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16 Historical Quotes Most People Tend To Get Wrong

Photo Credit: 1. Pineapples101 / MovieStillsDB 2. NASA / Wikimedia Commons 3. zs93 / MovieStillsDB
Photo Credit: 1. Pineapples101 / MovieStillsDB 2. NASA / Wikimedia Commons 3. zs93 / MovieStillsDB

There’s a quote for everything these days, and we feel clever when we’re able to spout one to others. However, we recently learned we’ve been misquoting these phrases all this time, leaving us pretty embarrassed. The following are a few of the most misquoted quotes of all time.

The Godfather

Amerigo Bonasera speaking into Don Corelone's ear
‘The Godfather’, 1972. (Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures / Barney112 via MovieStillsDB)

Is there a better film out there than Francis Coppola’s The Godfather? We don’t think so. Marlon Brando was superb as Don Corleone, and we can’t imagine anyone else playing the role.

Fans of the film are always quoting his “I wanna make him an offer he can’t refuse” line, but have you ever thought it sounded a bit off? That’s because it’s actually “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

Darth Vader reaching out to Luke Skywalker
‘Stars Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back’, 1980. (Photo Credit: Lucasfilm Ltd. / Zayne via MovieStillsDB)

This is one Star Wars fans love to hold above everyone’s heads.

“Luke, I am your father,” from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, is probably the most quoted line in all of cinema, but it’s not correct. What Darth Vader actually says is, “No, I am your father.”

Winston Churchill

Portrait of Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill, 1941. (Photo Credit: LibraryArchives via Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

Those working toward their goals know the path is paved with “blood, sweat and tears,” but did you know that’s not actually the proper quote? According to historians, Winston Churchill actually said, “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”

“Blood, sweat and tears” has a much better ring to it, in our opinion.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe wearing a suit
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, 1934. (Photo Credit: Hugo Erfurth via Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

“The devil is in the details” is actually “God is in the details.”

We’re not going to lie, we never knew architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was the author of this quote. In fact, we didn’t even know he existed until we started researching this article. But now that we have this knowledge, you can bet we’ll be sharing it.


Chief Brody holding a walkie talkie
Jaws, 1975. (Photo Credit: Universal Pictures / johnmorghen via MovieStillsDB)

Jaws is considered one of the best films of all time, and most Steven Spielberg fans have watched it. (It’s also given one too many people an irrational fear of sharks.)

Right before the shark appears behind the Orca, Chief Brody says, “You’re going to need another boat.” That’s slightly different from how most people quote the line: “We’re going to need another boat.”

Neil Armstrong

Neil Armstrong in his spacesuit
Neil Armstrong, 1969. (Photo Credit: NASA via Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

Everyone who witnessed the Apollo 11 moon landing in July 1969 remembers astronaut Neil Armstrong saying, “That’s one small step for man,” upon leaping off the lunar lander. What many might not know is that the transmission cut out slightly. What Armstrong actually said was, “That’s one small step for a man.”

William Congreve

Portrait of William Congreve
William Congreve, 1709. (Photo Credit: Godfrey Kneller via Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” is a pretty accurate saying – you don’t want to cross a woman, lest you get some serious payback. Unfortunately, that’s not what William Congreve wrote. The actual quote is, “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned / Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.”

The Wizard of Oz

Dorothy holding Toto
‘The Wizard of Oz,’ 1939. (Photo Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer / zs93 via MovieStillsDB)

The 1939 film adaption of The Wizard of Oz is a Vintage Hollywood classic. It’s filled with iconic lines, including, “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.” What would you say if we told you that you’ve been misquoting this? The sentence is actually slightly longer, as Dorothy says, “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt

Portrait of Theodore Roosevelt
President Theodore Roosevelt, 1904. (Photo Credit: Pach Bros. via Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

The inspiration for the Teddy bear often has “Walk softly, but carry a big stick” attributed to him, but this would be incorrect. The former president was much more well-spoken. What Roosevelt actually said was, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”

Now this is advice we can live by.


Portrait of Ghandi
Ghandi, 1931. (Photo Credit: Elliott & Fry via Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

One of the most inspirational quotes by a historical figure is Ghandi’s “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” However, he never said this. The actual quote is longer and phrased differently, according to the New York Times: “If we can change ourselves, the tendencies of the world would also change. 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.”

Doesn’t have quite the same effect, does it?

Field of Dreams

Ray Kinsella holding a baseball above his head
Field of Dreams, 1989. (Photo Credit: Gordon Company / Universal Pictures / mdew via MovieStillsDB)

1989’s Field of Dreams tells the tale of Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella, who builds a baseball diamond in his cornfield after hearing a voice. While many believe this mystical voice tells Kinsella that “If you build it, they will come,” it’s actually a bit more direct, saying, “If you build it, he will come,” in reference to Shoeless Joe Jackson.


Portrait of Machiavelli
Machiavelli. (Photo Credit: nickniko via Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli has many phrases attributed to him, including the often quoted, “The ends justify the means.” However, there appears to have been some sort of mistranslation, as he never actually said this. The actual quote is, “One must consider the final result.”

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Maleficent holding a goblet
‘Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs,’ 1937. (Photo Credit: Walt Disney Productions / tardis2006johnb via MovieStillsDB)

One of the most memorable movie quotes of all time comes from Disney’s Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs. Maleficent says it to the magic mirror, before poisoning Snow White with her poison apple.

The majority of fans believe she asks, “Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest of them all,” but she actually references its magical powers, saying, “Magic mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest one of all.”


Three witches standing on a hill
‘Macbeth,’ 1948. (Photo Credit: Mercury Productions / MoviePics1001 via MovieStillsDB)

Oh, Shakespeare, we love to hate him. Did anyone actually read his plays in high school, or did you use cheat notes? If you did the latter, you’re probably responsible for misquoting this famous line from Macbeth: “Double, double, toil and trouble.” Most people say “Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble” instead!

Dirty Harry

Inspector Harry Callahan holding out his gun
‘Dirty Harry,’ 1971. (Photo Credit: The Malpaso Company / Warner Bros. Pictures / Moviefan2 via MovieStillsDB)

Are you a true Clint Eastwood fan if you don’t quote his films at least five times a day? Most are familiar with the phrase “Do you feel lucky, punk?” from Dirty Harry, but what you might not be aware of is it’s a misquote. What Inspector Harry Callahan actually says is, “You’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do you, punk?”

We think we’ll stick with the misquote. It sounds a lot cooler.

Paul Revere

Paul Revere on a horse and holding out a lantern
‘Midnight Ride of Paul Revere,’ 1933. (Photo Credit: Edward Mason Eggleston via Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

We wanted to end this with a quote from the American Revolution. The majority of Americans were taught Paul Revere’s Ride, a poem by Henry Wadsworth, which details the night Revere warned about the British invasion.

More from us: 28 brilliant quotes from Muhammad Ali

While the events of that night are frequently debated, what most agree on is Revere rode through towns, yelling, “The British are coming!” If his famed ride is true, he would have actually yelled “The Regulars are coming,” based on terminology from the time.

Clare Fitzgerald

Clare Fitzgerald is a Writer and Editor with eight years of experience in the online content sphere. Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from King’s University College at Western University, her portfolio includes coverage of digital media, current affairs, history and true crime.

Among her accomplishments are being the Founder of the true crime blog, Stories of the Unsolved, which garners between 400,000 and 500,000 views annually, and a contributor for John Lordan’s Seriously Mysterious podcast. Prior to its hiatus, she also served as the Head of Content for UK YouTube publication, TenEighty Magazine.

In her spare time, Clare likes to play Pokemon GO and re-watch Heartland over and over (and over) again. She’ll also rave about her three Maltese dogs whenever she gets the chance.

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