Columnists,Deshan Ilangakoon,Main Slider l by Deshan Ilangakoon l 23 Oct 2021     - 53

10 Common Quotes We Have All Been Using Wrong

We all have our favorite quotes that we use quite frequently. Whether they are from movies, books, or famous people, we all love to use these. However, there are a few of these quotes that are taken either out of context or actually mean something totally different to what we intend it to mean. I too was quite genuinely surprised by some of these quotes, which I have also been using incorrectly for years. 

1.Star Crossed lovers

It seems that one of the greatest play writes / authors ever, William Shakespeare, is a popular source of quotes for people use incorrectly. The first of those in this list is when people refer to a couple as “Star-crossed Lovers”. This quote taken from famous love / tragedy story Romeo and Juliette, should actually server as a hint to the true meaning of this quote. However, this is a quote that a lot of people take to mean a couple who were meant to be or to refer to true love. The true meaning of this quote by Shakespeare is to say that the couple’s love is cursed by fate, a love not meant to be. You can understand this mistake a little more when you consider how a lot of people associate Romeo and Juliette only as a love story, forgetting the part about how it ended with both these lovers committing suicide by drinking poison.

2.Hell hath no fury like a woman’s scorn

The phrase “Hell hath no fury like a woman’s scorn” is quite often used to give warning against angering a lady. When you hear this, you know that the person this was said about, should not be messed with. It is generally taken to mean that you should not cross a woman for fear of her getting back at you. However, this phrase like a few others is not actually the full quote. In reality this quote isn’t really about a woman. The original quote is from a 1697 play called The Mourning Bride and goes as, “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned / Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.”. Here the writer William Congreve is actually talking about the anger pertaining to a scorned love or in other words, the anger you have from a broken heart.

3.Love makes the world go round

This is a quote that was originally said by the villain “Duchess” from a book we are all quite familiar with, “Alice in Wonderland”. This quote is said right after the Duchess has told to beat her child because it sneezed. When the Duchess says “Love makes the world go ‘round” she is actually meant to be saying with a tone of sarcastic humor.

4.The world’s mine oyster

The phrase, “The world’s mine oyster” is one that has been used to inspire hope and positivity by meaning to say that there are plenty of possibilities and opportunities in the world. However, this is the second example of a quote unnervingly taken horribly out of context. And again, the author of this famous quote is William Shakespeare from his play, “The Merry Wives of Windsor”. While the quote is used to inspire and sound positive, this far from what it is actually meant to be when we take it in its full context. The proper quote goes as “Why then the world's mine oyster, / Which I with sword will open.” and is from the scene where the character Falstaff refuses to lend Pistol. So, when this quote is actually said in the play, it actually means that in order for someone to gain fortune or wealth, you have to use force and violence.

5.Money is the root of all evil

A phrase that’s often used, “Money is the root of all evil” is quite often used to mean the money is the cause of most problems that you have. However, this quote is actually only part of a full quote which is originally sourced from the bible, and again used in “The Pardoner's Prologue of The Canterbury Tales” and it goes as “Love of money is the root of all evil”. What this quote then actually means is that greed or desire for money is basis for most people’s problems.

6.Great minds think alike

We all probably would have heard the quote “Great minds think alike” at some point in our lives or quite possibly said this about yourself and someone else. However, before you go around saying this anymore, it might be worth noting that this again is only part of quote. The full quote of this actually goes as “Great minds think alike, and seldom fools differ”. So be careful the next time use this quote, or now that you know the full quote, you can put a stop to someone trying to be boastful.

7.Blood is thicker than water

A quote quite often used in movies and in real life is the phrase “Blood is thicker than water”. This is used to try and say that the bonds of family are more important or greater than the bond with others. Of course, in movies, this quote is quite often used when someone wants to get something or have something done by a family member. However, this too is a quote that has been cut short and therefore its actually giving completely the opposite meaning. The full quote is an old proverb is “The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb”. This means that the actual quote is saying that the bonds forged between men through the bloodshed of war is a stronger bond that one that you would have with your own siblings or family.

8.Starve a cold, feed a fever

Just like we are very good at taking Shakespeare quotes completely out of context and turning the meaning on it’s head, it seem that we are also very good at just taking part of a quote so that it ends up meaning completely something else. A quote that’s quite familiar and heard often when we are sick is that we have to “Starve a cold, feed a fever”. The reality however is that we have butchered the original proverb and taken bits and pieces to make this quote, which is also hinging on bad medical advice. The original quote goes as “If you starve a cold, you’ll have to feed a fever”. This quote also proves why we should listen to our doctors more and give less prominence to old home remedies, unless they are given the green light from doctors. Also, unless told specifically by a doctor, food generally gives our body strength to fight off an illness.

9.Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo

And for the last time on this list, lets look at how we have gone and taken a great piece of literal work by Shakespeare and taken a quote from it out of context. When often we say the quote “Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo” it is often taken in the context of someone looking for their “Romeo”. However, the thing here is that we have gotten our English a little wrong. The words “wherefore art thou” does mean to ask, “where are you”, it actually means “why you”. In this scene, when Juliet is standing on the balcony and saying this out, she isn’t actually asking “where is Romeo” she is basically saying “why did it have to be you”. Given the context of how these two lovers were from families who were mortal enemies, the quote makes more sense when you take that she was asking why she had to fall in love with him of all people.

10.Curiosity killed the cat

For our last quote “Curiosity killed the cat”, we are actually taking this quote out of context in more than just one way. This quote is often used to discourage someone from being too nosy or snooping around and gives warning of the possible consequences. On the face of it however, this seems like bad advice, seeing as how most of our scientific discoveries were because someone was curious about something. However, one version of this quote’s origin is credited to 17th Century English playwright called Ben Jonson. In one of his plays he wrote the quote “care kills a cat” which Shakespeare then later adopted to say “Though care killed the cat, thou hast mettle enough in thee to kill care” in his comedy “Much Ado About Nothing”. In both these cases, “care” is taken to mean “worry”. Which means that it wasn’t curiosity that killed the cat, but it was worrying too much that actually kills the cat.

The second source of this quote is an old proverb in which the phrase we use is only the first part of the proverb. The full quote however is actually “Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back.”. So even in this context, while “curiosity” does kill the cat, the satisfaction of finding out the truth of what it was after, brings it back to life. So, you are quite ok to be curious.

#Quotes #ReadersCuriosity #Sayings #Insight


Deshan Ilangakoon

"A creative writer, photographer, traveler and cyber security professional, Deshan has worked with several local and international travel magazines and other sources, to publish stories and reviews of places, sights and experiences around Sri Lanka. He has a passion to share his experiences through stories and pictures of the wonders of Sri Lanka."

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