1. "The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first." - Thomas Jefferson
Interesting quote that's very telling about one of the Founding Fathers' view of government. Unfortunately, it's just not real.
Jefferson did write "let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the constitution," in The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Volume 30: 1 January 1798 to 31 January 1799), but this sentiment is not quite the same as the misquote. Monticello.org lists 2002 as the first appearance of this misquote in print. But hey, he's just one of our nation's founders! Why do we need to care about what he actually said?
2. "The beauty of the Second Amendment is that it will not be needed until they try to take it." -Thomas Jefferson
Man, it's so easy to make stuff up about this guy! It's probably a combination of time, high volume of writing and assumed expertise (no one wants to challenge something Thomas Jefferson supposedly said!).
According to Monticello.org, this quote first appeared in 2007 and no variations have ever been found in Jefferson's writings. To me, this quote doesn't even sound like the language Jefferson would've used, especially with the word "they" to describe government.
3. "Be the change you wish to see in the world." - Gandhi
Some misquotes aren't malicious. Making up a quote and attributing it to a widely respected person that cannot contradict the quote in order to use the lie for political or philosophical justification - that's malicious.
Gandhi's closest verifiable quote, as reported in the New York Times, is:
"If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”
So, basically, someone made this sentiment the right length for a coffee mug (I think I actually have this coffee mug).
4. "A penny saved is a penny earned." - Benjamin Franklin
This one's not a very serious transgression, but more of an update to the quote to fit the vernacular. However, even the sentiment of the quote isn't original to Franklin. Proverbs similar to this appeared years before Franklin published Poor Richard's Almanack, in which he wrote:
"A penny saved is two pence clear. A pin a-day is a groat a-year. Save and have."
According to Georgeherbert.org and phrases.org.uk, George Herbert wrote "A penny spar'd is twice got," in Outlandish Proverbs (1633), about a century before Poor Richard's Almanack. Looks like Franklin grabbed this proverb to sell more books, and in doing so save more pennies. Stupid Franklin, sitting on his huge pile of pennies...
5. "Luke, I am your father." - Darth Vader
I remember as a kid watching The Empire Strikes Back and realizing that this quote wasn't exactly accurate, and the immense pride I felt that I would be able to correct anyone who uttered this phrase for the rest of my life. My friends and everyone else that I've ever encountered have not been nearly as impressed with me as I am.
The actual quote is "No. I am your father." I know, it's inconsequential, but people also use the wrong intonation on the phrase and no one can do a good James Earl Jones impression and ... I'll stop.
6. "You want the truth? You can't handle the truth!" - Jack Nicholson, A Few Good Men
You might say that this one is even less consequential than the Star Wars quote, but I say, "No! You never misquote Nicholson!"
The actual exchange goes like this, according to IMDB:
Col. Jessep: "You want answers?"
Kaffee: "I want the truth!"
Col. Jessep: "You can't handle the truth!"
So now you know, and you can carry this pointless knowledge with you for the rest of your days, correcting everyone and losing friends along the way! Post more misquotes below, and remember, check out the quote before you believe it, especially if it lacks specific attribution.