TEN LITERARY MISQUOTES THAT ARE BETTER THAN THE ORIGINAL

    Jeevan Sivasubramaniam Posted by Jeevan Sivasubramaniam, Managing Director, Editorial, Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.


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    TEN LITERARY MISQUOTES THAT ARE BETTER THAN THE ORIGINAL

    Abhi Sharma Creative Commons 2.0

    So many literary quotes are bandied about with authority but many of them are inaccurate. However, sometimes the inaccurate version is just snappier and quicker -- in some cases even cleverer. Here are five examples:

    1. "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here." 
    This translation from Dante’s Inferno - the words are inscribed above the entrance to hell in the medieval poem - is a misquotation of H. F. Cary’s 1814 English translation, "All hope abandon ye who enter here." It was probably misquoted because the misquotation rolled off the tongue better.

     2. "Pride goes before a fall."
    This is a telescoping of a longer expression from the Bible: "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall" (Proverbs 16:18). This probably happened because "pride goes before a fall" provides a shorter and snappier variation on the original, longer phrase.

    3. "Elementary, my dear Watson." 
    This expression doesn’t appear anywhere in the original Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and first turns up in literature in a novel by P. G. Wodehouse, but it just seems to fit so well, doesn't it?

    4. "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned." 
    This oft-used phrase originated in a couple of lines from William Congreve’s 1697 play The Mourning Bride: "Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, / Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned." Shorter is snappier.

    5. "I may not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
    Though widely attributed to Voltaire, it appears nowhere in his writing. The better explanation appears to be that the quote was fabricated by an unknown author to capture the essence of Voltaire's views on censorship by paraphrasing some of the words from a  letter to M. le Riche where Voltaire states "...I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write."

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