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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!"

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Food
The History Behind Why We Eat 10 Dishes at Thanksgiving
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Halloween is for candy comas, and on Independence Day we grill, but no holiday is as completely defined by its cuisine as Thanksgiving. No matter what part of the country you're in, it's a safe bet that at least a few of the below dishes will be making an appearance on your table this week. But what makes these specific entrees and side dishes so emblematic of Thanksgiving? Read on to discover the sometimes-surprising history behind your favorite fall comfort foods.

1. TURKEY

A roasted turkey on a platter.
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Turkey has become so synonymous with Thanksgiving that most of us probably imagine the pilgrims and Wampanoag tribe of Native Americans chowing down on a roast bird in 1621. Although we don't know the exact menu of that first Plymouth Colony feast, a first-person account of the year's harvest from governor William Bradford does reference "a great store of wild turkeys," and another first-person account, from colonist Edward Winslow, confirms that the settlers "killed as much fowl as…served the company almost a week." However, culinary historian Kathleen Wall believes that, although turkeys were available, it's likely that duck, goose, or even passenger pigeons were the more prominent poultry options at the first Thanksgiving. Given their proximity to the Atlantic, local seafood like oysters and lobsters were likely on the menu as well.

As the holiday grew in popularity, however, turkey became the main course for reasons more practical than symbolic. English settlers were accustomed to eating fowl on holidays, but for early Americans, chickens were more valued for their eggs than their meat, and rooster was tough and unappetizing. Meanwhile, turkeys were easy to keep, big enough to feed a whole family, and cheaper than ducks or geese. Even before Thanksgiving was recognized as a national holiday, Alexander Hamilton himself remarked that "No citizen of the U.S. shall refrain from turkey on Thanksgiving Day." The country followed his advice: according to the National Turkey Federation, 88 percent of Americans will eat turkey in some form on Thanksgiving Day—an estimated 44 million birds!

2. STUFFING

Pan of breaded stuffing.
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Stuffing would have been a familiar concept to those early settlers as well, although their version was likely quite different from what we're used to. We know that the first Plymouth colonists didn't have access to white flour or butter, so traditional bread stuffing wouldn't have been possible yet. Instead, according to Wall, they may have used chestnuts, herbs, and chunks of onion to flavor the birds, all of which were already part of the local fare. Centuries later, we're still stuffing turkeys as a way to keep the bird moist through the roasting process and add extra flavor.

3. CRANBERRIES

Dish of cranberry sauce.
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Like turkeys, cranberries were widely available in the area, but cranberry sauce almost certainly did not make an appearance at the first Thanksgiving. Why not? The sugar reserves the colonists would have had were almost completely depleted after their long sea journey, and thus they didn't have the means to sweeten the terrifically tart berries.

So how did cranberries become such an autumnal staple? For starters, they're a truly American food, as one of only a few fruits—along with Concord grapes, blueberries, and pawpaws—that originated in North America. They grow in such abundance in the northeast that colonists quickly began incorporating cranberries into various dishes, such as pemmican, which mixed mashed cranberries with lard and dried venison. By the Civil War, they were such a holiday staple that General Ulysses S. Grant famously demanded his soldiers be provided cranberries for their Thanksgiving Day meal.

4. MASHED POTATOES

Bowl of mashed potatoes.
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Potatoes weren't yet available in 17th-century Plymouth, so how did mashed potatoes become another Thanksgiving superstar? The answer lies in the history of the holiday itself. In America’s earliest years, it was common for the sitting President to declare a "national day of thanks," but these were sporadic and irregular. In 1817, New York became the first state to officially adopt the holiday, and others soon followed suit, but Thanksgiving wasn't a national day of celebration until Abraham Lincoln declared it so in 1863.

Why did Lincoln—hands full with an ongoing war—take up the cause? Largely due to a 36-year campaign from Sarah Josepha Hale, a prolific novelist, poet, and editor, who saw in Thanksgiving a moral benefit for families and communities. In addition to her frequent appeals to officials and presidents, Hale wrote compellingly about the holiday in her 1827 novel Northwood, as well as in the womens' magazine she edited, Godey's Lady's Book. Her writing included recipes and descriptions of idealized Thanksgiving meals, which often featured—you guessed it—mashed potatoes.

5. GRAVY

Plate of turkey and potatoes covered in gravy.
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Despite a dearth of potatoes, it's likely that some type of gravy accompanied the turkey or venison at the earliest Thanksgiving gatherings. The concept of cooking meat in sauce dates back hundreds of years, and the word "gravy" itself can be found in a cookbook from 1390. Because that first celebration extended over three days, historian Wall speculates: "I have no doubt whatsoever that birds that are roasted one day, the remains of them are all thrown in a pot and boiled up to make broth the next day." That broth would then be thickened with grains to created a gravy to liven day-old meat. And, if Wall's correct, that broth sounds suspiciously like the beginning of another great Thanksgiving tradition: leftovers!

6. CORN

Plate of corn.
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Corn is a natural symbol of harvest season—even if you're not serving it as a side dish, you might have a few colorful ears as a table centerpiece. We know that corn was a staple of the Native American diet and would have been nearly as plentiful in the 17th century as today. But according to the History Channel, their version would have been prepared quite differently: corn was either made into a cornmeal bread or mashed and boiled into a thick porridge-like consistency, and perhaps sweetened with molasses. Today, we eat corn in part to remember those Wampanoag hosts, who famously taught the newcomers how to cultivate crops in the unfamiliar American soil.

7. SWEET POTATOES

Bowl of mashed sweet potatoes.
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In the midst of so many New England traditions, the sweet potatoes on your table represent a dash of African-American culture. The tasty taters originally became popular in the south—while pumpkins grew well in the north, sweet potatoes (and the pies they could make) became a standard in southern homes and with enslaved plantation workers, who used them as a substitution for the yams they'd loved in their homeland. Sweet potato pie was also lovingly described in Hale's various Thanksgiving epistles, solidifying the regional favorite as a holiday go-to. More recently, some families further sweeten the dish by adding toasted marshmallows, a love-it-or-hate-it suggestion that dates to a 1917 recipe booklet published by the Cracker Jack company.

8. GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE

Plate of green bean casserole.
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Beans have been cultivated since ancient times, but green bean casserole is a decidedly modern contribution to the classic Thanksgiving canon. The recipe you love was whipped up in 1955 by Dorcas Reilly, a home economist working in the Campbell's Soup Company test kitchens in Camden, New Jersey. Reilly's job was to create limited-ingredient recipes that housewives could quickly replicate (using Campbell's products, of course). Her original recipe (still available at Campbells.com), contains just six ingredients: Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup, green beans, milk, soy sauce, pepper, and French's French Fried Onions. Her recipe was featured in a 1955 Associated Press feature about Thanksgiving, and the association has proven surprisingly durable—Campbell’s now estimates that 30 percent of their Cream of Mushroom soup is bought specifically for use in a green bean casserole.

9. PUMPKIN PIE

Slice of pumpkin pie.
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Like cranberries, pumpkin pie does have ties to the original Thanksgiving, albeit in a much different format. The colonists certainly knew how to make pie pastry, but couldn't have replicated it without wheat flour, and might have been a bit perplexed by pumpkins, which were bigger than the gourds they knew in Europe. According to Eating in America: A History, however, Native Americans were already using the orange treats as a dessert meal: "Both squash and pumpkin were baked, usually by being placed whole in the ashes or embers of a dying fire and they were moistened afterwards with some form of animal fat, or maple syrup, or honey." It's likely that Hale was inspired by those stories when pumpkin pie appeared in her culinary descriptions.

10. WINE

Two glasses of wine.
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Chances are good that a few glasses of wine will be clinked around your table this November, but did the pilgrims share a tipsy toast with their new friends? Kathleen Wall thinks that water was probably the beverage of choice, considering that the small amount of wine the settlers had brought with them was likely long gone. Beer was a possibility, but since barley hadn't been cultivated yet, the pilgrims had to make do with a concoction that included pumpkins and parsnips. Considering the availability of apples in what would become Massachusetts, however, other historians think it's possible that hard apple cider was on hand for the revelers to enjoy. Whether or not the original feast was a boozy affair, cider rapidly became the drink of choice for English settlers in the area, along with applejack, apple brandy, and other fruit-based spirits. New England cider thus indirectly led to a less-beloved Thanksgiving tradition: your drunk uncle's annual political rant. Bottoms up!

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Big Questions
Why Do the Lions and Cowboys Always Play on Thanksgiving?
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Because it's tradition! But how did this tradition begin?

Every year since 1934, the Detroit Lions have taken the field for a Thanksgiving game, no matter how bad their record has been. It all goes back to when the Lions were still a fairly young franchise. The team started in 1929 in Portsmouth, Ohio, as the Spartans. Portsmouth, while surely a lovely town, wasn't quite big enough to support a pro team in the young NFL. Detroit radio station owner George A. Richards bought the Spartans and moved the team to Detroit in 1934.

Although Richards's new squad was a solid team, they were playing second fiddle in Detroit to the Hank Greenberg-led Tigers, who had gone 101-53 to win the 1934 American League Pennant. In the early weeks of the 1934 season, the biggest crowd the Lions could draw for a game was a relatively paltry 15,000. Desperate for a marketing trick to get Detroit excited about its fledgling football franchise, Richards hit on the idea of playing a game on Thanksgiving. Since Richards's WJR was one of the bigger radio stations in the country, he had considerable clout with his network and convinced NBC to broadcast a Thanksgiving game on 94 stations nationwide.

The move worked brilliantly. The undefeated Chicago Bears rolled into town as defending NFL champions, and since the Lions had only one loss, the winner of the first Thanksgiving game would take the NFL's Western Division. The Lions not only sold out their 26,000-seat stadium, they also had to turn fans away at the gate. Even though the juggernaut Bears won that game, the tradition took hold, and the Lions have been playing on Thanksgiving ever since.

This year, the Lions host the Minnesota Vikings.

HOW 'BOUT THEM COWBOYS?


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The Cowboys, too, jumped on the opportunity to play on Thanksgiving as an extra little bump for their popularity. When the chance to take the field on Thanksgiving arose in 1966, it might not have been a huge benefit for the Cowboys. Sure, the Lions had filled their stadium for their Thanksgiving games, but that was no assurance that Texans would warm to holiday football so quickly.

Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm, though, was something of a marketing genius; among his other achievements was the creation of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.

Schramm saw the Thanksgiving Day game as a great way to get the team some national publicity even as it struggled under young head coach Tom Landry. Schramm signed the Cowboys up for the game even though the NFL was worried that the fans might just not show up—the league guaranteed the team a certain gate revenue in case nobody bought tickets. But the fans showed up in droves, and the team broke its attendance record as 80,259 crammed into the Cotton Bowl. The Cowboys beat the Cleveland Browns 26-14 that day, and a second Thanksgiving pigskin tradition caught hold. Since 1966, the Cowboys have missed having Thanksgiving games only twice.

Dallas will take on the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday.

WHAT'S WITH THE NIGHT GAME?


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In 2006, because 6-plus hours of holiday football was not sufficient, the NFL added a third game to the Thanksgiving lineup. This game is not assigned to a specific franchise—this year, the Washington Redskins will welcome the New York Giants.

Re-running this 2008 article a few days before the games is our Thanksgiving tradition.

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