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They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, and Misleading Attributions [Paperback]

by Paul F. Boller, John George
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 14, 1990 0195064690 978-0195064698
Abraham Lincoln never said, "You cannot fool all the people all the time." Thomas Jefferson never said, "That government is best which governs least." And Horace Greeley never said, "Go west, young man." In They Never Said It, Paul F. Boller, Jr. and John George examine hundreds of misquotations, incorrect attributions, and blatant fabrications, outlining the origins of the quotes and revealing why we should consign them to the historical trashcan.
Many of the misquotes are quite harmless. Some are inadvertent misquotes that have become popular (Shakespeare actually said, "The best part of valor is discretion"), others, the inventions of reporters embellishing a story (Franklin Roosevelt never opened a speech to a DAR group with the salutation, "My fellow immigrants"). But some of the quotes, such as Charles Darwin's supposed deathbed recantation of evolution, falsify the historical record with their blatant dishonesty. And other chillingly vicious ones, filled with virulent racial and religious prejudices, completely distort the views of the person supposedly quoted and spread distrust and hatred among the gullible. These include the forged remarks attributed to Benjamin Franklin that Jews should be excluded from America and the fabricated condemnation of Catholics attributed to Lincoln.
An entertaining and thought-provoking book, They Never Said It covers a great deal of history and sets it right. Going beyond a mere catalog of popular misconceptions, Boller and George reveal how rightists and leftists, and atheists and evangelists all have at times twisted and even invented the words of eminent figures to promote their own ends. The ultimate debunking reference, it perfectly complements handbooks of quotations.

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They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, and Misleading Attributions + The Quote Verifier: Who Said What, Where, and When
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Editorial Reviews


"...highly amusing romp through the history of spurious quote-mongering....Boller and George not only perform a valuable scholarly service, they also give us a first-rate detective story."--George E. Hopkins, International Social Science Review

"[A] highly amusing romp through the history of spurious quote-mongering....Boller and George not only perform a valuable scholarly service, they also give us a first-rate detective story."--International Social Science Review

"This book full of spurious quotes and deliberate misattributions has a lesson for anyone who has ever nodded admiringly at a well-turned quotation that makes a partisan point with stunning effect. The lesson is to be wary of just such marvelous distillations of political wisdom. They're probably fakes....This is...a serious book, written with high good humor and solid research."--The Washington Times

"An infectiously browsable book."--Booklist

"One of the most pleasant surprises of the year....Not only informative but great fun."--The Newark Star-Ledger

About the Author

Paul F. Boller, Jr. is Professor of History Emeritus at Texas Christian University. His many books include the bestselling Presidential Anecdotes, Presidential Campaigns, and Presidential Wives.
John George is Professor of Political Science and Sociology at Central State University in Oklahoma. He is the author of Public Opinion: Coalitions, Elites and Masses (with Harry Holloway).

Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (June 14, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195064690
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195064698
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.6 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,086,420 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
40 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spoiling a good story March 21, 2003
It may well be true, as Roy Howard never said (p. 51) that "too much fact checking has ruined many a good news story." But the many misquotations listed here, some very well known, often have fascinating stories in themselves. In a day when, thanks to the Internet, misquotations, urban legends, and dubious "facts" fly faster and farther than ever, this book is a very valuable resource to have around.
My major complaint with this book is that I wish it had been much longer -- for example, there are numerous quotes attributed to Winston Churchill (like the one about being a liberal when you're 25) that could stand to be debunked alongside the two included in this volume.
Still, though, it's very helpful to be able to demonstrate to folks that Lenin never said anything about "useful idiots" (p. 76), that Lincoln never made the long statement beginning, "You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift..." (p. 82), or that Voltaire never "defend[ed] to the death your right to say it" (p. 124). For those reasons alone, I would recommend this book be kept and studied by anyone who cares about truth, accuracy, and stomping urban legends to the death they deserve.
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23 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dr. George is amazing March 23, 2000
He's my professor in college at UCO, and he's an amazing man.
This work is just an extenstion of his personality -- exacting, intelligent, and focused on what's really true rather than just what people say.
If you're at all interested in accuracy, or if you're a big fan of quotations (like I am), than this is a wonderful book for you!
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
THEY NEVER SAID IT is a collection of "fake quotes, misquotes and misleading atributions" compiled by Paul F. Boller Jr and John George. The authors were troubled by references to prestigious dead men to score political points without caring about the veracity of the quotation:

"Using quotations is a time-honored practice. There have always been people who liked to liven up what they were saying with appropriate statements from the writings of others. Today, however, quotations tend to be polemical rather than decorative. People use them to prove points rather than to provide pleasure. Quotemen (and quotewomen) do not simply quote; they quote in order to score points, usually of a political nature, and thereby throw their opponents off balance. Sometimes they merely quote a highly esteemed authority -- Jefferson, Lincoln, Emerson -- in order to bolster their own position."

One finds many quotations that have become set phrases in English, such as Marie Antoinette's "Let them eat cake,", Jimmy Cagney's "You Dirty Rat", and Galileo's "Eppur si muove". Others were part of McCarthy-era polemics about Communist intrigue.

As this is not meant to be an exhaustive compendium of spurious quotations, but rather somewhat light entertainment, the datedness of the work makes it less enjoyable than it might have been upon its 1990 publication. So many of the quotes date from postwar anti-Semites or John Birch Society figures, but these groups' rhetoric is increasingly forgotten. Samuel Goldwyn gets a long list of quotations that no one remembers any more, but Yogi Berra's similar sayings are not mentioned at all. For the book to be truly commendable, these quotations would have to not only be apocryphal, but persist in contemporary society. Still, there are enough fake quotations here that continue to circulate that reading this book can still be a profitable experience, but I can't recommend buying it.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars They Never Said It (maybe?) February 28, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
When I bought this, I thought it was going to be a humorous
collection of mis-quotes like Yogi Berra's book "I never
said half the things I said". Instead, I found it a very
well-documented albeit dry collection of famous atributions.
For example, one of my favorite warnings has always been:
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good
men do nothing" by John Locke. Well, he never said it! The
Authors of this book found a long paragraph in which Locke
voices the sentiment and, apparently, some clever Editor
condensed it to the oft-quoted line. I would recommend this
item to those who wish to be educated rather than amused.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quotes and Misquotes December 9, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I am always fascinated with quotes that are misused, or not even attributed to the person who said (or didn't say) it!
This is one of those. My favorite book title: I LOVE PAUL REVERE WHETHER HE RODE OR NOT!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars They really didn't say it January 17, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
It's amazing what is said compared to what we hear. And read. There are lots of quotes that you hear often included in this book
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book for American fact checkers December 23, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Lots of quotes were never said by the people claimed to be the sayers.

This book fact checks many spurious quotes, but unfornateny mostly American quotes.
For Americans this is a five star book, but for us Europeans three stars at most.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's Okay September 12, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was hoping for a book from which I could draw a series of stories, and this has that. But it has approximately one misquote per famous person. There are many websites which have more information.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars An Entertainment - NOT a Reference
I will second Andrew Rogers' assertion that this compendium "(should have) been much longer". Read more
Published 1 month ago by James W. Susky
3.0 out of 5 stars Good book, could have been better
It's a good book, exploring our tendency to mis-attribute quotes, sometimes innocently, sometimes intentionally advancing our favorite belief or quirk by attributing it to Twain or... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Frank Langben
4.0 out of 5 stars As advertised
I had read this book previously, and needed a newer copy. Very satisfied with the book, as well as the purchasing and shipping experience.
Published 3 months ago by Robert Welling
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice debunking of many myths
Not always smooth reading. And some of the quotes I'd classify as "so what". But I flip thru and find enough interesting "quotes" that I stick with it.
Published 12 months ago by Mireille
5.0 out of 5 stars they Never Said It...
this was a gift for my great grandson and he loved it. I enjoyed it too. Put a lot of quotes that "aren't" to rest!
Published 16 months ago by Salty C Bug
5.0 out of 5 stars And now you know......................
I enjoyed this book, easy read, entertaining. I learned a great deal==will come in handy for the trivia games. Makes for a relaxing evening in, enjoying a book and curling up!!
Published 22 months ago by Jan326
2.0 out of 5 stars Not what I was expecting
I bought it because I've noticed the number of questionable or misattributed literary quotes popping up constantly on the Internet. Read more
Published on October 22, 2011 by Nerd Girl
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