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 Misinterpreted quotes

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Anglo-Norman
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PostSubject: Misinterpreted quotes   Wed 04 Mar 2015, 19:09

Not sure if this is the right section, but...
Well, there are plenty of quotable quotes from historical figures but they don't always mean what they seem to.  Sometimes the quotes are taken out of context, or (accidentally or deliberately) misinterpreted to make a point.  As an example:  one of Oliver Cromwell's most famous quotes is
Quote :
I had rather have a plain russet-coated captain that knows what he fights for, and loves what he knows, than that which you call a gentleman, and is nothing else.

This is often used to demonstrate Cromwell's alleged egalitarian inclinations, but he was no such thing.  What is often left out is the following sentence:
Quote :
I honour a gentleman that is so indeed.

Cromwell was a member of the gentry (albeit a minor one) and proud of it.  Like most people he believed in the natural authority of the gentry and aristocracy, and that they were most suited to command.  However, competency and idealism had to take priority.  Given a choice between an equally skilled commoner or gentleman, he would most likely have gone for the latter.

Any others that have been (or you think have been) commonly misinterpreted?
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Gilgamesh of Uruk
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PostSubject: Re: Misinterpreted quotes   Wed 04 Mar 2015, 21:31

Couple of Bill's that get twisted out of the original sense
"If music be the food of love, play on"

Not quite so badly abused, but "A rose by any other name ..."
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PostSubject: Re: Misinterpreted quotes   Wed 04 Mar 2015, 23:06

The survival of the fittest

Not only was it not originated by Darwin, having first been employed by Hubert Spencer in his treatise on economic theory The Man Versus The State, it didn't appear in The Origin of Species until the fourth and fifth editions, credited to Spencer, and there specifically to mean 'the best adapted for survival and reproduction in the prevailing conditions' and nothing at all to do with 'fitness' in sense of strength or physical perfection.
In fact, it's not at all a good précis of evolutionary theory as it entirely omits any reference to the necessity for the heritability of those advantageous adaptations which is fundamental to mechanism of natural selection.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Misinterpreted quotes   Wed 04 Mar 2015, 23:41



"Money is the root of all evil."

The full quotation is: "The love of money is the root of all evil."  Money can actually do a lot of good.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Misinterpreted quotes   Thu 05 Mar 2015, 08:03

Last words - appropriately those of Thomas Cromwell.

I praie you that be here, to beare me record, I die in the Catholicke faith, not doubting in any article of my faith, no nor doubting in any sacrament of the Church...


Cromwell's avowal that he died in "the Catholicke faith" has been taken as an utter denial of his religious reforms. What is missed out is how he ended his speech from the scaffold: "I see and acknowledge that there is in myself no hope of salvation, but all my confidence, hope and trust  is in thy merciful goodness. I have no merits or good works, which I allege before thee."

He used "Catholicke" in the sense of "universal" (the word is still used in the version of the creed in Cranmer's BCP) and that final statement about justification by faith alone could have been written for him by Luther himself.

A calculated ambiguity, so typical of the man throughout his life, marks most of TC's pre-execution speech, but not, I think, these words. Reginald Pole said as much when he wrote (to an Italian associate in September 1540) that he feared he was "wrong in writing of Cromwell's coming to his senses, for his last words as printed do not give the same impression as the narrative of those who told of his end and last words."

It is possible that the official printed version circulated at the time did not contain those crucial final words.

Pole concluded: "The judgement of men belongs to Christ, who knows the hidden things of the heart."

Not so sure anyone, even the good Lord Himself, knew the "hidden things" of Cromwell's heart. Certainly no historian today does.


Last edited by Temperance on Thu 05 Mar 2015, 10:28; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Misinterpreted quotes   Thu 05 Mar 2015, 08:48

Apophrycal

"Send reinforcements, we're going to advance"

became

"Send three and fourpence, we're going to a dance"
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PostSubject: Re: Misinterpreted quotes   Thu 05 Mar 2015, 09:39

The American general failed to reinforce the Glosters in Korea because he misinterpreted the comment "Things are getting a bit sticky" as meaning they were coping, rather than that they were taking a hammering.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Misinterpreted quotes   Wed 22 Jul 2015, 08:22

Shakespeare contributed many pithy phrases to English, one of them being the succinct "to gild the lily" - to unnecessarily add ornament to something already intrinsically beautiful, exemplified by the ludicrous suggestion that a thin layer of gold should be added to the surface of a plant to enhance its attractiveness.

Except he didn't. The meaning is indeed more or less what he wanted to convey but the actual quotation (from the play King John) is neither succinct nor so stupid as to suggest applying metal to organic material.

Therefore, to be possess'd with double pomp,
To guard a title that was rich before,
To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,
To throw a perfume on the violet,
To smooth the ice, or add another hue
Unto the rainbow, or with taper-light
To seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish,
Is wasteful and ridiculous excess.


If anything Shakespeare rather spoils the whole pithy thing by citing way too many examples of futile adornment and ends up simply labouring his point rather too much (mentioning to gild gold along the way - a pointless adornment indeed). Mind you, "labouring the point" is one he came up with himself also, so perhaps he can be forgiven ...
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