10 Literary Misquotations You Can Buy Right Now


It all started with the T-shirt below, which exhibits a feminist appropriation of an Ayn Rand quote. Big news! Détournement! Or is it? It seems that the original phrasing was twisted a little — edited, if you will — into the form you see on the shirt. The words on the shirt, in other words, are not the words in the book. The quotation on the T-shirt is a misquotation.

But any curmudgeon can hurl a list of misquotations at the reading public. Instead, we’ve decided to gather a list of items featuring misquotations that you can buy right now, just in time to round out your misquotation wardrobe or library this holiday season.

Ayn Rand T-shirt, $19, Brandy Melville

This T-shirt, as we said above, edits a few lines of dialogue down into a T-shirt size quotation. Here is the original:

“Do you mean to tell me that you’re thinking seriously of building that way, when and if you are an architect?” “Yes.” “My dear fellow, who will let you?” “That’s not the point. The point is, who will stop me?”

Big deal. If you want an almost-belly-shirt with a misquotation on it, this is your deal.

Tyler Perry’s Hell Hath No Fury Like a Woman Scorned, The Play, $13.99, Amazon

Look, William Congreve did not say it this way. He actually wrote:

Heav’n has no rage like love to hatred turn’d. Nor hell a fury, like a woman scorn’d.

But at a cool $14, why not?

“Elementary, my dear Watson” lighter, $17.69, HipFlaskPlus

I know that you can’t resist the idea that you could say this every time you light a cigarette with your new lighter, but, if you do that, please remember that Sherlock Holmes said this not once, and it doesn’t appear in any of Arthur Conan Doyle’s other books. But I’m pretty sure that they say it in The Great Mouse Detective.

Voltaire dog shirt, $20.95, Zazzle

This dog shirt misattributes its quotation to Voltaire. Common mistake. It was actually written by Evelyn Beatrice Hall, who wrote a biography of Voltaire. Good thing your dog won’t know the difference.

“Money is the root of all evil” T-shirt, $9.99, Better Than Pants

The designer of this T-shirt is a genius. $=money. == is. √ = root. 666 = evil. Too bad this mathaletic quotation contorts 1 Timothy 6:10, which is slightly more capacious. It says:

For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

You don’t have to love your money to toss $9.99 against this T-shirt, though. No evil required.

Ozzy Osbourne’s No Rest for the Wicked, $5.89, Amazon

Nobody really expects Ozzy to know that “no rest for the wicked” is a weird paraphrase of Isaiah 57:21, which says: “There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.” So Ozzy might get rest, but he’ll have no peace. If God exists.

“All That Glitters Is Not Gold” belt buckle, $33.95, Zazzle

This one is a matter of perspective. We know that it is a belt buckle. We know, from the picture, that it probably does not glitter, which, by its own logic, means the jury is out on whether it is golden. We know that this is a misquotation of Shakespeare’s “all that glisters is not gold.” But at the end of the day, we have to admit that Chaucer said something similar; so, too, did Tolkien. I’m not sure if this is a good pick for your misquotation wardrobe.

Play It Again, Sam, $9.49, Amazon

What was Woody Allen thinking when he named his film after a phantom line from Casablanca? Everyone knows that Bogart didn’t say it this way. He said: “Play it, Sam.” We don’t know how many times, if any, Sam had already played it. If you want to add this to your misquotation library, just shell out around ten dollars.

“Let them eat cake” cake stand, $40, Etsy

This is just sadistic. A cake stand that says let them eat cake? For starters, everyone knows that Marie Antoinette never said this. But even if she did, it was supposed to have been a mean/ignorant thing she said about poor people. And you’re writing this on a cake stand? That’s like writing “let him eat a hotdog” in ketchup on a hotdog bun.

“Wanderers are never lost” T-Shirt, $38, Levi’s

This is a perversion of a line from Tolkien’s “All That Is Gold Does Not Glitter,” which tells us, “Not all those who wander are lost.” So this shirt is lying. Wanderers can sometimes be lost. The thing is: not all wanderers are lost. Some are, some aren’t. At nearly 40 dollars, this is too expensive for your misquotation wardrobe.