Flat Earth: Quote, unquote
Sunday 01 November 1998
This may hardly matter, but in New England recently I discovered how easily such popular myth turns into history. Few are so naive as to believe that George Washington said "Father, I cannot tell a lie," but how many know that Patrick Henry almost certainly never uttered the words "Give me liberty or give me death"? Nor is there any record of another American revolutionary, James Otis, saying "Taxation without representation is tyranny." And most of what we think we know of Paul Revere's ride was made up by the poet Longfellow.
One might be tempted to dismiss the Americans as a nation of easy fabulists, but I remember the distinguished Simon Hoggart pointing out that Harold Macmillan never actually said "You've never had it so good." What we "remember" is a headline-writer's compression of words roughly to that effect. As recently as 1979, Jim Callaghan was supposed to have returned from the Caribbean during the Winter of Discontent and asked: "Crisis? What crisis?", but that was an ever vaguer headline approximation of what he said. These errors may be traceable, but who polished up the mythical Casablanca and Star Trek "quotes" into their present form?
- 1 Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes, may now face death penalty
- 2 Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
- 3 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
- 4 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
- 5 Spiritual leader allegedly manipulated 400 men into removing testicles to be 'closer to God'
Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes, may now face death penalty
Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
Spiritual leader allegedly manipulated 400 men into removing testicles to be 'closer to God'
The 'sex selfie stick' lets you FaceTime the inside of a vagina
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
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