Chances are, you've used these quotes. We've all used them-- some quotes are just perfect to enter the collective conscious and almost become their very own idioms. But some of the quotes we've been saying all along are not quite right... in fact, some are just dead wrong. Here are the top 7 quotes you've been saying wrong your whole life.
“There's a Sucker Born Every Minute”
We attribute this quote to famed circus ringleader P.T. Barnum. It's easy to picture him chomping a cigar and counting the bills he'd suckered from a public wanting to believe in a certain kind of magic.
The true story is a bit more interesting. In 1869, David Hannum, a rival showman, was exhibiting an enormous statue, supposedly of a "petrified man," that had captivated public attention. Barnum offered to buy the giant, which was itself a hoax, from Hannum at a price twice what it was worth, but Hannum refused. Undeterred, Barnum built his own replica giant, complete with a shady backstory and myths of dubious origin. Hannum, deflated by Barnum's antics (and his own lost ticket sales), was said to have uttered this famous line at Barnum and his crowds.
“Let Them Eat Cake”
In just four words, this quote summarizes everything you need to know about how callously out of touch Marie Antoinette, Dauphine of France, was with her own starving people.
Her head rolled for that one, but she never actually said it. According to biographer Lady Antonia Fraser, the original line, "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche," was said by Marie-Therese, wife of Louis XIV.
“Nice guys finish last.”
This line, most often employed in the defense of some truly egregious behavior, is most commonly attributed to Leo Durocher, infielder, shortstop and manager for the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers. Although Durocher begrudgingly accepted the line and used it to title his autobiography, he maintains that he never uttered the phrase himself.
The rumor stems from the New York Times headline on July 7, 1946, reading, "Leo Doesn't Like Nice Guys." Durocher was managing the Brooklyn Dodgers and throwing some choice words about his home state's New York Giants when Frank Graham, sports writer for the New York Times, admonished Durocher, asking rhetorically, "Why don't you be a nice guy for a change?"
According to Graham's coverage, Durocher replied: “Nice guys! Look over there. Do you know a nicer guy than Mel Ott? Or any of the other Giants? Why, they’re the nicest guys in the world! And where are they? In seventh place! Nice guys! I’m not a nice guy – and I’m in first place.” After pacing up and down the visitors’ dugout, the Dodger manager waved a hand toward the Giants’ dugout and repeated, “The nice guys are all over there, in seventh place.” When Graham's column was reprinted in Baseball Digest, it was edited to read "last place" instead of "seventh place." And with that, the idiom was born.
“Everything That Will Be Invented, Has Been Invented.”
Sometimes a quote just gets it so outrageously wrong, such as with this cynical line, attributed to Charles Duel, commissioner of the United States Patent and Trademark Office and later, US federal judge. The origins of the misquote are a little murky. It's most likely traced to a 1981 book called "The Book of Facts and Fallacies." But as to where the authors got their misinformation from, the leading theory is that it stems from an 1899 edition of Punch Magazine.
According to researcher Dennis Crouch: "In that edition, the comedy magazine offered a look at the 'coming century.' In colloquy, a genius asked 'isn't there a clerk who can examine patents?' A boy replied 'Quite unnecessary, Sir. Everything that can be invented has been invented.'"
“I Only Regret That I Have But One Life to Lose For My Country”
As one of America's first spies, Nathan Hale was captured by the British and hanged for his participation in the American Revolutionary War. According to legend, these were his final words before execution. The patriotic sentiment is there, but the quote itself is not actually Hale's. According to British officers, Nathan Hale was highly composed during his final hours. His bravery and unwillingness to betray any revolutionary information to the British made him an American hero and at least two ballads have attempted to preserve Hale's final speech.
There is, however, a passage from Joseph Addison's play, "Cato", containing the line. The play was popular with early American patriots, so it's likely Hale would have known it and quite possible he recited at some point:
"How beautiful is death, when earn'd by virtue!
Who would not be that youth? What pity is it
That we can die but once to serve our country."
“The Death of One Man is a Tragedy, The Death of Millions is a Statistic.”
You can't blame anyone for believing that the Soviet dictator responsible for the death of as many as 43 million people would have quoted this line, reportedly to U.S. ambassador Averill Harriman.
However, that the line ever crossed Stalin's lips is unconfirmed. Anyway, he would have been quoting an essay on French humor by German satirist, Kurt Tucholsky. In it, Tucholsky's fictitious French diplomat speaks smugly to the horrors of war: "I cannot find it to be so bad! The death of one man: this is a catastrophe. Hundreds of thousands of deaths: that is a statistic!"
“Elementary, My Dear Watson!”
This most famous quote perfectly encapsulates the brilliant deductive reasoning for which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's detective was so famous. And if you put Sherlock himself on the case, he'd look over each of Doyle's works and turn up not a trace of the line. However, using his keen sense of logic, he'd crack the case: the line comes from a 1929 movie.