‘It’s a good idea to make sure a quote has a legitimate source before using it,’ said George Washington, while crossing the Delaware on a jet ski. His passenger, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, nodded in agreement: ‘Elementary, my dear Washington.’
Ridiculous, isn’t it? Though perhaps not on this scale, misattribution invades your social networking feeds on an almost daily basis. Here are a few popular examples:
‘Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.’
Popularly Attributed to Dr. Seuss, the children’s book author, this one was actually said by Bernard Baruch, a stock broker. He went on to become the US presidential economic advisor from 1917 till 1946, but was also well known for having a way with words.
Our quote in question comes from a conversation between Baruch and gossip columnist Igor Cassini. When asked about how he handled seating arrangements for important events, Baruch answered with ‘I never bother about that. Those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter.’
‘I’d rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not.’
Mistakenly attributed to both Marilyn Monroe and Kurt Cobain. Though it was Cobain who coined these words in his suicide note, he was paraphrasing André Gide. Gide, winner of the 1947 Nobel Prize in Literature, used the phrase: ‘It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for something you are not.’ It can be found in Autumn Leaves, a collection of his memoirs and reflective essays that was originally published in 1950.
‘The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.’
This one is a little tricky. It’s been attributed to Benjamin Franklin, Confucius, Mark Twain and most commonly, Einstein. There’s a pretty good chance, however, that it was none of the above. It appeared for the first time, in the approval version of Narcotics Anonymous (1981), a text which outlines the basics of the Narcotics Anonymous program. The precise wording was: ‘Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.’ In the context of the paragraph we find it in, “insanity” refers to addiction – repeated use of narcotics even though the addict is well aware of the consequences.
‘You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.’
Usually assigned to Winston Churchill, but this quotation originates in 1845, nearly 30 years before he was born. French author Victor Hugo, best known for Les Misérables, expressed this sentiment in a conversation with politician and writer Abel-François Villemain. The wording from the essay Villemain, an account by Hugo of their conversation, is as follows:
‘You have enemies? Why, it is the story of every man who has done a great deed or created a new idea. It is the cloud which thunders around everything that shines. Fame must have enemies, as light must have gnats. Do not bother yourself about it; disdain. Keep your mind serene as you keep your life clear.’