30 Famous Quotes You've Been Reading All Wrong

30 Famous Quotes You’ve Been Reading All Wrong

You might THINK you’ve been using these phrases the right way, but Ask Reddit can prove you wrong.

1. “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps” is used by people to say that someone needs to get it together. The real meaning is: “You CAN’T pull yourself up by your bootstaps.” Think about it. If you pull on your actual real life bootstraps your feet will not levitate. It’s not how it works. The point of the quote is that people can’t care for themselves and lift themselves out of whatever struggle they’re going through.

2. Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero.

Translated most often as “seize the day; trust tomorrow e’en as little as you may”, comes from Horace’s Odes, and means basically the opposite of what people use it for.

Carpe diem isn’t about ignoring the future and going full YOLO, it’s about using your time now to prepare yourself for the future, because you can’t trust future happenings to chance.

3. “People should consume 8 glasses of water a day.”

Full quote: “People should consume 8 glasses of water a day. Most of this quantity is contained in prepared foods.”

Most of what you eat is water. Drink some water if you’re thirsty.

4. Money is the root of all evil. The actual verse reads: “The love of money is a root of all sorts of evil.”

5. People refer to “bad apples” meaning some group is fine, there’s just a couple of bad people in it that aren’t representative of the whole.

That’s the exact opposite meaning of the full quote: “A few bad apples spoil the bunch.”

6. Machiavelli: “It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.”

7. “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.” I’m sure there’s something to be learnt here but I’m too stupid to teach it.

8. “Curiosity killed the cat… but satisfaction brought it back.”

9. “To thine own self be true” is followed by “and it must follow as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” You can’t use the first part to justify actions by saying you’re being true to yourself. The idea is to be the kind of person who is honest and upfront with him or herself, and to truly live that principle, you have to be the same with other people.

10. Might as well be that person who points this quote out: “Rome wasn’t built in a day [here’s the forgotten part] but it burned in one.”

11. “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” It’s actually “absence makes the heart grow fonder, but too much absence makes it wander.”

12.  “A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.”

13. “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” is actually about fairness. It implies only an eye for an eye and only a tooth for a tooth.

14. “Turn the other cheek.” To understand the phrase, you have to understand the symbolism and body language of Jesus’s time.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

So picture it: you strike a person’s right cheek with your right hand. (Lefties, imagine your left hand striking a person’s left cheek.) What is that?

If you said a backhanded slap, you are correct! Slapping someone in face isn’t very respectful, but the backhanded slap indicates zero respect. This was a slap reserved for servants and lower classes.

So if the person who got pimp-slapped offers their left cheek, what is the slapper to do? Backslapping with the left hand would be unseemly. The left hand was thought to be unclean. They could respond with an open handed slap or a punch to the face, but that would imply they consider the person they just backhanded is equal and worth that much respect.

So what “turn the other cheek” really means is demanding equality without resorting to violence.

15. “Great minds think alike, but fools rarely differ.”

16. “Give me liberty or give me death.” Read the whole speech, he is really saying get off your asses.

17. “Why then the world’s mine oyster which with sword I will open.”

18. “Fortune favors the bold and abandons the timid.” It’s not a big difference but it bothers me that only the first half gets quoted.

19. “Blood (of the covenant) is thicker than (the) water (of the womb).” The phrase actually means that the blood spilled during battle, going through hard times together, connects people in a deeper way than anything else. Those who are willing to die together for their common goals and values are beyond brothers.

20. “As happy as a clam at high tide.” Hence it won’t be caught.

21. “The race is not (always) to the swift.”

The full quote is: “The race is not to the swift, not the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”

The point isn’t so much that persistence is sometimes enough to overcome skill, but rather that sometimes everyone is unlucky.

22. “Early bird gets the worm. But second mouse gets the cheese.”

23. “Laugh and the world laughs with you, weep and you weep alone.”

24. My boss always said: ” Teamwork makes the dream work.”

Apparently the full quote is from John C. Maxwell and is: “Teamwork makes the dream work, but a vision becomes a nightmare when the leader has a big dream and a bad team.”

Wasn’t the team that was bad…

25. Don’t mistake my kindness for weakness.

The full quote: “Don’t mistake my kindness for weakness. I am kind to everyone, but when someone is unkind to me, weak is not what you are going to remember about me” — Al Capone

Not necessarily misused, but I think the full quote is so much more valuable.

26. “The mountains are calling and I must go and I will work on while I can, studying incessantly.” – John Muir, father of our national park system.

He wasn’t just some dude who liked fucking around in the mountains, he was a scientist.

27. “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?” -Nietzsche

The full quote is not nearly as cut and dry as the first sentence. Much more thoughtful than celebratory.

28. “History repeats itself. First as tragedy, then as farce.” People often forget the second part!

29. “My country, right or wrong.” People use it to justify blind patriotism and ignoring the bad things that their country does but forget the rest of the quote: “If right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.”

30. “Now is the winter of our discontent.”

Actual quote: “Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this sun of York.”

The “now” modifies “made”, not “is”. Richard III is describing a good thing, that the “seasons are changing” for him and things are looking up. Basically the complete opposite of what you get by stopping half way through the quote. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

January Nelson is a writer, editor, and dreamer. She writes about astrology, games, love, relationships, and entertainment. January graduated with an English and Literature degree from Columbia University.