Historical Misquotes

Try to name the people who are incorrectly given credit for these famous quotes.
Either they never said it, someone else said it first, or they were misquoted
Quiz by Quizmaster
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Last updated: November 15, 2021
First submittedAugust 26, 2012
Times taken21,001
Rating4.37
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Quote
Nationality
Person
Let them eat cake
French
Marie Antoinette
I invented the internet
American
Al Gore
The price of liberty is eternal vigilance
American
Thomas Jefferson
I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death
your right to say it
French
Voltaire
The only traditions of the Royal Navy are rum, sodomy, and the lash
English
Winston Churchill
I cannot tell a lie
American
George Washington
Anything that can go wrong, will
American
Edward Murphy
The ends justify the means
Italian
Niccolo Machiavelli
The British are coming! The British are coming!
American
Paul Revere
Et tu, Brute?
Roman
Julius Caesar
I am a jelly doughnut
American
John F. Kennedy
Religion is the opiate of the masses
German
Karl Marx
You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people
all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time
American
Abraham Lincoln
Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch
American
Ben Franklin
Elementary, my dear Watson
British
Arthur Conan Doyle
The Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton
Anglo-Irish
Duke of Wellington
Golf is a good walk spoiled
American
Mark Twain
There's a sucker born every minute
American
P.T. Barnum
An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind
Indian
Mahatma Gandhi
I can see Russia from my house
American
Sarah Palin
+4
Level 80
Nov 11, 2012
There really was a Murphy?!?
+1
Level 59
May 24, 2015
I'm more surprised it wasn't Murphy who said that exact quote first. Good quiz!
+1
Level 91
Nov 17, 2021
I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure he didn't actually say it at all. He was known by his coworkers as extremely pessimistic and they "created" Murphy's law to reflect this.
+1
Level 56
Nov 22, 2021
Yes, my father worked with him and he did say that.
+1
Level 32
Nov 11, 2012
Uhm... is there also a source? This would really interest me.
+1
Level 17
Nov 11, 2012
Agreed. Arent some of these true?
+5
Level ∞
Apr 24, 2015
The source is Wikiquote. None of these are valid quotes. Either they never said it, someone else said it first, or they were misquoted
+4
Level 81
Nov 15, 2021
Or paraphrased. For instance, the Voltaire "quote" was Evelyn Beatrice Hall's summation of Voltaire's position on free speech.
+1
Level 77
Nov 16, 2021
I have never heard the "four wolves and a lamb" quote attributed to Franklin. My understanding was that it came from Ambrose Bierce when he wrote "the Devil's Dictionary".
+2
Level 50
Nov 11, 2012
Kennedy DID say I am a jelly doughnut. He misspoke the German. He said, "Ich bin ein Berliner." which does mean I am a jelly doughnut (a berliner is a jelly doughnut). He should have said, "Ich bin Berliner." One little word changes the whole meaning.
+13
Level ∞
Nov 12, 2012
I have a feeling you would do well on our April Fools Quiz.
+6
Level 63
Nov 13, 2012
I love how so many people just "Know" something. Before you make a statement like this as fact, you really need to do your research, so as not to look like a fool.
+1
Level 50
Jan 9, 2013
I have heard the audio. Habt ihr?
+2
Level 37
Jun 15, 2018
^ Nein. Maar ik begrijp wat hij bedoelde.
+3
Level 50
Jan 9, 2013
Here's the link. http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/jfkberliner.html. Learn the German, please or stop ridiculing those of us who "KNOW".
+10
Level 90
Oct 7, 2013
Another misquote seems relevant: It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt. Snopes
+10
Level 80
Feb 20, 2021
I don't know where you learned German, but as a native speaker I can assure you it doesn't matter if he says "ein" or not, both versions mean the same
+2
Level 64
Nov 16, 2021
Agreed. The way he said it was perfectly fine. Did Google translator create that misquote? :D
+44
Level 71
Aug 2, 2018
This is not the case. "Ich bin ein Berliner" meant exactly what he intended: "I am metaphorically a Berliner," or "I am one of you." Had he said "Ich bin Berliner," that would have been him saying that he was literally, actually a person from Berlin.

Now, the "jelly doughnut" that the urban legend refers to is a Berliner Pfannkuchen, often shortened to just "Berliner" outside of Berlin. In Berlin itself, however, they are simply called "Pfannkuchen." So the audience Kennedy was speaking to wouldn't have called one "ein Berliner" anyway.

Lastly, even if there had been the slight possibility of confusion, the audience would've easily known from context what he was saying. If a German politician came over to NYC and said "I am a New Yorker," you wouldn't think they meant "I am an issue of a magazine," would you?

+2
Level 53
Nov 22, 2021
This reminds me of the reports that Iran renamed Danish pastries as "Roses of the Prophet Muhammad" after a Danish magazine published cartoons depicting Muhammad. We would never indulge in this sort of political warfare over the name of a foodstuff--did anyone see my Freedom Fries?
+1
Level 57
Nov 22, 2021
Since is even more funny since French Fries are actually from Belgium. As far as I know, American Solders stationed there during the WWI liked the fries and heard the people speaking French, thus assuming they were in France. And the government of Belgium, unlike that of France, never strongly opposed the Iraq War.
+1
Level 44
Mar 17, 2013
Really, for "The British are coming!" he was both misquoted and someone else said it first. A) there were quite a few other runners yelling that, B) they would have said "The redcoats are coming!" since many of the Americans still considered themselves British.
+1
Level 48
Jul 9, 2014
Actually, they would have said, "The Regulars are coming," because that's the term for full-time members of the British military. "Redcoats" is much more of a slang term. Look at contemporary accounts and the majority of the time they are called the Regulars.
+1
Level 71
Feb 3, 2015
The truth is that Paul Revere never finished that ride that come to be named after him. Paul Revere was stopped by a British patrol on his way to Concord. He never made it!

Revere didn't escape until much later, and without his horse. He walked back to Lexington and made it there in time to witness part of the battle on Lexington Green.

Dr. Samuel Prescott reached Concord, where he delivered the warning, "The British are Coming!"

+1
Level 49
Aug 3, 2020
I heard (on a guided tour of Boston, so a very authoritative source) that no-one did anything of the kind, as about half of Americans at the time supported British rule. The word would have been passed on quietly by slipping into people's houses and so on.
+2
Level 85
Jul 3, 2018
Thank Longfellow's poem for this.
+1
Level 73
Jul 3, 2014
I would suggest adding "The Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton," one of many misquotes attributed to Wellington.
+1
Level ∞
Apr 24, 2015
Added that one :)
+6
Level 48
Jul 9, 2014
I like that I can just start typing "Churchill", "Lincoln", "Washington", and "Franklin" without having to look at what the quotes are. It's funny how readily people attribute any pithy quote to one of those small handful of men.
+1
Level 83
May 24, 2015
Al Gore also did, in fact, say "I invented the Internet." However, he said it after people had started misquoting what he originally said, and he said it as a joke.
+1
Level 81
May 24, 2015
Didn't he say "I took the initiative in creating the Internet"?
+1
Level 83
May 24, 2015
Something like that, yes. Then people began misquoting him, saying that he said "I invented the Internet." It became a huge joke and people would mock him for it. And at that point, playing along, he actually did say it. He was joking. But the words did come out of his mouth. I've got the audio file around here somewhere...
+5
Level 80
Jun 2, 2016
Al Gore said that he led the legislation in the 1980's to fund expansion of ARAPNET when he was a member of congress, which is true. Rush Limbaugh made a joke about it, exaggerating what Gore said. Something to the effect of, "Now Al Gore is claiming he invented the internet." Then when his "dittoheads" started repeating his joke as a quote, he never offered a correction, but started repeating it, and it became urban myth. Then Al Gore repeated it, in jest, and video/text of that is what has been passed around on the internet.
+1
Level 71
Nov 15, 2021
Yes, his actual quote was: “During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country’s economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system.” That is not quite "I invented the internet," but it is pretty close. A politician exaggerating his accomplishments for personal aggrandizement hardly seems shocking.
+2
Level 63
May 24, 2015
The only one that I knew was a misquote before taking this quiz was Paul Revere's.
+1
Level 61
May 26, 2015
I never knew anyone thought Vonnegut gave the "sunscreen" speech. I kept trying Baz Luhrmann, who'd made a song version of that speech but 1) wasn't the original author and 2) wasn't the one who actually spoke the words on the track.
+1
Level 52
May 27, 2015
One of the most repeated misquotes ever: "If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it, and you will even come to believe it yourself." --Joseph Goebbles (http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Joseph_Goebbels#Misattributed)
+3
Level 83
May 29, 2015
If you misquote someone often enough, does that mean they actually said it?
+1
Level 65
Aug 4, 2017
Churchill also never said 'We shall fight them on the beaches', only 'We shall fight on the beaches' (I think)
+2
Level 82
Sep 16, 2017
If Kennedy had wanted to communicate to Germans that he was a jelly doughnut, what words would he have uttered?
+6
Level 71
Aug 2, 2018
If he were making the speech in Berlin, as he did his actual speech, and he were referring to the specific type of "jelly doughnut" that the urban legend is talking about, then he would have said "Ich bin ein Pfannkuchen."

Outside of Berlin, though, "Pfannkuchen" simply means "pancakes," and the doughnuts are known as "Berliner Pfannkuchen," or "Berliner" for short. So he could technically have said "Ich bin ein Berliner," but it would have had to be very clear from the context that he wasn't saying "I am a person from Berlin." The safer bet would have been to say "Ich bin ein Berliner Pfannkuchen."

+5
Level 79
Dec 6, 2019
Marx's actual quotation is pretty close.

" Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people." - From "A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right", 1843

+5
Level 53
Nov 22, 2021
Agreed--the most you can say is that the so-called misattributed quotation is an imprecise translation of "Sie ist das Opium des Volkes," which could be translated as "masses." Google Translate lists "masses" as a rare, but nonetheless occasional translation for "Volk." This just doesn't belong in this otherwise fine quiz.
+4
Level 57
Aug 19, 2020
I am a jelly donut
+3
Level 71
Apr 22, 2021
Sweet!
+1
Level 65
Jun 27, 2021
I put Bob Marley for #14
+2
Level 85
Nov 15, 2021
Hysterical misquotes for the next quiz.
+2
Level 75
Nov 15, 2021
Arthur Conan Doyle, born in Scotland and with an Irish mother - not exactly English then.
+1
Level 79
Nov 15, 2021
Is England now a recognized country on JetPunk?
+1
Level 81
Nov 15, 2021
Roight! Change all those "English" to Bri-ish on the double!
+1
Level 64
Nov 16, 2021
Where does it say England is a country?
+1
Level 80
Nov 16, 2021
The current status of England isn't relevant to whether historical figures were English. However, it's not correct to describe Arthur Conan Doyle (born in Scotland of Irish ancestry) or the Duke of Wellington (born in Ireland of Anglo-Irish ancestry) as English.
+3
Level ∞
Nov 16, 2021
Fixed
+1
Level 75
Nov 27, 2021
Although (confusingly and/or fittingly) one other quote apparently misattributed to Wellington was "being born in a stable does not make a man a horse".

If we're just basing this on place of birth, can the U.S. take Boris Johnson back please?

+1
Level 72
Nov 15, 2021
Sarah Palin never said I can see russia from my house. That line came from asaturday night live skit. What Palin actually said was..... "They’re our next-door neighbors, and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska”:
+4
Level 85
Nov 17, 2021
Uhhh, yes we know. You did read the title of the quiz, right?
+2
Level 71
Nov 22, 2021
It's good that you pointed out that one, single misquote on this "Historical Misquotes" quiz.
+1
Level 68
Nov 16, 2021
"One death is a tragedy, one million deaths is a statistic." - Joseph Stalin, apparently

There are some pretty great quotes out there and all but certain people really get mystified to the next level. You'd think Churchill, Washington, etc. were too busy churning out bits of wisdom that look pretty on a page to run a state.

+4
Level 64
Nov 16, 2021
My favorite misquote (if you can call it that): Don't believe everything you read on the internet - Abraham Lincoln. There's a bunch of internet quotes with Lincoln but that one just sums it up perfectly.
+1
Level 74
Nov 18, 2021
He really was a visionary.
+2
Level 33
Nov 22, 2021
How about the quote attributed to Mariah Carey about crying, starving kids, and flies?

You could argue that that "quote" did more to destroy her reputation than Glitter. Then again, the fact that it seemed so plausible that she actually said it speaks volumes about the public perception of her.

+1
Level 56
Nov 22, 2021
I believe Voltaire's actual quote is "I will defend to the death your right to make a fool of yourself," another reason why Voltaire is dope
+2
Level 70
Nov 22, 2021
11/20 are Americans. Nope, no bias to be seen here, none at all.
+2
Level 57
Nov 22, 2021
Not this again
+2
Level 61
Nov 22, 2021
So what?
+4
Level 45
Nov 22, 2021
Try contribute something to the world if you want to have an impact on it
+1
Level 61
Nov 22, 2021
It's unknown whether or not Caesar said "Et tu, Brute" or something to that effect. Similar quotes were recorded by Roman historians but years after the fact.
+3
Level 32
Nov 22, 2021
Marie Antoinette was Austrian, not French. She was born in Vienna, a daughter of the Hapsburg Empress Maria Theresa.
+1
Level 20
Nov 22, 2021
Wait, it wasn't Tina Fey to say that she can see Russia from her house??
+2
Level 71
Nov 22, 2021
Tina Fey is the one who actually said it while playing Palin in an SNL sketch, but afterwards people incorrectly attributed it to Palin herself, which is what makes it a misquote suitable for this quiz.
+1
Level 39
Nov 22, 2021
As a History major, I accidentally muttered “ew” aloud when I read the Paul Revere quote. Oh the pain!