5 Mother Teresa
It’s easy to attribute feel-good quotes to Mother Teresa—even more so than Lennon—because nobody’s going to argue with something that allegedly came from her mouth. Putting her name on it gives it instant credibility and instant affection. However, the practice got so out of hand that her official website put up a page listing tons of quotes she did not actually say. Examples include “Good works are links that form a chain of love,” “I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish that He didn’t trust me so much,” and “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
4 John Lennon
It’s hard not to love John Lennon, with his clearly expressed views on peace and humanity. But if it’s not in a song you know he wrote, or a video of him speaking, don’t believe he said it—other people love him too, and love to put words in his mouth. Who better to have said “Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time”? But he never said it, and that quote has been attributed to several people who also didn’t say it. Unfortunately we might never know for sure if Lennon had that school assignment where he wrote that when he grew up he wanted to be happy, because some fans passionately attribute the quote to him while others say it was fake.
3 Winston Churchill
Britain’s Prime Minister during World War II was an inspirational leader—but not near as poetic or insightful as people might think based on all the fake quotes carrying his name. What about, “If you’re not a liberal when you’re 25, you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative by the time you’re 35, you have no brain”? Nope, that’s the opposite of Churchill’s actual life path. And “You make a living by what you get; you make a life by what you give”? He said some things about living, but not so succinct or quotable as that.
2 Mark Twain
Mark Twain certainly had a sense of humor, and he wrote lots of witty things in his books. But people have a habit of attributing clever things to him that he did not say; as long as it could have been said more than a century ago, Twain’s name goes on it. For example, he did not say “I have never killed any one, but I have read some obituary notices with great satisfaction,” or “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter,” which is attributed to baseball player Satchel Paige. He also didn’t say “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.” The credit for that one goes to author Maurice Switzer.
1 George Carlin
George Carlin’s comedy was quotable, so he’s a favorite celebrity to misquote, especially in viral emails. He never said “We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul” or “We’ve multiplied our possessions but reduced our values,” as written in a fake tome about 9/11. He also never said “Tell the people you love that you love them, at every opportunity,” as claimed in the bogus online piece “Carlin on Aging.” Carlin himself wasn’t impressed with this trend, writing on his website, “I guess hardcore fans who follow my stuff closely would be able to spot the fake stuff, because the tone of voice is so different. But a casual fan has no way of knowing, and it bothers me that some people might believe I’d actually be capable of writing some of this stuff.”