The seemingly simple task of asking ‘who said what’ has perhaps never been more difficult. In the digital age, quotations can be moved around, attributed, questioned, re-appropriated, and repeated in the blink of an eye. If someone is ‘widely quoted’ as saying something and it sounds more or less right, many people take this to be sufficient proof of the quotation’s origin. With this tacit approval, misquotations spread even further, in an ever-increasing pattern of misattribution and acceptance. With more data available than ever before (instantly available at the click of a mouse), such issues are ironically a result of more information – not less! Hesketh Pearson, author of Common Misquotations, wryly commented:
“Misquotation is, in fact, the pride and privilege of the learned. A widely-read man never quotes accurately, for the rather obvious reason that he has read too widely.”
Certain figures can also ‘attract’ quotations more than others; Abraham Lincoln, Maya Angelou, Oscar Wilde, and Groucho Marx being just some of the main victims (or victors) of misattribution. As James McNeill Whistler once amusingly wrote:
Oscar Wilde: How I wish I had said that.
Whistler: You will, Oscar, you will.
With this in mind, we thought it was a good time to test your knowledge of commonly misquoted phrases. Do you know who said what?
Feature image and quiz background image credit: Talk, chat comic cartoonby Prawny. Public domain via Pixabay.