said "Any man who hates dogs and babies can't be all bad." It was actually said by Leo Rosten ABOUT W.C. Fields.
In Israel, a common saying is "איש איש באמונתו יחיה", /ish ish be'emunato yiḥye/,(basically equivalent to "to each his own", but regarding religious faith) and is considered to be biblical. However, the actual verse is "צדיק באמונתו יחיה" /tsadik be'emunato yiḥye" (basically meaning "a righteous man is he who lives as his faith [dictates]".