Entertainment Celebrity Sir David Attenborough’s run-in with an Adelaide mall and other surprising misquotations

Sir David Attenborough’s run-in with an Adelaide mall and other surprising misquotations

David Attenborough
Sir David Attenborough sent a letter requesting his misquotation about bees be taken down. Photo: TND/Heath Hunter/Getty
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“Save the bees!”

It’s not a bad message, but even a positive message with incorrect attribution is problematic.

British naturalist Sir David Attenborough has been embroiled in an unlikely disagreement with a Westfield this week, the ABC has reported.

And it all began over a mural misquoting him on the subject of bees.

The Westfield Tea Tree Plaza shopping centre in Adelaide’s north-east had attached a small plaque to a beautiful mural of honey bees.

“In the last five years the bee population has dropped by a third. If bees were to disappear from the face of the Earth, humans would have just four years left to live,” the plaque read, attributing the quote to Attenborough.

Unfortunately, according to Attenborough, these are words he has never spoken, on a topic about which he has never spoken.

Through the help of Adelaide local and science graduate Heath Hunter, Attenborough was informed of the mistake and was able to request the small plaque be removed.

The embarrassing misstep reminded The New Daily of some other famous misquotations.

We checked Quote Investigator (QI), a site launched by Garson O’Toole and lauded by the New York Times for its dedicated work in debunking common misquotes, to bring you these beauties.

‘Any fool can know. The point is to understand’: Albert Einstein (?)

Einstein was right about many things, but didn’t say this. Photo: Supplied

Sorry, Einstein fans. According to QI the scientist with the dishevelled hair did not actually say this.

In a classic twist, the quotation is believed to have originated as dialogue in a fictional TV drama about him, written by Ernest Kinoy.

So unless you count an actor playing Einstein in 1973 as sufficient, consider this attribution debunked.

‘A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle’: Gloria Steinem (?)

Nope. Sorry. And it wasn’t Erica Jong, either.

The phrase is a satirical mash-up of a 19th century newspaper listing of things one would not wish to be, such as a fish without water or a woman without a husband, QI found.

No offence to husbands out there, but thank goodness we have moved on from this way of thinking.

The mash-up suggests women do not, in fact, need them.

We imagine Gloria Steinem saying: ‘Hang on, I didn’t say that.’  Photo: Getty

‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure’: Nelson Mandela (?)

Oh come on, this one is printed on magnets!

But, alas, QI has deemed it a surefire fake.

It is very inspiring though and along with a picture of the author who actually wrote it – Marianne Williamson – it would make a great addition to your fridge.

Marianne Williamson also did not say: ‘Thank you, that was me.’ Photo: Getty

‘Be the change you want to see in the world’: Mahatma Gandhi (?)

Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi in 1931. Photo: Central Press/Getty

We can imagine your eyes rolling into the back of your heads in shock over this one, but don’t scratch off your bumper sticker just yet.

The quote is incorrect, but Gandhi did say something along these lines.

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him – we need not wait to see what others do,” he said.

This is too long for a sticker, but maybe take off the quotation marks and call it paraphrasing.

‘Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it’: Mark Twain (?)

Mark Twain had a close friend and neighbour called Charles Dudley Warner, also a writer.

According to the investigators over at QI, Dudley Warner wrote:

“A well-known American writer said once that, while everybody talked about the weather, nobody seemed to do anything about it.”

It was assumed ‘well known American writer’ referred to his friend Twain.

But further digging revealed Warner was actually referring to himself in the third person – an earlier quote about the weather had already been attributed to him.

Twain (left) and Warner (right) were friendly, but not that friendly. Photo: Getty

Don’t quote me on this, but it is probably best not to print stickers or engrave plaques unless you are 100 per cent sure who said what.

But, as proven by the above and hundreds of other examples on QI, misquoting someone famous can be an accident waiting to happen.