troperville

tools

toys


main index

Narrative

Genre

Media

Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
random
Wrongfully Attributed

A popular comedy trope: Someone references a famous invention or work of art and credits it to the wrong creator or inventor. Usually done to showcase the ignorance of the character. In morality tales this can lead to an actual explanation of the referenced person's actual achievements.

Not to be confused with Plagiarism or Taking the Heat. Wrongfully Attributed only occurs when a character, a group or the general public has a wrong perception about who did the actual deed. Compare with Mistaken Identity.

Also happens a lot in Real Life as a result of misconceptions or confusing associations. A deed is attributed to a more famous person associated with the concept instead of the actual creator. For instance, Henry Ford is often called "the inventor of the car", which he wasn't; he merely industrialized automobile production on a mass scale. When you hear a classical music piece and have to guess the composer, it's easier to assume it's Mozart or Beethoven. Sometimes a person is wrongfully credited for a certain deed because his name, image or style is somewhat similar to another creator. You can hardly blame someone for confusing Theodore Roosevelt with Franklin D. Roosevelt, for example.

Some famous quotes are actually misquotations. See Beam Me Up, Scotty!. Some styles are so similar to a certain work of art that they can be confused for being a sequel, made by the same authors or related in a certain way. See Spiritual Successor. Compare Historical Character Confusion, which can overlap. In cases of songs, see Misattributed Song.

When adding examples, explain what exactly is being wrongfully attributed.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Art 
  • A huge problem in the art world in general. Painters didn't always sign their work or sometimes let their students paint huge portions. This makes it difficult for art historians and critics to attribute paintings to certain famous masters. A lot of works attributed in the past to big names like Rembrandt, for instance, have been re-examined in recent years and were discovered to be forgeries, copies or simply work by their pupils. This decreases the value of the works, of course. Even more recent times can't escape from this. In old age, painters like Salvador Dali or Andy Warhol simply let others make their paintings and just signed their name underneath.
  • Pieter Bruegel the Elder 's painting "De Dulle Griet" ("Mad Meg"): the general public often assumes it's a Hieronymus Bosch painting, because it features a scene set in Hell, with lots of demons and monsters.

    Comics 
  • In Matt Groening's Life in Hell, he invented a quote he attributed to Friedrich Nietzsche which has frequently been re-quoted by others who apparently believed it was Nietzsche. The quote is: Love is a snowmobile racing across the tundra, until it suddenly flips over, trapping you underneath. At night, the ice weasels come. Nietzsche died before the invention of the snowmobile.
  • Hergé, creator of Tintin has a very identifiable style that has been imitated by other comic strip artists too, mostly people who worked as his assistents like Edgar P. Jacobs (Blake and Mortimer) and Bob de Moor. Both artists' work is therefore often confused with Hergé's.
  • Many comic strip artists who worked for the magazine Spirou had a similar drawing style, inspired by André Franquin and are thus easily confused with his work: Maurice Tillieux (Gil Jourdan), Raymond Macherot (Chlorophylle and Sybilline), Peyo (The Smurfs),...

    Film 
  • In The Big Lebowski, the Dude and Walter try to remember a certain quote by Lenin, causing Donny to think that they are talking about John Lennon.
  • In LA Story, Steve Martin's character routinely attributes all sorts of quotes to Shakespeare, describing his versions of them as "paraphrases".
  • Animal House: "Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!" "The Germans?" "Forget it. He's rolling."
  • In Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Wonka opens a musical lock with a brief tune. Mrs. Teevee smugly says, "Rachmaninoff." It's actually Mozart.
  • In Home Alone 2 when the hotel bellhop escorts Kevin to his room and mentions President Hoover stayed here before. Kevin mistakes him for the vacuum guy.
  • You know that quote from Ezekiel Julius recites? It's not a direct Bible quote at all.
  • Film/Fahrenheit911 concludes the film with a quote by George Orwell. Christopher Hitchens has pointed out that this quote was never uttered by Orwell at all.

    Jokes 
  • The old "Confucius say" jokes fall squarely into this category. No doubt most of the people who have told these jokes have no familiarity whatsoever with the actual Analects attributed to him.
  • "That's what SHE said!" jokes are a variation on the theme.

    Literature 
  • Many people assume that Hans Brinker in Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates is the boy who plugged a dike with his finger. In fact: Hans reads about the story in class, but has no part in it whatsoever.

    Live-Action Television 
  • A Running Gag on NewsRadio is Bill getting historical facts incredibly wrong. ("Big Chief Custer? He scalped many palefaces that day.") He is also prone to misattribute any poetic quote to John Keats.
  • On M*A*S*H, Colonel Potter often attributes well-known sayings to his own relatives and says, "And she's been quoted by so many..."
  • Also a running gag on Frasier. Usually played straight but occasionally he would get called on it. Kate: "Did you ever open a book at Harvard?"
  • On Gilmore Girls, there are several of these:
    • In the last season, after Lorelai has "serenaded" Luke with the Karaoke song "I will always love you", the whole town is talking about it. Luke's dippy sister Liz urges him to respond to Lorelai, saying: "It's a classic love song! It's classic Cindy Lauper!" Luke replies: "Whitney Houston!" Liz: "Whatever!" when the song is actually by Dolly Parton. (However, being super-music-geeks, the writers make sure to name-check Dolly Parton when Lorelai goes on stage to sing the song: Lane says to Rory: "I didn't know your mother was a Whitney Houston fan", and Rory replies, "I think it's Dolly-inspired, actually". And Lorelai does sing the song more in Dolly Parton's rhythm and emphasis.).
    • Lorelai's mother makes a Beatles-reference, and her husband berates her: "Emily! Two of the Beatles are dead!". Emily says: No, only one is dead. Richard: "Nooo, another one died recently." Lorelai says to them: "Guys, could you hit the pause button on this conversation, because I'd really like Rory to hear the end of it.". Later, Rory asks Lorelai what outcome they landed on, and Lorelai responds: "Well, they decided that John and Keith are dead, Paul and Bingo are still alive."
    • When Lane Kim has to move out of home, her cousin Christine helps her pack, when it is revealed that Christine, seemingly shy and quiet in front of their mothers, lives just as much of a 2nd-Gen-double life as Lane, hiding her rock music interests from her family. She rambles on about bands and albums, asking: "Should I get a Led Zeppelin CD? I should get Three, right, Three has Stairway to Heaven on it." Later, Lane turns around and snaps at her: "Listen, kid, I'm not your yoda, alright? And Stairway to Heaven is on Four, not Three! When it comes to classic rock, know it, don't blow it!".
    • At the Gilmore's Friday night dinner, their house is part of an architectural tour, so they have tourists going through the house while the Gilmore family is eating. Richard is getting irate at all the people traipsing through the house, using the piano, etc. At one point, the tour guide lady is voice-over-heard saying: "The house was built in 1906 by [some architect, can't remember the name, let's say: 'Sterling']". Richard slams his napkin down, jumps up and goes off-screen to confront the tour guide, saying: "That's it. The house was built in 1907, and it was a protege of 'Sterling's'!!".
    • Lorelai helps Luke host a birthday party for Luke's daughter. She's trying to chat with two girls there, who are talking about watching a girl on MTV (no idea what the name was). Lorelai says: "Oh her, yes, cool, I really love her music." One of the girls replies, in a snarky "d'oh" way: "She's a VJ, actually?" and Lorelai says: "Yes, you didn't let me finish. I meant, I really love her music - video - introductions!" and then lamely shimmies away, knowing she's been exposed as OVER the hill. I know that feeling.

    Music 
  • See also the entire TV Tropes article Misattributed Song for more examples.
  • Classical music is often attributed to Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart or Ludwig van Beethoven.
    • It's a joke among musicologists that once the composer is listed as "Stradella" or "Pergolesi", there is already cause for suspicion. Many 19th century editors included pieces in their anthologies from other anthologies, which had named the source as Anonymous, and disliking such an attribution, they picked some known Baroque composer, most often Pergolesi or Stradella. Moreover, two famous arias, "Pieta, Signore" (attributed to Stradella) and "Se tu m'ami" (attributed to Pergolesi) are actually 19th century compositions in what they perceived to be antique style, by the music critic Fetis and the anthologist Parisotti. In other cases, utter disregard for the actual source results in erroneous attributions, such as "Quella fiamma che m'accende" (probably by Conti, attributed to B. Marcello).
    • A very famous "Ave Maria" is universally attributed to Caccini. How would anyone accept such a style of composition as likely to have been composed by the same Caccini is beyond reason. It's actually from the 1970's and by a Russian composer called Vavilov.
    • In a slight subversion, the "Toy Symphony" has frequently been attributed to Joseph Haydn. It is actually by Leopold Mozart, Wolfgang's father.
    • A number of cantatas used to illustrate why Johann Sebastian Bach was a superior composer to his contemporary Georg Philipp Telemann turned out to have been composed by none other than Telemann. Bach had liked them enough to copy out the entire scores by hand for his own use.
      • In a similar twist, many organ works by Bach, who is mentioned as superior to Vivaldi, are actually reductions of several Vivaldi concertos, most famously the concerto for 2 violins in A minor.
    • Christian Petzold's Minuet in G (yes, that Minuet in G) is almost always attributed to Bach for the sole reason that the piece appears in the Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach.
      • Almost none of the pieces in the notebooks are by J.S. Bach (several are by his son Carl Philipp Emanuel) - it wasn't meant as a book of compositions, it was just a household empty music book where they filled in short pieces of music they liked, including the famous "Bist du bei mir", actually from an opera by Stölzel called "Diomedes".
  • On file-sharing sites, almost any song parody will be attributed to "Weird Al" Yankovic - even if its subject matter is something he would not touch.
    • On file-sharing sites, any song is likely to be attributed to one of the most famous artists of that genre. Reggae songs are all by Bob Marley, arena rock songs are all by Journey, orchestral film pieces are always by John Williams, and so forth.
    • Phish never recorded a bluegrass version of "Gin and Juice." The Gourds did.
    • Jazzy versions of non-jazzy songs tend to get attributed to Richard Cheese, such as those by Senor Coconut, despite the styling being so different.
  • People who weren't fans of The Sex Pistols often confused Johnny Rotten with Sid Vicious and vice versa.
  • Thanks to its humorous subject matter, the song "Stacy's Mom" by Fountains Of Wayne was misattributed to Bowling for Soup so often that it became a joke with the band, who recorded a cover version of it in response.
  • John Lennon is often seen as the true genius within The Beatles, even though a lot of the classic and revolutionary Beatles songs where written in co-songwritership with Paul McCartney. Some of the most inventive ones were even written by McCartney alone.
  • John Stump's "Faerie's Aire and Death Waltz" is widely believed to be an arrangement of COOL&CREATE's arrangement of "U.N. Owen Was Her?" Considering the fact that "Faerie's Aire and Death Waltz" sounds nothing like U.N. Owen Was Her? or any of its arrangements, this is especially odd. Even when corrected, this still doesn't stop people insisting that John Stump arranged a COOL&CREATE (or, in some cases, ZUN) track.
  • The Rabbit Joint made a song about The Legend of Zelda in 1998; due to the lead singer's vocal resemblance to Serj Tankian, the track is commonly attributed to System of a Down.

    Religion and Mythology 
  • As the Good Book Says: Religions also suffer from this. Various people who claim to be religious authorities will base their opinions and viewpoints on certain Bible quotes that are usually 1) too literal interpretations 2) taken out of context 3) not in the holy manuscript in the first place.
    • For instance: nowhere in the Bible is the phrase "God helps those who help themselves" to be found.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Deliberately employed by pre-schism ComStar (and their spiritual successor organization, the Word of Blake) in BattleTech to turn their long-departed founder into even more of a paragon of wisdom in the common people's eyes by attributing suitably quotable statements from other historical sources specifically to him.

    Web Animation 

    Webcomics 
  • Captain SNES: Alex tries to reassure a giant sandworm (which he thinks is a Shai-Halud) that he's got no problem with scientology. Alex (and the author) confused L. Ron Hubbard with Frank Herbert.
  • In early Homestuck there was a running gag about the narrator quoting things and then attributing it to the wrong source. They started out plausible enough if you didn't know your literature but quickly turned ridiculous, e.g., when 'Drop It Like It's Hot' was sourced to 'English romantic poet John Keats'.
    • Later Subverted when the frequent quotes attributed to actor Charles Dutton are actually correctly attributed in-universe.
    • Then goes in-universe when a line from one of the characters is wrongfully attributed to Cherub Shakespeare.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • All Animation Is Disney: People who don't know much about animation attribute almost every cartoon to Disney. In some cases the confusion is not so far-fetched: The films of Don Bluth could stylistically easily be mistaken for being Disney films.
    • Disney's Steam Boat Willie (1928) is often called Mickey Mouse's debut. This is wrong, it was actually his third cartoon, but his first cartoon with sound. The film also holds the honor of being the first sound cartoon, which is again not entirely true. There were earlier experiments, but not as perfect as Disney's.
    • Walt Disney also takes credit for all of the output of his studio, even though the lion's share was thought up and done by his personnel.
    • Contrary to what most people believe, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was not the first fully-animated feature film. There were at least two other produced in Argentina (now lost) and The Adventures of Prince Achmed in Germany before then. This much is certain: Snow White is the first produced in the United States, the first in color and with sound, and the first made by a studio instead of a single individual.
  • Similarly, every adult animated film will be attributed to Ralph Bakshi, even stuff he wasn't involved with, like The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat and Heavy Metal.
  • The Simpsons: Homer does this a lot:
    • In "Bart the Genius", Homer confuses Albert Einstein with Thomas Edison: "Einstein probably changed himself into all sorts of colors before he invented the light bulb."
    • In "They Saved Lisa's Brain", Homer confuses Stephen Hawking with Larry Flynt, presumably because they are both wheelchair patients.
    • After meeting Prime Minister Tony Blair in "The Regina Monologues", Homer mistakes him for Mr. Bean.
    • In "Homer the Great", Moe says the following about Homer: "He's gone mad with power. Like that Albert Schweitzer guy." (Moe probably meant the German philospher Friedrich Nietzsche, who did go mad near the end of his life, though not with power. Or it might be a reference to Adolf Hitler, if we remain in the German sounding names department.)
    • In "Marge vs. the Monorail", Mayor Quimby introduces Leonard Nimoy (of Star Trek fame) by saying the Star Wars phrase: "May the force be with you!" Nimoy asks if Quimby knows who he is, to which Quimby answers: "Weren't you one of The Little Rascals?"
    • In "Marge In Chains", Lisa compares Lionel Hutz to lawyer Clarence Darrow, whereupon Hutz asks: "Was he the black guy on The Mod Squad?", confusing Darrow with actor Clarence Williams III.
  • In the Family Guy episode "Brian Wallows While Peter Swallows" Brian sings about Neil Armstrong, whereupon Meg confuses him with Louis Armstrong: "Was he the trumpet guy?"
    • Played for laughs when Brian fought to change the name of James Woods High School to Martin Luther King Jr. Peter mistakes King for Martin Landau, Martin Lawrence, Dean Martin, Martini and Rossi, Martin Sheen, Charlie Sheen, and Tom Berenger.

    Real Life 
  • This is also a phenomenon you can find in real life. Word-by-mouth conversations about certain incidents often cause certain quotes to be put in other people's mouths that sounds way more sensational and/or sophisticated than what they said in reality. In some cases they even weren't the ones who uttered that particular quote or, even worse, hadn't said anything at all! It happens with historical figures, but also with everyday people.
  • Some people think that Gaius Julius Caesar never said "Tu quoque, fili?" ("You too, my son?") and claim that it was a line William Shakespeare thought up for his play about Caesar. Actually, "Tu quoque, fili?" is taken from chapter 82 of Suetonius' biography of Caesar as something some people reported Caesar said. Suetonius (died ca. 150 A.D.) notes that Caesar was said to have spoken the phrase in Greek ("kai su, teknon?"). (Shakespeare actually used the words "Et tu, Brute?" in his play, but he was not the first to use that particular wording either.)
  • The birth of Jesus Christ: Often believed to be the original reason people celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December. Pagans already held winter rituals and festivities centuries before Jesus' birth. The Church, not knowing when his birthday actually was, chose to celebrate it on this date so that Christmas could replace these festivals. Jesus probably wasn't actually born in winter, either; among other evidence, the shepherds wouldn't have been in their fields in December. Some astronomers suggested his real birthday was the 17th of June. Of course, given the sheer number of pagan (and Jewish) festivals, it would be hard to come up with a date that had not been used by some religion before...
  • Christopher Columbus: Often called the "discoverer" of America. Leif Eriksson was actually the first European to discover the continent and did it 400 years earlier. Also, Columbus stated that he had reached India, and claimed so until his death. All the learned people of Europe of that day knew the distance to India (the circumference of the Earth was known since ancient Greece, thanks to Erastothene) and knew there was no way he had enough supplies to reach it, let alone come back. Everyone assumed he was lying his teeth out. Amerigo Vespucci later confirmed that Columbus had actually reached a new continent and that there is land on the other end of the planet. Hence, all that land is collectively known as America, and Colombia is a small country in it.
  • Henry Ford: Sometimes believed to be the inventor of the automobile. Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz actually invented the vehicle twenty years before Ford. He wasn't even the first person to invent the assembly line method of mass production (this was Ransom Olds, the founder of Oldsmobile) though Ford and other figures in his company did significantly prove it.
  • Marie Antoinette: Never actually said, "Let them eat cake."
  • Ronald Reagan: Often believed to have ended the Cold War, while Mikhail Gorbachev is probably a more logical candidate for that title. The Russian leader made a lot of social changes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc, more than any Soviet leader before him. Many notable historians such as John Lewis Gaddis suggested that the USSR was "a sandpile ready to slide" by the 1980s, whoever was in power in what country. Case in point is that the actual fall of the Berlin Wall and dissolvement of the USSR took place after Reagan left office.
    • Former Polish president Lech Walesa claimed that Pope John Paul II did more than anybody else to end the Cold War.
    • Osama bin Laden believed that he and the Mujahideen ended the Soviet Union, which led him to think that he could repeat the same success with the United States.
  • Variations on the phrase "People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf" have been attributed to George Orwell. In reality, though the phrase does accurately convey his views, it is a paraphrase of a statement by Orwell in which he paraphrased the meaning of the poem Tommy.
  • Many people assume that any horror film made in Britain in the sixties or seventies must be Hammer Horror. Dr. Terror's House of Horrors, Tales From the Crypt, The Vault of Horror, and And Now the Screaming Starts are by Amicus Productions, and Curse of the Crimson Altar, The Blood Beast Terror, Witchfinder General, Blood on Satan's Claw, and The Creeping Flesh, are by Tigon British Film Productions.
  • Yogi Berra was famous for his quips that were deliberately redundant or self-contradictory, such as "It ain't over 'til it's over" and "Nobody goes there anymore; it's too crowded." Within his own lifetime, he became falsely accredited with many others, which he eventually rebutted in classic Berra fashion: "I really didn't say everything I said."
  • Monty Python also suffers from this. A lot of films featuring only two or three members from the Monty Python team will be confused by the general audience for being a "Monty Python film". Cue to their disappointment when it turns out to be something totally else, despite not having the name "Monty Python" in the title!
  • The 16th century French physician Nostradamus wrote several predictions about the future, each of them in rhyme. To this day several false predictions attributed to him can be read on the Internet. There often easily to detect, because some numbskulls try to rhyme them in the English language, rather than French.
  • Adolf Hitler is also a popular choice for Wrongfully Attributed opinions. During arguments people will eventually accuse their opponents of having the same viewpoint as Hitler (a phenomenon known as Godwin's law). Usually certain opinions are attributed to Hitler, even though he had nothing to do with them. For instance: Hitler was not a socialist, nor a communist. The full name of the Nazi party was indeed "national-socialist party", but their viewpoints were way different than those of actual socialists, whom Hitler imprisoned and exterminated by the score. Hitler's politics only benefitted white people of supposedly Aryan descent and excluded everyone else, even white Germans who just happened to have a handicap or some sort of "unpure" racial heritage in their roots, a far cry from the socialist party's ideals. He wasn't an atheist, nor a specifically religious man either. He just used religion to justify his own viewpoints and win people's trust, while actually surplanting their beliefs with his own personality cult. Also, what Hitler stood for is in many cases just a case of Hitler Ate Sugar. Just because he was for or against certain things doesn't automatically make everything "evil". A simple example: the Nazis were early proponents of animal rights and anti-smoking activism. These are good initiatives, who just happen to be pioneered by a despicable ideology.
  • Communism has also been demonized in association with the atrocities committed by Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong and Pol Pot, while the general ideas written down by Karl Marx are in itself far more humanist than what Communist dictators made of them.
  • In 1950, during the crowning ceremony of Belgian king Baudoin I, a communist party member, Julien Lahaut shouted: "Vivé la République" ("Long live the Republic") through the hall. Lahaut was assassinated a week later. Decades later research has pointed out that Lahaut didn't shout this slogan at all. It was the politician standing next to him: Georges Glineur. Still, the quote is still associated with Lahaut to this day.
  • There is a list of quotes circulating around the internet, ostensibly said by an American politician. They include such dunderheaded quotations as "I'm not indecisive. Am I indecisive?" or "A zebra does not change its spots." Depending on which politician is in the spotlight at the moment, this list of quotes has been attributed in toto to just about every president, vice-president or presidential candidate in US history since Nixon. Who knows if any of them actually said what, or if any of the quotes are accurate, but as this list has been circulating the internet since there was an internet, they likely were never said by any politician who only came to public prominence well afterward.

Watch It for the MemeMemetic MutationX Called; They Want Their Y Back
Word of DantePublic Medium Ignorance    
A Wizard Did ItApathy Index    
Writers SuckComedy TropesWrong Parachute Gag

random
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from thestaff@tvtropes.org.
Privacy Policy
54018
35