English is a fun language and it is undoubtedly tricky too. There are so many exceptions and special cases that non-native speakers would find confusing.
To make matters worse, even the quotes which we’re all familiar with are quite different. Don’t think so? Here are 12 quotes which you’ve probably been getting it wrong all this time.
1. Great minds think alike
This is actually a shortened version of a longer quote and there are actually two versions. It should be “Great minds think alike, small minds rarely differ” or “Great minds think alike, and fools seldom differ”.
2. Be the change you wish to see in the world
According to the New York Times, Gandhi himself never said this. The phrase itself is a simplified idea from his works that boils down it all down to this little quote.
What he actually said was,
“As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. We need not wait to see what others do.”
3. Curiosity killed the cat
The popular version is again abridged from a longer statement,
“Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back.”
The last half of the phrase drastically changes it because the cats get to live now.
4. Money is the root of all evil
This quote comes from the Holy Bible which suggests that money isn’t the only cause of evil. The full version is,
“The love of money is a root of all sorts of evil.”
5. Rome wasn’t built in a day
This phrase was adapted into English in the 16th century from a medieval French proverb and there are a number of different versions floating around. In addition to how we know it, there’s another one that goes,
“Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it burned in one.”
6. Well behaved women rarely make history.
It’s a well-known fact these days that Marilyn Monroe wasn’t as dumb as she came off. She was a much better actress than we give her credit for and this quote is one of many used to indicate her ‘lack’ of intelligence. However, it isn’t hers to claim.
It was actually a quote from Laurel Thatcher Ulrich who teaches on Women’s and American History at Harvard.
7. No rest for the wicked
This phrase is often used as a busy person’s excuse for staying up late. It might be true but the quote originated as a misquote from the Bible.
Isaiah 15:21 reads,
“There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.”
The idea of sleep completely changes its meaning. It’s about finding solace, not a nap.
8. Blood is thicker than water
This is another Bible verse that has been misadapted for common use. However, the real version completely changes the meaning.
The quote comes from,
“The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb.”
This actually means that blood shed in battle bonds soldiers more strongly than simple genetics. Although we commonly use it to suggest the strength of family ties, it doesn’t refer to family at all.
9. Nice guys finish last
When famous baseball athlete Leo Durocher (aka Leo the Lip), one of the great managers in history, said this, he was referring to another team. Leo actually said,
“All nice guys. They’ll finish last.”
But the meaning is totally different. He explained,
“I never did say that you can’t be a nice guy and win. I said that if I was playing third base and my mother rounded third with the winning run, I’d trip her up.”
10. Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong
There are a number of different versions of the original quote by Edward A. Murphy, the aerospace engineer who coined the phrase.
George E. Nichols claimed that Edward actually said,
“If that guy has any way of making a mistake, he will.”
But his son, Robert, remembered it as,
“If there’s more than one way to do a job, and one of those ways will result in disaster, then somebody will do it that way.”
But the popular phrasing is actually attributed to Major John Paul Stapp, a U.S. Air Force officer. John claimed,
“We do all of our work in consideration of Murphy’s Law.”
11. I invented the internet
Despite long being used to make Al Gore look like an idiot, America’s favourite tree hugger never claimed to invent the internet. Al took credit for the part he played in funding the government development that led to the flourishing of the internet, becoming the phenomenon it is today.
Al told Late Edition on CNN,
“During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet.”
12. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned
An accomplished 17th and 18th century playwright, this became William Congreve’s most famous quote. However, the actual line from his 1697 play, The Mourning Bride, goes,
“Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.”
The man certainly had a flair for the dramatic.
So, there you go. 12 quotes which we’ve all probably gotten wrong or misunderstood all this while. It is interesting to see that most of these quotes are shortened versions of the original one. But because of the limited words used, the meaning completely changes too.
Written by Nico Lang