10 Famous Quotes That Are Misattributed

Ingrid Bergman

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Didn’t Ingrid Bergman say, “Play it again, Sam”?And surely it Vince Lombardi said, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing,” right?

Actually they didn’t. These catchphrases are some of a wide range of quotes that have been misreferenced or misquoted so many times that people take them as fact.

With help from Ralph Keyes, author of The Quote Verifier, and Louis Menand at The New Yorker, we’ve tracked down the truth behind 10 famous quotes.

Although this is typically referenced as J.P. Morgan's response to an inquiry about the price of his lavish yachts, this quote was never actually verified.

According to The Quote Verifier, after extensive research, Morgan biographer Jean Strouse found this quote to be unlikely because it does not fit Morgan's succinct language style.

However, in his research, Strouse did stumble upon Morgan's recorded response to Henry Clay Pierce, 'You have no right to own a yacht if you ask that question.'

Despite being commonly attributed to Winston Churchill, in reality, Churchill never proclaimed these words.

According to The Churchill Centre And Museum at the War Rooms London, here is what Churchill actually said in Scotland, 1908:

'What is the use of living, if it be not to strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone? How else can we put ourselves in harmonious relation with the great verities and consolations of the infinite and the eternal? And I avow my faith that we are marching towards better days. Humanity will not be cast down. We are going on swinging bravely forward along the grand high road and already behind the distant mountains is the promise of the sun.'

People tend to reference Ingrid Bergman as famously saying these words in the 1942 film Casablanca, this phrase was actually never said.

According to The New Yorker, if you watch the movie again, you'll find what she actually says is, 'Play it Sam.'

While Vince Lombardi did say this catchphrase, what is not commonly known is that the line was first said by UCLA Red Sanders in 1950.

Interestingly, the quote was also made famous after being referenced by John Wayne in the 1953 film Trouble Along The Way.

Though commonly attributed to Leo Durocher, the baseball player never actually recited this line.

In the March 2001 issue of Baseball Digest, reporters Lou Effrat from the New York Times and Frank Graham from the New York Journal-American were talking with the player in the Dodger dugout; however, Effrat recorded Durocher's words incorrectly.

According to Baseball Digest what was actually said on July 4, 1946 was, 'Take a look at number four over there,' pointing to Manager of the Giants at the time Mel Ott, 'A nicer guy never drew a breath, but where is he? In last place. Nice guys finish last.'

Lou Effrat from The New York Times had recorded Durocher as saying 'Nice guys finish eighth.'

Yet, the Quote Verifier asserts what Durocher actually said that day was 'The nice guys are all over there. In seventh place,' but reporter Graham altered his phrase to fit with his story angle and breaking headline 'Leo Doesn't Like Nice Guys.'

There's little evidence Marie Antoinette ever said this famously quoted line.

It's possible the phrase originated with Marie-Thérèse, Louis XIV wife, who he writes about in his distinguished memoir Relation d'un voyage a Bruxelles et d Coblentz, 1791.

It is also referenced in Jean-Jacques Rousseau's voluminous autobiography Confessions, in which he writes:

At length I recollected the thoughtless saying of a great princess, who, on being informed that the country people had no bread, replied, 'Then let them eat pastry!'

While many believe Sherlock Holmes first proclaimed this famous catch phrase, in reality Holmes never expressed this phrase in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's series.

The phrase actually originated in P.G. Wodehouse's Psmith Journalist, published in 1915. In Wodehouse's works Psmith says, 'Elementary my dear Watson, elementary.'

Yet, over time the phrase has been attributed to Sherlock Holmes.

Perhaps, the attribution stems from variations of the quote, which have appeared in other Arthur Conan Doyle texts, including his 1893 novel, The Crooked Man, in which the phrases 'my dear Watson' and 'elementary' are both interweaved in a dialogue sequence, yet not combined together.

Although JFK among others have attributed this famous line to Edmund Burke, surprisingly, the quote has never been verified to have originated with Burke.

According to The Quote Verifier, 'Even though no one has ever been able to confirm this attribution, or determine who actually said those words, a survey of one hundred familiar quotations by the Oxford University Press found that this admonition, usually misattributed to Burke, is the most popular one of all.'

Although this quote has been commonly attributed to Nelson Mandela's 1994 inaugural address, the Quote Verifier reveals it actually was never said by Mr. Mandela.

It originated in Marianne Williamson's 1992 novel A Return to Love.

The quote has been referenced in Invictus, Akeelah and the Bee, and Coach Carter.

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