April 4, 2014

Things Jefferson/Washington/Lincoln/Henry/Tocqueville almost got around to saying.

Even if it's the kind of thing they would have said or would wish they'd said (if they'd lived to see the quotes attributed to them), you ought to endeavor — when writing a book to bolster your reputation — not to collect too many of these phony quotes.

You can quote some of these quotes some of the time and one of these quotes all of the time, but try not to quote all these quotes all the time.

ADDED: Me, I like to quote Bob Dylan — accurately! — quoting Lincoln (inaccurately (intentionally)):
Half of the people can be part right all of the time
Some of the people can be all right part of the time
But all of the people can’t be all right all of the time
I think Abraham Lincoln said that


Meade said...

“I’ll let you be in my book of phony quotations if I can be in yours”

I said that

Ann Althouse said...

"I'll let you be in my dreams if I can be in yours"

I think Barack Obama said that.

Will Cate said...

Not to be confused with Bob Dylan's 115th Dream

David-2 said...

Benjamin Franklin is another one who almost got around to saying a lot of things; so don't forget to quote him too.

Bob Ellison said...

I claim to have invented the interjection "meh" in 1983/84 with my college roommates. It was how we described an effete friend's typical response to everything. I doubt we'll get credit for it, though.

Probably difficult to monetize, too.

Anonymous said...

Belligerent Drunk Stand-up Comic says:

Abraham Lincoln, greta man, great man. You know what his last words were? "That's what I get for freeing the slaves." (sips drink) That's how it works, you know? Try to help some people and eventually bad shit happens to you. What did John Kennedy say? -- "Ask not what your country can do for you?" and -- BLAM -- your wife is on the trunk of the car trying to find where the rest of your head went. (sips drink) Don't boo, I'm not here to take away your government cheese...

You know what JFK's last words were? "Never let Teddy drive," true story, true story. ..

(takes long drink, shakes head)

And Martin Luther King Jr, he tried to help some people and look what happened to him? Seeing a theme, people? What's the lesson of Lincoln and King? Don't try to help black people, that's what I'm getting from it...C'mon, stop with the booing, it's just history folks, it's just history (sips drink). Another thing about history to remember, folks: the messenger gets shot, too...

Thank you, cowards, you've been swell....

Anonymous said...

Jefferson was pretty popular some years back for almost saying "Dissent is the highest form of patriotism." Whatever happened to that anyway?

Tank said...

If more of Lincoln's real statements were well known, we'd have to tear down his monument.

Andy Freeman said...

While Ben Franklin previously held the crown, I think that Mark Twain is currently the most commonly credited author of clever sayings that he didn't actually say/write.

I wonder who will be next.

Then again, there may not be a next, as the US hasn't had public intellectuals of that stature for decades.

jono39 said...

National Anthem for the 1970s

Anonymous said...

I often quote myself inaccurately. Sometimes out of context, too.

Bob said...

Forgive the long quote from "Master and Commander" - the officers of the ship sitting at table:
Calamy, Midshipman: Sir?
[everyone looks to Calamy as he addresses Aubrey]
Calamy, Midshipman: Excuse me, sir, but Mr. Blankeney said that you served under Lord Nelson at the Nile.
Capt. Jack Aubrey: Indeed. I was a young lieutenant, not much older than you are now. And Mr.Pullings... Mr.Pullings was a snivelling midshipman,
[Pullings laughs and smiles]
Capt. Jack Aubrey: still yearning for hearth and home.
Calamy, Midshipman: Did you meet him, sir? Can you tell me what he was like?
Capt. Jack Aubrey: I have had the honour of dining with him twice. He spoke to me on both occasions. A master tactician and a man of singular vision.
1st Lt. Tom Pullings: Right. He always said in battle... "Never mind the manoeuvres, just go straight at 'em."
Mr. Allen, Master: Some would say not a great seamen, but a great leader.
Capt. Howard, Royal Marines: He's England's only hope if old Boney intends to invade.
Mr. Allen, Master: Sir, might we press you for an anecdote?
Capt. Jack Aubrey: The first time he spoke to me... I shall never forget his words. I remember it like it was yesterday. He leaned across the table, he looked me straight in the eye, and he said "Aubrey... may I trouble you for the salt?"
[the other men roar in laughter, Aubrey tries to contain himself]
Capt. Jack Aubrey: I've always tried to say it exactly as he did ever since.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

While Ben Franklin previously held the crown [of] the most commonly credited author of clever sayings that he didn't actually say/write.

I bet that really pisses off Silence Dogood, Harry Meanwell, Alice Addertongue, Richard Saunders, and Timothy Turnstone that Franklin keeps getting credit for their work.

Austin said...

Is this what you mean Tank?

"I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races..."

-Abraham Lincoln 1858

Amexpat said...

"The Constitution is not a suicide pact" has also been falsely attributed to Lincoln.

Churchill is another figure to whom great quotes are often erroneously attributed to.

Mitch H. said...

While Ben Franklin previously held the crown, I think that Mark Twain is currently the most commonly credited author of clever sayings that he didn't actually say/write.

I wonder who will be next.

Chesterton, most likely.

peacelovewoodstock said...

Abraham Lincoln also said that if it's on the Internet it must be true.

William said...

I read the article. It was vaguely accusatory towards West. None of the mistakes seemed to be howlers. The author mentions that McCain and Obama made similar mistakes. Perhaps West put the quote in play because he heard it from them, but West is the one accused of slipshod scholarship. As John Edwards once said, there's something that doesn't smell right in Denmark.

Tank said...


1. You're not allowed to actually state that.

2. That's not the worst of it.

SJ said...


“The problem with Internet quotations is that many are not genuine.” - Abraham Lincoln


Lucien said...

But who was first to say: "As either Mark Twain or Oscar Wilde once said . . ."?

Ambrose said...

Yogi Berra had a book titled: "I really didn't say everything I said!"

Austin said...


It was Lincoln, in the fourth debate with Douglas, who said it, and not I. Also, I believe the worst was Lincoln's repeated use of the "n word" in reference to African-Americans during those debates. Imagine those quotes up on the Lincoln Memorial in D.C.

FullMoon said...

They couldn't print it if it were not true.They could be sued.
William Randolph Hearst.