Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Misattributed quotations plague us ever

"They Never Said That" by Carl M. Cannon, in the Readers' Digest, attempts to straighten out some of the popular favorites, starting with a candidate who still does not care about the facts:

The misstep was probably inevitable, given the many compari­sons made between Barack Obama and Abraham Lincoln. With seven weeks to go in Obama's presidential campaign, the young candidate from Illinois inadvertently committed one of the most common sins in American politics—he used a phony Lincoln quote.

"Abraham Lincoln once said to one of his opponents," then-senator Obama asserted, "'If you stop telling lies about me, I'll start telling truth about you.'"

William Randolph Hearst, who ran for governor of New York in 1906, also liked that line. But it was Republican senator Chauncey Depew, another prominent New Yorker, who is actually the first person known to employ a version of the phrase to bash his opponents back in the 19th century.
I was surprised to learn that the Ben Franklin line, "Beer is proof that God loves us, and wants us to be happy," was originally about wine, and in French at that.

More on this: Quote ... Misquote by Fred R. Shapiro at the NY Times.

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