(Boston Globe) The Timeless plague of incorrect quotation

There are certain lines everyone knows. Ever-brusque “Dragnet” Detective Joe Friday said, “Just the facts, ma’am.” Sherlock Holmes, somewhat condescendingly, has long said, “Elementary, my dear Watson.” Those and many other sayings have something in common besides popularity ”” they’re wrong. They were never said by the characters to which they’re attributed, or at least not in those precise words.

Another type of misquoting is even further from the mark ”” though extremely close to Mark Twain. If someone tells you a famous quotation is by Twain, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin, or some other famous person, you should probably take it with a grain of salt. Attributing quotes to the wrong person is a popular pastime. Don’t misquote me on this: Most people, and even many reference books, are terrible when it comes to accurate quotation.

Read it all (hat tip: SP).


Posted in * Culture-Watch, Blogging & the Internet, History, Poetry & Literature

5 comments on “(Boston Globe) The Timeless plague of incorrect quotation

  1. Terry Tee says:

    Only yesterday someone said to me:
    As God says, what goes round, goes round.
    I did a double take …
    Although I must confess, that when another person said to me, ‘As St Paul says, neither a borrower nor a lender be’ I had to think for a moment or two before realising that it was Shakespeare actually. And I had to check that on Google …

  2. Milton says:

    Solomon certainly stated the principle in Proverbs, though not the actual quote “Neither a borrower nor a lender be”.

    My favorite intentionally incorrect quote:

    [blockquote]The reliability of much information on the Internet is questionable.
    Mark Twain[/blockquote]

  3. Terry Tee says:

    Thank you Milton. I cannot resist pointing out something I am sure however that you realise:

    the person who says, on the internet, that the material on the internet is not reliable, makes us doubt the veracity of that statement also. In philosophical terms: logically vicious.

  4. Milton says:

    Terry, that brings up another logical infinite regression:

    [blockquote]I am a habitual liar.
    The statement above is untrue.[/blockquote]

  5. Jim the Puritan says:

    #1: I think Shakespeare misquoted it from Proverbs.