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Top 17 Sayings Attributed to the Wrong Person

by The Book of Lists
fact checked by Alex Hanton

This is a list of famous sayings that we all know and people love to quote to show off their knowledge. But… most of the time people attribute them to the wrong person. In order to put the record straight, here are the top 16 sayings attributed to the wrong person.


1. W C Fields

Anybody who hates children and dogs can’t be all bad.

Actually said by: Leo Rosten: at a dinner introducing Fields

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2. Horace Greeley

Go west, young man!

Actually said by: John Soule (Article, Terre Haute Express, 1851)

3. Mark Twain

Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it!

Actually said by: Charles Dudley Warner (Editorial, Hartford Courant, August 24, 1897)


4. Charles Darwin

Survival of the fittest.

Actually said by: Herbert Spencer (Principles of Biology and earlier works)

5. Thomas Jefferson

That government is best which governs least.

Actually said by: Henry David Thoreau (who put it in quotation marks in ‘Civil Disobedience’ and called it a motto)

6. The Bible

Cleanliness is next to godliness.

Actually said by: John Wesley (Sermons, no 93, ‘On Dress’)

7. Confucius

A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.

Actually said by: Lao-Tzu (To Te Ching)


8. The Bible

God helps those who helps themselves.

Actually said by: Aesop (“The gods help them that help themselves”)

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9. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

God is in the details.

Actually said by: Francois Rabelais (“The good God is in the details”)

10. Harry S Truman

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

Actually said by: Harry Vaughn (Truman’s friend, whom Truman was quoting)

11. V I Lenin

Promises are like pie crust, made to be broken.

Actually said by: Jonathan Swift (Polite conversation: “promises are like pie crust, leaven to be broken”)

Jonathan Swift

12. Mark Twain

Wagner’s music is better than it sounds.

Actually said by: Edgar Wilson Nye

13. Hermann Goring

When I hear the word “culture”, I reach for my gun.

Actually said by: Hanns Johst (1933 play Schlageter: “Whenever I hear the word ‘culture’, I reach for my Browning”)

14. Vince Lombardi

Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.

Actually said by: Red Sanders (UCLA football coach; quoted in Sports Illustrated, 1955)


15. The Bible

Spare the rod and spoil the child.

Actually said by: Samuel Butler (Hudibras, 1664)

16. Muhammad Ali

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, your hands can’t hit what your eyes can’t see.

Actually said by: Drew ‘Bundini’ Brown (Ali’s good friend)

17. Queen Marie Antoinette

Let them eat cake!

Actually said by: Jean-Jacques Rousseau (In his ‘Confessions’, 1767)

Source: The Book of Lists

fact checked by Alex Hanton