If you’re in search of inspirational quotations, the Internet is a source of infinite examples, along with infinite accompanying photos of sunrises, seascapes and rainbows. Strangely, you rarely see an inspirational message paired with a photo of a cup of coffee, which really, most of the time, is all the inspiration any of us need.
The thing about these inspirational messages is that they are often mis-attributed. For example, you’ll frequently hear people quote Gandhi as saying, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” However, there is no evidence that the father of modern India ever said this. The closest we come is Gandhi saying:
But “Be the change…” sounds like something Gandhi would say, so it continues to be perpetuated on Facebook pages, on Instagram and at high school graduations.
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
looks so much better on Tumblr than
“Mahatma Gandhi never said ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world.’”
– That Guy
But, as we all know, I am that guy.
For example, I can’t help but point out that Marilyn Monroe never said, “Well-behaved women rarely make history.” What she did say was “Well-behaved women rarely make pancakes.” This statement is not only less inspirational but kind of disappointing, especially if you’re a dude contemplating marriage.
Likewise, beloved children’s author Doctor Seuss never said, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” The actual quote is:
Often, quotations may be accurate but taken out of context. For example, how many times have we heard the following aphorism by hockey legend Wayne Gretzky: “You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.” While accurate, the full quotation goes:
Similarly, while scientist and navy rear admiral Grace Hopper did say, “The most dangerous phrase in any language is ‘We’ve always done it that way,’” what’s forgotten is that she went on to add, “with the exception of an ancient Sanskrit phrase that unleashes a plague of annihilating demons upon the Earth; that’s probably the most dangerous phrase, come to think of it.” Of course, this full quote is far too long for a Pinterest post and is therefore rarely cited.
The list goes on. Nelson Mandela never said, “You better move your car out of my parking spot or I’m calling the landlord.” Martin Luther King Jr. never uttered the phrase, “I have a nightmare that someday people of all colours will willingly sit down and watch ‘Two Broke Girls.’” King Tut never said, “Does this tomb make me look fat?” And “May the Force be with you” — never once uttered by Abraham Lincoln.
As for this deeply profound and useful quotation:
I just said that. I know: wow. Let’s hear that again: “You can remain in neutral for only so long before you run out of gas.” Words for life. Words for rush hour traffic. Words for your next Facebook post.
I bet someone attributes it to Oprah.
Originally aired on CBC Radio’s “Breakaway.”