I have made it a rule that whenever I say something stupid, I immediately attribute it to Dr. Johnson, Marcus Aurelius or Dorothy Parker. –George Mikes, British author

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Fellow and female Americans: In case you’re not old enough — as I am — to remember the Father of our Country, George Birthington’s washday was February 22nd. OK, I admit that after all these years, I may have a hard time recalling names and certain words correctly, but what does it matter? As Christopher Shakespeare (or was it William Marlowe) famously wrote, a ruse by any other name would smell anyway.

Anyway, my point is that quotes may frequently get mis-attributed, but Miss Attributed couldn’t care less, so why should we? Well, I’ll tell you why — because we’re righters, that’s why, and we righters deserve credit where credit is dubious. Therefore, with the aid of my busty — I mean, trusty — aide, Miss Quotes, the objective here was to do an extensive investigation into the subjective and dig up our quota of misquotes (our quota being whenever we decided to quit) . You are now about to be the beneficiary of our research, which we bent over backwards to have ready for this post (just to make it a bit more fun, I’ll throw in a few correctly-attributed quotes; can you pick them out of the pack?):

1. “I cannot tell a lie.” –George Washington
2. “Give me liberty, or give me death.”  –Patrick Henry  
3. “The British are brave people. They can face anything except reality.” –George Mikes
4. “Anybody who hates dogs and children can’t be all bad.” –W.C. Fields
5. “Our comedies are not to be laughed at.” –Samuel Goldwyn
6. “I never said most of the things I said.” –Yogi Berra
7. “Let them eat cake.” –Marie-Antoinette
8. “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics.” –Mark Twain
9. “Elementary, my dear Watson.” –Sherlock Holmes (in the stories of A. Conan Doyle)
10. “I am the greatest!” –The Donald

Here are the misattributions:

1. The quote itself is a lie. An Anglican minister, Mason Locke, ascribed it to our first President in his pietistic biography of Washington as part of the made-up ‘Who chopped down the cherry tree’ story: “I can’t tell a lie, Pa; I did cut it with my hatchet.”
2. Possibly another biographical fiction, though not as clear-cut as the cherry tree story. Biographer Wm. Wirt based his attribution on the memory of two Henry contemporaries. The phrase resembles a passage from CATO, a 1713 play written by Joseph Addison.
4. Actually said by humor writer Leo Rosten in introducing Fields at a dinner.
5. An old Hollywood gag, not said (at least originally) by Goldwyn.
7. By all accounts, Marie-Antoinette never uttered those words. Several years before she supposedly said them, they appeared in Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s THE CONFESSIONS.
8. Although Twain used this quote in his autobiography, he credited it to Benjamin Disraeli.
9. Doyle never put those words in the great detective’s mouth in any of his four novels and 56 short stories about Holmes between 1887-1927.  It was actor Basil Rathbone, playing Holmes in the late 1930s-1940s, who spoke those words and made them famous.
10. Donald Trump may think it, but it was Muhammad Ali who said it.

As a bonus, I leave you with this quote:





I really didn’t say everything I said.  — Yogi Berra

Maybe he didn’t….but Yogi did say that he didn’t say everything he said — and it should go without saying that some say he is not the only one who didn’t say everything he said. Sad to say, no way can one say who said what was said in all cases, and always saying who said what one said is way easier said than done. Or so they say.

That said, the following is a selection of famous quotes not said (or at least not said originally) by those to whom they are attributed, along with some quotes which are correctly attributed (or so they say). Some mis-atributed quotes happened inadvertently, others deliberately; some have persisted despite attempts to set the record straight.  Can you separate the suspect ones from the correct ones?

1. Go west, young man, go west.  –Horace Greeley
2. Go West, Virginia, yes, Virginia: there is a  —Santa Claus
3. Win one for the Gipper.  –Knute Rockne
4. Win one for the Gingger.  –Newt Gingrich
5. A woman drove me to drink and I didn’t even have the decency to thank her.  –W. C. Fields
6. Forget your troubles, come on, get happy.  –Elysian Fields
7. Our comedies are not to be laughed at.  –Samuel Goldwyn
8. Our cold meds are not to be sneezed at.  –Dr. Don
9. Elementary, my dear Watson.  –Sherlock Holmes (Arthur Conan Doyle)
10. Excelente, my dear Sr. Muse.  –Ricardo Cahill (after bribe payment) 

Of the above, the following are attributed incorrectly (supposedly):

1. Greeley did write this in an 1865 editorial, but denied originating it, crediting it to John Soule’s authorship in a Terre Haute (Indiana) newspaper in 1851. Nonetheless, the Greeley attribution persists.
3. Actually, this was said by Ronald Reagan in the 1940 film “Knute Rockne – All American.”
6. Forget Ely Fields – this is the opening lyric of “Get Happy” by Harold Arlen & Ted Koehler: www.youtube.com/watch?v=VGk3tY4yP7k
7. Like many “Goldwynisms,” origin is suspect. Reported to be an old Hollywood quip pre-dating its attribution to Goldwyn.
9. Never said by Holmes in Doyle’s novels and short stories. Made famous by actor Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes in movies.

How many did you get right?
You got all of them?
Says who?