He could travel to the moon but he couldn’t get an accurate account of his most important statement.
Neil Armstrong’s fate of being misquoted has been shared by many others, including the inventor of the term information superhighway and a former Alaskan governor.
Mark Twain, Abraham Lincoln and Jimmy Carter are in the club, too. Here are a few memorable things they didn’t say.
One giant step, one minor omission
The first words from the first man on the moon? Not one small step for man, one giant step for mankind, Armstrong long insisted. Instead, he began, One small step for a man ...
The Apollo 11 astronaut maintained that the radio transmission swallowed the a as he spoke it.
Created the Internet? Never said that, exactly
Much was made of then-Vice President Al Gore’s March 1999 claim that during my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to the nation’s economic growth and environmental protection.
Vint Cerf (often referred to as the father of the Internet) has defended Gore’s comment and his role in pushing government efforts to develop the Internet. In 2005, Gore was given a Webby Award for online achievement for decades of work on helping build the Internet.
‘I can see Russia from my house’
No, those words were not spoken by Sarah Palin. Tina Fey, the comedian who skewered the former Alaska governor on Saturday Night Live, said them, based on a Palin interview with ABC News.
In September 2008, the then-GOP vice presidential candidate said regarding Russia that they’re our next-door neighbors, and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.
That, by the way, is true, on a clear day. An uninhabited island, but still
Coldest winter a summer in San Francisco? Try Paris
Detractors of San Francisco love to point to a Mark Twain quote that the coldest winter he ever spent was a summer in San Francisco. Except ... the closest historians have found to the cold summer/winter quip was one he made about Paris in 1879.
Historian Ralph Hurst says droll witticisms are often misattributed to Twain, even when Twain would painstakingly offer correct attributions on some of them
‘You cannot fool all of the people all of the time’
This saying, first attributed to the 16th president and first GOP head of state in a book 36 years after his assassination, has not been corroborated. (Honest Abe may not have fought vampires with a giant ax, either, despite a recent movie and novel to that effect.)
Abraham Lincoln did, however, say in 1858: A house divided against itself cannot stand.
‘My fellow immigrants’
Some quotes seem too good to be true. Did the aristocratic Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Groton-educated and a cousin of Theodore Roosevelt, open an April 1938 speech to the Daughters of the American Revolution with these words?
The answer is no, according to Roosevelt’s public papers. However, he was quoted as saying: Remember always that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.
The Malaise Speech never used the word malaise
Contrary to a popular view, Jimmy Carter’s tough 1979 speech – in which he urged Americans to conserve energy – went off very well at first, with Carter’s poll numbers jumping 11 points, wrote Kevin Madden in the American Prospect on its 30th anniversary.
Too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns, Carter told the nation. He said fragmentation and self-interest prevented Americans from tackling the energy crisis.
‘Beam me up, Scotty’ ... not!
Even in TV and movie land, misquotes abound. William Shatner, James Kirk in Star Trek, said Beam me aboard, Beam us up home and Beam us up, Scotty but the closest he got to the catchphrase was Scotty, beam me up in the 1986 movie Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
Nonetheless, the popularity of the phrase prompted James Doohan, the actor who played Montgomery Scott, to use it as the title of his 1996 autobiography.