9 Famous Quotes That Everyone Gets Wrong All the Time
Winning isn’t everything… except actually, it is.
Money is the root of all evil
Is keeping a fiver in your pocket inherently sinful? According to the Bible, where this oft-quoted condemnation originates, it’s not the concept of legal tender that’s evil, but the lust for money that drives people away from virtue and toward greed. The exact quote, from 1 Timothy 6:10 (King James version): “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
Winning isn’t everything
This motivational quote, wrongly attributed to Vince Lombardi, isn’t as feel-good when you hear the original version. The real quote, spoken by former UCLA Bruins football coach “Red” Sanders, was uttered to a group of students at a physical education workshop in 1950: “Men, I’ll be honest,” Sanders said. “Winning isn’t everything. [long pause]. Men, it’s the only thing!” (Take that, “trying your best” and “having a good time”!)
We’ve rounded up the most thought-provoking last words of all time.
The proof is in the pudding
Unless you’re a baroque homicide detective trying to convince your colleagues that everyone at the duke’s banquet was poisoned by the dessert chef, this saying makes no sense. The REAL, rarely quoted saying goes: “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” According to NPR, the proverb means “you had to try out food to know whether it was good.” The word pudding itself used to refer to a kind of sausage, a potentially treacherous mixture of meats.
You might want to rewrite these history lessons in your memory.
Jack of all trades, master of none
Who is this Jack, and why is he so busy? A few hundred years ago, “jack” was simply slang for a labourer—a ghost-word still seen today in phrases like “lumberjack” and “steeplejack.” A “jack of all trades” was a generalist skilled in a bit of everything, which is exactly the sort of jack you want on the job. The modern “master of none” expression takes a dim view of such jacks, but that’s because we forget there’s another line to the proverb: “A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.”
Feed a cold, starve a fever
An old wives’ tale from the 1500s states, “Fasting is a great remedy for fever.” Modern medicine begs to differ, and some suggest that the “starve a fever” quote we all know so well is actually a mis-translation of “Feed a cold, stave a fever,” meaning a well-nourished person with a cold is better able to prevent fever from setting in. A version of dubious origin that we like better: “IF you starve a cold, you’ll HAVE to feed a fever.”
It’s time to put these old wives’ tales to rest for good.
Great minds think alike
If this quote was meant in earnest, Socrates might have penned it instead of drinking the hemlock. As various books of proverbs point out, the now-ubiquitous slogan is best used sarcastically. To drive that point home is the rejoinder most of us often leave out: “Great minds think alike…and fools seldom differ.”
The productivity tip worked for Darwin, Dickens and other history-making thinkers.
When one door closes, another opens
Alternately attributed to Alexander Graham Bell and Helen Keller (though neither ever said it, to our knowledge) this motivational parable has its heart in the right place. But for all the positivity of this well-known slogan, the little-uttered second half counters with a dose of reality: “When one door closes another door opens, but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.” Keep that in mind the next time a door slams shut before you—before the next one opens, you’ll have to turn around.
Curiosity killed the cat
The earliest known version of this expression, written by Ben Jonson and popularized by his frenemy William Shakespeare, goes “Care killed the cat.” With “care” being used here to mean “worry,” the historical gist is that an anxious person (or feline) can literally worry themselves sick. It’s unclear how “care” became “curiosity” in the late 1800s (maybe it was slurred by one too many barflies after one too many pints of ale?) but it is clear that modern speakers almost always forget the rejoinder first published in 1905: “curiosity killed the cat…but satisfaction brought it back.” In other words: being nosy might get you into trouble, but learning the truth is often worth the risk.
Check out this collection of our favourite Canadian quotes.
Be the change you want to see in the world
This gorgeous quote by Gandhi is probably the most inspiring thing Gandhi never said. At least, not in those words. The guru’s original statement from which this is derived: “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him.” Sadly, that doesn’t fit on on a bumper sticker as well.
Originally published as 9 Famous Quotes That Everyone Gets Wrong All the Time on ReadersDigest.com.