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  • 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 listed in many atheist quote repositories and used in works such as Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eaterbut 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 the Apollo 13 mission. The actual line is "Okay, Houston, we've had a problem here." The misquote is so pervasive, it has made its way into the movie Apollo 13, 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. NASA, which was providing technical support for the film, approved the change to avoid moviegoers making that specific misconception.
  • 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.
    • And then there's the "Good luck Mr. Gorsky" legend...
    • This mystery has an obvious solution: if you say "for a man" quickly, it sounds like the "a" is missing, so Armstrong could have got it right (and some news sources say he did like ). Given Armstrong's very Inland North accent (the man was born, raised, and died in Northern Ohio), a quick, almost imperceptible "a" is hardly out of the question.

  • 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. Eric 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. (Harris also did not say "There is no God" before pulling the trigger on Bernall.)
    • 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.
  • After Dan White murdered San Francisco 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.
    • Not only weren't twinkies mentioned. The whole sense of what happened was tergiversated. The lawyers never said that eating junk food had been the cause of his mental instability (and hence, the murders), but the consequence of it.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • After Azaria Chamberlain disappeared, her mother never actually wailed "Dingos ate my baby!" or anything of the sort.note  (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?"
  • 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.
  • The phrase "say it ain't so" - commonly attributed to an anonymous young baseball fan after "Shoeless" Joe Jackson's trial during the Black Sox scandal of 1919 - could well be a double example: what the Minnesota Daily Star actually reported was "It ain't so, is it, Joe?" To which Joe is supposed to have replied "Yes, I'm afraid it is." Furthermore, there's not much evidence that such an exchange ever took place. Baseball essayist Roger Angell, writing about the film Eight Men Out, calls it an "engraved Insta-Sob punchline".
  • This supposed exchange between Serial Killer Harvey Glatman and a police detective:
    Glatman: The reason I killed those girls was 'cause they asked me to ...They did; all of them.
    Detective: They asked you to.
    Glatman: Sure. They said they'd rather be dead than be with me.
    • As you can guess, it's too good to be true and doesn't come directly from Glatman, but from a Dragnet episode that was loosely based on Glatman's crimes and was consulted by one of the detectives that arrested him. The exchange is, of course, fiction.

  • "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.
  • "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?"
  • 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 ..."
  • Walt Disney never said "If you can dream it, you can do it." That line was created by Tom Fitzgerald as the tagline for the 1983 EPCOT Center attraction Horizons. The misattribution began in the late 1990s after Horizons closed, and wasn't helped when Disney itself started attributing the quote to Walt Disney in the mid 2000s.
  • 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, and he did in fact joke about other aspects of airplane travel, he never said "What's the deal with airplane food?" in any of his acts. Mostly because jokes about airline food were played out before he became a comic.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • Surrealist Andre Breton did not recommend "dashing down into the street, pistol in hand, and firing blindly, as fast as you can pull the trigger, into the crowd." He said this was the simplest surrealist act, not the best, and followed it up with an extensive footnote saying he was not recommending this action, but trying to explain why people oppressed by his society's "petty system of debasement and cretinization" would fantasize about doing it.
  • 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. (In his diaries, he complained that people always misquoted him about this.)
  • 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 people he knew who had been taking the sleeping pill that Ledger had allegedly overdosed on - Nicholson himself had tried it once, and it screwed him up. "I didn't know Heath Ledger, but I know those pills."
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • After several interviews with both actors, it's been established that Laurence Olivier probably never mocked Dustin Hoffman's method acting in Marathon Man with the oft-quoted quip "Why not try acting, dear boy? It's easier," (also frequently quoted as "It's called acting, dear boy. You should try it some time"). While he may have said some variation of the quote, the context for the quip is completely invented. Supposedly, Olivier said it after Hoffman intentionally went more than 24 hours without sleep to prepare for a scene where his character was supposed to be physically exhausted; actually, Hoffman just came to the set one morning visibly exhausted from staying out late partying the night before. If Olivier did indeed say the line, he was joking about Hoffman's hedonistic excesses, not criticizing his acting technique.
  • Mike Figgis never told a U.S. immigration officer "I'm here to shoot a pilot," nor was he detained at LAX for several hours after saying anything like it, as incorrectly reported by the Guardian. The report was based on a misreading of an interview in which Figgis said he had almost spoken the phrase to a U.S. immigration officer who was questioning him in the Toronto airport about the purpose of his visit,note  but realizing that it would come out wrong, he instead said, "I'm here to film the 1st episode of a potential series for Fox/Sony."
  • Marilyn Monroe is widely credited (especially by someone on your Facebook feed) with the quote: "I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best." There is, however, no evidence she actually said this.
  • Most people misquote Jeff Foxworthy's "You might be a redneck" one-liners as "You might be a redneck if ______". Although he had both an album and book titled "You Might Be a Redneck If...", the jokes themselves always took the format of "If you ______, you might be a redneck". There are also a large number of redneck jokes that have been created by other comedians or by fans, and were never actually said by him either in his stand-up routines or the books.
  • Hayao Miyazaki never actually said "Anime was a mistake. It's nothing but trash." It originated as a joke caption placed over real footage from the documentary The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, which was then spread by fans who were aware of its humorous intent, but it's similar enough to things he's actually said that some have taken it to be legit.
  • John Lennon never said, "Ringo isn't the best drummer in the world. He isn't even the best drummer in the Beatles." The line was actually said by British comedian Jasper Carrott, three years after Lennon's death.
  • Steve Irwin has never actually said "...and I'm gonna stick my finger up its butt" upon finding a wild animal. It originates from a South Park parody of him that was most likely playing on how the accepted way of sexing large reptiles is inserting a finger into the cloaca, yet you're guaranteed to see a joke made about it in the comments whenever Steve or his family comes up on the internet.

    Scientists and engineers 
  • 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".
  • Antoine 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.
  • 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."
    • The "Madonna–Whore Complex" is commonly believed to have been discovered by Freud, and even academics usually cite as its origin his 1910 essay "A Special Type of Choice of Object Made by Men." In fact, Freud's essay only refers to a "mother-complex" as being related to the "precondition of the loved one's being like a prostitute," and this juxtaposition in psychosexual theory is Older Than They Think.
    • You will sometimes hear people claim that "there are more schizophrenics in Ireland than anywhere else". This is based in a 1913 study that seemed to show a high percentage of Irish Americans with schizophrenia. At that time schizophrenia could mean anything from homesickness to Split Personality — and racism against the Irish was a virulent part of daily life. That said, it is true that potatoes have solamine, which can cause hallucinations, and a higher incidence of "schizophrenia" is found among many populations where potatoes are a dietary staple.
  • 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").
    • 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 equals M C square".
    • Though not officially confirmed, Einstein likely never said "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity... and I'm not sure about the universe." He did, however, say "The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits." so there's a small chance that he said the first quote, it's just never been verified.
    • Einstein never said "I fear the day when technology surpasses our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots." What he actually said was "It has become appallingly obvious that technology has exceeded our humanity." and this was said in reference to deadly weapons of war, not the advent of personal computers and smartphones.
    • 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 something 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 propagates on the internet and is often attributed incorrectly to Einstein. Einstein's opinions on the divine were somewhat ambiguous, but suffice it to say that his range of belief varied from time to time between the agnostic and the "pantheistic"/"Deistic" philosophical God of Baruch Spinoza (rather than a personal God).
    • Another of his most famous quotes, considering the constant cosmological constant as "the biggest blunder of his entire life", is also likely to have been never uttered by him.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • 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." 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."
  • 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."
  • Thomas Edison never said "Invention is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration". What he actually said (in a spoken statement published in Harper's Monthly) was "Genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration". He also made a statement in a press conference saying "None of my inventions came by accident. I see a worthwhile need to be met and I make trial after trial until it comes. What it boils down to is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration," which is quoted in Uncommon Friends: Life with Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, Alexis Carrel & Charles Lindbergh by James D. Newton.

  • 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".
  • "Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door." This adage is commonly attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, 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:
    • 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 the attorney and wit Clarence Darrow, who also later said, "I've never killed anyone, save for idiots attributing my goddam quote to Mark Twain."
    • Richard Dawkins often misquotes Twain as having said "I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it." The actual quote from Twain's autobiography is "Annihilation has no terrors for me, because I have already tried it before I was born—a hundred million years—and I have suffered more in an hour, in this life, than I remember to have suffered in the whole hundred million years put together."
  • H. L. Mencken is often quoted as saying that "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."
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • She also hasn't been found to say that a Muggle with a gun can beat a wizard.
    • Oh, and unlike some of the shippers will have you believe, she never said Harry should have ended up with Hermione. What she said was that she regretted rushing into Ron and Hermione's relationship and that they might need some counseling to make their marriage work.
  • Richard Brautigan killed himself (rather messily) in 1984, but his daughter says he really did not leave a note saying "Messy, isn't it?"
  • Oscar Wilde is (rightfully) known for his snappy epigrams. However, quite a few of the quotes one will often find attributed to the author (for instance, "There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about") are in fact uttered by one of the characters—Lord Henry—in Wilde's novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. Technically the attribution isn't wrong, as Wilde did write the novel and those lines, but since Lord Henry is something of a lech and is ultimately responsible for kicking off Dorian's decline into wickedness, it can lead to some misconceptions about Wilde's own morals and beliefs. Ironically, Wilde actually claimed at one point that Lord Henry was supposed to represent him (Wilde) as he was perceived by society. Maybe he did too good a job...
  • The inspirational quotation "Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind" is often attributed to Dr. Seuss, but there is no evidence he actually said it. The second half of it predates him considerably - the earliest recorded usage found is from 1938, and it had quotation marks around it, indicating it was already a common snippet of wisdom. The first part is also variously quoted as "Do what you want to do, say what you want to say," "Say what you want and be who you are," or "Always do what you want, and say what you feel," and has also been attributed to Bernard Baruch and Mark Young (who did both say something like "Those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind," but in the context of repeating a well-known quip, not as an original quotation).
  • The hispanophobe remark "Africa begins at the Pyrenees" was attributed to Alexandre Dumas, père in the 19th century with such insistence that his son, Alexandre Dumas, fils made a statement that his father never said nor held any belief of the sort. The attribution was not without irony, given that Dumas père's grandmother famously was an African slave, Marie-Cessette Dumas. Other French personalities including Voltaire and Napoleon himself were later attributed the sentence. The quote may have actually originated in the Portuguese Count of Funchal's 1816 memoirs, who referenced that Napoleon's secretary, Dominique G.F. Dufour de Pradt, "had Africa begin at the Pyrenees". De Pradt wrote the same year, "It is an error of geography to have assigned Spain to Europe; it belongs to Africa."
  • Agatha Christie:
    • She's often quoted as saying "It is ridiculous to set a detective story in New York City. New York City is itself a detective story." While she technically did say this, she was quoting something said by a fervent admirer of her work, and the context made it clear that she disagreed.
    • Similarly, it's dubious as to whether she actually said "An archaeologist is the best husband any woman can have; the older she gets, the more interested he is in her." She herself denied making this remark, and according to journalist Nigel Dennis, she was quoting "a witty wife".

  • If he did say it (for it may well be apocryphal), the pontifical legate Arnaud Amalric (or Amaury) reportedly said the words "Kill them, for the Lord knows His own," (Caedite eos, novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius - the second part of the sentence being an actual quote from the Bible), not "Kill them all, and God will sort His own" at the massacre of Beziers. Futhermore, the quote is often attributed to Simon of Montfort, who participed in these events and later led the crusade, but wasn't in a commanding position at the time.
  • 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 that he wants so long as it is black") on at least one occasion in 1909, as related in his 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").
  • 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?"
  • Bill Gates did not say, "Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one." That 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.
      • This requires some elaboration: the processor about which the computer was designed had an address space of 1 MB (or 1024 K). A decision needed to be made as to how much of that memory would be reserved for the exclusive use of the operating system, and how much to user programs. The IBM PC put the dividing line at 640K, leaving 384 K for the operating system. Note that the first Commodore Amiga, which also used a processor capable of addressing 1 MB, divided that space right down the middle: 512 K for the operating system, 512 K for user programs.
  • 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. Nor did he say that he thought it was extraterrestrial in origin- he was consistent with stating that he thought that it was some sort of top secret military aircraft.
  • Multiple people from history, from George S. Patton to Winston Churchill, have been credited with the phrase "We have met the enemy, and it's us!" Not only did none of them say anything of the kind, the actual quote is "We have met the enemy, and they are ours", and it was spoken by US Naval Commander Oliver Hazard Perry. Cartoonist Walt Kelly later parodied the phrase for his character Pogo, who said (in an environmental PSA and not even in his comic strip) "we have met the enemy, and he is us."
  • 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.
  • 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. Furthermore, in 1902 he predicted that "all previous advances in the various lines of invention will appear totally insignificant when compared with those which the present century will witness." 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. In fact, "first do no harm" isn't even a particularly accurate summation of the Oath; some medical procedures, most notably surgery, entail doing some harm to a patient in order to prevent worse harm from occurring down the road. A more accurate summation of the Oath would perhaps be, "Minimise harm to the patient".
  • 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," although wags insist it means "Keep Right" (a message to visiting Britons with more French than sense).note 
  • The term "laissez faire" is often attributed to economist Adam Smith. He never used the phrase himself, and in fact, it isn't even a particularly accurate summation of his economic stances; amongst other things, he advocated progressive taxation and government subsidies to small businesses, although he was somewhat ambivalent about the latter, as he was afraid it could be abused by dishonest larger businesses.
    • Smith also never used the phrase "invisible hand of the free market" in any of his surviving writings, which together constitute more than a million words. The phrase "invisible hand" only appears three times in these writings, and only once, in The Wealth of Nations, does it pertain to economics; however, Smith is using it as a metaphor for why consumers and manufacturers would prefer domestic to foreign goods. Smith argues that language and culture differences as well as the lack of reliable contacts in foreign countries would act as a barrier preventing foreign goods from flooding domestic markets. This very well may have been true in his day when shipping costs were much higher. (The other two uses were in History of Astronomy, referring to superstitions about the Roman god Jupiter; and in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, referring to the behaviour of feudal lords.)
  • 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.
  • 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; it wasn't until the development of new bottles and better glassmaking techniques—by the late 17th-early 18th century English, who adored sparkling white wine from Champagne when it didn't explode in their servants' faces—that sparkling champagne became standard. The English wine merchants didn't let the French onto their little secret until late in Dom Pérignon's life. According to The Other Wiki, that quote came from a 19th century print ad.
  • 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 RMS Titanic was being built, nobody said that "God himself cannot sink this ship". The phrase used was "virtually unsinkable", meaning that she had built-in structural features to counter against all accidents the designers could think of (i.e. her double-bottom hull would protect her if she got grounded and her multiple watertight compartments meant that flooding one would not doom the ship). After the Titanic got unlucky with a disaster her designes hadn't thought of (sideswiping an iceberg), the press gleefully forgot the context behind "virtually unsinkable", dropped the "virtually" part, and played up the Olympic-class liners' reputation for being very safe in order to amplify the drama of the unexpected sinking.
  • 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.)
  • Also, The Daily Mirror never said "One Direction is better than the Beatles". This was actually the title of a satirical news article intended to annoy diehard Beatles fans that listed ten deliberately nonsensical "reasons" as to why One Direction is superior to them. The article was sarcastic.
  • The idiom "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" is a Woolseyism. A direct translation would be "If you are in Rome, live in the Roman way; if you are elsewhere, live as they do there."
  • "Over and out" is not an actual military communication closure. The actual term is just "out". "Over" means that the speaker awaits a response.
  • Yogi Berra found himself the victim of this trope so many times that he titled one of his autobiographies I Really Didn't Say Everything I Said.
  • "You provide the pictures, I'll provide the war." This is believed to have been sent in a telegram from William Randolph Hearst, a sensationalist newspaper magnate, when his reporter in Cuba commented that the situation was quiet and "no war was imminent." Despite the fact that there's little evidence he sent this particular line, Hearst did use his newspapers to drum up America into supporting a war with Spain over Cuba - with a Casus Belli now widely believed to have been an accident (the USS Maine sank in Havana harbor and the US press suspected foul play, but it was likely just a fault with the hull).
  • German General Friedrich Paulus as he got encircled in Stalingrad is quoted to have said "I will not shoot myself for that Bohemian Corporal!" as the news he got promoted to Field Marshal came over the radio. No Prussian or German Marshal had ever surrendered, so all those present got the meaning of the promotion. There is no proof that he either said that, or even that he shared the personal disdain of aristocratic Prussian officers for Hitler. His adjutant, Colonel Wilhelm Adam, who witnessed the event, wrote Paulus' words were "One can't help feeling it's an invitation to suicide. However I'm not going to do them (Hitler and the government in Berlin) such a favour."
  • Contrary to what you might see on TV and in movies, in real life, Americans don't say "check please!" when they're finishing up at a restaurant. What you might actually hear them say is simply "can we get the check?"
    • Typically, wait staff are expected to bring the check back after checking to see if the patron or patrons are done and many ask if they would like to see the dessert menu first. "Check Please!" is normally said when the wait staff are not paying attention and the patron has been finished his or her meal for some time, though it's a bit more rude than the more polite "can we get the check?"
  • Saint Teresa of Avila (as well as several other Theresas from Christian culture) is sometimes associated with the quote "There are more tears shed over answered prayers than over unanswered ones." In actuality, though Truman Capote claimed that his novel Answered Prayers was named after this quote, there's no proof it came from anywhere but his imagination.
  • A famous exchange that probably never happened between Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) and his mistress, the actress Lillie Langtry (warning, it's a bit risqué):
    The Prince: Why should I spend any more money on you? I've spent enough on you to build a battleship!
    Mrs Langtry: And you've spent enough in me to float it.
  • Christopher Columbus never said the purpose of his trip was to prove the world was round (such thing had been known for centuries by then; the misconception was started by Washington Irving in the early 19th century). Nor did he say it was to reach India (as in the Indian subcontinent), nor did he mistake Native Americans for Indians (from India) or think that he had reached India when he landed in America. The term he used was "The Indies", the common European collective term for Far East countries at the time, and he included a letter to be delivered to the "Great Khan" of China among his entourage. He mistook the Caribbean for a group of islands in the vicinity of China or Japan (and he remained convinced that he had landed in East Asia when he died).
  • Kanye West once posted the following quote on his Twitter account, attributing it to Harriet Tubman: "I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more, if only they knew they were slaves." As one of the replies pointed out, not only did she never say this, she would have never said anything like it - the quote is actually pro-slavery, since it implies that at least slaves deserved their condition because of ignorance or inherent servility.
  • Jose Mourinho, highly successful football manager of Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Manchester United (among others) never referred to himself as "The Special One". He did say "Please don't call me arrogant but I'm European Champion and I think I'm a special one" in an interview, which has a somewhat different tone, but the title was actually bestowed on him by media commentators and is yet often referenced as a self-application (understandably, given his occasional propensity for self-promotion).
  • The "instructions unclear" meme is often given in a very Beige Prose way, e.g. "Instructions unclear, dick stuck in toaster." But the original post that spawned the meme used normal English: "The instructions were unclear. I got my dick stuck in the toaster."
  • For whatever reason, people often misquote the disclaimer on many rear-view mirrors as a "objects in the mirror may be closer than they appear" rather than the correct "objects in the mirror are closer than they appear. The reasons for this is unknown, but may just be because "may be" sounds more like disclaimer-speak than the more definite "are".
  • "Better honor without ships than ships without honor" (and variations thereof) has been attributed both to Hernán Cortés (who sunk his ships in order to keep his men from defecting during the conquest of Mexico) and to Spanish Admiral Cervera before the Battle of Santiago (who bottled his own fleet in Guantanamo Bay and then ensured its destruction by sailing it in front of the American fleet, one by one and during daylight). The actual origin of the sentence is the more obscure Spanish Admiral Méndez-Núñez during the equally obscure Spanish-South American War of 1865-1866, but there are at least two versions:
    • As the concluding statement in his correspondence to the Spanish Minister of State in 1865: "...first honor without Navy, than Navy without honor."
    • In reply to an Anglo-American fleet that threatened to retaliate if he bombed Valparaíso in 1866: "The Queen, the Government, the country and I would rather have honor without ships, than ships without honor."
  • The Zen koan "Two hands clap and there is a sound; what is the sound of one hand?" is frequently misquoted as "What is the sound of one hand clapping?", which slightly obscures the original meaning.


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