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"Elementary, my dear Watson" and other Famous Misquotations
Published on 1/22/2008

  • "Elementary, my dear Watson" - Sherlock Holmes
    This phrase was never uttered by the character in any of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's written works. Though "Elementary," and " dear Watson." both do appear near the beginning of The Crooked Man (1893), it is the " dear Watson" that appears first, and "Elementary" is the succinct reply to Watson's exclamation a few lines of dialogue later. This is the closest these four immortal words ever appear together in the canon.
    The association of this quote with the Sherlock Holmes character likely comes from the closing lines of the 1929 film The Return of Sherlock Holmes.

  • "640K ought to be enough for anybody." - Bill Gates
    Often attributed to Gates in 1981. Gates considered the IBM PC's 640kB program memory a significant breakthrough over 8-bit systems that were typically limited to 64kB, but he has denied making this remark. "I've said some stupid things and some wrong things, but not that. No one involved in computers would ever say that a certain amount of memory is enough for all time... I keep bumping into that silly quotation attributed to me that says 640K of memory is enough. There's never a citation; the quotation just floats like a rumor, repeated again and again."

  • "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." - Neil Armstrong
    Possible correct quote: "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind". Some say this was due to a break in the radio transmission between the moon lander and the command module. Although Armstrong claims to have said the correct version, everyone else heard the incorrect version. Armstrong himself was later unsure of whether he left out the crucial article "a". Without saying "a man" the incorrect version is contradictory, as "man" means "mankind". The quote was pointing out that a small step for a man represented tremendous progress for all people.

  • "The end justifies the means" - Machiavelli
    Attributed to the political theorist Niccolo Machiavelli's work The Prince. The line is actually from a book in which a fictional Machiavelli is a character.

  • "Friends, Romans, Countrymen, Lend me your ears." - William Shakespeare (Julius Caesar)
    The quote is often attributed to Julius Caesar; it was actually said by the character Antony in the play. The next line "I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him" makes it clear that Caesar is not the speaker.

  • "Play it again, Sam" - Ingrid Bergman (Casablanca)
    Actual quote: "Play it Sam, for old times' sake, play 'As Time Goes By'."

  • "The rest is science" - William Shakespeare (Hamlet)
    Correct quote: "The rest is silence"

  • "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar." - Sigmund Freud
    This quote is often attributed to Sigmund Freud to show that even that a famous psychoanalyst can admit that not everything has a profound meaning; However, no variation of this quote ever appears in his writings. It was probably falsely attributed by a journalist, long after Freud's death.

  • "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." - Winston Churchill
    Neither this nor any of its common variations were ever said by Winston Churchill.

  • "My momma always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." - Forrest Gump
    This famous line is spoken by Tom Hanks, playing Forrest Gump in the 1994 film of the same name. However, in Winston Groom's original novel, the "box of chocolates" line is rather different: "Bein' an idiot ain't no box of chocolates." Groom reportedly dislikes the change.

  • "The minority is always in the right. The majority is always in the wrong." - Mark Twain
    Attributed to Twain, but never sourced.

  • "Evil is the absence of God." - Albert Einstein
    This statement has been attributed to others before Einstein; its first attribution to Einstein appears to have been in an email story that began circulating in 2004.

  • "I am the devil, and I have come to do the devil's work." - Charles Manson
    Usually misattributed to Charles Manson, in regard to the murders at the home of Sharon Tate. Manson was not present at any of the murders known to have been committed by his followers. The actual phrase, though not as said above, was uttered by Charles "Tex" Watson to Voityck Frykowski.

  • "God helps those who help themselves"
    The saying is not biblical, although it is an ancient proverb that shows up in the literature of many cultures, including a 1736 edition of Benjamin Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanac.

  • "I have nothing to declare except my Genius." - Oscar Wilde
    This is one of Wilde's most famous sayings, which he is supposed to have said while passing through a customs checkpoint in New York. However, there is no contemporary evidence that such words were ever uttered, and the first record of them is by Arthur Ransome in his 1912 book Oscar Wilde: A Critical Study.

  • "When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute and it's longer than any hour. That's relativity." - Albert Einstein
    As "quoted" by Steve Mirsky Scientific American (September 2002). Vol. 287, Iss. 3; pg. 102. This should hardly be taken as an authentication of the statement as actually Einstein's, as this is from a satirical piece, and Mirsky cites the "original source" as being a fictitious magazine.

  • "God made beer because he loves us and wants us to be happy." - Benjamin Franklin
    The quote, and its many variants, has been widely attributed to Franklin; however, there has never been an authoritative source for the quote, and research indicates that it is very likely a misquotation of Franklin's words regarding wine.

  • "I was recently on a tour of Latin America, and the only regret I have was that I didn't study Latin harder in school so I could converse with those people." - Dan Quayle
    U.S. Representative Claudine Schneider (RI) telling an admitted joke about Quayle

  • "The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education." - Albert Einstein
    Never said that, and is similar to a quote attributed to Mark Twain: "I never let my schooling get in the way of my education".

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