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9 Popular Quotes Commonly Misattributed to Abe Lincoln

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Known widely as a great orator, Abraham Lincoln said (and wrote) many inspiring things during his life and presidency. From the “House Divided” speech to his lesser-known letters and writings, there are plenty of motivational phrases to be found. However, in the decades and centuries following his death, many quotes have been wrongly attributed and disseminated in various publications, with the Internet spurring it all on. Prepare to be disappointed: Here are nine quotes you thought were by Honest Abe, but actually aren’t.

1. “Most folks are about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”

This quote was first attributed to Lincoln in 1914—50 years after his death—as part of a column in the Syracuse Herald written by Dr. Frank Crane about New Year’s resolutions. Following that instance, it appeared in many other publications attributed to the president, but no evidence exists to suggest those attributions are correct.

2. “Whatever you are, be a good one.”

First attributed to Lincoln about 80 years following his death in a compendium of inspiring quotations, credit for this quote should actually go elsewhere. Laurence Hutton wrote a memoir in 1897 in which he described meeting William Makepeace Thackeray, during which meeting Thackeray is quoted as saying, “Whatever you are, try to be a good one.” The accuracy of even that attribution, however, depends on the accuracy of Hutton’s memory while penning his memoir.

3. “Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.”

This quote is often attributed to Winston Churchill as well as Lincoln, but was first found in a 1953 book on public speaking, where it wasn’t credited at all. Similarly phrased quotes (“In short they go from failure to failure, but always on the up-grade”) were found in articles as early as 1913, but by the 1980s it was wrongly being ascribed to Churchill. In 2001, a newspaper in New Orleans attributed it to Lincoln, the first association of his name with the quote.

4. “Great things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.”

Despite many references on the Internet to Lincoln saying this quote, there is no evidence to support it. Within The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, he says the phrase “things may” only three times, and never says “things may come,” “things left,” or the word “hustle.” Furthermore, in Lincoln’s era, “hustle” meant to obtain something rather than to put in an energetic effort.

5. “You can’t fool all the people all the time.”

While first used by politicians in relatively the same era as Abraham Lincoln, no evidence exists that suggests Lincoln said this quote himself. Its earliest use was in French in 1684 in Traité de la Vérité de la Religion Chrétienne, a work of apologetics by Jacques Abbadie, a French Protestant. The quote wasn’t attributed to Lincoln until 1886 in an article in the Springfield Globe-Republic, and was widely disseminated after that.

6. “Here I stand—warts and all.”

George H.W. Bush attributed this quote to Abraham Lincoln in 1988. In reality, it was a mash-up of two other famous people’s phrases: “Here I stand,” part of Martin Luther’s popular phrase, “Here I stand. I can do no other,” and, “warts and all,” attributed to Oliver Cromwell who is said to have said something to that effect to a painter when commissioning a portrait.

7. “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”

There is a biblical proverb that is similar to this phrase, Proverbs 17:28:

"Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue."

In 1931, this quote was attributed to Lincoln in The Yale Book of Quotations, which turned out to be the first (and very late) instance where it appeared as credited to the president. The quote is also widely attributed to Mark Twain, though there is little evidence of this, either. In fact, in the 2001 Ken Burns documentary on the author, a companion book was released in which this phrase was listed in a section titled “What Twain Didn’t Say.” A similar quote was included in 1907 in Mrs. Goose, Her Book, by Maurice Switzer, so he is usually credited with coining the phrase.

8. “You can’t build a little guy up by tearing a big guy down.”

Most recently misquoted by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, this quote was originally written by Rev. William J. H. Boetcker, who was published in a pamphlet alongside Lincoln quotations in 1916, and the quote was confused as one of Lincoln’s sayings.

9. "You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they can and should do for themselves.”

Like the quote about the inability to build someone up by bringing someone else down, this quote should also be attributed to Rev. Boetcker, thanks to that same pamphlet confusion.

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Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University [1], Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
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15 Memorable D.H. Lawrence Quotes
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Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University [1], Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Though he courted controversy throughout most of his life and career, particularly following the publishing of 1928’s Lady Chatterley's Lover—which, due to its erotic content, was banned in America until 1959—today, D.H. Lawrence is widely considered one of the 20th century’s most influential writers.

But Lawrence was much more than a novelist: He was also a prolific playwright, poet, literary critic, and painter. In honor of what would have been his 132nd birthday (he was born in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, England on September 11, 1885), here are 15 memorable quotes from the famously controversial author.

1. ON THE ROOT OF ALL THINGS

"The fairest thing in nature, a flower, still has its roots in earth and manure."

2. ON THE FLEETING NATURE OF LOVE 

"Love is the flower of life, and blossoms unexpectedly and without law, and must be plucked where it is found, and enjoyed for the brief hour of its duration."

3. ON ACCEPTING ONE’S FLAWS 

"The cruelest thing a man can do to a woman is to portray her as perfection."

4. ON TAKING CHANCES

"When one jumps over the edge, one is bound to land somewhere."

5. ON READING BETWEEN THE LINES 

"I hold that the parentheses are by far the most important parts of a non-business letter."

6. ON DREAMS

"I can never decide whether my dreams are the result of my thoughts, or my thoughts the result of my dreams."

7. ON CHALLENGING AUTHORITY

"We have to hate our immediate predecessors to get free from their authority."

8. ON THE JOY OF LIVING

"For man, as for flower and beast and bird, the supreme triumph is to be most vividly, most perfectly alive."

9. ON SEPARATING AN ARTIST FROM HIS OR HER ART

"Never trust the artist. Trust the tale. The proper function of a critic is to save the tale from the artist who created it."

10. ON MAKING THE MOST OF LIFE

"Life is ours to be spent, not to be saved."

11. ON TRUSTING YOUR INSTINCTS

"Be a good animal, true to your animal instincts."

12. ON FINDING LOVE

"Those that go searching for love only make manifest their own lovelessness, and the loveless never find love, only the loving find love, and they never have to seek for it."

13. ON EMBRACING PASSION

"Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you've got to say, and say it hot."

14. ON MONEY

"Money poisons you when you've got it, and starves you when you haven't."

15. ON FIGHTING FOR FREEDOMS

"Do not allow to slip away from you freedoms the people who came before you won with such hard knocks."

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11 Popular Quotes Commonly Misattributed to F. Scott Fitzgerald
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F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote a lot of famous lines, from musings on failure in Tender is the Night to “so we beat on, boats against the current” from The Great Gatsby. Yet even with a seemingly never-ending well of words and beautiful quotations, many popular idioms and phrases are wrongly attributed to the famous Jazz Age author. Here are 11 popular phrases that are often misattributed to Fitzgerald. (You may need to update your Pinterest boards.)

1. “WRITE DRUNK, EDIT SOBER.”

This quote is often attributed to either Fitzgerald or his contemporary, Ernest Hemingway, who died in 1961. There is no evidence in the collected works of either writer to support that attribution; the idea was first associated with Fitzgerald in a 1996 Associated Press story, and later in Stephen Fry’s memoir More Fool Me. In actuality, humorist Peter De Vries coined an early version of the phrase in a 1964 novel titled Reuben, Reuben.

2. “FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: IT’S NEVER TOO LATE OR, IN MY CASE, TOO EARLY TO BE WHOEVER YOU WANT TO BE.”

It’s easy to see where the mistake could be made regarding this quote: Fitzgerald wrote the short story “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” in 1922 for Collier's Magazine, and it was adapted into a movie of the same name, directed by David Fincher and starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, in 2008. Eric Roth wrote the screenplay, in which that quotation appears.

3. “OUR LIVES ARE DEFINED BY OPPORTUNITIES, EVEN THE ONES WE MISS.”

This is a similar case to the previous quotation; this quote is attributed to Benjamin Button’s character in the film adaptation. It’s found in the script, but not in the original short story.

4. “YOU’LL UNDERSTAND WHY STORMS ARE NAMED AFTER PEOPLE.”

There is no evidence that Fitzgerald penned this line in any of his known works. In this Pinterest pin, it is attributed to his novel The Beautiful and Damned. However, nothing like that appears in the book; additionally, according to the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Association, although there were a few storms named after saints, and an Australian meteorologist was giving storms names in the 19th century, the practice didn’t become widespread until after 1941. Fitzgerald died in 1940.

5. “A SENTIMENTAL PERSON THINKS THINGS WILL LAST. A ROMANTIC PERSON HAS A DESPERATE CONFIDENCE THAT THEY WON’T.”

This exact quote does not appear in Fitzgerald’s work—though a version of it does, in his 1920 novel This Side of Paradise:

“No, I’m romantic—a sentimental person thinks things will last—a romantic person hopes against hope that they won’t. Sentiment is emotional.” The incorrect version is widely circulated and requoted.

6. “IT’S A FUNNY THING ABOUT COMING HOME. NOTHING CHANGES. EVERYTHING LOOKS THE SAME, FEELS THE SAME, EVEN SMELLS THE SAME. YOU REALIZE WHAT’S CHANGED IS YOU.”

This quote also appears in the 2008 The Curious Case of Benjamin Button script, but not in the original short story.

7. “GREAT BOOKS WRITE THEMSELVES; ONLY BAD BOOKS HAVE TO BE WRITTEN.”

There is no evidence of this quote in any of Fitzgerald’s writings; it mostly seems to circulate on websites like qotd.org, quotefancy.com and azquotes.com with no clarification as to where it originated.

8. “SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL, BUT NOT LIKE THOSE GIRLS IN THE MAGAZINES. SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL FOR THE WAY SHE THOUGHT. SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL FOR THE SPARKLE IN HER EYES WHEN SHE TALKED ABOUT SOMETHING SHE LOVED. SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL FOR HER ABILITY TO MAKE OTHER PEOPLE SMILE, EVEN IF SHE WAS SAD. NO, SHE WASN’T BEAUTIFUL FOR SOMETHING AS TEMPORARY AS HER LOOKS. SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL, DEEP DOWN TO HER SOUL.”

This quote may have originated in a memoir/advice book published in 2011 by Natalie Newman titled Butterflies and Bullshit, where it appears in its entirety. It was attributed to Fitzgerald in a January 2015 Thought Catalog article, and was quoted as written by an unknown source in Hello, Beauty Full: Seeing Yourself as God Sees You by Elisa Morgan, published in September 2015. However, there’s no evidence that Fitzgerald said or wrote anything like it.

9. “AND IN THE END, WE WERE ALL JUST HUMANS, DRUNK ON THE IDEA THAT LOVE, ONLY LOVE, COULD HEAL OUR BROKENNESS.”

Christopher Poindexter, the successful Instagram poet, wrote this as part of a cycle of poems called “the blooming of madness” in 2013. After a Twitter account called @SirJayGatsby tweeted the phrase with no attribution, it went viral as being attributed to Fitzgerald. Poindexter has addressed its origin on several occasions.

10. “YOU NEED CHAOS IN YOUR SOUL TO GIVE BIRTH TO A DANCING STAR.”

This poetic phrase is actually derived from the work of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who died in 1900, just four years after Fitzgerald was born in 1896. In his book Thus Spake ZarathustraNietzsche wrote the phrase, “One must have chaos within to enable one to give birth to a dancing star.” Over time, it’s been truncated and modernized into the currently popular version, which was included in the 2009 book You Majored in What?: Designing Your Path from College to Career by Katharine Brooks.

11. “FOR THE GIRLS WITH MESSY HAIR AND THIRSTY HEARTS.”

This quote is the dedication in Jodi Lynn Anderson’s book Tiger Lily, a reimagining of the classic story of Peter Pan. While it is often attributed to Anderson, many Tumblr pages and online posts cite Fitzgerald as its author.

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