Jay Leno was offering five and six-year-olds the opportunity to finish well-known (by adults) proverbs on The Tonight Show. “People who live in glass houses …” he began, and offered the microphone to a bright young fellow. The Californian youngster promptly responded with the very logical reply “die in earthquakes.” His answer changed the second half of that proverb (from “shouldn’t throw stones”) for me forever.
Most of us use quotations and proverbs, or slightly reworked versions of the originals. In fact, a lot of what we claim as quotes are actually misquotes. Marie Antoinette never said “let them eat cake,” Machiavelli didn’t say “the end justifies the means,” and Horace Greeley never made the recommendation to “go west, young man.”
Sherlock Holmes didn’t say “Elementary, my dear Watson,” in any of Conan Doyle’s stories.
No one said “Play it again, Sam” in the movie Casablanca and the closest Captain Kirk came to saying “Beam me up, Scottie” in the original Star Trek television series is “Beam us up, Mr. Scott.”
“Luke, I am your father,” from The Empire Strikes Back, topped a list of memorable movie misquotes compiled earlier this year following voting by 1,500 filmgoers. Darth Vader actually said “No, I am your father.”
How many times have you heard a co-worker say “Ours is not to reason why,” usually in reference to a decision made by management and considered stupid by staff? I wonder how many of the speakers even know that the original line is “Theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die,” from The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred Lord Tennyson.
For anyone who is interested in researching accurate quotations, whether for a specific use or just for fun, there are quotation dictionaries available to suit all needs and interests.
It’s such a pleasure to write down splendid words – almost as though one were inventing them. ~Rupert Hart-Davis