There’s something solid and comforting about a good quotation. Authors throw them into the front of novels to give them a little more weight. Politicians use them in speeches to make themselves sound that little bit more wonderful. Then, of course, there are the thousands of people, these days, who post them on Instagram, with the apparent mission of seeding inspiration into the world (the real goal being to get more followers).
Unfortunately, as it turns out, even some of our most treasured quotes – like some of our most shared news stories – are not exactly, how to put it… real. In fact, whether it’s because they’ve been warped, misattributed or made up completely, many quotes widely in use today are not at all what they seem, according to self-proclaimed “quote investigator” and author of Hemingway Didn’t Say That, Mr Garson O’Toole. As he writes in the introduction to this tome, the phenomenon is particularly prevalent in the internet age. “Search engines contain link after link to websites with faulty information, repetitive text and incomplete data,” he says. “Moving beyond this mélange of misinformation is nearly impossible for the average web user. It’s no wonder, then, that such mistakes are perpetuated and duplicated to the extreme.”
In Hemingway Didn’t Say That, Mr O’Toole trains his analytical eye upon a series of well-loved quotations to find their true and unexpected origins. Famous names whom we discover to be not quite as pithy or witty as we thought include Ms Marilyn Monroe, Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and (probably one of the most misquoted men ever), Mr Mark Twain. As a taster of what’s in store, scroll down for our five favourite examples, and prepare to subtly rewrite that best man’s speech.