Historic Quotes That Most People Get Wrong

One of the things people remember the most about famous figures from history or pop culture is what they said during their lifetime. Their iconic quotes are often placed in history books or online to highlight who they truly were as public figures.

However, there are quite a few quotes that have either been misinterpreted or not written as they were spoken. These can range from lines in popular movies or television shows, speeches from activists, and research done by some of the world’s top innovators. People have been getting these quotes wrong for a long time.

What Neil Armstrong Actually Said During The Moon Landing

neil armstrong in the Apollo 11 lunar module
Pool NASA/REFLEX/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Pool NASA/REFLEX/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Man first stepped on the moon on July 20, 1969. The Apollo 11 mission took many months of preparation and ended up being one of the most-watched television events in history. Neil Armstrong had to prepare what he’d say as he and Buzz Aldrin took their first steps on the moon.

Armstrong was quoted saying, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” He actually said, “That’s one small step for a man.” The “a” was not audible in his transmission and wasn’t initially reported during the live broadcast. There are some theories as to why audiences didn’t hear it such as his accent or static.

The Wizard Of Oz Fans Say This Line Wrong All The Time

wizard of oz still where the witch is melting
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

The Wizard of Oz is the most-watched film in history with numerous iconic lines that are familiar to people all over the world. When Dorothy enters the magical land of Oz she is transported a technicolor dreamland, unlike her farm in Kansas.

Many people thought her line to her dog Toto was, “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore,” when in actuality she said, “I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” She is then met by munchkins and Glinda who guide her to see the Wizard.

P.T. Barnum Never Said This

p.t. barnum wearing a suit and top hat
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

P.T. Barnum was best known for founding the Barnum & Bailey Circus. He was a showman who would have customers pay to see unique people such as Tom Thumb and Jenny Lind. His life story was turned into a major motion picture called, The Greatest Showman starring Hugh Jackman.

It was thought that he had said the iconic quote, “There’s a sucker born every minute,” while referring to tricking people to pay to see his grand hoaxes. This quote was actually never said by Barnum, rather it was one of his competitors who saw how Barnum could get lots of people to pay for cheap entertainment.

Those Who Were With Paul Revere Heard Him Say This

paul revere riding a horse through the streets of Boston
Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

One of the most notorious Patriots during the American Revolution was Paul Revere. Outside of the revolution, he was a talented silversmith who became the first American to successfully roll copper into sheets for naval vessels. His efforts at the beginning of the American Revolution were historic.

During his famous midnight ride through the streets of Boston, he was quoted saying, “The British are coming!” According to the townspeople who were there during his ride he actually said, “The regulars are out!” Revere was popularized by the poem “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1863.

This Famous Star Trek Line Was Never Used In The Show

captain kirk and scotty talking to each other
Paramount Television
Paramount Television

Star Trek has managed to be one of the most successful franchises of all time and it all started with Star Trek: The Original Series. The show aired from 1966 to 1969 and followed the adventures of a starship called the USS Enterprise as the crew navigated through space.

William Shatner’s character of Captain Kirk often needed help from a crew member named Scotty to get the starship going. This led to the much-quoted, “Beam me up, Scotty.” Shatner nor any other character ever said that line in any of the episodes.

This Casablanca Line Is Always Said Wrong

Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca
Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images
Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman starred in the quintessential ’40s movie Casablanca. Set during World War II, it tells the story of a nightclub owner who must choose between true love and doing the right thing. Those who worked on the production didn’t expect it to be anything out of the ordinary but were proven wrong after it won several Academy Awards including Best Picture.

One of Bergman’s most quoted lines is “Play it again, Sam,” but this has been misquoted. She really said, “Play it, Sam. For old times’ sake.”

Albert Einstein Didn’t Say Most Of His Famous Quotes

albert einstein sticking his tongue out
Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

Albert Einstein contributed a great deal to the scientific community during his lifetime by developing the theory of relativity, quantum mechanics, and creating the mass-energy equivalence formula. He even received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics. Surprisingly, some of his most famous quotes didn’t actually come from Einstein.

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” and “Compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe” were never spoken by Einstein. The true source for both of these quotes is still unknown. In fact, there are around 13 famous quotes attributed to him that he never said.

This Gandhi Quote Is Nothing Like What He Actually Said

gandhi laughing with his granddaughters
Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

One of the most prolific civil rights activists throughout history was Mahatma Gandhi. He led one of the most successful peaceful protests that caused India to gain independence from the British. Many decades later people look to his methods when they see injustice in the world.

He is often associated with the quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” This is just a watered-down version of what he actually said, “As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. We need not wait to see what others do.”

No One Actually Heard Marilyn Monroe Say This

marilyn monroe posing for a photo
Baron Stringer/Getty Images
Baron Stringer/Getty Images

Norma Jean Mortenson was born on June 1, 1926, and grew up in a childhood full of foster homes and orphanages. She was married by age 16 and went to work in a factory during the war efforts of World War II. She changed her name to Marilyn Monroe and worked hard to become one of Hollywood’s most recognizable actresses of the 1950s and early 1960s.

A couple of quotes including, “Well behaved women rarely make history” and ” If you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best” were never spoken by Monroe. The former was said by a Harvard Women’s and American History professor named Laurel Thatcher Ulrich.

This Shakespeare Line Gets Misinterpreted All The Time

an illustration of william shakespeare wearing an earring
Stock Montage/Getty Images
Stock Montage/Getty Images

William Shakespeare was responsible for writing some of the most famous plays in history. Most schools still teach an abundance of his work and many of his plays have also been adapted into movies, television shows, and more. One of his greatest love stories was told in Romeo and Juliet.

Although it was published in 1597, it is just as relevant now as it was back then. The line that many get wrong is Juliet’s, “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?” She is not asking where Romeo is, instead she questioned why they were sworn enemies.

You’ve Been Saying This Forrest Gump Line Wrong

tom hanks sitting on a bench in forrest gump with a suitcase and a box of chocolates
Sunset Boulevard/Getty Images
Sunset Boulevard/Getty Images

Tom Hanks has starred in countless memorable films over the course of his career, but one that will always stand out is 1994’s Forrest Gump. In the opening scene, Hanks’ character is sitting with a box of chocolates and does not say, “Life is like a box of chocolates.”

He really says, “My momma always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” The line is in the past tense because the plot goes back in time. Hanks ended up winning an Oscar for the role and he had also won the previous year for Philadelphia.

The True Origins Of A Classic Quote

Portrait of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images
Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Someone may say, “The proof is in the pudding,” if they are trying to prove that something is true. This has been shortened from the original proverb of, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” It means that in order for someone to know if the food is good they have to try it first.

Pudding is included because during the early 14th century it was a kind of sausage with an unappetizing mixture of meats. The phrase is often attributed to Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s The History of Don Quixote.

Most Sherlock Holmes Fans Didn’t Know This

sherlock holmes holding a magnifying glass at a train
Ron Case/Keystone/Getty Images
Ron Case/Keystone/Getty Images

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle came up with the characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson and wrote four novels and over 50 short stories about them. The characters were given numerous movie and television adaptations and Sherlock Homes became one of the most popular fictional detectives of all time.

Many of the adaptations have Holmes say, “Elementary, my dear Watson.” Holmes never says this in any of the books. Holmes did say the phrases “my dear Watson” and “elementary” in a short story called “The Crooked Man” in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, but they weren’t said together.

Even Disney’s Biggest Fans Get This Quote Wrong

the evil queen in snow white and the seven dwarfs looking in the mirror wearing a purple dress and crown
Walt Disney Pictures
Walt Disney Pictures

Walt Disney’s first animated feature film was 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The story revolves around a young girl who escapes from her wicked stepmother by hiding out with seven comical dwarfs. The evil queen felt threatened by Snow White because the mirror told her Snow White was “the fairest of them all.”

When the evil queen asks the mirror a question she says, “Magic mirror on the wall.” This line is usually said wrong as, “Mirror, mirror, on the wall.” There was even a 2012 film adaptation called Mirror Mirror that mistakenly got the quote wrong.

Neither One Of These Historical Figures Uttered This Quote

helen keller and alexander graham bell signing into each other's hands
Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

Alexander Graham Bell dedicated his time to help the hearing impaired, which is how he met Helen Keller. When she was six-years-old her father took her to meet with him because she was both blind and deaf and the two became life-long friends.

Both were thought to be the originators of the famous quote, “When one door closes another opens,” but there is no evidence of either of them saying it. The quote in its entirety is, “When one door closes another door opens, but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.”

Cherry Trees Are Of No Significance To George Washington

george washington color portrait
VCG Wilson/Corbis via Getty Images
VCG Wilson/Corbis via Getty Images

Most American schools will teach students about one of the country’s first Founding Fathers, George Washington. He went on to become a leader of colonial America and is known to Americans as “the father of our country.” Some may not know that one of his most famous boyhood stories was actually made up.

There was a quote that originated in an early biography on Washington that stated, “I cannot tell a lie. It was I who chopped down the cherry tree.” In reality, Washington never said this because the anecdote was made up by a biographer named Parson Weems. After an investigation, it was noted that he often made up stories when writing biographies.

Hannibal Lecter Greeted Clarice In A Much Different Way

hannibal lecter with red eyes in silence of the lambs
Orion Pictures
Orion Pictures

Jodie Foster played a young FBI agent named Clarice who sought the advice of a deranged man named Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) in The Silence of the Lambs. She does this to catch another psychopath on the loose.

A line that often gets repeated is when Hannibal Lecter says, “Hello, Clarice,” but he actually never uttered that in the movie. He actually says, “Good evening, Clarice.” The movie received five wins at the Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor for Hopkins, Best Actress for Foster, and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Don’t Seek Medical Advice From This Old Quote

a man holding a tissue box and blowing his nose
Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The first time someone likely heard the phrase, “feed a cold, starve a fever,” was sometime in the 1500s. A dictionary writer named John Withals suggested using the phrase after thinking the body needed to use up extra energy for digestion.

This was most likely lost in translation because modern medicine mentions that people should eat when they are trying to fight off sickness. The supposed original quote is, “Feed a cold, stave a fever.” This means that a well-nourished person with a cold can prevent a fever better than someone who didn’t eat.

Modern Translations Get This Shakespeare Line Wrong A Lot

ethan hawke and winona ryder talking to each other in reality bites
Jersey Films
Jersey Films

Reality Bites was a cult classic directed by Ben Stiller and starred Ethan Hawke and Winona Ryder. Critics thought the film perfectly captured the early 1990s grunge scene among young adults in America. Some of the lines in the film referenced back to notable writers.

Hawke’s line, “Now is the winter of our discontent,” was taken from William Shakespeare’s Richard III. In the movie, it is meant to be a depressing line, but that’s not what it means at all. The line from Richard III continues, “…made glorious summer by this son of York,” which means that something good has happened.

Try Not To Mix Up This Oscar Wilde Quote

oscar wilde leaning back in a chair
Universal History Archive/Getty Images
Universal History Archive/Getty Images

Oscar Wilde was one of the most successful poets and playwrights of his time and was known for works such as The Importance of Being Earnest and The Picture of Dorian Gray. Toward the end of his career, he was sent to prison, which ultimately led to his demise.

Some may associate him with the quote, “Life is far too important to be taken seriously.” This isn’t written exactly how Wilde wrote it. Instead, it should read, “Life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about it.”

Vampire Fans Have Been Misquoting Dracula Forever

Bela Lugosi dressed as Dracula
Universal Pictures/Getty Images
Universal Pictures/Getty Images

Some of the very first movies made in Hollywood were monster movies including the 1931 film Dracula. Bela Lugosi played a vampire who tried to suck the blood out of young women, which turned them into vampires. There have been numerous vampire movies, TV shows, and more that were heavily influenced by Lugosi’s Dracula.

Fans may think they heard him say, “I want to suck your blood,” but that line isn’t mentioned in the movie or in any other vampire film. It was assumed that most heard the phrase from people dressed up as Dracula for Halloween.

Leo Durocher’s Quote Gets Misinterpreted In Sports

leo durocher and babe ruth wearing yankees jackets and hats
Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

Leo Durocher, otherwise known as “Leo the Lip” and “Lippy,” was known for his work as a professional baseball player, manager, and coach. He is ranked as one of the top five managers of all time and was posthumously awarded a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994.

One of his most famous quotes was thought to be, “Nice guys finish last,” but he actually said, “All nice guys. They’ll finish last.” Durocher found out the meaning of his quote had been twisted, “I never did say that you can’t be a nice guy and win. I said that if I was playing third base and my mother rounded third with the winning run, I’d trip her up.”

Historians Can’t Prove Abraham Lincoln Said This

abraham lincoln portrait in black and white
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Abraham Lincoln played an important role in forming the United States during the days of slavery and the Civil War. Although he was met with an untimely demise, he was able to accomplish a lot more than most of the previous leaders of the United States.

Some may associate him with the quote, “Great things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.” It was never proven that Lincoln said this and the true source of this quote is still unknown.

The Line Everyone Quotes From Dirty Harry Isn’t Correct

clint eastwood wearing a brown plaid suit in dirty harry
Malpaso Productions
Malpaso Productions

Clint Eastwood played “Dirty” Harry Callahan, an inspector for the San Francisco Police Department, who must stop a notorious criminal in 1971’s Dirty Harry. The first film did so well that it led to four sequels and a spot in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

Most fans think they remember hearing Eastwood say, “Do you feel lucky, punk?” He actually yells, “You’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?” Although it’s only a minor difference in wording, it completely changes the tone of what he is saying.

Tarzan Doesn’t Talk Like That

miles o'keefe, bo derek, and a monkey in a scene from tarzan, the ape man
Orion/Getty Images
Orion/Getty Images

The character of Tarzan first appeared in a 1912 novel called Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Over a century later Tarzan has appeared in tons of movies, television shows, at least 25 sequel novels, and more. Tarzan isn’t always played the same way in each adaptation though.

Fans of the Tarzan films thought Johnny Weissmuller said, “Me Tarzan, you Jane,” in 1932’s Tarzan the Ape Man, but it was never mentioned in any of the adaptations. In the original novels, Tarzan is actually gracious and highly sophisticated, so it wouldn’t make sense for him to talk that way.

Tom Hanks Didn’t Check For Accuracy While Filming Apollo 13

tom hanks looking worried in apollo 13
Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, and more comprised the cast of Apollo 13. The film is a dramatization of what happened during the Apollo 13 lunar mission when the men aboard the spacecraft lost most of their oxygen and electricity. While director Ron Howard went to great lengths to make sure the technical aspect was accurate, there were still moments completely fictionalized for the film.

The biggest example of this is Hanks’ line as astronaut Jon Lovell, “Houston, we have a problem.” In reality, Lovell was prompted to say this by Jack R. Lousma in the NASA Mission Control Center who initially said, “Okay, Houston, we’ve had a problem here.”

Machiavelli’s Quote Was Changed To Sound More Concise

machiavelli color painting
Imagno/Getty Images
Imagno/Getty Images

Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli was around during the time of the Italian Renaissance and worked as a diplomat, philosopher, and writer. He is thought to be the originator of political science and is best known for a political treatise called The Prince.

The phrase, “The ends justify the means,” is often attributed to Machiavelli because he mentioned a similar notion in The Prince. What he actually wrote was, “One must consider the final result.” It was changed after people found that a Roman poet named Ovid wrote the former quote, which sounded catchier than the latter quote.

Star Wars Fans Are Scratching Their Heads At This One

mark hamill dressed as luke skywalker in star wars
Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images
Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

The Star Wars franchise manages to be one of the most popular movie franchises in cinematic history. Millions around the world have seen the iconic films, so it should be expected that they know at least some of the famous quotes. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back has one of the most used movie quotes of all time.

Fans might have thought they heard Darth Vader say, “Luke, I am your father.” Instead, he said, “No, I am your father,” after Luke Skywalker specifically asks him if he is his father.

This All About Eve Misquote Makes More Sense Than The Real One

anne baxter, bette davis, and marilyn monroe in all about eve
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Bette Davis had quite an extensive film career during the Golden Age of Hollywood and one of her most famous roles was in All About Eve. She played an aging Broadway actress who saw her roles given to a younger actress played by Anne Baxter. Marilyn Monroe also had one of her first acting credits in this film.

One of Davis’ most iconic lines of the movie is often misquoted, but it’s understandable because the misquote makes more sense. Most think she says, “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.” She really says, “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”

Some May Miss This Subtle Jaws Line

richard dreyfuss, roy scheider, and robert shaw on a boat in jaws
Universal Studios/Courtesy of Getty Images
Universal Studios/Courtesy of Getty Images

When Steven Spielberg made Jaws he thought it was going to be a flop, mostly because of the soundtrack. In reality, the soundtrack is what heightened the suspense of the film. This photo shows the protagonists of the film looking for the shark that’s attacking beachgoers in their summer resort town.

Fans of the movie may think they heard the police chief played by Roy Scheider say, “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.” Scheider actually said, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” It’s a really subtle difference that doesn’t change the meaning, but some have been saying it wrong for decades.