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Beam Me Up, Scotty!

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"I'd like to quote the great William Shakespeare, but to tell you the truth, I don't actually think he said it."
General Donald Doyle, Red vs. Blue

Lines that people associate with something or someone by way of Pop-Cultural Osmosis, despite having never been uttered by them, or only rarely. Usually a misquotation or a slight paraphrase of something that actually was said or done, or a combination of several common or famous lines. The misquote provides context necessary to recognize or appreciate the reference, as in "Luke, I Am Your Father", or fills in parts of the sentence that are orphaned from the interesting bit, as in "Hell [has no] fury like a woman scorned." Sometimes the trailer shortened the quote to save time, and its version became better known. This is all well and good, but we here at TV Tropes think people should at least know what the line they're paraphrasing is meant to be.

Sometimes it's not even more than a word or two off, so pointing it out may come across as nitpicking. Other times, the record really has to be set straight because the line got really corrupted over time like a bad game of telephone.

The Trope Namer, "Beam me up, Scotty", was never actually uttered in Star Trek: The Original Series. One of the films got pretty close, but even then, it was phrased: "Scotty, beam me up." Contrary to popular belief, it is not even said in Star Trek: The Animated Series — though that's where they come closest: "Beam us up, Scotty". The actual phrase comes from a famous Star Trek bumper sticker — "Beam me up, Scotty, there's no intelligent life on this planet." It finally made an appearance in the franchise (though non-canon) when William Shatner himself said it in the audiobook version of his 1995 novel The Ashes of Eden. More often, Kirk said "Four to beam up," and he was talking to whomever happened to be at the Transporter console. Very rarely was this Scotty himself, who was the chief engineer, meaning no version of the command was said to him with any regularity.

Subtrope of "Common Knowledge". See also Dead Unicorn Trope, Cowboy BeBop at His Computer, Mondegreen Gag, Viewer Name Confusion, God Never Said That, and Wrongfully Attributed. If the misassociated line is eventually co-opted into the source as a sort of Shout-Out to the confusion, it becomes an Ascended Meme. If the line is correct but lack of context changes the meaning, or if the line is chopped up to change its meaning, it is a Quote Mine. If the quote and the misquote both occur in the same medium, there is an Unreliable Narrator or possibly a Flip-Flop of God. If the quote becomes the only thing associated with a person it's a case of Never Live It Down (if an Audience Reaction) or Once Done, Never Forgotten (if In-Universe). This can be extended to Iconic Items the character never actually had, such as Holmes' deerstalker. For tropes actually about beaming characters up, see Teleportation Tropes.

This trivia may be part of the infamous Mandela Effect.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Raphael doesn't say "Cowabummer!" when Batman shows him the alley where his parents died—that was a parody fan edit which was widely circulated online. In the original comic, Raph is silent for that panel.
  • The Flash: Eobard Thawne is popularly associated with the line "It was me, Barry!", used to memetically illustrate his sheer levels of pettiness. However, Thawne has never actually said the line verbatim — it's a paraphrase of a longer monologue.
  • Spider-Man:
    • The oft-quoted line "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility" is commonly attributed to Uncle Ben. However, the first appearance of the line was in fact just in a closing caption to the first story in Amazing Fantasy #15, not said by any actual character. And even then, it was actually phrased "...with great power there must also come great responsibility!". In later retcons of Spider-Man's origin, and in retellings such as that of Sam Raimi's first movie, the line is shortened and attributed to Uncle Ben, so while that is what is now in-continuity, the line was not originally his. The original line is finally adapted into the big screen in Spider-Man: No Way Home, but since Uncle Ben is already deceased by this time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the line is instead said by Aunt May just before her death.
    • An in-universe example, during a space adventure, Spider-Man quoted “Warp Factor 5, Mr. Spock!” He was then informed, by Dr. Doom, of all people, that Sulu set their speed.
  • Watchmen:
    • One of Rorschach's most popular and repeated lines "Possible homosexual? Must investigate further.", in reference to Adrian Veidt, actually reads as "Possibly homosexual? Must remember to investigate further." This is likely because the former seems to fit in more with his Beige Prose speaking pattern.
    • In-universe example: Dr. Milton Glass, a scientist who was present when Dr. Manhattan gained his powers, is quoted by the media as saying "The superman exists, and he's American". Dr. Glass' actual statement was "God exists, and he's American", and the sentiment behind it was more along the lines of awe and terror than the celebratory tone in which it is usually (mis)quoted. It is implied that the statement was deliberately misquoted by the media to make it less alarming or offensive to the public.
  • The Joker never said "we live in a society" in the comics, nor in any of his appearances until Joker in 2019 (though this was partially an ad-lib on Joaquin Phoenix's part — the line's first scripted appearance was in the "Snyder Cut" in 2021). It's entirely an online memenote  attached to the character's image. Henote  has also never said "Why should I apologize for the monster I've become? No one ever apologized for making me that way," in any media. That quote comes from an obscure book called Little Lucknow by Nitya Prakash.
  • The Sandman (1989): Death's famous line "You get what anybody gets. You get a lifetime." comes from an official t-shirt, not the comic; the line she says in the comic is the very similar "You lived what anybody gets. You got a lifetime.". Additionally, while a lot of fans remember her saying it to the baby in "The Sound of Her Wings" (and were baffled she didn't say it in the Netflix adaptation), she actually says it much later, when she comes for Bernie Capax in Brief Lives. (This also dramatically changes the context; she's not responding to someone complaining about how quickly their life was over, but bragging over how long he managed to avoid her.)

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes never had Calvin say, "God put me on this earth to accomplish a certain number of things. Right now I am so far behind that I will never die." There's also a bootleg T-shirt of Calvin scowling and saying: "Every day, I'm forced to add another name to the list of people who piss me off." Obviously, this quote has never appeared in the strip. And of course, he was never depicted urinating on anything.
  • Garfield: Many of the cat's most famous quips (such as "Big, fat hairy deal!" or "I'm not overweight; I'm undertall") were either never said by him in the comic strip or were said once and then forgotten. Garfield fans remember them to this day only because the strip was aggressively licensed and merchandised almost from the beginning, and the quotes (or supposed quotes) were used repeatedly for greeting cards, joke books, etc. Likewise, "We're bachelors, baby" has been used about a dozen times in the course of eight years (first seen in November 2006 and last seen in 2014).
    • However, the animated Garfield (voiced by Lorenzo Music) did say "Big, fat hairy deal!"
  • One Pearls Before Swine strip had an in-universe version where the punchline was based on the iconic final line from Gone with the Wind. In addition to the Feghoot itself, Rat was aggravated with Stephen over misquoting it.
    Rat: First off, it's "Frankly, my dear", not "Frankly, Scarlett".
    Stephen: Shhh... no one will notice.

    Fan Works 
  • In The Cadanceverse, the oft-misquoted line from Congreve's The Mourning Bride is referenced. Vinyl Scratch, Element of Magic, mentions that "music soothes the savage beast." Octavia Philharmonica, Element of Honesty (and the most culturally-aware pony there) points out that the last word should be "breast". Life in Manehattan (AKA "the Manehattenverse") used to reference the same line, but it was removed in an update.

    Multiple Media 
  • No one in BIONICLE brought up the "Three Virtues", Unity, Duty and Destiny until the series' third year, when the movie Mask of Light made them its core mantra. These words, together with many other esoteric concepts like Creation and Destruction, were thrown around in comic and game dialogue before that, but never as a trio — the closest was the battle cry "For Ta-Koro! For duty! For destiny!" in one of the second year comics. The original versions of the "Legend of Mata Nui", the introduction to the series' lore, did not mention them either. The Three Virtues were retroactively added to the intro in the movie and the short novels, and the novels also included them in the dialogue. As the books came out in 2003 but the first two adapted the 2001 and 2002 stories, casual fans tend to think the characters had been parroting the Three Virtues since the start.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • "The Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers is credited with popularizing the catchphrase "It couldn't have happened to a nicer guy!" back in the 1940s. Problem was, what he actually said was: "To a nicer guy, it couldn't happen." The Yiddish sentence structure isn't a show business gag: Rogers really was Jewish.
  • One of the most famous lines in wrestling is Michael Buffer's "Lllllet's get ready to rumblllllllle!" While he has said that, and many times, he doesn't always say it that way. Occasionally, for example, it will be the far less famous "We are...ready to rumblllllllle!"note  Most quotesters and parodists also don't cite the entire line, which has a lot more impact:
    Buffer: Madison Square Garden...New York for the thousands in attendance...for the millions watching at home...lllllet's", etc. [In recent years, he has begun substituting "for the millions watching around the world".]
  • Damien Sandow has only used the phrase "Thank you for your irrelevant opinion" once in his career, but it seems the phrase has taken a life of its own among his fans.
  • Shawn Michaels didn't lose his smile, but was rather "looking for the smile that [I] lost."
  • Vince McMahon's reveal as the Higher Power of the Corporate Ministry is often quoted simply as "IT'S ME, AUSTIN! IT WAS ME ALL ALONG!" The more accurate quote is "IT'S ME, AUSTIN! IT'S ME, AUSTIN! IT WAS ME ALL ALONG, AUSTIN!"
  • Invoked word for word by Leva Bates during her match with Miss Natural at SHIMMER Volume 56, since Bates was Cosplaying as Spock, and the match was filled with Star Trek references.
  • Vince Russo didn't exactly say "If you want Lucha Librenote , go to Japan!" during his infamous NWA:TNA interview with Mike Tenay. The full quote would be: "You want Lucha Libres (sic!), whatever you called them, go to...go to Japan, go to Mexico, you get all the Lucha Libres you want". However, putting the whole interview in perspective, one could argue the whole thing was Russo's brand "worked shoot", familiar to everyone who ever watched WCW, where he was supposed to play the bad guy for wrestling nerds. Is there a better way to make a nerd's blood boil than implying "lucha libres" originated from Japan? Also, as the leader of wrestling faction standing against wrestling tradition, it seems logical for an evil guy to insult Lucha Libre as part of the tradition. Naturally Russo succeeded beyond his wildest dreams, and the quote, usually incomplete with exclamation mark after Japan and without context, is guaranteed to pop up every time the word "Russo" is ushered near "smart" wrestling audience as proof of his total incompetence. Granted, it wasn't Russo's only controversy in wrestling world...

  • The popular phrase referring to a need for a speedy escape is "Time to get the hell out of Dodge!" — a reference to the long-running radio (and later TV) series Gunsmoke, which took place in Dodge City. Trouble is no one ever actually says those words over the course of the series. Occasionally, Marshal Dillon would instruct some bad guys to "get out of Dodge", but the phrase is never used as a suggestion among said bad guys themselves.
  • An Iconic Item for an entire genre: There was no such thing as a secret decoder ring premium for cereal boxes, old-time radio shows or anything else. The idea is a mashup of secret decoder badges (which weren't rings because it's hard to fit the alphabet on a ring) and secret compartment rings.note  After the end of old-time radio drama, some companies did offer such rings as a form of nostalgia, including Ovaltine in 2000.
    • This is partly just a matter of a misnomer, since a popular style of decoder was the cypher disk, consisting of one or more circular plates with letters printed around the circumference. These plates are occasionally described as rings.
    • Here are pictures of the Ovaltine and Orphan Annie decoder rings.
  • One of the most quoted lines from the Dead Alewives D&D skit is "I cast magic missile at the darkness." Problem is, that's not actually the line; it's:
    DM: Why are you casting magic missile? There's nothing to attack here.
    Galstaf: I'm attacking the darkness!
  • Former cricket commentator Brian "Jonners" Johnson, of the BBC's Test Match Special, has never said "the bowler's Holding, the batsman's Willey".

    Tabletop Games 
  • In-Universe, in Ars Magica, the alleged catchphrase of the Founder Guernicus was "Join us or die!". He only said that once, and only when facing someone who was already an enemy of the Order and who was trying his patience.
  • In Star Trek: The Game, one of the trivia questions is to name an episode in which Kirk said the exact phrase "Beam me up, Scotty." It is a trick question and if the player names an episode, the player's ship loses an engine.
  • The classic Dungeons & Dragons complainy forum post is "My hate of d02 know no limit". Not "my hat of d02 know no limit".
  • The cry/chant of the Khorne worshipping Chaos Marines in Warhammer 40,000 is not "Kill! Maim! Burn!" Only Kharn (who, by the by, is crazy even by their standards, and will readily murder his allies) says it. The rest prefer "Blood for the Blood God!" Further muddied by the Chaos Marine squad in Dawn of War having "Maim! Kill! Burn!" as one of their quotes.
  • The Yu-Gi-Oh! card game enforces this with a card called "Question". The opponent is asked to name the monster at the bottom of your Graveyard: if they do not state the exact name written on the card, you can Special Summon it from the Graveyard.

  • Barbie:
    • Teen Talk (released 1992) was preloaded with 4 of 270 possible phrases, one of which was "Math class is tough!", not "Math is hard" or "Math is too hard, let's go shopping!" Only 1.5% of the dolls even said the phrase.
    • The Talkin' Barbie says, "Off the hook!", not "What the fuck?" as one woman thought. While most people are aware this is wrong, the notion of how much it sounds like "What the fuck?" (both in that instance and in related movie scenes) went viral quickly.
  • Despicable Me once licensed Minion toys that said, "Para la bukay" (a nonsense phrase) or "Ha ha ha!", which were misheard as "Well, I'll be damned" or "What the fuck?".
  • The "Little Mommy" brand of baby dolls were thought to say, "Islam is the light" and "Satan is king". Leaving aside the fact that programming a doll to say both of those phrases would be pretty Islamophobic, the dolls actually just said gibberish.
  • Sesame Street:
    • There was one scandal involving an Elmo toy that apparently said, "Kill James". After some investigation, it turned out that it actually said, "Tell James".
    • One book that came with sound buttons caused outrage among parents who thought it said, "Who wants to die?", while others tried to reassure them because they thought it actually said, "Who wants to go?" or "Who wets the bed?". It actually said, "Who has to go?".
    • One toy said, "Be like Elmo", but due to a glitch in the sound box, people thought it said, "Beat up Elmo".

Alternative Title(s): Misquote, Popular Misquote