8 Things Mark Twain Didn't Really Say

A.F. Bradley, Wikipedia Commons // Public Domain
A.F. Bradley, Wikipedia Commons // Public Domain / A.F. Bradley, Wikipedia Commons // Public Domain

Mark Twain provided us with some of the best quips of all-time—but he's also one of the most misquoted people who ever lived. Here are 10 quotes The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn author likely never uttered (despite popular belief).

1. “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

This quote has also been attributed to Agatha Christie, though neither source can be verified as the author of this line.

What Mark Twain did say: “Never put off till to-morrow what you can do day after to-morrow just as well.”

2. “Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.”

What Mark Twain did say: “A successful book is not made of what is in it, but of what is left out of it.”

3. “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”

What Mark Twain did say: “I reverently believe that the Maker who made us all makes everything in New England but the weather. I don't know who makes that, but I think it must be raw apprentices in the weather-clerk's factory who experiment and learn how, in New England, for board and clothes, and then are promoted to make weather for countries that require a good article, and will take their custom elsewhere if they don't get it.”

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4. “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.”

This line was actually written by Blaise Pascal.

What Mark Twain did say: “We write frankly and fearlessly but then we ‘modify’ before we print.”

5. “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”

What Mark Twain did say: “Cold! If the thermometer had been an inch longer we'd all have frozen to death.”

6. “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

Twain himself denied inventing this quote, and claimed Benjamin Disraeli was the one who created it (though that is likely incorrect, too). It is thanks to Twain, however, that the saying became popular in the U.S.

What Mark Twain did say: “Yes, even I am dishonest. Not in many ways, but in some. Forty-one, I think it is.”

7. “It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.”

What Mark Twain did say: “[He] was endowed with a stupidity which by the least little stretch would go around the globe four times and tie.”

8. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do.”

What Mark Twain did say: “One cannot have everything the way he would like it. A man has no business to be depressed by a disappointment, anyway; he ought to make up his mind to get even.”

For more fascinating facts and stories about your favorite authors and their works, check out Mental Floss's new book, The Curious Reader: A Literary Miscellany of Novels and Novelists, out May 25!