6 quotes not quoted by the quoters.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Soon after the death of Osama Bin Laden, the following quote popped up all over the the internet:
I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. – Martin Luther King
This quote struck me as odd. Not because it wasn't something Martin Luther King might have said, but because it seemed like an amalgam of things Dr. King had written. So, I looked it up on Wikiquote and lo and behold, I wasn't wrong:
Mentioned in "Out of Osama's Death, a Fake Quotation Is Born" by Megan McArdle, The Atlantic (May 2011), and widely distributed on twitter as a quote of King, after the death of Osama bin Laden, the first sentence is one written by Jessica Dovey on her Facebook page, which became improperly combined by others with genuine statements of King, whom she quoted, and which occur in Strength to Love (1963), Ch. 5 : Loving your enemies, and in Where Do We Go from Here : Chaos or Community? (1967), p. 62

This is not uncommon. I have long know that 'It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.' has been misattributed to Mark Twain for over a hundred years now. The key here is that it does sound like something Twain might have said, just like the Dr. King quote. Here are six other famously used quotes that have been misattributed over the years.
  1. Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote. – Benjamin Franklin. This one is certainly on of those 'sounds like' quote, but this quote is actually unattributed, having never turned up in his lifetime. The first occurrence of this quote was in 1820, a decade after Mr. Franklin's death. As for the internets, this quote really gained steam in 1990 when Gary Strand quoted it in the Usenet group sci.environment.

    Another quote we wish Benjamin Franklin had said is, 'God made beer because he loves us and wants us to be happy.'. Sadly, he never said that either.
  2. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. – Thomas Jefferson. This is probably the most famous misquote from the founding fathers. There is no original source to attribute this to Jefferson, though John Philpot Curran said something remarkably similar:
    It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.

  3. A revolution is coming — a revolution which will be peaceful if we are wise enough; compassionate if we care enough; successful if we are fortunate enough — But a revolution which is coming whether we will it or not. We can affect its character; we cannot alter its inevitability. – John F. Kennedy. This was a quote from a Kennedy, Robert, but not John.
  4. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. – Albert Einstein, also Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain. Einstein misquotes are like Twain misquotes. There are plenty to look at. The earliest known occurrence of this quote and probable origin goes to Rita Mae Brown.
  5. If art were to redeem man, it could do so only by saving him from the seriousness of life and restoring him to an unexpected boyishness. – John Lennon. This is likely a misattribution based on a quote from John Lennon in which he was quoting Spanish philospher, José Ortega y Gasset who said:
    Were art to redeem man, it could do so only by saving him from the seriousness of life and restoring him to an unexpected boyishness.

  6. Beam me up, Scotty. - James T. Kirk. In the Original Series, Kirk never, ever said this. There are variants, and it was said in the Animated Series, but in live action TOS lore, Kirk never uttered this. Well in STIV-The Voyage Home he did say 'Scotty, beam me up', but that's not the same thing is it?

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