If Facebook statuses, bumper stickers, souvenir mugs, and T-shirts are any indicators of a quote’s fame, then all of the entries on this list at a stellar level of stardom. But, you know what they say, don’t trust everything you see. We may be used to hearing a certain variation of a saying, but that doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily the correct one.
The words of history’s greatest personalities are often taken out of context or compressed with the full intention to make them more marketable and memorable. Sometimes this means nothing, as the general message is still properly conveyed. In other instances, however, these misquotes have utterly changed public perception towards the respective person, leaving a big stain on their image. Here are 7 Famous Misquotes of People Throughout History.
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#1 “Et tu, Brute?” – Julius Caesar
Or, as we know it, “You, too, Brutus?” These were allegedly the last words of the famous Roman ruler upon realizing that his own son was part of the plan which had him assassinated. Historians, though, argue that it’s highly unlikely that these words were actually spoken by him.
For starters, this happened thousands of years ago, with there not being any viable sources or records that could possibly confirm their genuineness. Caesar was in a room surrounded by tens of people who all wanted him dead and he’d already been stabbed numerous times before Brutus plunged in his own dagger.
Those who speak of this event have different variations of the story. Some say that what Caesar actually voiced out was, “You, too, child?” while others claim that he said nothing at all – given the whole multiple stabs situation and all.
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#2 “If they have no bread, let them eat cake!” – Marie Antoinette
The downfall of French aristocracy culminated with the execution of monarch Marie Antoinette, who allegedly inappropriately spilled those words after being informed that her people didn’t even have bread to eat. Historians say that this is a huge error.
It’s hard to believe that someone could be as oblivious and heartless as to make a statement of sorts, but it sure seems to add fuel to the fire of the anti-aristocracy movement. This seems to be the origin of this quote too. It was first found in the pages of the book Confessions, written by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, having only been attributed to a certain “princess.”
With there being no name attached to the quote in Rousseau’s memoir, it’s almost certain that the association with Marie Antoinette was just one of the things that contributed to the anti-royal propaganda in this frail moment of French history.
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#3 “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Gandhi
Shocking, isn’t it? You may not think of this as a misquote, especially given the fact that it definitely sounds like something he would say. And it’s all the more perfect as it sends across a positive message, so why would we mind?
Truth is this is merely a shortened and compressed version of a longer speech given by Gandhi. Probably wishing for the message to reach more people easier, it’s been cut down to this simpler version, which we can now see on our feeds no matter the social media platform we are on.
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#4 “The ends justify the means.” – Niccolo Machiavelli
Machiavelli was an avid militant of the consequentialism movement, so it’s definitely not far-fetched that this quote was attributed to him. To do so is both right and wrong. He definitely didn’t say the quote as we know it, but he did say something that is similar.
The non-altered version of the quote refers to how we should think of the final result before acting, which can be an elementarily different thing depending on interpretation. While the misquote might sound like something that a James Bond villain would say when trying to justify nuking the world, the original saying rather hints at the opposite – we really need to think ahead of impulsively doing something.
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#5 “We are not amused.” – Queen Victoria
If Doctor Who writers ever saw this, they might be prompted to change the line from that one Series 2 werewolf episode. Queen Victoria was seen by many people, especially outside of the United Kingdom, as a rather gloomy and prudish person, so to think that she could possibly retaliate through a quote of the likes doesn’t seem unlikely.
However, there is no historical evidence that she actually said this. The fact that all that reference this quote use it in different scenarios and setting doesn’t help it either. The most popular story has Queen Victoria spill these words in response to a distasteful racy joke. Princess Alice, the monarch’s granddaughter, has stated in an interview that, when she asked Queen Victoria about the quote, the woman claimed that she’d never said such thing.
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#6 “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” – William Congreve
This one is a razor with two sharp sides. For starters, many people think that it was William Shakespeare who actually said this quote. It seems so fitting, why wouldn’t you? Let’s all add one more line to his already full portfolio of memorable quotes.
Secondly, this isn’t even the accurate quote, as the correct one is “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.” Poor Congreve really doesn’t seem like he can win with this one. When people don’t know it was him who was actually the source of this quote, they all attribute it to the other, much more popular, William.
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#7 “The only two certainties in life are death and taxes.” – Mark Twain
Mark Twain never said anything even remotely similar to this. The quote is likely the result of gluing together the very similar lines uttered by Christopher Bullock and Edward Ward sometime in the 18th century. But given how Mark Twain was the more soundly name and how he was well-known for his wits, we suppose it was simply easier to attach his name to such a quirky saying.