Winston Churchill often gets credit, or blame, for “famous quotations” that he did not say.
Misattribution is a common problem in speeches, press releases, DeathbyPowerPoint, and in all other human interaction. I believe the third or fourth most powerful human instinct is to misattribute aphorisms to admired, famous people. So in business presentations across the world today, someone will quote Lincoln, Jefferson, Madison, Washington, Franklin, Einstein and Churchill, as saying things they never uttered.
Below the fold, from the Churchill Centre in London, here is a collection of famous things often attributed to Winston Churchill that he did not actually say:
Quotes Falsely Attributed to Churchill
“Conservative by the time you’re 35″
“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.” There is no record of anyone hearing Churchill say this. Paul Addison of Edinburgh University makes this comment: “Surely Churchill can’t have used the words attributed to him. He’d been a Conservative at 15 and a Liberal at 35! And would he have talked so disrespectfully of Clemmie, who is generally thought to have been a lifelong Liberal?”
“Cross of Lorraine”
“The hardest cross I have to bear is the Cross of Lorraine.” — This remark about the intractable Charles de Gaulle was actually made by General Spears, Churchill’s envoy to France.
“Rum, sodomy and the lash”
The only traditions of the Royal Navy are rum, sodomy and the lash. – — Churchill’s assistant, Anthony Montague-Browne said that although Churchill had not uttered these words, he wished he had.
“What is relevant is obviously not true”
“All this contains much that is obviously true, and much that is relevant; unfortunately, what is obviously true is not relevant, and what is relevant is not obviously true.” This is not by Churchill, but Churchill quoting his colleague Arthur J. Balfour (Prime Minister, July 1902 to December 1905) in his book Great Contemporaries (London & New York, 1937, last reprinted 1990). The citation is on page 250 of the first edition, in the chapter entitled “Arthur James Balfour”: “…’there were some things that were true, and some things that were trite; but what was true was trite, and what was not trite was not true’…”
“You make a living by what you get; you make a life by what you give.”
While often attributed to Churchill, a search of over 2.5 million words by and about Churchill in The Churchill Centre’s research database fails to show that Churchill ever spoke or wrote those words. Equally encouraging, perhaps, are words he DID utter in Dundee, Scotland, on 10 October 1908:
“What is the use of living, if it be not to strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone? How else can we put ourselves in harmonious relation with the great verities and consolations of the infinite and the eternal? And I avow my faith that we are marching towards better days. Humanity will not be cast down. We are going on swinging bravely forward along the grand high road and already behind the distant mountains is the promise of the sun.”