Words They Never Said

This page is about those quotations that circle around social media, and even news articles, opinion pieces and the like, that everyone takes as gospel truth despite the fact that they are almost certainly misattributed. Which, I suppose, makes you wonder about how true the gospels are too… Anyway, I’ll be constantly adding to this list as and when I discover more axiomatic sayings that, in actuality, were never uttered by their supposed sources.

“Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”
Supposedly by Sigmund Freud. He never said it or anything like it.

“If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal”
Supposedly by Emma Goldman and/or Mark Twain. No evidence of either. First recorded use was in a 1976 newspaper article.

“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act”
Supposedly by George Orwell. No evidence. Earliest use of this phrase was in an Australian book published 1982.

“Patriotism is a virtue of the vicious”
Supposedly by Oscar Wilde. He did say that it is ‘the vice of nations’.

“Let them eat cake”
Supposedly by Marie Antoinette. Almost certainly never said it, given that the quote first appears in Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, written when she was 11 years old and four years away from marrying Louis XVI.

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”
Supposedly by Albert Einstein. Not only did he never say it, but it would be incredibly unlikely for any scientist to say it, given that repeatedly testing a hypothesis is literally the only way to prove it.

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”
Supposedly by Voltaire. He was way too clever to air an opinion so stupid.

“Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world”
Supposedly by Marilyn Monroe. More or less identical to something said by Bette Midler, who is also awesome, so that’s something.

“All sex is rape”
Supposedly by Andrea Dworkin, Catherine McKinnon, and/or pretty much every feminist. Never said or written by any of them, as far as I can gather.

“We are not amused”
Supposedly by Queen Victoria. Not only is this made up, but apparently she was very often amused.

“The ends justify the means”
Supposedly by Niccolo Machievelli. Not only did he never say it, he wouldn’t have meant it literally even if he had; The Prince was SATIRE, people!

“Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong”
Supposedly it’s Murphy’s Law. Only it isn’t.

“A single death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic”
Supposedly by Josef Stalin. Never said it, except as a character in Command & Conquer: Red Alert.

“If you’re not liberal when you are 25, you have no heart. If you’re not conservative when you are 50, you have no head”
Supposedly by Winston Churchill. Apparently it and its variants come from the words of Francois Guizot.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts”
Supposedly by Winston Churchill too. Kinda glad he never said it, but also disappointed that it actually comes from a 1930’s Budweiser advertising campaign.

“I may be drunk, but you are ugly…and in the morning I shall be sober whereas you will still be ugly”
Supposedly by Winston Churchill. It’s a witty riposte, but he never made it.

“The best argument against democracy is a conversation with the average voter”
Supposedly by Winston Churchill again. Jesus, did that guy say anything?

“If the hill will not come to Mohammed, then Mohammed must come to the hill”
Supposedly by the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH). Actually based on a story by Francis Bacon.

“The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”
Supposedly by Edmund Burke and/or Alexis de Tocqueville. Actually by neither. Similar statements were made by Plato, John Stuart Mill and Albert Einstein.

“There are causes worth dying for, but none worth killing for”
Supposedly by Albert Camus. Really by an American conscientious objector explaining his refusal to fight in the second world war.

“Those who do not move do not notice their chains”
Supposedly by Rosa Luxemburg, the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation even sold a mug with this quote on it! As historian Jörn Schütrumpf puts it; “She never said anything that silly!”

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”
Supposedly by Albert Einstein. Most probably based on a talk about mathematical theory given by David Hilbert in 1900.

“This is one race of people for whom psychoanalysis is no use whatsoever”
Supposedly by Sigmund Freud, casting shade on the Irish. No evidence he ever said it, but the misattribution seems to stem from Anthony Burgess.

“Being born in a stable does not make a man a horse”
Supposedly by Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington responding to the fact that he was born in Ireland. It was actually said by Daniel O’Connell in reference to the Duke.

“The last capitalist we hang shall be the one who sold us the rope”
Supposedly by Marx/Lenin/Stalin, but actually by none of them. Earliest source that matches the sentiments expressed was a 1931 profile of Maxim Litvinov written by S. Dimitrijewski.

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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Three On The Wagon

The show was partially funded by Aware Drinking, so you knew it was going to be pants. Anything with that much of a social message to promote would always be on the wrong side of mediocre, and anyone who says otherwise is the kind of person who has always enjoyed Comic Relief, Red Nose Day, Childline, and all the other festering piles of creative cot death.

It followed three dipsomaniacs; Al, Coe, and Holly. Al hailed from Galway, Coe was straight outta Kerry, Holly was Donegal born and bred, but all were trying to make it in the Capital…and failing dismally. What is it about the Big Smoke that seems to suck in the bright young things of everyone out West? It’s like the Emerald Isle is actually tilted Eastward on a 45 degree angle, if not more, and the only people who don’t slide down are those old enough to have developed sea legs. Or one leg longer than the other, I don’t know.

So. This week. Episode 4; ‘Gwan’. Our three protagonists meet up at a café – name, logo and menu tastefully legible in frame regardless of changing camera angles – and discuss their respective job-hunts. But, disaster! In a chain of events as shocking as it was certainly not pre-planned by essentially everyone involved in making the programme, the trio decide instead to purchase a couple of bottles of wine from the off-licence across the road and – oh, who could have foreseen this woe?! – drown their sorrows on the banks of the Royal Canal.

This episode focussed on the enabling power of fellow addicts, apparently. If you believe that, I’ll tell ya another. Preferably over a pint.

drunk karl marx

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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Resolutions for 2019

  1. Duolingo once a day
  2. Write/transcribe a piece to this blog at least once per week
  3. Construct my own ‘Leftist Calendar’, with important events, births & deaths
  4. Create a list of ‘people to remember’; revolutionaries, role models, heroes
  5. Try to learn guitar
  6. Adopt a dog
  7. Keep track of famous quotes that actually were never said/written
  8. Make time to see friends
  9. Offer to help people with things
  10. Kick a football once in a while

…and, in the likely event that I don’t adhere to any of these resolutions, feel ok with that lack of fulfilment. We’re all just a speck on the universal timeline extending billions of years into the past and infinitely far into the future, so try not to take anything too seriously! In the words of Chumbawamba;

“Have your fun whilst you’re alive
You won’t get nothing when you die
Have a good time all the time
Because you won’t get nothing when you die”

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…♥

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San Oku En Jiken

50 years ago this morning, four bank employees in Japan were transporting almost 300 million yen designated as bonuses for Toshiba workers. As they passed Fuchu Prison, a police motorcycle drew alongside, signalling them to pull over. After they complied, the young uniformed officer provided dramatic news that their branch manager’s house had been blown up and that information indicated that their vehicle could also be a target. This rang true; after all, their manager had received several threatening letters in recent weeks.

Understandably panicked, the courier quartet disembarked and retreated to what they presumed was a safe distance, while the cop crawled beneath the car to inspect it for any evidence of foul play. Within apparently a few seconds, smoke began to billow forth, and suddenly the officer rolled out, yelling a warning of imminent explosion. Following his desperate gesticulations, the bank employees speedily fled to the prison walls…

…whereupon the ‘police officer’ calmly got into their car and drove away.


The thief had used a simple warning flare to simulate the smoke and flames, and left 120 other pieces of evidence at the scene of the crime including the ‘police’ motorcycle – itself just a regular motorbike painted white. However, these were common, everyday items, scattered deliberately to confuse the authorities.

Despite the largest investigation in Japanese history, involving 170,000 policemen attempting to narrow down a list of suspects 110,000 names long, the perpetrator was never brought to justice. One suspect, a 19 year old son of a police officer, committed suicide mere days after the crime. A friend of his, 18 at the time of the robbery, was arrested in 1975 and could not account for the large amount of money then in his possession, but the authorities were frustrated in their attempts to find any proof that he had obtained the cash by illegal means.

Since 1988, the various statutes of limitations have elapsed, meaning that the culprit could come forward without fear of prosecution should he so wish. He has not so wished.

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…


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Ticking Underwater Time Bomb

In 1946 a Polish ship, the Kielce, sank off the coast of Folkestone while transporting a relatively insubstantial amount of incendiary ordnance. Intent on preventing detonation of this cargo, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency began work on an operation to neutralise the threat. For whatever reason, during the preliminary stage of these efforts in 1967, the Kielce did indeed explode.

The explosion measured 4.5 on the Richter scale and left a crater 20 feet deep in the seafloor. Although panic and chaos initially swept through Folkestone itself, the incident mercifully caused no harm or loss of life to the population. The Kielce was, after all, at least 5 kilometres off the coast, and at a depth of 15 fathoms.

2 years before the Kielce foundered in the English Channel, an American Liberty ship called the Richard Montgomery ran aground in the Thames Estuary. She now lies just 8 fathoms down, with her 3 masts just visible above the waves. Contained in her flooded holds are munitions equivalent to almost 1,500 tonnes of TNT.

Every independent survey of the wreck has concluded that even the slightest shifting of the tides could trigger a blast. Should just one of the fuses attached to the 2,600 fused-fragmentation devices aboard become wet, it could cause a copper azide reaction. In 1970, the BBC estimated that the resultant explosion would create a 1,000 feet-wide column of water & debris reaching nearly 10,000 feet into the air, a tidal wave 16 feet high, the shattering of every window in the nearby coastal town of Sheerness, and damage to countless buildings.

The SS Richard Montgomery lies just over 2 kilometres from the shoreline.

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…⚓

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In a State of Constant Multiplication

“Once the asset-leveraging is in place, there are a number of lucrative options for the opportunistic transitory sponsor acquisitions trader to pursue. The first and most obvious low-risk/medium-return is what is known in brokerage parlance as a ‘glasscock reshuffle’; all liabilities are offloaded to smaller debt holdings at nominal margins, while every available source of liquidity is centralised in one assisted revenue stream with maximal investment. However, for most stock-jockeys this is an underutilizing direct-strategic process, with the all-but-guaranteed inflated earnings offset by the relatively sacrificing low pace of profit. A more judicious share plan, favoured by most moderately experienced frugal fund assessors, is to immediately boost rates in a sufficiently synergic route so as to force what’s called a ‘death or deluge’ play; the resultant chaos in the share price and highly energised market activity will almost certainly cause a stratospheric return for the skilled intriguer. However, this unsurprisingly a high-risk/high-return caper, and while it can end with a huge windfall it can, for the less savvy and serene credit localisation manager, crunch the company value in a colossal collapse of unstoppable proportions.

Now things get complicated. Stop me if it gets too technical…”

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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The Last Son of Heaven

After almost 35 years away, Henry returned to the Forbidden City on the 9th of December 1959. He moved in with his sister, and got a job as a street-sweeper. As was characteristic of his forgetfulness, he somehow managed to get lost on his first day. Seeking help, this seemingly-ordinary urban worker doubtless dumbfounded passers-by when he told them the following;

“I’m Puyi, the last Emperor of the Qing Dynasty. I’m staying with relatives and can’t find my way home.”

Despite this declaration, Henry was an incredibly modest and humble man. He insisted on being the last person to board a bus, which frequently led to his being late for work. At restaurants he would tell the waiting staff, “You should not be serving me – I should be serving you.”

However, the fact remained that this selfless individual had been brought up to be waited upon, hand and foot. Every need had been catered for, every whim had been seen to, every task performed…by others. Thus, he never quite learned to function completely on his own; doors would be left open, toilets unflushed, taps left running… As one friend put it, “He had a genius for creating an instant, disorderly mess around him”.

Before his came back to Beijing, Henry had spent 9 years in Chinese prison. Prior to that, he had been held at Stalin’s pleasure after being captured by the Red Army in the Autumn of 1945. When the Soviets handed him over to the People’s Republic, he had fully expected to be executed for his role in the Second World War.

Initially deposed by a coup in the mid-Twenties, Henry secretly contacted the Japanese in 1931 promising to provide assistance should they restore him to the throne. They promptly installed him as their puppet ruler of Manchukuo, and this traitorous monarch signed whatever his new masters placed in front of him. In a chilling echo of Hitler’s ideas for ‘Lebensraum’, Japan used the province to ease their overpopulation problem; in 1935 they announced the plan to relocate 5 million farmers from the mainland, evicting the indigenous residents. Those who resisted eviction? The Kwantung Army used them for bayonet practice.

For much of World War Two, Henry was confined to his Palace and kept completely ignorant of global events. Right up until 1944, he believed that Japan was winning in the Pacific and was shocked – and delighted – to discover that the Allies were in the ascendancy. When he was sure that nobody could be listening, he would sit at his piano and play a quick one-finger version of The Stars and Stripes Forever.

Nonetheless, in theory he was ‘supreme commander’, bearing ultimate responsibility for the brutal treatment meted out by the Japanese to his supposed subjects. His moods during this time became erratic, swinging wildly from hours spent staring blankly to the sadistic beating of his servants. The awareness that he was an object of loathing and levity drove him almost insane. One day he found that a member of his staff had scrawled in chalk, ‘Haven’t the Japanese humiliated you enough?

Following the end of the war, and his transfer into Chinese custody, Henry was taken to the facilities of the infamous Unit 731 – the Japanese Army’s chemical and biological warfare department. He was horrified to discover that all their gruesome experiments, all their agonizing tortures, all their appalling atrocities…were carried out in his name.

In 1960, Henry met the Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai. The Premier told him,

“You weren’t responsible for becoming Emperor at the age of three, or the 1917 attempted restoration coup…but you were fully to blame for what happened later. You knew perfectly well what you were doing when you took refuge in the Legation Quarter, when you traveled under Japanese protection to Tianjin, and when you agreed to become Manchukuo Chief Executive.” 

In Europe, and across the rest of the world after different conflicts throughout history, leaders who had performed similar roles were executed; the Italians shot Mussolini, the French executed Laval, the British hanged ‘Lord Haw-Haw’… Yet the ideology of Communism explains why the Chinese released the man who had collaborated with their Japanese occupiers – their former Emperor had simply been performing his role in the system.

During his time in prison, Henry was put through Marxist-Leninist-Maoist remodeling. Much of this involved attending discussion groups where prisoners would discuss their lives before incarceration. He would also be confronted with ordinary citizens who had suffered under his ‘Empire of Manchukuo’, including individuals who had fought bravely with the Communist resistance – this was to show him both the reality of what his regime had wrought as well as the fact that submission was not the only response. As the warden would say when Henry protested that there was nothing he could have done, “Why did ordinary people resist while an emperor did nothing?”

By the mid-Fifties Henry was overwhelmed with guilt to the point of suicide. On one trip to the countryside he met a farmer’s wife who had almost starved to death while working as a slave in one of the region’s factories. When he begged for forgiveness she waved him away and said, “It’s over now, let’s not talk about it”, which made him burst into tears. On another occasion, he met a woman who, despite witnessing the mass execution of her entire village at the hands of the Kwantung Army, declared that she did not hate the Japanese because she retained her faith in humanity. This moved Henry, and gradually his faith in Communism began to grow.

From 1963 onward Henry gave regular press conferences at which he would praise life in the People’s Republic of China. Foreign Correspondents would often seek him out, eager to meet this ‘Last Emperor of China’. His family and friends all remarked on how much he had changed from the selfish royal they had known in his youth. He clearly cared for people, and became known for his kindness during this period; once, with classic clumsiness, he knocked down a woman with his bicycle, and so he subsequently brought her flowers every day until she was discharged from hospital.

Henry, aka Puyi, aka Puyi Xiansheng, aka Yaozhi, aka Haoran, aka Xun Di, aka Fei Di, aka the Last Emperor of China, died of complications arising from kidney cancer and heart disease on the 17th of October 1967 at the age of 61.

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…⋆ 

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