Well-Known Misquotations

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Well-Known Misquotations : Phrases


Many phrases and sayings have entered the language as quotations by known authors. Some of these are accepted into the language with scant evidence linking the phrase and the person, and some are just plain misquotations. These false attributions, although generally quite easy to disprove as many of them as supposed to derive from films or works of fiction, join the popular fallacies as the most difficult to remove from the popular consciousness.

There are some untruths which people prefer to believe than to have refuted. It seems that, for a large enough percentage of the population to keep a phrase in circulation, the sense that a quotation sounds appropriate for a particular author or fictional character is sufficient, regardless of whether they actually ever said it.

There are a startlingly large number of 'quotations' which, on investigation, turn out to be false. Some of these probably wouldn't persist apart from their 'misquote' notoriety. Here are a few examples:



Phrase Attributed to:  
Beam me up, Scotty. Captain James T. Kirk, in the Star Trek series. The closest that Captain Kirk ever got to this was "Beam us up, Mr Scott", in the 'Gamesters of Triskelion' episode.
Come with me to the Casbah. Charles Boyer, in the film Algiers, 1938. The line doesn't appear in the film, although it was present in some early trailers. Boyer did epitomize the suave, debonair French lover and became somewhat typecast in such roles. The 'quotation' came to the public consciousness via Chuck Jones’s cartoon skunk "Pépé le Pew" in a satire of Boyer's performance. In later life, Boyer tired of the endless repetition of the phrase and attempted to disassociate himself from it.
Dreams are the royal road to the unconscious. Sigmund Freud, in 'The Interpretation of Dreams', 1909. The line doesn't appear in this book, or any of Freud's works. It derives from others' summaries of Freud's theories.
Elementary, Dear Watson Sherlock Holmes  
England and America are two countries divided by a common language. George Bernard Shaw.

This supposed quotation doesn't appear anywhere in the copious writing of GBS. A similar idea was expressed by Oscar Wilde in The Canterville Ghost, 1887, some years earlier than Shaw was supposed to have said it:

"We have everything in common America nowadays except, of course, language".

Play it again, Sam. Rick Blaine ( Humphrey Bogart), in the 1942 film Casablanca.  
Warts and all. Oliver Cromwell  
You dirty rat! James Cagney

This line didn't appear in any of Cagney's many films. In a speech to the American Film Institute in 1974 he made a point of saying:

'I never said "Mmm, you dirty rat!"'

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