Sunday, November 07, 2010

Misquotation: How difficult is it?

• “Play it again, Sam.” -- Ingrid Bergman
• “…blood, sweat and tears.” – Winston Churchill
• “History is bunk.” – Henry Ford
• “My name is Ishmael.” – Herman Melville
• “Math is hard.” -- Barbie
These famous quotes have something profoundly in common. What is it?
There could be a footnote, upside down, at the bottom of this page, or an end note, somewhere deeper into the blog, with the answer. But, you, dear reader, know the answer, don’t you? Each quote is similar to each of the others. Isn’t it? Aren’t they all similar?

Woody Allen even made a movie with that title, a classic 70’s rock band had that name, who believes history anyway(?), and Ahab was an Arab, wasn’t he? And, mathematics can be difficult,

Mathematical notation can be obscure, Sam really didn’t want to play it, the Prime Minister was playing with a short deck, Ford manufactured the “T” before the “A”, and Melville’s story is a whale of a tale.

Psst…. Don’t tell anyone; don’t include “warning: spoilers” in your review. But you do know, don’t you, that none of the quotes above are original with their auteur? That’s because none of the authors ever said or wrote any of them.

Here are the “real” quotes:
• “Play it Sam. Play ‘As time goes by’” – (Ilsa) Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca
• “…blood, toil, sweat and tears.” – Winston Churchill (and before him Garibaldi and T. Roosevelt)
• “History as it is taught in the schools is bunk.” – Henry Ford (In fairness, there appears to be some disagreement about what the innovative industrialist really said.)
• “Call me Ishmael.” – Herman Melville
• “Math class is tough.” -- Barbie
It is ironic, is it not, that the most quoted line from the most quotable movie of all time is commonly misquoted (even before Woody Allen’s movie). A search for "Play it again Sam" produces 230,000 hits, while a search for “Play it Sam. Play ‘As time goes by’” produces only 69,000 more. Further, even Churchill’s well-known line may have been appropriated from (or at best independently enunciated after) Theodore Roosevelt. Henry Ford came after Karl Marx, so the familiar assertion by the great capitalist could be viewed as a denunciation of the patron saint of communism and his “theory” of history. There is a slight, even significant discrepancy between “My name is…” and “Call me…” is there not?

In any case, whether for miniature mannequins or fully grown adults, math can be really hard. Even Einstein, physics genius, needed help with his math at times.

Oops, I forgot one:
  • "Judy, Judy, Judy..." Cary Grant
Can anyone find anything close to "Judy..." by C. Grant anywhere in his oeuvre? Not even Tony Curtis in either Some Like It Hot or Operation Petticoat came close to it.

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