How To: Be Misquoted
Like George Washington
"I cannot tell a lie." Except, of course, for that one. We've all heard the story about how young George Washington was bad enough to chop down a neighbor's cherry tree, but not bad (or, perhaps, smart) enough to lie about it"¦but it turns out that the story itself is a big, fat fabrication. Washington's first biographer, the questionable Anglican minister "Parson" Weems, cut the tale from whole cloth. It's the most famous story from Weem's saintly 1799 biography, conveniently published right after Washington died and could no longer defend himself.
Like Sherlock Holmes
"Elementary, my dear Watson." Famous words, but not ones Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would have recognized. Doyle never quoted his literary creation, Sherlock Holmes, as saying that famous line. Instead, it came from a series of Sherlock Holmes movies starring Basil Rathbone. Which just proves what you learned in high school English class, watching the movie isn't the same as reading the book.
Like the Bible
"Spare the rod and spoil the child." You'll be happy to know that the maxim cited by your parents right before they turned you over their knees is not Biblical in origin. In fact, its source is rather scandalous. Like a T.V. preacher caught in a seedy motel, "spare the rod" actually leapt from the brain of Samuel Butler, an English playwright who's also known for his long poem Dildoides, which holds the distinction of being the only book-length poem written about a shipment of French dildos. In the poem, the dildoides are destroyed by British customs, but not before Butler can describe them in somewhat painful detail. Painful, like your bottom after a good spanking.