Mark Twain said a ton of fun things that have made a bunch of people smile. For example, he once said, “I have been an author for twenty years and an ass for fifty-five.” He also said, “Classic—a book which people praise and don’t read.” These are both very relatable even though I am neither an author nor fifty-five-years-old. The classics thing, anyway—I’ve never read The Old Man and the Sea, for example.
But for every witty comment Twain made, there are at least five he didn’t but still gets credit for. I am here to debunk these Twain witticisms and return them to their rightful speakers. Here are ten of the most frequently used quotes misattributed to Mark Twain.
1. “Politicians are like diapers: they should be changed often, and for the same reason.” – Probably from a Reader’s Digest fan named Willie.
2. “It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.” – It’s not clear who originally said this, but it wasn’t Twain.
3. “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” – As above, its origin is unknown, but it probably wasn’t Twain.
4. “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” – Twain did actually say this, but he attributed it to British politician Benjamin Disraeli. But this is in itself probably a misattribution. It was probably first said by Leonard H. Courtney.
5. “Golf is a good walk spoiled.” – H. S. Scrivener
6. “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.” – Blaise Pascal
7. “Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.” – Markus Herz
8. “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.” – This is a weird one because it’s actually just a fairly well-known Friedrich Nietzche quote.
9. “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” – Edward Abbey
10. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – H. Jackson Brown’s mom
Image Via Famous Biographies
Feature Image Via Smithsonian