50 Famous Misquotations (and What Was Really Said)

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Don't believe everything you read online (or see posted in a cheesy mockup on Instagram, for that matter). Below are 50 examples of popular sayings that are actually misquotes or misattributions. Study up, because regardless of what that girl who went to your high school posted on Facebook, Marilyn Monroe probably didn't say it.

1. "I MOURN THE LOSS OF THOUSANDS OF PRECIOUS LIVES, BUT I WILL NOT REJOICE IN THE DEATH OF ONE, NOT EVEN AN ENEMY."

That quote, which went viral after Osama Bin Laden's death, is most often attributed to Martin Luther King, Jr. However, it actually came from the Facebook status of a 24-year-old English teacher.

2. "WEAR SUNSCREEN."

You know that famous Kurt Vonnegut commencement address that begins, "Ladies and gentlemen of the class of 1997: Wear sunscreen?" You know, that one that was such a brilliant speech that Baz Luhrmann turned it into a hit song, and was so genius that when Vonnegut's wife, Jill Krementz, got an email containing the transcript, she forwarded it to the kids? Yeah, Vonnegut didn't give that speech. The text was actually an article from The Chicago Tribune by Mary Schmich.

3. "BE THE CHANGE YOU WISH TO SEE IN THE WORLD."

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Gandhi never said this. What he actually said, according to The New York Times: “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. ... We need not wait to see what others do.”

4. "FIRST THEY IGNORE YOU. THEN THEY LAUGH AT YOU. THEN THEY ATTACK YOU. THEN YOU WIN."

Gandhi probably didn't say this, either. However, The Christian Science Monitor points out that it's incredibly close to a speech union activist Nicholas Klein delivered in 1918: "First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you. And that, is what is going to happen to the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America."

5. "THE ENDS JUSTIFY THE MEANS."

Machiavelli never said this, or its Italian equivalent. What he actually said is, "One must consider the final result," which just isn't as catchy.

6. "OUR DEEPEST FEAR IS NOT THAT WE ARE INADEQUATE. OUR DEEPEST FEAR IS THAT WE ARE POWERFUL BEYOND MEASURE."

Nope, that wasn't Nelson Mandela, but instead a passage from self-help guru Marianne Williamson's 1992 tome.

7. "MONEY IS THE ROOT OF ALL EVIL."

Here's what the Bible actually says: "The love of money is the root of all evil."

8. "THE LION SHALL LAY DOWN WITH THE LAMB."

The Bible doesn't say this, either. Isaiah 11:6 actually states, "The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together."

9. "THAT'S ONE SMALL STEP FOR MAN, ONE GIANT LEAP FOR MANKIND."

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This one doesn't make sense to begin with, because man and mankind are synonyms. Fortunately for Neil Armstrong, that's apparently not what he actually said. The transmission blurred the fact that he said, "One small step for a man."

10. "HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM."

This was never spoken by Jim Lovell on the Apollo 13. But Tom Hanks does say it in the movie.

11. "FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION."

No one on the Apollo 13 crew uttered this line, either. After all, the whole situation had arisen because failure clearly was an option.

12. "LIFE IS LIKE A BOX OF CHOCOLATES."

Speaking of Tom Hanks, that Forrest Gump quote is actually "Life was like a box of chocolates."

13. "ME TARZAN. YOU JANE."

This one was never said in any version of Tarzan the Ape Man.

14. "DO YOU FEEL LUCKY, PUNK?"

Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry actually says, "You've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do you, punk?" Either way, it's fine with us as long as he doesn't say it to an empty chair.

15. "MIRROR, MIRROR ON THE WALL …"

The Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs conjures up her BFF by calling him "Magic mirror"—not by saying "mirror" twice.

16. "I WANT TO SUCK YOUR BLOOD."

Dracula never said this.

17. "HE'S ALIVE."

Speaking of fictional monsters, Dr. Henry Frankenstein actually says, "It's alive!" in the 1931 film based on Mary Shelley's classic. Also, his assistant is not named Igor—his name is Fritz—and just so we're clear, Frankenstein is the doctor, not the monster he whipped up in the laboratory.

18. "I DON'T THINK WE'RE IN KANSAS ANYMORE."

When Dorothy and her trusty canine first land in Oz, what she actually says is, "Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."

19. "IT'S LIFE, JIM, BUT NOT AS WE KNOW IT."

Spock's supposed quote actually comes from from "Star Trekkin", a song by The Firm. This is the very same song that brought us the beautiful lyrics, "Star Trekkin' across the universe/On the Starship Enterprise under Captain Kirk/Star Trekkin' across the universe/Boldly going forward, still can't find reverse."

20. "BEAM ME UP, SCOTTY."

And Captain Kirk never said this exact phrase, although he did urge Scotty on more than one occasion to get him back to the ship, stat.

21. "A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME SMELLS JUST AS SWEET."

Of course, Captain Kirk himself was responsible for popularizing a misquote of the Bard. The actual quote, as written by William Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet is, "That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet."

22. "BUBBLE, BUBBLE, TOIL AND TROUBLE."
 

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Poor Shakespeare would be alarmed by how frequently he's misquoted. This line from Macbeth actually begins, "Double, double."

23. "ALAS, POOR YORICK! I KNEW HIM WELL."

The opening line of Hamlet's famous monologue is actually, "Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio; a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy; he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is!"

24. "METHINKS THE LADY DOTH PROTEST TOO MUCH."

And Queen Gertrude doesn't say, "Methinks the lady doth protest too much" in Shakespeare's text. Instead, that "methinks" arrives at the end of the quote.

25. "ALL THAT GLITTERS IS NOT GOLD."

The Merchant of Venice warns that "All that glisters is not gold." There's no mention of glistening or glittering. It seems Smash Mouth wasn't as well versed in Shakespeare as they wanted to appear.

26. "HELL HATH NO FURY LIKE A WOMAN SCORNED."

This one's actually adapted from William Congreve, a late 17th century English writer. He originally wrote, "Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned/Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned."

27. "DREAMS ARE THE ROYAL ROAD TO THE UNCONSCIOUS."

In his early 20th century work The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud expressed this in a much more nuanced manner, writing, "The interpretation of dreams is the royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious activities of the mind."

28. "SOMETIMES A CIGAR IS JUST A CIGAR."

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Though it's attributed to Freud, historians seem to agree that this one is probably apocryphal.

29. "I DISAPPROVE OF WHAT YOU SAY, BUT I WILL DEFEND TO THE DEATH YOUR RIGHT TO SAY IT."

This words weren't written by Voltaire after all, but were instead a summary of his attitude towards a contemporary by the author S.G. Tallentyre in 1907.

30. "I CANNOT TELL A LIE."

This one, supposedly uttered by a young (and guilty) George Washington after he cut down a cherry tree, was actually fabricated by his 19th century biographer.

31. "IF YOU CAN'T HANDLE ME AT MY WORST, YOU DON'T DESERVE ME AT MY BEST."

Despite what Tumblr and Pinterest would have you believe, no one can prove that Marilyn Monroe ever actually said this.

32. "WELL-BEHAVED WOMEN RARELY MAKE HISTORY."

And she definitely didn't say this. A University of New Hampshire student by the name of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, who would go on to become a Harvard professor, should get the credit.

33. "MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU."

Surprisingly, Obi Wan Kenobi never says this in the original Star Wars trilogy. Han Solo does.

34. "LUKE, I AM YOUR FATHER."

This one is actually, "No, I am your father."

35. "HELLO, CLARICE."

This now-iconic greeting doesn't actually appear in The Silence of the Lambs.

36. "I LOVE THE SMELL OF NAPALM IN THE MORNING."

The most popular version of this quote has been condensed significantly from Kilgore's actual Apocalypse Now monologue.

37. "YOU WANT THE TRUTH? YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH."

In A Few Good Men, Jack Nicholson's character never utters the first part of the quote that's so often attributed to him.

38. "THE ONLY TRADITIONS OF THE ROYAL NAVY ARE RUM, SODOMY, AND THE LASH."

Although Winston Churchill would go on to say he wished he'd come up with this one, these words weren't his. Instead, they were spoken by his assistant, Anthony Montague-Browne.

39. "BLOOD, SWEAT, AND TEARS."

Churchill did say, "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat," but that's much less catchy than the "blood, sweat, and tears" that caught on.

40. "THE BRITISH ARE COMING!"

Paul Revere probably didn't say this. The iconic line attributed to him was taken from the patriotic poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, "Paul Revere's Ride."

41. "THE ONLY TWO CERTAINTIES IN LIFE ARE DEATH AND TAXES."

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Mark Twain gets credit for saying most of the things that have ever been said in human history, including, "The only two certainties in life are death and taxes." But that was in fact either Edward Ward or Christopher Bullock.

42. "I HAVE NEVER KILLED A MAN, BUT I HAVE READ MANY OBITUARIES WITH GREAT PLEASURE."

Twain also didn't say this. That's a shortened version of a Clarence Darrow quote.

43. "REPORTS OF MY DEATH HAVE BEEN GREATLY EXAGGERATED."

When Twain wrote a response to his rumored death in the New York Journal in 1897, he did not say this. He simply said, "The report of my death was an exaggeration."

44. "DON'T FIRE 'TIL YOU SEE THE WHITES OF THEIR EYES."

A soldier by the name of Israel Putnam—relaying orders from Colonel William Prescott—actually said this, not Andrew Jackson.

45. "THE JOURNEY OF A THOUSAND MILES BEGINS WITH A SINGLE STEP."

The actual quote—“A journey of 400 miles begins beneath one’s feet”—was Lao Tzu, not Confucius.

46. "A LITTLE KNOWLEDGE IS A DANGEROUS THING."

This is a misquote of Alexander Pope's original statement, "A little learning is a dangerous thing."

47. "WALK SOFTLY, BUT CARRY A BIG STICK."

The actual Teddy Roosevelt quote is, "Speak softly and carry a big stick."

48. "GO CONFIDENTLY IN THE DIRECTION OF YOUR DREAMS! LIVE THE LIFE YOU'VE IMAGINED."

Here's what Henry David Thoreau really said (we admit, it isn't quite as pithy):

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours … In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness."

49. "[I] DID EVERYTHING FRED ASTAIRE DID, BUT BACKWARDS AND IN HIGH HEELS."

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Ginger Rogers never said this about dance partner Fred Astaire. And in fact, in her autobiography My Story, she writes that the quotation actually came from a newspaper comic.

50. "LET THEM EAT CAKE!"

Marie Antoinette never said this—the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau did. What's more, he wasn't even talking about Marie, or cake. He wrote, "Let them eat brioche!"

40 Words That Start With X

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When the lexicographer Dr. Samuel Johnson put together his Dictionary of the English Language in 1755, there weren't a lot of words that started with X; he even included a disclaimer at the bottom of page 2308 that read, “X is a letter which though found in Saxon words, begins no word in the English language.” Noah Webster went one better when he published his Compendious Dictionary in 1806 that included a single X-word, xebec, defined as “a small three-masted vessel in the Mediterranean Sea.” Although, by the time he compiled his landmark American Dictionary in 1828, that total had risen to 13.

X has never been a common initial letter in English, and even with today’s enormous vocabulary you can still only expect around 0.02 percent of the words in a dictionary to be listed under it. But why not try boosting your vocabulary with these 40 words that start with X.

1. X

On its own, the letter X is listed in the Oxford English Dictionary as a verb meaning “to cross out a single letter of type.” X. X. in Victorian slang meant “double-excellent,” while X. X. X. described anything that was “treble excellent.”

2. XANTHIPPE

Xanthippe was the name of Socrates’ wife, who, thanks to a number of Ancient Greek caricatures, had a reputation for henpecking, overbearing behavior. Consequently her name can be used as a byword for any ill-tempered or cantankerous woman or wife—as used in Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew.

3. XANTHOCOMIC

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Xanthos was the Ancient Greek word for yellow, and as such is the root of a number of mainly scientific words referring to yellow-colored things. So, if you’re xanthocomic, you have yellow hair; if you’re xanthocroic you have fair hair and pale skin; and if you’re xanthodontous, you have yellow teeth.

4. X-CATCHER

In old naval slang, an X-catcher or X-chaser was someone who was good at math—literally someone good at working out the value of x.

5. X-DIVISION

Victorian slang for criminals or pickpockets, or people who make a living by some underhand means.

6. X-DOUBLE-MINUS

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1960s slang for something really, really terrible.

7. XENAGOGUE

Derived from the same root as xenophobia, a xenagogue is someone whose job it is to conduct strangers or to act as a guide while…

8. XENAGOGY

… a xenagogy is a guidebook.

9. XENIAL

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The adjective xenial is used to describe a friendly relationship between two parties, in particular between a hospitable host and his or her guests, or diplomatically between two countries.

10. XENIATROPHOBIA

Don’t like going to see doctors you don’t know? Then you’re xeniatrophobic.

11. XENIUM

A xenium is a gift or offering given to a stranger, which in its native Ancient Greece would once have been a lavish feast or a refreshing spread of food and fruit. In the 19th century art world, however, xenium came to refer to a still-life painting depicting something like a extravagant display of food or a bowl of fruit.

12. XENIZATION

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A 19th century word meaning “the act of traveling as a stranger.”

13. XENOCRACY

A government formed by foreigners or outsiders is a xenocracy. A member of one is a xenocrat.

14. XENODOCHEIONOLOGY

Defined as “the lore of hotels and inns” by Merriam-Webster.

15. XENODOCHIUM

A young woman uses her cellphone at a hostel in India
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A guesthouse or hostel, or any similar stopping place for travelers or pilgrims.

16. XENODOCHY

A 17th century word for hospitality. If you’re xenodochial then you like to entertain strangers.

17. XENOGLOSSY

The ability to speak a language that you’ve apparently never learnt.

18. XENOLOGY

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The scientific study of extraterrestrial phenomena is xenology. The study of extraterrestrial life forms is xenobiology.

19. XENOMANIA

The opposite of xenophobia is xenomania or xenophilia, namely an intense enthusiasm or fondness for anything or anyone foreign.

20. XENOMORPH

Something unusually or irregularly shaped is a xenomorph—which is why it’s become another name for the eponymous creature in the Alien film franchise.

21. XENOTRANSPLANTATION

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Transplanting organic matter from a non-human into a human (like a pig’s heart valve into a human heart) is called xenotransplantation. Whatever it is that’s transplanted is called the xenograft.

22. XERIC

An ecological term used to describe anywhere extremely dry or arid. If it’s xerothermic, then it’s both dry and hot.

23. XERISCAPE

If you live in a xeric area, then you’ll have to xeriscape your garden. It’s the deliberate use of plants that need relatively little moisture or irrigation to landscape an arid location.

24. XEROCHILIA

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The medical name for having dry lips. Having a dry mouth is xerostomia.

25. XEROCOPY

A xerographic copy of a document—or, to put it another way, a photocopy.

26. XEROPHAGY

The eating of dry food is xerophagy. It mightn’t sound like it, but it was originally a religious term.

27. XESTURGY

The proper name for the process of polishing.

28. XILINOUS

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Something described as xilinous resembles or feels like cotton …

29. XIPHOID

… while something described as xiphoid resembles a sword.

30. XOANON

Derived from the Greek for “carve” or “scrape,” a xoanon is a carved idol of a deity.

31. XTAL

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An abbreviation of “crystal,” according to the OED.

32. XYLOGRAPHER

A 19th century word for a wood engraver.

33. XYLOID

Why say that something is “woody” when you can say that it’s xyloid?

34. XYLOPOLIST

Pile of wood logs ready for sale
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A 17th century formal name for a timber merchant.

35. XYLOTOMOUS

Describes anything or anyone particularly good at wood-cutting or wood-boring.

36. XYRESIC

Means “razor-sharp.”

37. XYROPHOBIA

A pile of razor blades
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The fear of being close to or touching sharp implements.

38. XYLANTHRAX

Nowhere near as nasty as it sounds, this is just an old name for what we now call charcoal.

39. XYSTUS

A type of covered walkway or portico.

40. X.Y.Z.

Late 19th century slang for a journalist who takes on any work going, or else 18th century slang for a dandyish or “exquisite” young man.

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