9 Famous Quotes That Are Just Plain Wrong

Just because something rolls off the tongue in a way that gives a clever and vaguely inspirational first impression doesn't mean it's accurate.
Publish date:
October 24, 2014
movies, books, reading, inspirational quotes, quotes

When I was a teenager, my mother gave me a book her father had given to her when she was a teenager: a hardcover collection of quotes. I loved this book. I'd spend hours browsing it and writing down my favorites in a notebook. Any time I felt an overwhelming emotion of some sort -- which was often, because I was a high school student on Prozac -- I would flip to the most relevant topic and read what wise, dead people had to say about it to help ease my mind.

With my love of words and my lack of religion, I studied and believed these quotes as if they were passages in a bible. I never questioned them.

I should've questioned them.

When the Internet came along and started ruining quotes with rampant misattributions and manipulative sunset backdrops, I realized that a lot of the most famous and popular quotes are really freakin' stupid. People started sharing quotes on social media all willy-nilly, with no regard for proper credit (Marilyn Monroe never said half of what Pinterest wants you to believe she said) or, arguably worse (and what I'm griping about here), no regard for whether or not the quote even deserves to be quoted.

Just because something rolls off the tongue in a way that gives a clever and vaguely inspirational first impression doesn't mean it's accurate. In fact, some really intelligent people have said some really nonsensical shit. Just look back through my articles if you want proof of that.

Here are some of the most popular quotes that make me want to rip my hair out and that of whomever cites them.

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind.”

Spoken by either Sir Mark Young or Bernard Baruch, depending on which historian you ask -- or Dr. Seuss, if you ask someone who insists on being wrong -- I heartily agree with the message of this quote and really, really want it to be true. BE YOU! SAY YOU STUFF! But your employer matters quite a bit when it comes to your livelihood, and depending on the type of job you have, you may not want to be your most uncensored self around your boss.

“It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool than to talk and remove all doubt of it.”

OK, I'm about to contradict myself, but WTF, Maurice Switzer?! I mean, sure, if you don't know what the hell you're talking about, maybe refrain from offering your two cents; but in general -- and outside situations that could lead to your firing (see previous paragraph) -- shouldn't people feel free to speak their minds without the fear of judgment?

“If you go home with somebody, and they don't have books, don't fuck 'em!”

This is one of most famous sentences John Waters has ever said, and I get it. Well-read-ness is sexy (says the person who just typed "well-read-ness"). But in the age of the Kindle, an empty bookshelf is no longer a sign of illiteracy, making this quote obsolete.

And even if it weren't antiquated, don't the not-so-bookish deserve a good lay, too? (At least some of them?)

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.”

When I was a 21-year-old unpaid intern, I considered getting a job as a Hooters waitress. I assure you, George Eliot, it's too late, and it's only getting too later.

"My mama always said, life was like a box of chocolates: you never know what you're gonna get."

Don't boxes of chocolate come with chocolate-decrypting guides? Maybe Winston Groom felt Forrest Gump's mom said that before it was common practice, but this metaphor just doesn't hold up.

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”

This Haruki Murakami quote really gets my goat. It implies that people's ideas come only from the books they read and not from self-reflection and a variety of life experiences, which can include but are definitely not limited to reading. It's a very self-important thing for an author to say, don't you think?

"Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars."

This quote is usually attributed to Les Brown, but if I were him, I'd try to distance myself from it. Whoever said it is essentially admitting they don't understand basic astronomy.

"When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it."

What the hell is this, the cry of the entitled? Last I checked, when I want something, the universe doesn't give a shit. People may feel warm and fuzzy reading Paulo Coelho's words, but this is a serious case of magical thinking. You can't just wish on a star for sweet wood-paneled PT Cruiser and sit back and wait for the cosmos to put it in your driveway with a bow on top. (I know -- I've tried.)

And besides, even if there were some mystical force working in your favor to get you what you want, it's definitely not all the universe that's conspiring to help you achieve it. There are assholes that want you to not get the things you want just because you want them.

"You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow."

Lauren Bacall sounded super-sexy when she said that line in "To Have and Have Not," but pretend, for a second, that you're Steve. Put your lips together, like she says. No, don't purse them. Put them together. Now blow.

You can't tell me you didn't just make a fart sound.

Which well-known quotes annoy you to bits? Have you ever gotten in an argument with someone over a stupid quote? I haven't, but I kind of want to.