Monday, May 30, 2011

List of misquotations Part II Politics and War

Politics and war

  • "The British are coming!" –Paul Revere [C]
    • Revere's mission depended on secrecy and the countryside was filled with British army patrols; also, most colonial residents at the time considered themselves British. The quotation is more likely based on (although not taken verbatim from) the later famous poem "Paul Revere's Ride". The alarm, if Revere had said it out loud, would most likely have been worded, "The Red-Coats are coming!" or according to Richard Holmes "The regulars are out!"
  • "The only traditions of the Royal Navy are rum, sodomy and the lash." –Winston Churchill [M]
    • Churchill's assistant, Anthony Montague-Browne later said that although Churchill had not uttered these words, he later admitted that he wished he had.[8]
  • "When I hear the word 'culture', I reach for my gun" –Hermann Göring (and others) [C]
    • It is not known whether Göring or any other Nazi leader uttered this quote. The quotation most likely originated from the 1933 play Schlageter by Nazi poet laureate Hanns Johst. The play features a student who, in thinking it would be better to fight for his country than pursue his study, declares "Wenn ich 'Kultur' höre... entsichere ich meine Browning!" (when I hear the word 'culture', I release the safety catch on my Browning [pistol]).
  • "If they have no bread, let them eat cake!" ("S'ils n'ont plus de pain, qu’ils mangent de la brioche.") –Marie Antoinette [M or A]
    • The original quote comes from Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Confessions: "I recalled the make-shift of a great princess who was told that the peasants had no bread and who replied: ‘Let them eat brioche’." ("Je me rappelai le pis-aller d’une grande princesse à qui l’on disait que les paysans n’avaient pas de pain, et qui répondit, qu’ils mangent de la brioche.") He was referring to an incident in Grenoble, 1740, ten years before Marie Antoinette was born. It has been speculated that he was actually writing of Maria Theresa of Spain or one of various other aristocrats though no evidence has ever been offered for this. In the meantime, Marie Antoinette's attribution to the quote was current in her time in antiroyalist propaganda, most likely to hasten her way to the guillotine (An Underground Education, Richard Zacks, 1997).[9][10]
  • "I cannot tell a lie. It was I who chopped down the cherry tree." –George Washington [A]
    • Washington never made this statement when his father asked who had cut down the tree. The cherry tree story was actually written in the 1800s by biographer Parson Weems and the tree was not "chopped down" in it. Nor is it true that Washington carved his false teeth from cherrywood after his father punched his teeth out.[11]
  • "The only good Indian is a dead Indian." –Philip Sheridan [M]
    • Actual quotation is said to be "The only good Indians I ever saw were dead," though Sheridan denied ever saying it.[12]
  • "Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely." –Lord Acton [C]
    • Actual quotation: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely".
  • "The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic." –Joseph Stalin [M]
    • This quotation has popularly been attributed to Stalin as early as 1958, but, at this time, there is no evidence that it is genuine.
  • "Et tu, Brute?" –Julius Caesar [C]
    • Shakespeare in his play Julius Caesar has Caesar saying these Latin words, meaning "Even you, Brutus?"; a similar quotation is mentioned by Suetonius, but in Greek ("καί σύ τέκνον?" meaning "Even you, my son?") rather than Latin. However, it is unknown whether Caesar actually uttered these words. Suetonius himself considers the quotation to have been fabricated.[13]
  • "We are going to build the Tories out of London." –Herbert Morrison [M]
    • Though widely attributed, no evidence has been found that Morrison said any such thing. The Local Government Chronicle offered a reward for anyone who could source the quotation.
  • "We are the masters now." –Hartley Shawcross [C]
    • Actual quotation: "We are the masters at the moment and shall be for some considerable time." In a 1945 debate to repeal the Conservatives' "Trade Disputes Act" of 1927 this followed a quotation from Through the Looking-Glass in which Humpty-Dumpty observed that the question of definitions of words depended upon who was master.
  • "Crisis? What Crisis?" – attributed to British Prime Minister James Callaghan [P]
    • "Crisis? What Crisis?" – was the headline in The Sun on January 11, 1979. Callaghan had been asked what his policy was in view of the 'mounting chaos' and replied "I promise you that if you look at it from outside, and perhaps you're taking rather a parochial view at the moment, I don't think that other people in the world would share the view that there is mounting chaos." The Sun may have taken the phrase from the title of an album by Supertramp released in 1975.
  • "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." –Benjamin Franklin [A]
    • A phrase commonly attributed to Franklin. This quotation is an excerpt from a letter written in 1755 from the Assembly to the Governor of Pennsylvania, and it may or may not have originated from Franklin. See Those who would give up Essential Liberty.
  • "I was recently on a tour of Latin America, and the only regret I have was that I didn't study Latin harder in school so I could converse with those people." –Dan Quayle [M]
  • "Hey Ram"Mahatma Gandhi (last words) [C]
    • Gandhi's memorial (or Samādhi) at Rāj Ghāt, New Delhi, bears the epigraph "Hē Ram", (Devanagari: हे ! राम or, He Rām), which may be translated as "Oh God". These are widely believed to be Gandhi's last words after he was shot, though the veracity of this statement has been disputed.[14]
  • "Only the dead have seen the end of war" –Plato [A]
    • Attributed to Plato by General Douglas MacArthur in his farewell address to the cadets at West Point, and recently reinforced by its use at the beginning of Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down. This quote cannot be found in any work of Plato.[15] It appears in George Santayana's 1924 Soliloquies in England.[16]
  • "First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they attack you. Then you win." [A]
    • Attributed to Gandhi with no known citation. A close variant, however: "First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you" – appeared in a 1914 US trade union address[17]
  • "The problem with the French is that they don't have a word for entrepreneur." –George W. Bush [M]
    • The source of this quote was Shirley Williams, also known as the Baroness Williams of Crosby, who claimed "my good friend Tony Blair" had recently told her directly that then President Bush had him that he had said this quote. Lloyd Grove of The Washington Post was unable to reach Baroness Williams to gain her confirmation of the tale, but he did receive a call from Alastair Campbell, Blair's director of communications and strategy. "I can tell you that the prime minister never heard George Bush say that, and he certainly never told Shirley Williams that President Bush did say it," Campbell told The Post. "If she put this in a speech, it must have been a joke."[18]


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