Play it again, Sam
July 21, 2005 3:34 PM   Subscribe

Why are so many famous lines popularly misquoted?

On Star Trek, "Beam me up, Scotty." was never mentioned on the show, the closest line was "Beam me up, Mr. Scott."
In Casablanca, Ingrid Bergman says "Play it, Sam. Play 'As Time Goes By'" not "Play it again, Sam."
In Star Wars, Darth Vader doesn't say "Luke, I am your father," he says "No, I am your father."
"We don't need no stinking badges!" was actually "Badges!? We ain't got no badges. We don't need no badges! I don't have to show you any stinking badges!" in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
posted by riffola to Society & Culture (29 answers total)
 
"We don't need no stinking badges" was in Blazing Saddles... that's where I knew it from.

Also, according to this Wikipedia entry it was in some other places, too.
posted by rxrfrx at 3:42 PM on July 21, 2005


While it might be the reason the current generation quotes it in this form, it's still a misquote of the original.
posted by riffola at 3:49 PM on July 21, 2005


"It's often easier to make up a quote that sounds good than it is to remember what someone said long ago," Mark Twain.
posted by klangklangston at 3:49 PM on July 21, 2005


I think the answer is probably just that the mangled quotes sound better, are catchier, and incorporate a bit more context than the actual quotes.
posted by brain_drain at 3:53 PM on July 21, 2005


Play It Again, Sam is the title of a Woody Allen play (and movie). Was the line commonly misquoted before the play was produced?
posted by hilker at 3:54 PM on July 21, 2005


"A witty saying doesn't prove anything." —Voltaire
posted by grouse at 3:55 PM on July 21, 2005


often it refers to the referral as well
you goddamn dirty ape
posted by philida at 4:06 PM on July 21, 2005


Technically, Vader say, "No, Luke, I am your father." So really, that one isn't a misquote.

In answer to your question, I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that if you hear something often enough, it must be true. Lines like "Play it again, Sam" and "Beam me up, Scotty" were repeated enough that they became urban legends of sorts.

I'd be curious for follow-up on hilker's comment, since Allen's play may very well be the source of the line, which would lead me to wonder if perhaps Paramount or some other entity didn't create the "Beam me up, Scotty" as a marketing thing for t-shirts or bumper stickers or whatnot. Otherwise, I'd go with brain_drain - mangling the quote often gives it context it wouldn't otherwise have.

Also on the subject of famous non-quotes, Al Gore never said he invented the Internet.
posted by robhuddles at 4:12 PM on July 21, 2005


robhuddles, you are mistaken it really is "No. I am your father."
posted by riffola at 4:19 PM on July 21, 2005


hippies never called themselves hippies
part of it is branding by the media or sycophants fans

posted by philida at 4:22 PM on July 21, 2005


Do you realize how many quotes came out of Casablanca?

Play it, Sam.

The Germans wore gray, you wore blue.

Here's looking at you, kid.

Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.

Kiss me. Kiss me as if it were the last time.

Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

If that plane leaves the ground and you're not with him, you'll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.

We'll always have Paris.

Rick: How long was it we had, honey?
Ilsa: I didn't count the days.
Rick: Well, I did. Every one of them. Mostly, I remember the last one, the wild finish. A guy standing on a station platform in the rain, with a comical look on his face, because his insides have been kicked out.

You'll excuse me, gentlemen. Your business is politics, mine is running a saloon.

/derail

posted by Specklet at 4:34 PM on July 21, 2005



Round up the usual suspects!

Captain Renault: I'm shocked--shocked!--to find that gambling is going on in here.
Croupier: Your winnings, sir.

Major Strasser: What is your nationality?
Rick: I'm a drunkard.

posted by kirkaracha at 4:41 PM on July 21, 2005


(The last scene of Casablanca was pretty surreal the first time I watched it because virtually every other line was a famous quote I had heard before.)
posted by smackfu at 4:52 PM on July 21, 2005


Do you realize how many quotes came out of Casablanca?
Yea, I saw it for the first time in twenty years recently and thought, "This screenplay is all cliches!"
posted by octothorpe at 4:52 PM on July 21, 2005


"I don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' [no] babies!"

(I always hear the version with the 'no,' but it's not part of the original.)
posted by knave at 4:57 PM on July 21, 2005


Here's hoping grouse was being ironic. :)
posted by knave at 4:59 PM on July 21, 2005


If people can't even get "I couldn't care less" right, how are they supposed to correctly quote something specific?
posted by krisjohn at 5:27 PM on July 21, 2005


Allen's play may very well be the source of the line

No, no, the line was quoted that way for years before that, same with "stinking badges." It's what brain_drain said: quotes, like other bits of language, get worn down in popular use to their simplest, most effective form. There's a whole book about this, Nice Guys Finish Seventh—the title is based on another familiar misquote:
Leo Durocher is best remembered for saying, "Nice guys finish last." He never said it. What the Brooklyn Dodgers' manager did say, before a 1946 game with the New York Giants, was: "The nice guys are all over there. In seventh place." Durocher's words lacked pizzazz. Sportswriters perked them up, and gave America one of its most familiar misquotations.
That's how it works. People don't care about accuracy, they care about memorability.
posted by languagehat at 5:49 PM on July 21, 2005


"It's often easier to make up a quote that sounds good than it is to remember what someone said long ago," Mark Twain.

Um, have to call bs on that. Got a source? I'm sure it's a joke, but an apt one, since Twain is one of the most commonly misquoted writers in history.
posted by Miko at 7:18 PM on July 21, 2005


"It's often easier to make up a quote that sounds good than it is to remember what someone said long ago," Mark Twain.

Um, have to call b.s. on that. Got a source? I'm sure it's a joke, but an apt one, since Twain is one of the most commonly misquoted writers in history.
posted by Miko at 7:18 PM on July 21, 2005


Could that Twain quote be, "It is my belief that nearly any invented quotation, played with confidence, stands a good chance to deceive."?
From here.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:01 PM on July 21, 2005


It isn't just famous lines that get misquoted, which you'll know well enough if you've ever given an interview to a newspaper reporter, then seen what they quote you as saying. All the examples in the fpp seem remarkably close to accurate, actually.
posted by sfenders at 6:49 AM on July 22, 2005


Sherlock Holmes also never, in any of the original Arthur Conan Doyle stories, said "Elementary, my dear Watson." He said a few things awfully close to that, but never that exactly.

Just thought I'd add that to the list.
posted by cerebus19 at 8:13 AM on July 22, 2005


In a similar vein, the "Chinese" curse May you live in interesting times very likely isn't Chinese.
posted by gompa at 10:59 AM on July 22, 2005


I belive your question is somewhat misguided.

People aren't quoting the original movies incorrectly, they are quoting movies-that-quoted-those-movies correctly.

Lots of them are from loony tunes or other comedy shows, of course.
posted by zerolives at 11:33 AM on July 22, 2005


"Beam me up, Scotty," by James Doohan.
posted by sixpack at 11:47 AM on July 22, 2005


So many famous lines are popularly misquoted because people have terrible memories. When I was in my twenties I used to drive my friends nuts correcting them, because we'd go see a movie and then on the way out they would be quoting lines and getting them wrong. From a movie we'd just seen. I was appalled. How could anyone forget a line from a movie they'd only seen an hour or two ago, or, worse, deny that the exact wording was even important?

Later, when I got into my mid-thirties, I started being unable to remember things word for word after hearing or reading them. I would find it frightening, except that memory loss is apparently very soothing.
posted by kindall at 12:19 PM on July 22, 2005


I bet there's something cool and Chomskyish that you could look into via this topic. It could be that people simplify, conflate, or streamline the ideas in a quote into some pre-formatted pattern of speech that just sounds better or is easier to understand. Such a theory might help to explain what Kindall noticed.
posted by Miko at 3:51 PM on July 22, 2005


Haven't any of you ever played the telephone game? You know, where you take a phrase and pass it around one by one and it gets mangled?
posted by IndigoRain at 12:23 AM on July 24, 2005


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