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).