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Anglo-Norman
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PostSubject: Misinterpreted quotes   Misinterpreted quotes EmptyWed 04 Mar 2015, 19:09

Not sure if this is the right section, but...
Well, there are plenty of quotable quotes from historical figures but they don't always mean what they seem to.  Sometimes the quotes are taken out of context, or (accidentally or deliberately) misinterpreted to make a point.  As an example:  one of Oliver Cromwell's most famous quotes is
Quote :
I had rather have a plain russet-coated captain that knows what he fights for, and loves what he knows, than that which you call a gentleman, and is nothing else.

This is often used to demonstrate Cromwell's alleged egalitarian inclinations, but he was no such thing.  What is often left out is the following sentence:
Quote :
I honour a gentleman that is so indeed.

Cromwell was a member of the gentry (albeit a minor one) and proud of it.  Like most people he believed in the natural authority of the gentry and aristocracy, and that they were most suited to command.  However, competency and idealism had to take priority.  Given a choice between an equally skilled commoner or gentleman, he would most likely have gone for the latter.

Any others that have been (or you think have been) commonly misinterpreted?
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Gilgamesh of Uruk
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PostSubject: Re: Misinterpreted quotes   Misinterpreted quotes EmptyWed 04 Mar 2015, 21:31

Couple of Bill's that get twisted out of the original sense
"If music be the food of love, play on"

Not quite so badly abused, but "A rose by any other name ..."
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ferval
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PostSubject: Re: Misinterpreted quotes   Misinterpreted quotes EmptyWed 04 Mar 2015, 23:06

The survival of the fittest

Not only was it not originated by Darwin, having first been employed by Hubert Spencer in his treatise on economic theory The Man Versus The State, it didn't appear in The Origin of Species until the fourth and fifth editions, credited to Spencer, and there specifically to mean 'the best adapted for survival and reproduction in the prevailing conditions' and nothing at all to do with 'fitness' in sense of strength or physical perfection.
In fact, it's not at all a good précis of evolutionary theory as it entirely omits any reference to the necessity for the heritability of those advantageous adaptations which is fundamental to mechanism of natural selection.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Misinterpreted quotes   Misinterpreted quotes EmptyWed 04 Mar 2015, 23:41



"Money is the root of all evil."

The full quotation is: "The love of money is the root of all evil."  Money can actually do a lot of good.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Misinterpreted quotes   Misinterpreted quotes EmptyThu 05 Mar 2015, 08:03

Last words - appropriately those of Thomas Cromwell.

I praie you that be here, to beare me record, I die in the Catholicke faith, not doubting in any article of my faith, no nor doubting in any sacrament of the Church...


Cromwell's avowal that he died in "the Catholicke faith" has been taken as an utter denial of his religious reforms. What is missed out is how he ended his speech from the scaffold: "I see and acknowledge that there is in myself no hope of salvation, but all my confidence, hope and trust  is in thy merciful goodness. I have no merits or good works, which I allege before thee."

He used "Catholicke" in the sense of "universal" (the word is still used in the version of the creed in Cranmer's BCP) and that final statement about justification by faith alone could have been written for him by Luther himself.

A calculated ambiguity, so typical of the man throughout his life, marks most of TC's pre-execution speech, but not, I think, these words. Reginald Pole said as much when he wrote (to an Italian associate in September 1540) that he feared he was "wrong in writing of Cromwell's coming to his senses, for his last words as printed do not give the same impression as the narrative of those who told of his end and last words."

It is possible that the official printed version circulated at the time did not contain those crucial final words.

Pole concluded: "The judgement of men belongs to Christ, who knows the hidden things of the heart."

Not so sure anyone, even the good Lord Himself, knew the "hidden things" of Cromwell's heart. Certainly no historian today does.


Last edited by Temperance on Thu 05 Mar 2015, 10:28; edited 1 time in total
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Triceratops
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PostSubject: Re: Misinterpreted quotes   Misinterpreted quotes EmptyThu 05 Mar 2015, 08:48

Apophrycal

"Send reinforcements, we're going to advance"

became

"Send three and fourpence, we're going to a dance"
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Gilgamesh of Uruk
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PostSubject: Re: Misinterpreted quotes   Misinterpreted quotes EmptyThu 05 Mar 2015, 09:39

The American general failed to reinforce the Glosters in Korea because he misinterpreted the comment "Things are getting a bit sticky" as meaning they were coping, rather than that they were taking a hammering.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Misinterpreted quotes   Misinterpreted quotes EmptyWed 22 Jul 2015, 08:22

Shakespeare contributed many pithy phrases to English, one of them being the succinct "to gild the lily" - to unnecessarily add ornament to something already intrinsically beautiful, exemplified by the ludicrous suggestion that a thin layer of gold should be added to the surface of a plant to enhance its attractiveness.

Except he didn't. The meaning is indeed more or less what he wanted to convey but the actual quotation (from the play King John) is neither succinct nor so stupid as to suggest applying metal to organic material.

Therefore, to be possess'd with double pomp,
To guard a title that was rich before,
To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,
To throw a perfume on the violet,
To smooth the ice, or add another hue
Unto the rainbow, or with taper-light
To seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish,
Is wasteful and ridiculous excess.


If anything Shakespeare rather spoils the whole pithy thing by citing way too many examples of futile adornment and ends up simply labouring his point rather too much (mentioning to gild gold along the way - a pointless adornment indeed). Mind you, "labouring the point" is one he came up with himself also, so perhaps he can be forgiven ...
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Vizzer
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PostSubject: Re: Misinterpreted quotes   Misinterpreted quotes EmptyMon 04 Nov 2019, 20:27

@Triceratops wrote:
Apophrycal

"Send reinforcements, we're going to advance"

became

"Send three and fourpence, we're going to a dance"

In the same vein, the word propeller in aeronautics is said to have taken over from the former word 'airscrew' as that word was being mistaken for 'air crew' during the Second World War. "Send 2 propellers" can't be typographically mistaken for "send 2 air crews".

One speech which is often referred to in 20th Century UK politics is Enoch Powell's so-called 'Rivers of Blood' speech from 1968. In that speech, however, he didn't use the term 'rivers of blood'. He didn't even use the word 'rivers'. His words were "like the Roman I seem to see the river Tiber foaming with much blood". So rather than the 'rivers of blood' speech it should probably be referred to as the bloody river speech.
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Green George
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PostSubject: Re: Misinterpreted quotes   Misinterpreted quotes EmptyMon 04 Nov 2019, 21:40

Surely the epitome of misinterpreted quotes in Shakespeare are the ones uttered by the witches? "No man born of woman" and "Birnam Wood come to high Dunsinane Hill" etc?
Although I suspect that the words of the Pythoness were always intended to be capable of being construed in opposite senses, and can't really be considered as "misinterpreted" for that very reason.
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Meles meles
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PostSubject: Re: Misinterpreted quotes   Misinterpreted quotes EmptyTue 05 Nov 2019, 12:25

Isn't that the whole point of pronouncements made by soothsayers, oracles and prophets: their sayings are always carefully worded to be cryptic and ambiguously obtuse, so as to cover all likely contingencies? For example Croesus, King of Lydia, consulted the Oracle at Delphi (the Pythia) before attacking the Persian empire, and was advised: "If you cross the river, a great empire will be destroyed". Believing the response favourable, Croesus duly attacked across the Halys River in central Anatolia (547 BC), but this action resulted in the destruction of his own empire by the Persians the following year.

Another example was the Pythia's response to the Athenians when the vast Persian army of Xerxes I was approaching Athens with the intent of razing the city to the ground (480 BC). "Only the wooden palisades may save you", answered the oracle. However she was probably fully aware that there were already various conflicting sentiments among the Athenians themselves. Those that were for fighting thought the oracle's words were a recommendation to fortify the Acropolis with a wooden fence and make a stand there: other Athenians, Themistocles among them, said the oracle was clearly for fighting at sea, the metaphor being intended to mean war ships; and others who were for escape to the safety of southern Italy and re-establishing Athens there, thought the Pythia's words supported them. In the event variations of all three interpretations were attempted: some barricaded the Acropolis; the civilian population was evacuated over sea to nearby Salamis Island; and the war fleet victoriously engaged the Persian fleet in Salamis Bay. And should utter destruction have happened, it could always be claimed that the oracle had called for fleeing by ship to Italy after all.

However despite her usual ambiguity the Pythia could sometimes be daringly precise. According to Herodotus, King Croesus, when he first considered invading Persia, had decided to test the oracles of the world to discover which gave the most accurate prophecies. He sent out emissaries to seven famous oracles to ask, all on the same day, what the king was doing at that very moment. Croesus proclaimed the oracle at Delphi to be the most accurate, who apparently correctly reported that the king was making a lamb-and-tortoise stew (as you do when you're a fabulously wealthy king with countless slaves and a large empire to manage!). Accordingly it was she that he showered with gifts and in whom he eventually put his trust, only to be let down by his own hubris.
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