March 3, 2021

Discussion: Did This Writer Really Say That?


Hello, everyone! I have been thinking about the topic I should discuss next, and I couldn't find any inspiration. Then, one evening I was mindlessly scrolling down on Facebook, when I noticed a book quote. Well, this is nothing strange for social media, although this quote clearly didn't belong to the credited writer. So, I have decided to just have fun and gather some misattributed and inaccurate book quotes that have been circulating social media. I promise to follow this up with a more fleshed out discussion post, or even a book/comic book review.

In fact, there are so many of them that I don't really know where to begin. However, I'm going to give you the quote that started it all!

🔖 Ernest Hemingway

We are all broken, that's how the light gets it. 

Have I told you before how important Leonard Cohen is for me? I think I have, when I talked about his poetry on my post on love poems. Knowing this, you can understand my annoyance and amusement, when I first saw this quote! You see, there is no way I couldn't recognize such a popular Leonard Cohen lyric as "That's how the light gets in" is. This lyric comes from the song Anthem, where the chorus goes like this:

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack, a crack in everything

That's how the light gets in

So, how come this appears with another beginning under the name of Hemingway? Well, this article on Quote Investigator has a thorough explanation on the quote. In essence, Ralph Waldo Emerson had written in 1841 "There is a crack in every thing God has made". I can clearly imagine Leonard Cohen getting inspired by this quote. I haven't dug into Hemingway's work so much to be in a position to say the same. However, there is a quote in A Farewell to Arms, where he writes "The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places".

There you have it! This is actually the only quote on this list that triggered me (but that's only because Cohen is so important to me).

🔖 Mark Twain

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.

Everyone loves a good Mark Twain quote! If you go on social media, chances are you are going to find someone quoting Twain. This writer has said so many things that it's easy to get lost, misattributed him, or just place his name on any quote, without anyone noticing. 

The above quote is one of the most popular ones that Mark Twain didn't actually say, even though he is the one that popularized it. In fact, Mark Twain himself has attributed it to Benjamin Disraeli, which was a 19th century British Prime Minister. However, on this website, you can read that the writer was probably wrong, leaving the actual origin of this quote unknown. The earliest appearance of the quote found today comes from 1892 from Arthur James Balfour.

🔖 C. S. Lewis

We read to know that we are not alone.

What a wonderful quote! As bookworms, these words speak directly to our hearts. But did C.S. Lewis really say or write them? There is no indication that the writer ever did. William O'Flaherty has done a thorough research on the work of C.S. Lewis and all of his sayings. You can check his book "The Misquotable C.S. Lewis: What He Didn’t Say, What He Actually Said, and Why It Matters", or read the analysis for the specific quote here.

What happened in this case is that this was a phrase from the 1993 film "Shadowlands" were Anthony Hopkins played C.S. Lewis. The actor speaks these words in the film, even though it is never stated that they originated from the famous writer. It's easy to understand where the mix-up happened. 

🔖 Oscar Wilde

I’m Not Young Enough To Know Everything.

If you are looking for the most quotable writer, then you probably have to pick Oscar Wilde. There are so many witty quotes from this writer, that it's easy to understand why they have spread on social media. However, this quote doesn't belong to Oscar Wilde. This article makes it clear that the phrase comes from the play “The Admirable Crichton”, by J. M. Barrie. The only Oscar Wilde quote that comes close is "The old believe everything; the middle-aged suspect everything; the young know everything".

🔖 Albert Einstein

Time Is What Keeps Everything From Happening At Once.

So, Albert Einstein isn't a writer, but I couldn't really resist! His quotes are EVERYWHERE online, so I had to check which ones are inaccurate. From all the ones you will find online, I chose this one because it is an interesting case. Einstein is famous for his relativity theory. So, why would he justify the existence of time, when he clearly proved that time is relative? 

Quote Investigator has once again provided us with a thorough research that shows us all the times that this quote has appeared anywhere. The first time was in 1919 in the short story “The Girl in the Golden Atom”, by Ray Cummings (which you can download and read here). This quote has also been attributed to Mark Twain. 

That's it for today! Let me know if you enjoyed this topic so that can I write a part 2 in the future. I had a great time researching these quotes. 

Which is your favourite misattributed/incorrect quote?