September 20, 2008

Sarah Palin's most famous quote and the problem of a quote becoming famous in a misremembered form.

What do you think is Sarah Palin's most famous quote? My attempt to answer gets me to a quote that I know is not the real quote: "I can see Russia from my house." I know that's how Tina Fey spoofed Palin on SNL. The real quote is: "They're our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska."

So, 3 questions:

1. Do you have a better idea for Sarah Palin's most famous quote?

2. What are some other quotes that are remembered in the wrong form? I don't mean quotes attributed to the wrong person but quotes that are more often stated in a particular incorrect form.

3. Can you think of a word -- a sniglet -- to mean a misquote that becomes more of a famous quotation than the original? Something like pseudo-quote, but better.


1. Zeek says "Palin's most famous quote has to be the pit bull/lipstick joke which was riffed on by Obama and also made the SNL sketch." I agree.

2. Jason comes up with the best answer right off the bat: "I invented the Internet," making Al Gore's "I took the initiative in creating the Internet" shorter, funnier, and more damaging.

3. 2 great responses: "Malapropaganda" (from EnigmatiCore) and "substiquote" (from dcbyron).


Jason said...

The one that springs to mind immediately is "I invented the Internet," which was obviously damaging to Al Gore.

(Not as damaging to him as being Al Gore was, though.)

AllenS said...

I was going to mention this, but it wasn't misremembered, he actually said it:

"I was for it, before I was against it."

John F. Kerry

Tex said...

A “faux-quote”.

I came up with this term, and then when I Googled it I discovered others had already thought of it before me. Shucks.

The Drill SGT said...

a quote from normal speech or a line from a speech?

"I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities."

EnigmatiCore said...

"to mean a misquote that becomes more of a famous quotation than the original? Something like pseudo-quote, but better."


Larry said...

Right out of the gate it looks to me like you meant 'meme the MSM keeps parroting mindlessly', not '[her] most famous quote.

Since I neither watch TV , listen to the radio, nor read much of the newspaper, it is a game I can't play.

Brn said...

Some other examples:

Cary Grant never said "Judy, Judy, Judy"

Casablanca most famous line was "Play it Sam", not "Play it again Sam"

Dan Quayle didn't say "I wish I studied Latin" after visiting Lain America

Fred4Pres said...

I understand, given the rabid hostility of some so called journalists, why Team McCain is being cautious about letting Governor Palin face the press, but it time for a press conference (beyond interviews). I think Sarah Palin could swim better in that environment than people give her credit for. She was actually pretty good in her town hall debut last week. Some of this quote making that is going on about her is due to the vaccum being filled by dishonest pundits.

A way to do it is schedule lots more town halls and then allow the press a few questions during each of them.

Preston said...

With a nod to Tex: "fauxote"

"Play it again, Sam"

Roost on the Moon said...

For 3,

Enigmaticore's portmanteau is tough to beat.

For 2,

Je suis, Je Pense.
(I think. I am.)

became in the popular mind "I think therefore I am."

For 1,

I like "In what respect, Charlie?" Suggested usage:

Do you know what OS your computer runs?

"In what respect, Charlie?"

When was the last time you changed the oil in your car?

"In what respect, Charlie?"

AlphaLiberal said...

Game. Set. Match.

John McCain, in a recent quote:
Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation.

AlphaLiberal said...

"What are some other quotes that are remembered in the wrong form?"

Al Gore saying "I invented the internet."

He never said that. He said he "took the lead in the creation of the internet." And he was right, though it was called the "Information Superhighway" back then. Internet leaders agree.

Al Gore said...

"Oil and coal? Of course, it’s a fungible commodity and they don’t flag, you know, the molecules, where it’s going and where it’s not. But in the sense of the Congress today, they know that there are very, very hungry domestic markets that need that oil first. So, I believe that what Congress is going to do, also, is not to allow the export bans to such a degree that it’s Americans that get stuck to holding the bag without the energy source that is produced here, pumped here. It’s got to flow into our domestic markets first."--Sarah Palin

The... the other important joke, for me, is one that's usually attributed to Groucho Marx; but, I think it appears originally in Freud's "Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious," and it goes like this - I'm paraphrasing - um, "I would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member." --Woody Allen

EnigmatiCore said...

Roost, thank you time two. One, for the compliment. Two, for throwing out a word that I do not recall ever having encountered. What a great word!

Ruth Anne Adams said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Al Gore said...


Paul Zrimsek said...

Lead on, Macduff. The proof is in the pudding.

Zeb Quinn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rich Beckman said...




Bill Harshaw said...

To show my age, from the golden 50's, Charlie Wilson didn't say: "What's good for GM is good for the country".

He said something like (too lazy to lookup) "what's good for the country is good for GM, and vice versa".

The Drill SGT said...

Ruth Anne,

A fine oath, in use since 1868, one that we have both taken with respect and humility.

reader_iam said...

"Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds."

(It should be: "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.")

Also, re: "Je suis, je pense", was Descarte's true statement, and not "je pense, donc je suis"?


zeek said...

1) Palin's most famous quote has to be the pit bull/lipstick joke which was riffed on by Obama and also made the SNL sketch.

2) Al Gore suffered many in 2000, from supposedly claiming Love Story was written about him and Tipper, to claiming to have discovered Love Canal, to claiming to have invented the internet.

As far as humorous or malicious misquotes goes there's the supposed Dan Quayle quote, "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." Someone's joke which sounded so much like something he would say that many believe it to be true.

It seem the Dems are trying to "Quayle" Palin judging from the misrepresentations of what she has said, such as this remark that we're on a mission from God in Iraq, or what she meant by what she said, such as this accusation of racist code words, and outright fabrications for fun.

Seems pretty clear she wasn't mocking community organizers but the insistence from the Dems that Obama's experience doing that is equal to her experience as a mayor.

3) I was never good at making up Sniglets. How about Misquotable?

reader_iam said...

One of my favorites, of course, is the one that goes like this (with minor variance?):

"The job of the press is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable," which, of course, is not only NOT the original, actual quote, but twists the original meaning roughly 180 degrees."

I just went back and looked at what I said about that on an April 2007 Althouse thread, and here's a couple of bits lifted from those comments:

[Re:] "Comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable"

That reference is from a famous quote--"...comforts th' afflicted, afflicts th' comfortable..."--by Finley Peter Dunne, writing as "Mr. Dooley." Dunne (who died in 1936) was among the most famous journalists (columnists) of his day, which including the era of muckraking journalism. He was also a friend of Mark Twain.

His quote, which is something like a century old, was satirical--it's meaning has been twisted in modern times. In fact, he was CRITICIZING the sensationalism and so forth of his day. ..."


"The complete Dunne quote, by the way, is:

'Th newspaper does ivrything f'r us. It runs th' polis foorce an' th' banks, commands th' milishy, controls th' ligislachure, baptizes th' young, marries th' foolish, comforts th' afflicted, afflicts th' comfortable, buries th' dead an' roasts thim aftherward.' "

Larry said...

"Exact Words"

A trifecta.

Martin Gale said...

NY Daily News' Gerald Ford (mock) quote:

Ford to City, "Drop dead."

reader_iam said...

Damn, the quote lifts from those comments of mine are riddled with typos! (But I resisted the impulse to fix them before reproducing them here.) I must have been as rushed then as I am this morning and so often am when online. (And today, to top it off, I have three keys on my laptop which aren't working, including the left shift key. Since I'm a touch typist and a fast one, and I hate to hunt and peck as a consequence, this is a HUGE PAIN IN THE ASS!!!!!!!!! AAAAARRRRRRGH!

[Can you tell I've actually been working for hours this morning on documents for a client and, while they're now done, I'm well and truly aggravated as a result?]

Whew, I feel better. Thanks for listening.)

John Burgess said...

Isn't the word niche already occupied by 'Dowdification'?

Chip Ahoy said...

It's sort of like a mondegreen except it's different in that this is a contraction of what was actually said, for comedic effect, and it was hilarious. Less so when repeated by others to strike a point.

It works both ways, though. We're infrequently reminded of Gore claiming to have invented the internet, even here. But he never said that exactly. What he did say was reasonable and factual but that's been twisted by his detractors.

So I can live with people saying Palin said that. Close enough. However, if the line is ever sprung to score points, it'll be useful to keep in mind the actual quote but only for partisan polemics. It'll go something like this, "You're quoting Tina Fey, Dumbass, not Palin. Get your quotes straight or stop using them. They're making you stupid." That ought to win the admiration of my peers. Or scorn.

Chip Ahoy said...

I wish wish wish Bush said, "Ya know, the problem with France is, they don't have a word for entrepreneur," but alas, he didn't.

Lawgiver said...

Alpha says,

Al Gore saying "I invented the internet."

He never said that. He said he "took the lead in the creation of the internet."


Gore said, "During my service in the United States Congress I took the initiative in creating the Internet."

You need to get your real quotes right. Changing even one word can change the entire meaning of a sentence.

Besides, what Gore really created was man-made global warming hysteria.

Chip Ahoy said...

zeb, see urbanmyth.

dcbyron said...

It's a substiquote!

Chip Ahoy said...

Ah. I see now. You're arguing with the one gone vanished.

zeek said...

dcbyron said...
It's a substiquote!

By George, I think you've got it!

Ann Althouse said...

Alpha is making a huge show of not understanding the rules of this game.

Malapropaganda and substiquote are great!

Elliott said...

"Dark people should know better than to act guilty by running for subway trains. His death, although tragic (yet totally justified), should certainly teach people that lesson."

Stinger Assassin said...

"The office of the vice presidency is not worth a bucket of warm piss."

-John Nance Garner, 32nd VP from 33 to 40 under FDR

"Shit." or "Fuck you."

--Gen. McAuliffe, Bastogne

There is many a boy here today who looks on war as all glory, but, boys, it is all hell.


When the noted playwright George Bernard Shaw sent him two tickets to the opening night of his new play with a note that read: "Bring a friend, if you have one,"

Churchill, not to be outdone, promptly wired back: "You and your play can go fuck yourselves."

--as remembered by a certain Michael O'Donoghue in NatLamp.

Brent said...

Je suis, Je Pense.

Literally, wouldn't that translate as

I am, I think?

Anyway, Ruth Anne wins.

Chip Ahoy said...

These are all excellent suggestions. May I take them? I promise to take care of them, to use sparingly, to feed them and to change their diapers and to handle them tenderly. How about this one:

Lies, LIES LIES 1¡1!!|!one!1!

Peter V. Bella said...

Journalism is not a profession or a trade. It is a cheap catch-all for fuckoffs and misfits - a false doorway to the backside of life, a filthy piss-ridden little hole nailed off by the building inspector, but just deep enough for a wino to curl up from the sidewalk and masturbate like a chimp in a zoo-cage." – Hunter Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

James said...

I've heard - and I've never done the legwork on this (for obvious reasons)- that in the original Star Trek series, Kirk never actually said "Beam me up, Scotty". That line was never actually said until one of the later movies, long after that phrase became popular (in as much as Star Trek lines become popular).

Again, I can't vouch for the truthiness of this, but I've heard it somewhere. Perhaps a Trekkie out there can verify it.

Chip Ahoy said...

I hate it when Shakespeare is misquoted. That's near a sin. He did have a way with words, after all. To take his writing and update them with contractions as the Palin quote is contracted is a wrong that should be checked. A peve:

Gild the lily.

Shakespeare didn't say that.
See King John's second coronation.

Therefore, to be possess'd with double pomp,
To guard a title that was rich before,
To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,
To throw a perfume on the violet,
To smooth the ice, or add another hue
Unto the rainbow, or with taper-light
To seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish,
Is wasteful and ridiculous excess.

Eww, that's good. Here, let me try my hand at contraction.

To enhance the light of heaven with a candle.


Peter V. Bella said...

Like Nero during the burning of Rome, the mainstream media love to pluck their harps in the midst of impending crisis. It was only later that Nero blamed the fire on the Christians. Whom will the media decide to blame?
Washington Times Editorial

"When a naked man is chasing a woman through an alley with a butcher knife and a hard-on, I figure he isn't out collecting for the Red Cross" - Clint Eastwood as Harry Callahan.

Hypocrisy is the vaseline of political intercourse.
Billy Connolly on ABC's "Head Of the Class"

Al said...

"You like me, you really like me."

Sally Field did not say that, but that's how it's remembered.

She actually said, "I can't deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!"

William said...

One bystander heard Stanton say "Now he belongs to the angels." upon the death of Lincoln. The misquote is is so much better: "Now he belongs to the ages."

Ron said...

"Malapropaganda" is a coinage I wrote in a novel I was working on 10 years's good!

Al Gore said...

Maybe if I'd invented "substiquote" at the time instead of getting exasperated, I wouldn't have got errtributed.

I invented "errtributed".

vbspurs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
vbspurs said...

Good thread, Ann, and examples guys!

Greta Garbo: "I want to be alone."

This was such a famous line, which she was credited with uttering privately, that they actually worked it in in "Grand Hotel" for her to say.

Marie Antoinette: "Let them eat cake"

Apocryphal and mistranslated. It's more or less, let them eat pastries.

Queen Victoria: "We are not amused"

Two of Queen Victoria's granddaughters, Princess Marie Louise and Princess Alice, asked her to her face if she ever said that.

In their memoirs, one says that her grandmother said no. The other said the Queen didn't reply that she didn't, but that she suggested she had been misquoted.

Queen Victoria also never said, "Close your eyes and think of England" about sex.

Why is it, that like Palin, it is women that are more likely to be misquoted? Do people like to retool their words to be better able to fit their ideas about them?


Zachary Paul Sire said...

I always liked that Donald Rumsfeld poem:

As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don't know
We don't know.

Theo Boehm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cedarford said...

I would try and reframe it as an observation that "closeness generally brings added familiarity, and Alaska is close to many nations." (Alaska is closer to not only Russia, China, Japan, and the Koreas - it is also closer to the nations of Europe than any other US State.

I don't think the meme will last, honestly, because denying it is so is stupid. Just as it is stupid to deny the Govs of California, Texas have more familiarity "seeing Mexico" from their state than the Gov of Connecticut is likely to have familiarity with Mexicans and Mexican matters.
You go to Alaska, you will see Russian business, trade offices. Ports with Russian, Japanese, Chinese ships moored. Ethnic Russians and Russian Orthodox priests.

John Althouse Cohen said...

Palin's most famous quote: "I said thanks but no thanks to that bridge to nowhere."

allens: that is not what Kerry said. He said he "voted" for it before he voted against it. And since that was talking about two different bills, the actual substance was completely different from how people like you remembered it.

Ruth Anne Adams said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
madawaskan said...

How about-


Then there is the famous inverse of this-

John F. Kennedy-

Ich bin ein Berliner

Which meant-

I am a jelly donut.

As for Palin's famous quote or agit-quote-

I watched it with people who immediately translated it to-

"I can see Russia from my window..."

What's even worse about it is it was a Republican "talking point"...

There's footage of Cindy McCain trying to explain how MIG jets run up and down the coast of Alaska...which was suppose to prove that Palin had national security experience.

Even The National Review tried to tell them to drop it and they wouldn't.

Now they get it...

blake said...

I like "faux-quote" but it's a little bulky.

Say we shorten it to "faux-q".

A lot of times the faux-q is a correct take-away while other times it's an exaggeration, and sometimes it's just the complete opposite.

For example, nobody's going to quote what Obama actually said about the clingy, gun-totin' religious types. Nor is anyone going to bother with the correct form of "I was for it before I was against it."

Are those accurate? Exaggerations? Complete inversions?

Al Gore inventing the Internet: The truth is he was trying to take more credit for it than was actually warranted--duh, that's what politicians do--but the quoted version takes it to a ridiculous degree.

I think normally this is a benign, if lazy, tendency.

There are not-benign forces trying to reduce Palin's stance on Iraq to the Blues Brothers' "We're on a mission from God", though.

And that's a real faux-Q.

Joseph Hovsep said...

"Thanks, but no thanks" is Palin's most famous quote.

Trooper York said...

You're likeable enough Hillary, for a bitch.

The edited out the last part.

Peter V. Bella said...

Didn't Obama accuse Malapropaganda of being a major Hillary donor and supporter?

Peter V. Bella said...

Look, Al Gore gets confused about his various roles in history. What he actually said was "I am the greatest inventor since Thomas Edison." He was aghast that no one beieved him and kept refining the statement.

Jim said...

Since folks, including our hostess, seem so fond of dishonestly quoting only ABC's hack edited answer for cheap points. I'll post Palin's actual unedited answer:

GIBSON: Let me ask you about some specific national security situations.

PALIN: Sure.

GIBSON: Let’s start, because we are near Russia, let’s start with Russia and Georgia.

The administration has said we’ve got to maintain the territorial integrity of Georgia. Do you believe the United States should try to restore Georgian sovereignty over South Ossetia and Abkhazia?

PALIN: First off, we’re going to continue good relations with Saakashvili there. I was able to speak with him the other day and giving him my commitment, as John McCain’s running mate, that we will be committed to Georgia. And we’ve got to keep an eye on Russia. For Russia to have exerted such pressure in terms of invading a smaller democratic country, unprovoked, is unacceptable and we have to keep…

GIBSON: You believe unprovoked.

PALIN: I do believe unprovoked and we have got to keep our eyes on Russia, under the leadership there. I think it was unfortunate. That manifestation that we saw with that invasion of Georgia shows us some steps backwards that Russia has recently taken away from the race toward a more democratic nation with democratic ideals. That’s why we have to keep an eye on Russia.

And, Charlie, you’re in Alaska. We have that very narrow maritime border between the United States, and the 49th state, Alaska, and Russia. They are our next door neighbors.We need to have a good relationship with them. They’re very, very important to us and they are our next door neighbor.

GIBSON: What insight into Russian actions, particularly in the last couple of weeks, does the proximity of the state give you?

PALIN: They’re our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.

GIBSON: What insight does that give you into what they’re doing in Georgia?

PALIN: Well, I’m giving you that perspective of how small our world is and how important it is that we work with our allies to keep good relation with all of these countries, especially Russia. We will not repeat a Cold War. We must have good relationship with our allies, pressuring, also, helping us to remind Russia that it’s in their benefit, also, a mutually beneficial relationship for us all to be getting along.

We cannot repeat the Cold War. We are thankful that, under Reagan, we won the Cold War, without a shot fired, also. We’ve learned lessons from that in our relationship with Russia, previously the Soviet Union.

We will not repeat a Cold War. We must have good relationship with our allies, pressuring, also, helping us to remind Russia that it’s in their benefit, also, a mutually beneficial relationship for us all to be getting along.

Like the bridge for nowhere citation from the Council of Citizens Against Government Waste which completely debunks the lie that Palin didn't kill it, if we want to keep bringing up this nonsense, I'll be happy to repost the actual quote in any thread which dishonest partisan hacks want to repeat this nonsense...If you want to continue making fools of yourself for playing this game, it's your choice.

jdeeripper said...

3. Can you think of a word -- a sniglet -- to mean a misquote that becomes more of a famous quotation than the original? Something like pseudo-quote, but better.

Something like "garrote". That's not what she said that's a garrote. Or you garrotted her comment.

The second pronunciation of "garrote" sounds like "quote" and the current meaning of garrote is to execute by strangulation. So maybe garrote with the "rot" pronunciation means to strangle and garrote with the "wrote" pronunciation could mean a misquotation or the act of misquoting.

garrote vb- 1. To execute by garrote.
2. To strangle in order to rob.

Another meaning of garrote could be to misrepresent someone's words in order to rob them of their true meaning. Or the misrepresentation itself.

Q. said...

Will anyone see this down here?

"Can you think of a word...?"


(< Quasi + Quote)

vbspurs said...

You're likeable enough Hillary, for a bitch.

That's exactly how a lot of women heard it, edited out or not.

And it also accounts for a great amount of the hostility against Obama from PUMAs.

infohwyman said...

well as for the sniglet part of this post, how about the word


it has the characteristics of memory or remember, and to have a limb cut off, dismember.

And my favorite misquote is a rather obscure one from Shakespeare, in the movie The Postman, in which Costner's character performs Shakespeare, and quotes:

At least we'll die. . .with the harness off our back!

which takes on a relevant meaning to one onlooker, as one dying no longer a slave but a free man.

But the actual quote:
At least we'll die with harness on our back!

means similarly, to die with one's boots on or with his armor on...

Gr8Writer said...

Mae West's "Why don't you come up some time and see me?" is usually misquoted as "Why don't you come up and see me some time?"

Also, from the movie Casablanca, "Play it again, Sam" is actually "Play it, Sam. Play 'As Time Goes By'."