Phrases that we’ve heard or used on a daily basis come from famous people; but they may not come from where you think they come. Here’s a little article that gives an historic overview of some famous phrases and who said them, and who didn’t!
Sarah Palin may have messed up her facts recently when she referred to Paul Revere, but it’s not unusual for many of us to think someone famous said something when in fact it wasn’t them.
For example, who said, “Go West, Young Man…” Was it a) Horace Greeley, b) Brittney Spears, or c) Mae West?
Actually, it was none of the above and the quote is an example of a number of legends that have developed around famous people and what they might have said … or not said.
Horace Greeley Didn’t Say “Go West…”
Take the above quote. Although it’s attributed most often to Horace Greeley, the editor of the New York Tribune, it was actually written by John Babsone Soule in 1851 in an article for the Terre Haute Express. Greeley merely reprinted it.
Ronald Reagan Got it Wrong
Another example of famous misquotes is “win won for the Gipper!” The quote was a favorite of President Ronald Reagan who portrayed Notre Dame football star George Gipp in the movie, “The Knute Rockne Story.” The story goes that Gipp, on his deathbed, ask Coach Rockne to “win one for the Gipper” in the ensuing football game. However, even Reagan later acknowledged that Rockne didn’t use the quote until some eight years after Gipp’s death and that Rockne, a great motivator, most likely invented the quote to inspire his team.
Yet another “Reaganism” is “there is nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse.” The phrase actually originated with several notables long before Reagan uttered them, including President Woodrow Wilson’s physician.
How about “to the victor belong the spoils.” It was long thought to have been said by President Andrew Jackson. In truth it was said New York Senator William Marcy in 1832.
John Paul Jones Fought Well, But …
Even so famous quote as “I have not yet begun to fight,” supposedly yelled by John Paul Jones when his warship engaged the British during the U.S. War of Independence, might not have been said. In Jones’ writings of the battle, he never indicated that he’d said the words. In another famous naval encounter, Captain James Lawrence allegedly said, “don’t give up the ship,” during the War of 1812. What he actually said was “tell the men to fire faster and not give up the ship; fight her till she sinks.”
War often brings out famous quotes, but those who utter them are often misquoted. Take General John Pershing who is quoted to have said, “Lafayette, we are here,” when his American Expeditionary Force landed in France during World War II. In fact, it wasn’t Pershing who said the words; it was his subordinate, Lt. Col. Charles Stanton.
“War is Hell,” But Sherman Didn’t Say It
Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman was thought to have said, “War is hell.” Sherman himself later said he couldn’t recall having said it, but suggested he might have been misquoted and probably said, “war is cruelty and you cannot refine it.”