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Notable quotes gone astray

By Debra Dobbins

The author of the letter to the editor below makes a good point. If we quote someone, we need to ensure that the quotation is accurate.

Numerous inaccurate quotes have pervaded our common speech. Here are three examples from U.S history, pared down from a lengthy list provided by Wikipedia.

Paul Revere did not shout, “The British are coming!” as he rode through the Massachusetts countryside in 1775 to warn colonists that British soldiers had begun to march. It would have been foolish, because many colonists were still loyal to Britain. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow made this phrase famous in his poem, “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.”

Anyone who has watched the movie Apollo 13 remembers this quote: “Houston, we have a problem.”
Command Module Pilot Jack Swigert actually said, "OK, Houston, we've had a problem here.” Fifteen seconds later Commander Jim Lovell added, "Ah, Houston, we've had a problem. We've had a main B bus undervolt.”

Sarah Palin, who ran on John McCain’s ticket in 2008, did not say, “I can see Russia from my house.” When ABC’s Charlie Gibson interviewed her in 2008, she actually said, "They're our next door neighbors, and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.”

Chalk one up for Tina Fey. A Palin lookalike, the comedian popularized this quote in a skit on “Saturday Night Live.”

The Fey quote is a good reminder to check our sources of news. If we rely on late-night comedians for our understanding of current events, then yes, we’ll have a laugh or two. If we learn inaccurate information such as misquotations and then pass that information along, though, we likely won’t be having the last laugh. Someone out there in a nation blessed with a free exchange of ideas will probably set us straight.




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