Ten film quotes we all get wrong
You might already know that Casablanca’s Sam was never asked to play it again. But what are the other most common mistakes when quoting from classic films?
By Theo Merz
8:36AM GMT 14 Jan 2014
Correcting someone on a misremembered line from a film is the behaviour of a true pub bore. As they didn’t say in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: when the misquote becomes the line, use the misquote.
Still, in a bid to protect you from the pedants, Telegraph Men selects the top film phrases we all get wrong…
The misquote: Play it again, Sam
The quote: Play it, Sam. Play ‘As Time Goes By’
Fact: more people have now said “Did you know they never actually say ‘Play it again, Sam?’” than have said “Play it again, Sam”. This is the misquoter’s misquote, its place in cinema history cemented when compulsive reference dropper Woody Allen used it as the title of his 1972 film.
2. Dirty Harry
The misquote: Do you feel lucky, punk?
The quote: Being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya punk?
It’s easy to see how this one became truncated – the misquote gets across Clint Eastwood’s sentiment perfectly while taking a fifth of the time of the original.
3. The Silence of the Lambs
The misquote: Hello, Clarice…
The quote: Good evening, Clarice…
Unfortunately nobody seems to be called Clarice nowadays so this one is hard to roll out in a social setting. The important thing is that you say it while wearing a muzzle.
4. The Empire Strikes Back
The misquote: Luke, I am your father
The quote: No, I am your father
Out by a single word, this one topped LoveFilm’s list of memorable misquotes. Luke’s reaction to the revelation – an extended, screamed “No!” – is also eminently quotable and has provided the basis for many youtube re-edits.
5. Field of Dreams
The misquote: If you build it, they will come
The quote: If you build it, he will come
Kevin Costner’s character walks around in his crop field, repeatedly hearing the words “If you build it, he will come”. He is amazed that his wife, sitting on the porch, can’t hear them too – and it appears a generation of filmgoers wasn’t paying much attention either.
6. The Graduate
The misquote: Mrs Robinson, are you trying to seduce me?
The quote: Mrs Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me. Aren’t you?
This is one of the few misquotes that gets the tone of the original wrong as well as the words. With the misremembered line, Dustin Hoffman’s character appears much surer of himself, but in the original there’s a moment when he genuinely doesn’t know whether the older woman is trying to seduce him or not.
7. The Wizard of Oz
The misquote: I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore, Toto
The quote: Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore
…we must be over the rainbow! And while we’re there, there are better lines from the 1939 film to quote. What about: “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard; because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with”? Or just “There’s no place like home”.
8. All About Eve
The misquote: Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride
The quote: Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night
Unless you can match Bette Davis’s effortless disdain it’s best not to try this one in either version.
9. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
The misquote: Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?
The ‘mirror, mirror’ line is now so standard that it provided the title to the 2012 updating of the Snow White tale.
10. Wall Street
The misquote: Greed is good
The quote: The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works.
This misquote became a shorthand for the perceived attitude of City traders in the ’80s, and the sentiment was recently revived in a speech by Boris Johnson when he claimed that “greed [is] a valuable spur to economic activity”.
Forgetting the exact wording is going to be the least of your worries if you find yourself quoting it to the wrong crowd.
Ten literary quotes we all get wrong
There’s nothing elementary about it, my dear Watson. And does a rose by any other name really smell as sweet?
By Theo Merz
12:06PM GMT 21 Jan 2014
The ten literary quotations below have passed into common parlance because they encapsulate human truths or sum up much-loved characters. The only problem is, in most cases, nobody actually wrote them…
1. Elementary, my dear Watson
There are plenty of ‘elementaries’ and a few ‘my dear Watsons’ across Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes oeuvre, but the phrase ‘Elementary, my dear Watson’ never appears.
Really puts the time they got the Tube lines mixed up on Sherlock into perspective, doesn’t it?
2. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned
The line from William Congreve’s 1697 poem The Mourning Bride is: Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned/Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.
It’s a shame to lose the first half of the couplet in the misquotation, but the addition of ‘hath’ lends a charming Olde Worlde feel.
3. I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it
This one is always attributed to Voltaire, but actually came from a 20th-century biography of him by the English writer Evelyn Beatrice Hall.
The author was summarising the philosopher’s attitude, but the first person pronoun led many to take it for a direct quote.
4. Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble
The witches at the opening of Macbeth say “Double, double, toil and trouble”.
It’s surprising anyone still gets this wrong, considering the correct line was cemented in the cultural imagination by the 1993 Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen TV movie which took the quotation as its title.
5. Methinks the lady doth protest too much
The real line, spoken by Queen Gertrude in Hamlet, is “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”
It’s a small error compared to the title of the Alanis Morrisette song inspired by the play: “Doth [sic] I Protest Too Much”.
6. A rose by any other name smells just as sweet
The last of our trio of Shakespearean entries, the above is now commonly used but was never said in so many words by Juliet (in Romeo and Juliet).
The actual quote is, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”.
7. Please, Sir, can I have some more?
In Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist, the orphan rises from the table, advances towards the master and says: “Please, sir, I want some more.” The same line that is used in the 1968 musical film Oliver!, so the misquote remains unattributed.
8. Theirs but to do or die
Lord Tennyson’s poem Charge of the Light Brigade reads, Theirs not to make reply/Theirs not to reason why/Theirs but to do and die, but the line is often misquoted by people thinking of a ‘do or die’ mentality.
9. Shaken, not stirred
Ian Fleming’s James Bond asks a barman in Dr No for “A medium Vodka dry Martini – with a slice of lemon peel. Shaken and not stirred”. A single word out, then – but the line “shaken, not stirred” has now been used so often in the Bond films that it’s become ingrained in our image of Bond.
10. Water, water, everywhere, but not a drop to drink
In Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner, the sailor describes his time stranded at sea: Water, water, everywhere/And all the boards did shrink; Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink.
The line is regularly misquoted in popular culture, but nowhere quite as spectacularly as by Homer Simpson who, finding himself stranded on a dinghy in the open sea in one episode, exclaims: “Water, water everywhere so let’s all have a drink!”