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Top 10 Famous Historic Misquotes

Throughout history, quotes of famous people are often misrepresented. This happens for a variety of reasons – some original quotes are clumsy, some don’t seem to match the style of language we expect of a person, and some are changed for propaganda reasons. This is a list of ten of the most well known quotes that are, in fact, misquotes.

If you know of other famous misquotes, be sure to tell us about it in the comments.

10

Voltaire

Voltaire

Quote: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” (“Je désapprouve ce que vous dites, mais je défendrai à la mort votre droit à le dire”)

What Voltaire actually said was “Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so too” from Voltaire’s Essay on Tolerance – that certainly doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. The misquote actually comes from a 1907 book called Friends of Voltaire, by Evelyn Beatrice Hall.

9

George Washington

George-Washington-Picture

Quote: “I cannot tell a lie. It was I who chopped down the cherry tree.”

Washington never said this. In fact, the story was first told in the 1800s by biographer Parson Weems. In Weems book, the tree was not “chopped down”.


8

Edward Murphy

Murphy

Quote: “Anything that can go wrong, will” (Murphy’s Law)

Edward Murphy did not say this. What he most likely did say is something along the lines of: “If there’s more than one way to do a job, and one of those ways will result in disaster, then somebody will do it that way”.

7

Mark Twain

Marktwain

Quote: “The only two certainties in life are death and taxes.”

This is more a problem of misattribution rather than misquotation. Mark Twain did not coin this phrase: Edward Ward in his 1724 “Dancing Devils” wrote “Death and Taxes, they are certain.” And Christopher Bullock wrote in his 1716 “Cobler of Preston” that “’Tis impossible to be sure of anything but Death and Taxes.”

6

William Shakespeare

Shakespearepa 449X600

Quote: “Gild the lily”

This is a misquote from Shakespeare’s King John. The actual quote is “To gild refined gold, to paint the lily”.

5

Niccolo Machiavelli

Machiavellis Portrait

Quote: “The ends justify the means.”

This is a very liberal interpretation of what Machiavelli actually said: “One must consider the final result.” Rather different meanings.


4

Winston Churchill

7907-1-Photo

Quote: “The only traditions of the Royal Navy are rum, sodomy and the lash.”

Churchill did not utter this phrase at all – his assistant (Anthony Montague-Brown) did. What Churchill did say later was that he wished he had said it.

3

Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette 1769-70

Quote: “If they have no bread, let them eat cake!” (“S’ils n’ont plus de pain, qu’ils mangent de la brioche.”)

This misquote has been covered on this site before, but I wanted to include it just in case some people haven’t seen it (it is a pet peeve of mine). Queen Marie Antoinette is still much maligned over this quote – and she never even said it! It was actually from the book Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau in which he said: “I recalled the make-shift of a great princess who was told that the peasants had no bread and who replied: ‘Let them eat brioche’.” The attribution to Queen Marie is no doubt anti-royal propaganda during a very troubled time in French history.


2

Paul Revere

Quote: “The British are coming!”

Paul Revere

According to Wikipedia, Revere’s mission depended on secrecy and the countryside was filled with British army patrols; also, most colonial residents at the time considered themselves British. The quotation is more likely based on (although not taken verbatim from) the later famous poem “Paul Revere’s Ride.”

1

Philip Sheridan

250Px-Philip Sheridan

Quote: “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.”

What General Sheridan is alleged to have said is “The only good Indians I ever saw were dead”. He actually denied saying anything remotely like it.

Listverse Staff

Listverse is a place for explorers. Together we seek out the most fascinating and rare gems of human knowledge. Three or more fact-packed lists daily.

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  • SlickWilly

    According to the Evil Wiki, "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong – and at the worst possible time" is *not* Murphy's Law, but is actually called Finagle's Law. Murphy's Law is the correct quote from Murphy above.

    Another good quote along these lines: "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity."

    • Cyberchip

      I’ve always heard Murphy’s law, just as stated above; and many times with the following amendments.
      …and at the worst possible time, and with the worst possible consequences.” Often quoted by technicians when trying to do something simple. I personally approach tasks with this approach and enjoy a very high success rate; but, when something eventually goes wrong, it is always at the worst possible time, and with dire consiquences. My wife always says, “He hardly ever makes a mistake; but, when he does, it’s a doozy.”

  • simuun

    good list but i’m sure there are many moe then just 10

  • I think it was Socrates who said, “I drank what?!”

  • simuun

    *more

    but another one of my favorite list for quotes is the ones that were not very well thought out, for example i can’t remember who said it but the one about “someday a computer will fit into a single room” or something along those lines, when not too much later we have computers everywhere from on our desk to in our cellphones

  • BHO

    Good list, really interesting stuff!!

  • Was it Joan of Arc who said, “Golly, it’s sure getting hot in here”.

  • warningdontreadthis

    Fantastic list Jfrater you never disappoint me :D

  • Abraham Lincoln,”I hope these seats are good?”

  • DanOhh: they must have been good – he was dying to sit in one! :)

  • *waits for carpe to change his sig on the forums* (regarding #10)

    Another Shakespear one: ‘All that glistens is not gold’, from ‘The Merchant of Venice’. That actual quote is ‘All that glisters is not gold’.

  • Jimmy Hoffa, “Honey, I’ll be right back. I’m just going down to the corner to pick up some smokes”.

  • warningdontreadthis

    Jfrater where do you get the info from?

  • Kreachure

    Great list. That’s pop history for ya…

    I’m sure you could’ve done at least a top 20 of misquotes.

  • JwJwBean

    I was aware of many of these, but not all. Thank you for helping me become more educated.

  • trojan_man

    What about quotes that were taken out of context…

    “I did not sleep with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”

    -Bill Clinton

    In context, he actually meant…

    “Oh, I banged her, all right.”

  • Mikkle

    I still think the misinterpretation of Murphy’s Law sounds alot better than what he really said.

  • chris_b

    Was Ben Franklin alive in 1879?

  • macavity

    Nope, Franklin wasn’t around in 1879. So he couldn’t have written a letter than. Maybe 1779?

  • FelixMG

    I believe it was Voltaire who said ”Well, fuck them.”

  • Mom424

    Great List! Words are my thing.
    Hows about;

    Alas poor Yorrick, I knew him well. Alas poor Yorrick, I knew him Horatio.

    Money is the root of all evil. Love of Money is the root of all evil.

    Not historical but an interesting tidbit, Captain Kirk never said “Beam me up Scotty”, and Sherlock Holmes never said “Elementary, my dear Watson” and Jack Webb (Dragnet) never said “Just the facts, Ma’am”

  • Clarkekentyboy

    The evidence is pretty scarce on the Sheridan quote. He denied it? OJ denied it too.

  • Mzfly

    Great List. I hope this hasn’t been covered before but here’s another point about the Marie Antionette misattributed quote: In France at the time, some sly bakeries could make just a few loaves of cheap bread and then of course anyone wishing to buy bread later in the day would be forced to purchase a more expensive selection. A law was passed that bakers had to keep enough of the cheap bread on hand or, if they sold out, they were forced to sell more expensive options at the same price as the cheap stuff.

    It give an altogether different meaning to the phrase, if it was ever spoken at all.

  • carpe_noctem

    Ah crap, thanks a lot jamie, now i have to change my siggy…

  • carpe_noctem

    Ah crap, thanks a lot jamie, now i have to change my signiature…

  • carpe_noctem

    And now I posted twice… great….

  • I want to have the follow-ups to the comments, so I just thought I’d put one of my quotes, re drinking and going out:

    “I consider any night I can remember a failure.”

  • SlickWilly

    In the spirit of this list, I will give one of my favorite accurate quotes, by the late, great W.C. Fields: “Every man has to believe in something. I believe I’ll have another drink.”

  • islanderbst

    Probably most of us would be familiar with these, but still there is something to be said for just a nice, simple list.

    I’ll add: Religion is the opiate of the masses- Marx

  • Kreachure

    islanderbst: That’s not a misquote, right? Cause Marx did say that (in German, anyways).

  • Kreachure

    Oh, my bad, didn’t notice you started putting accurate quotes ON A LIST ABOUT INACCURATE QUOTES.

    Silly, silly me.

  • islanderbst

    Kreachure: The quote is closer than I remembered, but a little different:
    Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people.

  • chershey

    Another good one is Mark Twain’s supposed quote about the coldest winter he ever experienced was summer in San Francisco. A very fitting quote, but not he nor anyone ever said it. He did say that one cannot go without a coat in the summer in San Francisco, but the coldest winter quote is actually a work of fiction from the movie Escape from Alcatraz.

  • Z

    @#21 (Slickwilly) I prefer: (and I may be coining this right now, I’m not sure) Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by paranoia.

  • I love quotes so I enjoyed this list
    The only thing I can add is when I was growing up I always thought Winston Churchill said this:
    “Show me a young Conservative and I’ll show you someone with no heart. Show me an old Liberal and I’ll show you someone with no brains”

    But I guess he didn’t

  • I thought of one more:
    “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”

    I think a bunch of famous people have been credited with this. Does anybody know who really said it.

  • Christine

    Cool list! Some I knew, some I did not. Only thing I can think of to make this list even better is an explanation of how the quotes came to be associated with the person. I know some of them have this but more info on others would’ve been even neater.

  • SlickWilly

    Blogball: Appropriately, that is credited to Sigmund Freud, who thought that placing any phallic-shaped object near one’s mouth has deep-rooted psychoanalytic repercussions, except, apparently, for him and his love of cigars.

  • Thanks Slick for that info.
    I don’t’ think Bill Clinton would agree.
    Maybe Clinton said “Sometimes a cigar is more than a cigar”
    Hey, we can start that rumor here and it will be a famous misquote 50 years from now

  • miller

    I take one day at a time and sometimes two or three.

  • Randall

    Paul Revere wouldn’t have yelled out, “The British are coming,” no… but what he probably bellowed was “The Regulars are out!” — the British redcoat troops being known as “Regulars,” and the “out” referring to the fact–not that they had en masse admitted to enjoying show tunes–but rather that they had “come out of Boston,” which is where they were stationed–Boston at the time being under martial law, city of testy rebels that it was. General Howe had finally agreed to ordering his troops out of the city to march on Concord and Lexington in order to A) capture stores of military supplies such as gunpowder that the colonists were known to be harboring and B) capture uppity troublemakers like Sam Adams and John Hancock, who were hiding out in the villages.

    The latter, I believe (Hancock) wanted to stand and fight with the minute men, but was persuaded to escape with his cohorts.

    Revere was captured though–a British lieutenant put a gun to his head and told him to give with the information or his brains would be all over the field. Revere proceeded to tell the Brits a whopper of a tale about a huge colonial army massing nearby, marching on their position. He then managed to escape whilst the redcoats were crapping their knickers in anticipation of facing an army of aroused natives.

  • Shane S

    I heard Vince Lombardi didn’t actually say “Winning isn’t everything, its the only thing” but instead said “Winning isn’t everything, but wanting to win is.” I’m at lunch and too lazy to Google it. Anybody know?

  • dave4248

    You forgot Rodney King. He’s often quoted as saying….”Can’t we all just get along?” He actually said…”Can, can we all get along?” I ‘spose that’s splitting hairs on my part.

  • Chalkwhite

    Darth Vader never said “Luke, I am your father.”
    Humphrey Bogart never said “Play it again, Sam” in Casablanca. I know their fictional, but I think those’re two big ones.

  • playyahplay

    everyone forgot about the crappy radio used in the studio by armstrong? “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” either he forgot preposition or grammar is different in california. (yes, i excluded a preposition for comedic effect)

  • warningdontreadthis

    Chalkwhite:
    Jamie made a top ten list over movie quotes. The two you mentioned are there.

  • Randall

    playyahplay:

    “…used in the studio”?

  • Barack Obama

    “Mission Accomplished”

    –George ‘My Pet Goat’ Bush

    Had to knock good ol’ Bushy…been a while.

  • Galileo908

    First time poster, long time reader, etc.

    But I must add this:

    Descartes’s “I think, therefore I am” is actually “I am thinking, therefore I exist.”

  • Cedestra

    I think he’s inferring that the Moon landing was fake. We just can’t have a nice, friendly discussion; we always have to throw in some controversy, huh? /sigh

  • SlickWilly

    Cedestra: Well, if people would stop inferring that we never went to the moon, everything would be cool. :)

  • Shane S

    Barak ‘Sexist’ Obama: “Hold on one second, sweetie” to a female reporter.

  • EricB

    Dunno if this was mentioned yet but I’m pretty sure there was no way Ben Franklin penned a letter in 1879…he was long dead at that point, lol.

    Good list though

  • copperdragon

    Wasn’t it Twain who said…

    “there are three types of lies – lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

  • SlickWilly

    Shane S: So I suppose when I go down to the local grocery store and the female cashier says to me, “here is your receipt, sweetie,” she’s being sexist too, right? Because of course you know what Obama is thinking. Sheesh…there are bigger problems out there, man.

  • kiwiboi

    Galileo908 – Descartes’ Discourse on the Method definitely contains the phrase :”Je pense, donc je suis” which can translate literally to “I think, therefore I am”.

    His Principles of Philosophy was written some time later and this is, I think, what you might be referring to. It was here that he used the Latin phrase Cogito ergo sum; for which there would seem to be a million interpretations, including the one you mention. It should also be added that Descartes’ own follow-up writings did not help as he, himself, propounded varying meanings to the phrase.

    BTW..welcome to LV :)

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  • TerraByte

    Not Twain.

    There are lies, damn lies, and Church statistics.
    Disraeli

  • my life is a lie! lol not really. good list!

  • astraya

    playyahplay: I think you and Armstrong both actually forgot articles, not prepositions. Articles are “a”, “an” and “the”. Prepositions are words like “in”, “out”, “through” etc.
    Armstrong did mess up: see http://www.snopes.com/quotes/onesmall.asp.

  • spence425

    alright, i’ve got to say it. i love this site…i stop here every day. my only real problem is that this site seems to quote wikipedia as if it were a reliable source.

    wikipidia is aanything but a reliable source. anyone can edit a wiki entry. there have been numerous occasions where wikipedia has been manipulated for no other reason than for the sake of humor.

    wikepedia is not a reliable source, it never has been, and it never will be.

  • CRussey

    when my class was studying the French revolution, my teacher said that Marie Antoinette quote at least 20 times.
    It even says it in my history textbook

  • Kreachure

    About Wikipedia: Yes, everyone can edit it. But it seems that for every jerk that edits an article with a prank, there are a hundred others who use the tools and policies that Wikipedia has garnered over the years to revert it and keep articles as accurate as they should be. Wikipedia has established many practices and safeguards over the last years. The community is responsible for the stability that Wikipedia enjoys. It surprises me too, but Wikipedia is pretty much the most reliable, complete, and accessible site you will find in the Internet these days.

    If you don’t believe me, check ANY article on science or history there. You’ll have to look hard to find inaccuracies , since users are able to constantly demand reliable sources and corrections, while at the same time improving the articles themselves and looking out for any ill-intentioned edits.

    And if you won’t believe your own eyes, then believe the myriad studies that have been done comparing the accuracy of Wikipedia and other encyclopedias like Britannica. They pretty much stand side by side, except that in Wikipedia you can find hundreds of thousands more articles and info than Encyclopedia Britannica would ever care to have.

  • lizzie

    Another misquote: Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

    From William Congreve’s ‘The Mourning Bride’:

    ‘Heaven has no rage, like love to hatred turned,
    Nor Hell a fury, like a woman scorned.’

    Not historical, but often misquoted none the less. Love the list JFrater.

  • I should slap myself!!! I almost laughed out loud…. After following my GF to the north east for her study in Gas Engorged Protein and Carbohydrate Matrixes.

    ‘Let them eat brioche’= Let them eat (enriched) Bread. That woman is rotting my brain. The information from her schooling wiped out about half a season of memorized Ren and Stimpy episodes.

  • Sherrie

    Re: Antoinette.
    I was under the impression the quote is correct, but many don’t know of the circumstances. French bakers were required produce a certain amount of “regular” bread(pain) for the common folk, to prevent them from only producing a small amount, then charging a higher price for the “premium” (brioche) Further to this, the peasants were able to buy brioche at the regular price, if an unscrupulous baker ran out before they had all been served. She was simply saying, the poor should be able to buy brioche at pain prices

  • LordCalvert

    was it Kierkegaard or Dick Van Patten who said, “If you label me, you negate me.”

  • Sidereus

    playyahplay: While the Armstrong’s recording certainly does sound like he left out the word “a”, a careful sound analysis done with a computer has revealed an inaudible wave where the “a” should go. Therefore, it is possible he spoke correctly, it just wasn’t very well recorded.

    Honestly though, who cares? We all know what he meant.

  • LordCalvert: Party on!!

  • Mike

    Infamy! Infamy! They’ve all got it in for me!! – Caeser

  • astraya

    General Custer didn’t say: “Look at all those fucking Indians!”

  • SlickWilly

    astraya: Yes he did. :D

  • Kreachure

    Hey, I just remembered a great misquote by John F. Kennedy (in German):

    “I am a jelly doughnut!” O.O

    Obviously, he didn’t say that. he said “I am a Berliner”, and someone said that the phrase was grammatically incorrect and in German became “I am a Berliner (as in the pastry)!” But, this was not true and Germans never understood it this way.

  • carp

    Benjamin Franklin…1879? (#7)

  • Cataline

    I would suggest that Occam’s Razor might be another famous misquote. It’s usually quoted as something like “The simplest solution is usually the best.” What he really said was “entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity” (“entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem”).

  • LS

    This one’s pretty amusing. Aren’t they all?

    I REALLY wish I’d found this before that French project on Marie Antoinette. I was too lazy to translate “Let them eat cake” into French, so…yeah. That would have been nice.

    I was also unaware of Murphy’s first name. I never thought he had one. I always assumed it was just one of those things. Like Socrates, Archemedes, Plato, or any of the other geniuses everyone’s heard of. (Eddie Murphy. Haha.)

    That picture of Machiavelli creeps me out. Especially now that I know the face on the cover of “The Prince” was of a real person, he’s just…

  • Lister-Ian

    Marie Antoinette: I’ve heard it as….
    The french word “pain” translates as “bread”, but the english word “cake” translates as “gateau” in french, not “brioche”.
    Brioche refers to simpler quickbreads such as muffins or cornbread. Thus her suggestion was quite reasonable.

  • That’s It!!!! How many of you argumentative pricks have ever HAD A BRIOCHE???? It is not Cake and It is NOT Quick.

    I’m looking at a text book Right now; The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart pg.123 “Brioche is the standard by which all rich breads are judged.” DId that say cake? No, and anyone with Minimal culinary experience Knows the difference. I’m really heated right now and when my girlfriend gets home I’m going to have a few words with her about Why she actually had to go and study this. I’m not even that much of a fan of bread!

  • kiwiboi

    I would suggest that Occam’s Razor might be another famous misquote … What he really said was ..”entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem”.

    Cataline – I think you’ll find he didn’t say that either.

  • kiwiboi

    How many of you argumentative pricks have ever HAD A BRIOCHE?

    Crimanon – in Europe (Western Europe, at least) you will probably find brioche in any supermarket. Many small stores, even.

    jfrater is probably correct in his explanation. However, Sherrie’s comment (#64) is certainly the “interpretation” that has gained in popularity over recent years.

    It is, however, much more likely that Marie Antoinette never even said such a thing. In any case, she was apparently an upper-class airhead, and if she had said something along those lines, she would likely have meant it in a disparaging way.

    Brioche is delicious, by the way…

  • Kiwi: Jamie And Sherrie were the only other ones to get it right! Everyone else goes around misquoting and Rings my Pet peeve alarm. I just wish people would acknowledge when they’ve been corrected.

  • Drogo

    People have imitated Cary Grant by saying, “Judy, Judy, Judy” but he never said it in a movie.

    Mae West never said, “Come up and see me sometime.” She said (I think it was), “You know where I am, if you want to see me.”

    I once misquoted myself. At dinner, I meant to ask my mom to “Pass the salt.” but I accidentally said, “You stupid bitch, you ruined my entire life!”

    :)

  • astraya

    Slickwilly: Sure, and the mayor of Hiroshima also said “What the fuck was that?” etc.

    Drogo: There is a clip on youtube: http://kr.youtube.com/watch?v=5L0eJp7V2Zs

    She says: “Why don’t you come up some time, see me”, then “Why don’t you come up some time, huh?” and also “Come up, I’ll tell your fortune”.

  • Lokelani

    Drogo: That was the most hilarious thing I’ve heard all day. Thanks for making me laugh.

  • Marc

    To famous lines that were never actually uttered in the original movie..

    Play it again, Sam

    Frankly, Scarlett, I don’t give a damn.

  • PhineusQButterfat

    Although Ben Franklin lived to the age of 89, the letter he wrote regarding #7 was likely 1789, not 1879 seeing as he was dead.

  • Murphy’s law is my fave on the list. didnt know that one.

  • SteveM

    My high school english teacher explained the Antionette quote (during our reading of “Tale of Two Cities”), that during that time bakers would line their brick ovens with dough as a kind of insulation or something. This would of course become burned on and have to be periodically scraped out and replaced. This was colloquially called “cake” and it is this that Marie was suggesting the peasants eat if they had no bread. So, she was not being flippant but extremely insulting.

    Never been able to verify this, but it makes a lot of sense.

  • SteveM: unfortunately your school teacher is perpetuating an untruth – and a totally bizarre one at that! Let us deal with the problems:

    1) Marie Antoinette never said it – it was a fictional quote written about someone else before she was Queen

    2) Bakers don’t line their ovens – but they do seal the edges of the door with a dough to keep the heat in. This is never eaten and is not called “cake”

    3) The term in French that is usually translated to “Cake” is actually “brioche” which is a type of bread that is enriched with eggs and butter – it is more expensive than bread.

    The problem with the whole debate is that at the time, the King had passed a law stating that any bakers who ran out of bread had to sell their brioche at the lower price of bread. This is because bakers would make only a few cheap loaves and then a lot of brioche so that the people would have to pay for the more expensive bread. The law was passed to stop the bakers cheating the poor.

    So – ultimately, if anyone did say “let them eat cake” – it is probably a reference to the law at the time which makes perfect sense. When being told that there was no bread, logically the poor would then buy brioche which had to be marked down in price.

    Alas I think your teacher might need a refresher course herself!

  • kiwiboi

    To be fair to SteveM’s teacher, I have seen the reference to the oven lining more than once. It was referring to the dough that was “caked” onto the inside of the baker’s oven.

    All said and done, though, it is almost universally held that Marie Antoinette never uttered anything remotely to do with “let them eat cake/brioche/whatever”, as jfrater says.

  • SteveM

    I probably should have mentioned that I went to High School in the 70’s, so this is a rather old recollection. And it is also possible that the explanation was meant only to apply to Dickens’ novel and not the historic Marie Antoinette. I don’t remember.

  • kiwiboi

    And it is also possible that the explanation was meant only to apply to Dickens’ novel and not the historic Marie Antoinette.

    SteveM – Don’t be so hard on yourself. I, too, have certainly read/heard a variation on this explanation applied to M. Antoinette on more than one occasion. It is almost certainly wrong though.

  • adeline

    in Jon Stewart’s book America, he makes a joke about what Paul Revere “actually” said during his warning ride. here’s the joke…

    Historians say Revere probably would not have been yelling, “The British are coming,” since at the time most colonists still thought of themselves as British. His actual cry was, “I say, representatives of the King’s army will be arriving on our shores to do most grievous harm to us, their fellow subjects under the crown… so be mindful and watchful on this night!” Over the course of his 12-mile gallop he managed to complete the phrase three times.

  • Mirthmaker

    Wonderful site! Have just put it on my “Favs” list. Comments are even better (well done, all!) Very educational and enlightening banter, but…Drago takes it all by a country mile! I’m still bustin’ up- funniest thing I’ve heard or read recently.

  • seeker

    “In the essentials, UNITY; in the non-essentials, LIBERTY; in all things, CHARITY”

    Often attributed to Augustine, actually was penned by RUPERTUS MELDENIUS

    “There are three kinds of lies: Lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

    Often attributed to Mark Twain, they are actually the words of former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, as quoted by Twain in his autobiography.

    Of course, the founding fathers of the US are often misquoted to support various positions on government – here, for example, are a host of Thomas Jefferson misquotes.

  • Drogo

    Contrary to popular belief, the first words that Marconi broadcast through his invention, the radio, were not, “Tenth caller receives two free tickets to see Supertramp!”

  • andri

    Very amusing, but Ben Franklin had already been dead for 80-odd years when you say he wrote that letter!

  • And of course, who could forget Einstein’s famous quote:

    “Any f*cking idiot could understand that.”

  • Helen

    Anthony Montague-Brown is *not* the one who said “rum, sodomy, and the lash.” According to what I can find, he made a speech in which he talked about this phrase being attributed to Churchill and said that Churchill had told him (A. M.-B.) that he (W.S.C.) WISHED he had said it.

    According to the Yale Dictionary of Quotations, it’s quoted in Harold Nicolson’s diary entry of 17 August 1950 (an edition of the diary was published in 1968) as “Naval traditions? Monstrous. Nothing but rum, sodomy, prayers, and the lash.”

  • Rocker23

    Having just discovered this entertaining site, I am obviously late to this particular party. But as it concerns correcting misinformation I feel compeled to point out that Benjamin Franklin died in 1788, making it very difficult to write a letter to anyone.

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  • hannah

    haha i like the indian one

  • What should of been up there was Julius Caesar when he came into britan he stated “i came i saw i conquered” but he never acturly conquered britan because he never collected taxes or surrport from the british people he just invaded and stayed for awhile.

  • Habler

    Actually Caesar never said that in Britain at all, he said it in asia minor i believe. An area which was subdued by Pompey the great, Caesar said it to undermine the acheivements of his famous rival.

  • Reagan

    Too bad there are none for Stalin, whose “famous quotes” could’ve easily filled the whole list of ten.

  • California_Dreamin

    “Quote: ‘The only traditions of the Royal Navy are rum, sodomy and the lash.’

    Churchill did not utter this phrase at all – his assistant (Anthony Montague-Brown) did. What Churchill did say later was that he wished he had said it.”

    You have some interesting information here, but I don’t think the above is accurate. This is a misquote of Churchill, not a case of false attribution. What Churchill actually said was better-turned and more evocative: “Naval tradition? Monstrous. Nothing but rum, sodomy, prayers, and the lash.”

    The theory that Churchill never made this comment, but that, Anthony Montague-Brown, he wished he had said it. Is prominent on the internet, but My 2006 copy of The Oxford Concise Dictionary of Quotations–even though it is put out by Oxford, is in the fifth edition, and has a whole section devoted to misquotes–makes no mention of this theory. I’m going to go with Oxford as the authority on this one and assume that rather than just wishing he had said this, Churchill did in fact say it. One thing that argues in favor of that conclusion is the distincly Churchillian ring of the phrase.

    http://www.squidoo.com/famous_misquotes

  • JonnyHale

    Quote: “Jack of all trades master of none”

    Actual phrase: “Jack of all trades master of one”

    The owner of this quote believed you should know something about everything and everything about something.

  • Jennevive

    @DanOhh — It wasn’t Socrates, it was Val Kilmer’s character in the movie Real Genius. Awesome flick!

  • danney

    “America is all about speed. Hot, nasty, bad-ass speed.”
    – Eleanor Roosevelt

  • Redisca

    In addition to what has been said about the misattribution of “Let them eat cake”, there is also a possible problem of misinterpretation (if indeed Jean-Jacques Rousseau heard this phrase from some royal official, and not simply invented it). Although “qu’ils mangent de la brioche” is traditionally translated as “let them eat cake”, a brioche isn’t really a cake as most people understand it. Rather, it’s a type of refined white bread enriched with butter and eggs. At the time of the Ancient Regime, on the eve of the Revolution, there was a law in France, which required bakers to produce a certain minimum quantity of regular coarse, cheap bread. If a baker ran out of this type of bread, and customers still came into the shop wanting to buy it, he would have to sell them brioche — the finer, more expensive bread — at regular-bread prices. The idea was to prevent bakers from forcing people to buy higher-priced goods. So if a royal official made a comment to the effect that poor peasants should eat brioche if they can’t find bread, this may very well have been an innocent observation that the better quality grain used to make brioche would have to be made available at lower prices. Rousseau may have just twisted it out of context — I wouldn’t put it past him.

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  • Lk

    Impressive. Thanks for the info. Man, our History books must be reprinted again.

  • funnybones

    I just found this site. I am crying with laughter at the banter.

    I always thought Clinton never finished his comment “I never had sex with that woman”…….. he seemed to go off into a trance, maybe he was thinking “but she sure as hell loves a good cigar!”

  • max hampton

    what about neil armstrongs

  • FaerchFan

    Thank you! For putting that on about Paul Revere! It urks me when people say his quote was "The British are coming" In 5th grade I learned it was "Turn out your militia."

  • Ackmed teh idiot

    I really wish people would read this and the other list…

    • Jay

      The other list… Is that the one with all the words?

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  • Marty B

    “Peace in our time should be in this list”. Neville Chamberlain actually said “peace FOR our time”, which actually has some meaning

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  • michael

    How about the quote commonly attributed to Sarah Palin, but actually said by Tina Fey on SNL: “I can see Russia from my house.”

  • Can’t believe it’s not on this list.

    Misquote: “God does not play with dice” -Einstein

  • Sean

    Malcom X Plymouth rock quote?

  • Gary Gibson

    When do we get to see the “Top 10 Unfortunate Comments” of Barak Obama? He certainly has said some doosies.

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