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!"

15 Pairs of Words That Surprisingly Come From the Same Source

Both flour and flower come from the same root word
Both flour and flower come from the same root word
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We take for granted that many English words have counterparts that sound related, but aren’t. Even though know and no sound the same, their meanings are so different we assume they have different etymological sources (which the spelling differences also suggest). However, sometimes words we might not expect to have anything in common historically do in fact go back to the same source. They’re called etymological doublets; here are 15 of them.

1. Flour/Flower

Flour, just like flower, came from French fleur. It was named that way because the part of the plant used to make it was considered the “flower of the grain,” the best part of it, taking away all the chaff and other impurities.

2. Lobster/Locust

Both go back to Latin locusta, for locust, which also turned into the French langouste and Old English lopustre. The lobster is the locust of the sea.

3. Inch/Ounce

Though one measures length and the other weight, they both go back to Latin uncia, meaning a twelfth part. The original ounce was 1/12th of a pound.

4. Of/Off

Of and off were once the exact same word but in a stressed vs. unstressed pronunciation. It wasn’t until the 17th century that they developed different uses to the point where they were considered different words.

5. Etiquette/Ticket

Etiquette was a French word for a note attached to something that listed its contents. It was borrowed into English as ticket and into Spanish as etiqueta, where it came to be associated with the listed rules of protocol for the Spanish royal court. It then came back into French and English with the social protocol meaning.

6. Costume/Custom

Both come from Latin consuetudinem, meaning "accustomed to," or "habituated." Both referred to the general habits of a group, including how they dress, among other things. Costume wasn’t explicitly connected to just the dress sense until the 1800s.

7. Species/Spices

Both come from Latin specie, for "appearance" or "form." Spice came into English first, from Old French espice. Species was later borrowed directly from Latin.

8. Reward/Regard

In Anglo-Norman, reward and regard were alternate pronunciations of the same thing. While the g version took on the senses of "to look at," "give attention to," and also "to merit, esteem, or respect," the w version settled into the current sense of giving something on merit.

9. Dainty/Dignity

The Latin word dignus meant "worthy." While dignity refers to a sense of "worthy" that includes serious notions of honor, respect, and rank, in dainty, dignus lives on in the sense of being worthy for being delightful, precious, and pleasing.

10. Naïve/Native

Both come from Latin nativus, meaning innate, natural. Naïve is "natural" in the sense of being unspoiled and native is an innate belonging to an origin.

11. Shirt/Skirt

The ancestor of the Old English scyrte developed into a word for the upper part of an undergarment in many Germanic languages, but it’s not entirely clear how it also developed into the skirt word for a lower garment in English.

12. Tradition/Treason

Tradition is from the Latin tradere, for the act of handing over or handing down. Treason also comes from tradere, with the sense of handing over or delivering. The tray in betray also goes back to this sense of tradere.

13. Tulip/Turban

Both are approximations of the Persian word for turban, dulband, which a tulip was said to resemble.

14. Maneuver/Manure

Maneuver comes from the Latin manu + operari, to work by hand. But so does manure, which was originally a verb meaning to "till the land."

15. Grammar/Glamour

Grammar goes all the way back to Latin and Greek, where it referred to all aspects of the study of literature. In the Middle Ages, it came to be associated with just the linguistic parts, and particularly with the study of Latin. The fancy, educated class studied Latin, and also things like magic and astrology, so the word grammar sometimes referred to that aspect too. A mispronounced version, glamour, went on to stand for the magical, enchanting quality we use it for today.

This list was first published in 2015 and republished in 2019.

16 Buggy Ways to Say Mosquito

LoveSilhouette/iStock via Getty Images
LoveSilhouette/iStock via Getty Images

It’s summertime, and you know what that means: attack of the mosquitoes. You might be one of a lucky type who rarely attract bites, or you might be someone skeeters love to feast on. If you’re the latter, you’ll want plenty of ammunition for name-calling (and plenty of chickens, apparently). Luckily, we’ve teamed up with the editors at the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) to bring you some ways people across the U.S. refer to the bloodsuckers, and a couple of bonus terms from outside the States too.

1. Maringouin

Referring especially to a large mosquito, this Louisiana term is French in origin and ultimately comes from marigoui, which is Tupi-Guarani, a South American Indian language family. According to American Speech, maringouin is Creole dialect “used as early as 1632” and recurring “regularly from that time on in the letters and narratives of explorers and missionaries.” Good to have on hand would be the mangeur maringouin, a bird also known as the chuck-will’s-widow, and Louisiana French for “mosquito eater.”

2. Swamp Angel

A swamp angel is anything but, at least where skeeters are concerned. Used especially in the South and South Midland regions, the term swamp angel is often used by "old-timers," according to a 2002 quote captured in DARE from the St. Petersburg Times.

3., 4., AND 5. Gallinipper, Katynipper, and Nipper

Also known as a gabber napper, a galliwopper, and a granny-nipper, gallinipper is used in the South, South Midland, and especially the South Atlantic.

While a quote from the 1906 book The Parson’s Boys asserts that gallinippers are so-called “because at each ‘nip’ they took a gallon,” according to DARE, the origin of the term is unknown, having been “much altered” by folk-etymology and “other processes.” A connection might be gally, which means to frighten or confuse.

The earliest citation of gallinipper in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is from 1801. However, DARE antedates that by over 200 years with this choice quote from New England’s Prospect by William Wood: “The third is Gurnipper ... her biting causeth an itching upon the hands or face, which provoketh scratching.”

In Tennessee, katynipper is used, while according to the OED, nipper refers to a large mosquito in Newfoundland.

6. Snow Mosquito

A snow mosquito is a “large, early-season mosquito,” according DARE, that comes "out under the snow” and “only for two or three weeks in the spring.” The term, and the insect itself, might be found in California, Alaska, and Wyoming. A 1962 book called Quoth the Raven describes the bugs as “clumsy, heavy fliers” with a “droning hum, like that of an airplane,” which “gives ample warning of their presence and makes an offensive against them easy.”

7. Nighthawk

Nighthawk might be your next hair metal band name, but it's also an epithet for the mosquito, as quoted in North Carolina. Other definitions in DARE include a kind of bird, a kind of worm, a nickname in the West for “a ranch hand in charge of horses or cattle at night,” and a euphemism for a chamber pot in Georgia.

Another name of the nighthawk bird is mosquito hawk. According to the Linguistic Atlas of the United States by Lee Pederson, the “skeeter hawk is a cuckoo [sic] bird that catches mosquitoes.” It’s also a dragonfly, at least in the South and scattered throughout the Mississippi Valley, so called “from their continually hunting after Muskeetoes, and killing and eating them,” according to The Natural History of North Carolina, published in 1737.

8. Brasshead

Brasshead is a mosquito moniker you might hear in northwest Florida. Where it comes from isn’t clear—perhaps the insect’s yellow coloring, the hardness of its stinging proboscis, or its audacity for biting.

9. Drill Bug

You can also call the piercing pests drill bugs, as one might do in Illinois.

10. Mitsy

This deceptively cute shortening of mosquito might be heard in Ohio.

11. Mossie

Another abbreviation, mossie is primarily Australian slang, according to the OED. Its earliest citation is from 1916: “You won't be eaten by mosquitoes outside if you get on the breezy side. The ‘mossies’ haven't gone out of the house yet.”

12. Cousin

If you’re in Virginia and hear someone complaining about cousins, they might have annoying relatives—or they might be annoyed by mosquitoes. Why cousins? “Because they are so many and they stick so close,” according to a quote in DARE.

13. Paul Bunyon Mosquito

You guessed it: an extra-big one. Named for the mythical giant lumberjack, Paul Bunyan mosquito is a term that might be used in Michigan.

14. Texas Mosquito

A way of describing a biter as big as Texas. A 1900 issue of the Ft. Wayne Sentinel of Indiana claims that while “much has been written about the Jersey mosquito,” the “proper kind of a press agent” might make the Texas mosquito “head and heels over his brethren in New Jersey.”

15. Snipe

This term might come from the mosquito’s resemblance to the snipe bird and its long bill. According to a 1872 issue of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, the story that some “Philadelphia sportsmen” shot at “New Jersey mosquitos,” thinking that they were snipe, is “an invention.” The City of Brotherly Love residents apparently “knew what the insects were, but despaired of killing them in any other way.”

16. Jersey Mosquito

So what’s the deal with Jersey mosquitoes, and why is this appellation for a hefty skeeter named for the state?

It doesn’t have to do with the size of the state but where it comes from: the salt marshes of New Jersey. They are “notorious,” say Lester A. Swann and Charles S. Papp in their 1972 book, Common Insects of North America, as well as “fierce biters and strong fliers” who “attack in full sunlight.” Variations on this chiefly Northeast saying include Jersey bird, Jersey bomber, Jersey eagle, and Jersey robin. The phrase may sometimes be pronounced Joisey mosquito.

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