Tuesday, June 8, 2010


I HATE Misquotes. Don't get me wrong, I don't care if someone messes up a word or two here or there. But when the meaning of the quote is lost or even reversed, I get a little bothered. My two biggest pet peeves come from Shakespeare. Oddly, the two quotes that I am talking about are often stated word for word correctly, but the intention tends to get all jumbled up.

First is, "O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?" The only time I ever hear this quote (often in TV commercials) it is used as if to say, "Where is my Romeo?" This is overly simplistic and actually a little insulting to the true meaning of the quote. Instead of just asking where her man is, Juliet is actually asking why the man she loves has to be named Romeo (a name that belongs to her family's sworn enemy). This line, in fact, is followed closely by another famous line, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Famously, this speech is, however, given from a balcony which just adds to the myth that she is looking for Romeo from the high vantage point.

The second Shakespeare quote that gets correctly quoted, but misused is from Richard III. "Now is the winter of our discontent ..." Generally, this gets used in a situation in which people are feeling discontented. This is fairly understandable as it is stated by the villain of the play who is often discontented. However, the remainder of this quote is, "... made glorious summer by this son of York." Richard is actually publicly praising his brother for bringing the kingdom out of a state of discontent. So, "Winter" in this case means "end of".

Just for fun, here is one last pure misquote but, this time, from 1971. Dirty Harry never said, "Do you feel lucky punk?" Instead, he said, "... you've gotta ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya punk?" This isn't a huge deal, but I just think that the actual quote is way cooler and it is interesting that so many people misuse this one in particular. In general, I have way less issues with this misquote because it is at least it is being used with the correct meaning. But, you better be feeling lucky if you misquote the meaning of a Shakespeare line in my presence.


  1. Nice blog entry Geoff. I feel your pain. I do have a funny comment, though. When I saw your new blog entry on Facebook, I mis-READ the word "misquotes" as "mosquitoes". While I do agree with you that misquotes are annoying, the level of annoyance pales to insignificance for me compared to how annoying I find mosquitoes. So food for thought. If you agree with me, this may be fodder for a future blog entry. Dad.

  2. Phil, I did the exact same thing on Facebook! And I had already read Geoff's post on misquotes so, for a second, I thought he had posted a new entry about mosquitoes, but had somehow included the Shakespeare photo. Ooops.

  3. Another Shakespeare quote oft botched: "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers." Henry VI. Usually quoted as an indictment of lawyers (that we'd be better off if all the lawyers were dead). But in the context of the play they are trying to organize a revolution, so killing the lawyers is about taking out the keepers of the law - so it is a compliment. BUT I've also seen analysis trying to disprove that it was a compliment to lawyers, that it was satire, and in fact, an insult. I have no idea what Bill Shakespeare meant.

    This is the most blogging I've done in months.

  4. Incorrect Tipdawg?. Misquotes are AWESOME! How can you forget this gem...

    "Fool me once, shame on - shame on you. Fool me - you can't get fooled again." - GW Bush


    This might not exactly be a misquote, but it is a series of brilliant misstatements...

    "I'll tell you where. Someplace warm. A place where the beer flows like wine. Where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano. I'm talking about a little place called Aspen." - Lloyd Christmas

    Get off your high horse and revel in the opportunity to mock the misquoter/idiot, it is much more enjoyable.

  5. Coach Larson is absolutely right. I have had a great time laughing at the idiots in our world.

    Working the political angle you gotta love Dan Quayle's misquote of the United Negro College Fund's slogan. "... what a waste it is to lose one's mind or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is."