Ten Quotes You’re Getting Wrong

 

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Curiosity killed the cat, but did it stay dead?

You think you know a saying. You’ve heard it over and over (and over), so you never questioned it. Maybe you should. It turns out that many quotes we all know by heart are incorrect. Sometimes they’re a word or two off, and sometimes they are way different.

Here’s a list of ten quotations often misquoted.

  1. “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

What Gandhi 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.” The real quote is quite different from the popular version. It’s saying that personal and social change happen together, not that personal change alone is enough.

  1. “Nice guys finish last.”

This saying has been attributed to Leo Durocher, the baseball hall of famer also known as Leo the Lip. What he really said, when referring to an opposing team, was “All nice guys. They’ll finish last.” It’s not quite as catchy, but it still gets the point across.

  1. “Curiosity killed the cat.”

The earliest known printed reference of this phrase dates to 1912 as part of a proverb printed in The Titusville Herald newspaper. It reads: “Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back.” This time, the real quotation differs drastically from the well-known version. The cat doesn’t stay dead; he comes back to life once he’s satisfied (from eating ghost mice, perhaps).

  1. “The end justifies the means.”

Do you think Niccolo Machiavelli said this? Most people do. However, it’s nowhere to be found in The Prince. The closest to this the Italian philosopher and writer got was “One must consider the final result,” which doesn’t really have the same ring to it.

  1. “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

All those high school social studies teachers have it wrong. The true quote is “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” It’s attributed to Lord John Dalberg-Acton, a famous British historian from the nineteenth century.

  1. “My country, right or wrong.”

This is only the first part of what the German revolutionary and American statesman, Carl Shurz, said in 1872. The full quote is “My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.” The correct version has the opposite idea of the slogan nationalists promote.

  1. “The British are coming!”

Nope. Paul Revere never said this on his famous horse ride. It’s believed that what he did say was “The regulars are out.” “Regulars” was what the rebels called British soldiers.

  1. “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”

While the premise of this quote may be true, it’s not what the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century playwright, William Congreve, wrote. The real line from his 1697 play, The Mourning Bride, goes like this: “Heaven has no rage, like love to hatred turned, nor hell a fury, like a woman scorned.”

  1. “Houston, we have a problem.”

This is close. But Apollo 13 astronaut Jim Lovell really said, “Houston, we’ve had a problem.”

  1. “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Similarly, Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong swore he said, “One small step for a man.” It’s just that people didn’t hear it on the transmission. Without it, the quote essentially says, “one small step for mankind, one giant leap for mankind.”

 

Does this mean you can’t use these sayings any longer? Not necessarily. But it may be prudent to note they’re variations of the true quotations. Plus, knowing the difference will make you look smart.

 

I.e. vs. e.g.

This is a drawing of an animal, i.e., a unicorn.

This is a drawing of an animal, i.e., a unicorn.

 

Latin roots
The abbreviation i.e. comes from the Latin words id est, which mean that is.

The abbreviation e.g. comes from the Latin phrase exempli gratia, which means for the sake of example.

Mnemonic device
To remember what they mean, we’re going to say i.e. equals in other words because both start with the letter I and e.g. equals example because they both start with the letter E.

i.e. = in other words
e.g. = example

Using i.e.
We use i.e. to give more information about something, to clarify, and to explain it further.

Example: Liza has only one hobby, i.e., making taxidermy unicorns.

Here we say that Liza has only one hobby, and we clarify that her one hobby is making taxidermy unicorns. We could also say that Liza has only one hobby, in other words, making taxidermy unicorns.

Example: Liza’s favorite animal is the unicorn, i.e., the mythical pony beast with a horn growing from the top of its face.

Here we use i.e. to explain what a unicorn is. We could also say that Liza’s favorite animal is the unicorn, in other words, the mythical pony beast with a horn growing from the top of its face.

Note that the explanation that comes after i.e. can be the only explanation. A unicorn is a mythical horned pony beast. It’s not both a mythical horned pony beast and a mythical horned sea creature. That’s a narwhal. And a unicorn can’t be both a unicorn and a narwhal.

Using e.g.
We use e.g. to give examples of something.

Example: Pete saw many animals at the zoo, e.g., elephants, tigers, and unicorns.

Here we use e.g. to give examples of animals at the zoo. Pete saw elephants, tigers, and unicorns at the zoo, but those weren’t the only animals he saw. We could also say Pete saw many animals at the zoo (example: elephants, tigers, and unicorns).

Example: Unicorns eat a wide variety of candy, e.g., gumdrops.

Here again we use e.g. to give an example. Gumdrops are one example of what unicorns eat, but unicorns eat more than one type of candy; the sentence says they eat a wide variety of candy.

Note that unlike with i.e., more than one explanation can come after e.g. I could have inserted lollipops, licorice, and gummy bears along with gumdrops because unicorns eat a wide variety of candy, not just gumdrops. If they only ate gumdrops, I would use i.e. instead.

 
Quiz
Insert either i.e. or e.g. in the spaces below. The answers are at the end.

1) The unicorn is skilled at hundreds of games, _______, poker, charades, and field hockey.
2) Unicorns are found in the wild in only one area, _______, the Philippines.
3) Unicorn meat is made into many dishes, _______, burgers and shish kebabs.
4) Sal the unicorn has a favorite trick, _______, blowing glitter from his horn.

 

 

 

Answers: 1) e.g. 2) i.e. 3) e.g. 4) i.e.

Imminent vs. eminent

imminent: ready to take place
eminent: standing out so as to be readily perceived or noted; conspicuous
—Merriam-Webster

Imminent usage
Imminent is an adjective that describes something (such as an event) that is going to happen soon. It can be negative or positive.

Examples:
One cannot dismiss the imminent danger of climate change.
Al has only three pieces of the jigsaw puzzle left. Completion is imminent.

Eminent usage
Eminent is an adjective that describes something (such as a person) that is famous and popular (the best in a category). It is usually positive.

Examples:
Heath is the eminent researcher in his field.
The new skyscraper has become the eminent symbol of the town.

Remember the difference
To tell imminent and eminent apart, think that imminent means immediate. (In actuality, the event imminent describes doesn’t have to happen right away, but simply soon. Still, it helps as a mnemonic.)

Quiz
Test your imminent and eminent skills with a quiz. The answers are at the end.

  1. After winning the award, Dottie was known as the _______ chef in town.
  2. Daryl’s bad test score meant failing the class was _______.
  3. The thought of the _______ glee the cookies will bring made Kevin smile.
  4. The _______ product sold the most units.

Answers: 1. eminent 2. imminent 3. imminent 4. eminent

Hair shirt

A hair shirt is as it sounds: a shirt made out of hair. Though they are rarely used today, historically people in some Christian religious orders wore them as a means of penance. The shirts were originally woven with goat hair and were worn next to the skin to keep the wearer in constant discomfort and awareness of the shirt’s presence. (The shirts evolved to contain bits of metal woven with hair. Delightful.)

Today, this item of self-torture survives in the language as a noun that means “one that irritates like a hair shirt” and as an adjective that means “austere and self-sacrificing.”

Here are some examples of hair shirt as a noun:

Uncle Harvey is such a hair shirt. I would rather drink soup from a toilet than listen to another of his “olden days” stories.

Merv thought yoga was a hair shirt until he tried it and enjoyed how limber he felt afterward.

Here are some examples of hair shirt as an adjective:

Carla felt so guilty about murdering her gardener that she chose to live a hair-shirt existence. She gave her belongings to charity and moved to the desert, where she survived by eating spiders and rats.

Getting healthy doesn’t mean living a hair-shirt lifestyle. Merv found vegetables to be delicious, and he got lots of dates from yoga class.

Courage vs. bravery

Last time we talked about the word hero—what it means and what it takes to be one. In this post, we’re discussing two words that are often connected to heroism: courage and bravery.

Today the words are used interchangeably, but a look to their history reveals an important difference.

First let’s look at current definitions.

Bravery is the “quality or state of being brave,” and Merriam-Webster, in its unabridged online version, defines brave as “resolute in facing odds; able to meet danger or endure pain or hardship without giving in to fear.” The unabridged dictionary defines courage as “mental or moral strength enabling one to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty firmly and resolutely.”

It’s worth noting that here Merriam-Webster also defines brave as “having or showing courage.”

Etymology
The current definitions are very similar. Yet, when we look at how courage and bravery came into the English language, a distinction shows.

Merriam-Webster notes that courage is linked historically to cœur, the French word for heart. Brave, on the other hand, comes from the Italian word bravo, meaning “brave, bold.” Bravo, interestingly enough, originally meant “wild, savage,” says the Online Etymology Dictionary.

Meaning
There is a quote that goes “The line between bravery and stupidity is so thin that you don’t know you’ve crossed it until you’re dead.”

That’s the main takeaway when you consider the etymology. Bravery can be the split-second decision to run into a field filled with flying arrows. Bravery can be dangerously close to stupidity, to wild and savage.

Courage, however, takes something deeper. It takes heart. Courage is donating a kidney to your sister because you love her so deeply. Courage is a doctor or a nurse choosing to work in an Ebola-stricken region because they want to relieve human suffering.

Bravery is eating an earthworm sandwich because your buddy dared you.

What do you think?
Is there a difference between courage and bravery? Or should we use them interchangeably? Let me know in the comments.