They Already Said That

The Guardian announces that a slew of famous one-liners -- "Beam me up, Scotty," "Elementary, my dear Watson" and the like -- are exposed as misquotations or fabrications in the new book, They Never Said That by Elizabeth Knowles (which is out this week in England but next month in America).

It must be a dry British joke. The book is actually called What They Didn't Say: A Book of Misquotations.

Less humorously: Perhaps it's because Ms. Knowles is the editor of the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations that What They Didn't Say gets this attention -- because these lines have been exposed as memory lapses or outright fabrications for years. To my mind, the best, recent source book (just came out this May) is Ralph Keyes' The Quote Verifier: Who Said What, Where and When. But revealingly, Ms. Knowles' book, as cited by the Guardian, handles a number of British sayings (King Edward VIII supposedly said about unemployment: "Something must be done") that Mr. Keyes does not.

So let's chalk this one up to the fact that "England and America are two countries separated by one language."

Which, it turns out, George Bernard Shaw never said.

October 25, 2006 10:10 AM |



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