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Quoting famous people is the fast food of appearing smart -- not as good as having a thought of your own, but so much easier. And just like with fast food, as long as it looks good on the surface, nobody cares if there's shit in it. Unsurprisingly, this has led to some of our greatest thinkers being horribly misrepresented by the general public and your more annoying friends. For example ...

7
"Brevity Is The Soul Of Wit" - William Shakespeare

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William "I invented English" Shakespeare was in some ways the Donald Trump of the 16th Century, what with him having the best words. Many of those words can be found in such classics like Hamlet, including this nugget of wisdom: "Brevity is the soul of wit." It's not only a brilliant line from a brilliant play; it's also fantastic life advice that is relevant even today. Keep your jokes short and sweet, people!

Why People Need To Stop Using It:

Attributing this to Shakespeare as if it's life advice is like, well, doing this:

"Release your anger! Only your hatred can destroy me!" -- George Lucas

It's true that Lucas wrote those words, but they were written in a work of fiction to be spoken by a bad guy. They don't represent Lucas' position (as far as we know).

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
"Actually, you just need four billion dollars to stop me."

Well, anybody who's read Hamlet could tell you that the character who says "Brevity is the soul of wit" is bar-none one of the dumbest characters in Shakespeare's canon. The line is spoken by Polonius, an adviser to the murderous King Claudius, who spends most of the play spitting out aphorisms that are either off by a word or so cartoonishly misguided that you have to wonder if he wasn't meant as the first "Dumb Polack" joke in recorded history.

Coke Smyth
Seriously, look at this dipshit getting stabbed behind a curtain.

Add to that the fact that the most long-winded character in the play (Hamlet) is arguably the sharpest wit, and also that Shakespeare himself was never known for being particularly brief. His best writing is to be found in his long speeches, because to Shakespeare, wit was the soul of wit, no matter how long it lasted. Although please don't mistake this for an invitation to extend your stand-up routine about how women are different from men by another 40 minutes.

6
"If You're Not A Liberal When You're 25, You Have No Heart. If You're Not A Conservative By The Time You're 35, You Have No Brain" -- Winston Churchill

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Over the course of his political life, Winston Churchill switched parties more times than a college freshman, while maintaining roughly the same BAC. He went from the Conservative to the Liberal Party and then back again, all before he was elected Prime Minister. Years later, while looking back on a long and turbulent political career, he concluded that "If you're not a liberal when you're 25, you have no heart. If you're not a conservative by the time you're 35, you have no brain."

MGM
Pictured: Churchill's two-party headcanon.

From his lips to God's ears, folks. Conservatives love this quote because it slaps down every young bleeding heart clamoring for their health care and gay marriage. "You kids mean well, but you're just naive!" That's why it gets parroted by right-wing commentators like Charles Krauthammer. You might argue with a pundit, but would you dare argue with Churchill?

Why People Need To Stop Using It:

First things first: Churchill never said it. Second things second: Churchill's changes of political affiliation had everything to do with opportunism and little to do with ideology. He simply thought that both camps made good points, but he also liked being in the one that had more power at the time. Also, Churchill didn't think people of liberal persuasion were dumb. His wife Clementine, whom he valued and respected as an equal, was a lifelong Liberal. Churchill even gave one of the most stirring speeches of his political career about the defining qualities of liberalism.

Print Collector/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
"Don't believe everything you read on the Internet." -- Abraham Lincoln Winston Churchill

Then there's the fact that Churchill was a Conservative when he was in his 20s and a sitting member of the Liberal party until the age of 50. In the end, Churchill's real thoughts about political affiliations were probably closer to "If you're a conservative when the liberals are in charge or a liberal when conservatives rule, then you will be a rather ineffectual politician."

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5
"Sometimes, A Cigar Is Just A Cigar" -- Sigmund Freud

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Most people know what a "Freudian slip" is. It's when you say one thing, but you were really thinking about sucking a bunch of penises ... or something like that. It is of course named after Sigmund Freud, the revolutionary psychoanalyst who first offered us a look into the human psyche and discovered that it's full of throbbing cocks. We kid, we kid. Freud didn't really believe that humans only ever had genitalia on their minds. That's why he famously said "Sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar," which roughly translates to "Come on people, not everything is symbolism for dicks" (only he'd have said it in German).

Max Halberstadt
So is it irony that smoking can disable your penis?

Why People Need To Stop Using It:

The earliest attribution of the quote comes from the 1960s, well after Freud was dead, and even then it's vague, unsourced, and secondhand. In fact, the guy who most likely originated the quote in 1961 freely admits that there's no record of Freud ever having said it. It's also pretty much the opposite of the entire point of Freud's theory of psychoanalysis, which, if you buy into it, hinges on unconscious tendencies. There's a reason you're smoking that cigar, damn it! And it probably has to do with wanting to bang your mother.

Shaiith/iStock/Getty Images
Or those of you who want to fuck a cigar.

We're not kidding, by the way. In 1922, the International Journal of Psycho-Analysis -- a publication funded under Freud's direction -- came out with an article about how, yes, cigars can absolutely symbolize dicks. And while the father of psychoanalysis didn't publicly weigh in between puffs of his stogie to say, "You got that shit right," he also didn't come out and say, "This article is way off-base" (only he would have not-said it in German).

4
"Good Fences Make Good Neighbors" -- Robert Frost

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"Good fences make good neighbors" comes from Robert Frost's 1914 poem "Mending Wall." It's about how, in order to live peacefully, men need boundaries to keep them separate from one another. Or, if you're Antonin Scalia, it's also about how Congress shouldn't be able to dictate how much time you have to file stock fraud suits.

R. Neil Marshman
"It's there if you read between the lines."

Why People Need To Stop Using It:

Here we have our second example in which writing a phrase isn't the same as believing it. Frost wrote "Good fences make good neighbors" in the same sense that Swift wrote that the Irish should eat their children to combat famine. Context matters.

Catherine Delahaye/DigitalVision/Getty Images
"But if it looks like a potato and acts like a potato ..."

In this case, "Mending Wall" is about how fences are against human nature. The poem opens with "Something there is that doesn't love a wall." It means that there's a natural tendency toward breaking down barriers, because humans aren't meant to be walled off from one another. The line even makes a second appearance in the poem to hammer in the point:

Before I built a wall I'd ask to know,
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.

Lear 21 at English Wikipedia
Case in point.

In the end, the poem concludes that the man who continues to repeat the senseless platitude of "Good fences make good neighbors" might not truly believe it, but he continues to erect walls because that's what his father taught him. It's essentially a message against holding onto the past, and a quiet celebration of the good that dwells within each person. Shit, Scalia would spin in his grave if he knew that he ever endorsed such a hippie message.

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3
"So You're The Little Woman Who Started This Big War" -- Abraham Lincoln

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When Harriet Beecher Stowe released her famed abolitionist novel Uncle Tom's Cabin in 1852, people were so taken aback by the plight of slaves depicted in the book that they decided to tack a real-life happy ending onto the story by fighting for the rights of black people. Then some other stuff happened and the American Civil War broke out. That's why when Abraham Lincoln met Stowe, he famously greeted the author with, "So you're the little woman who started this big war." The quote has been associated with Stowe ever since.

Print Collector/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
"Yeah, that's right. How's the weather up there, jackass?"

Why People Need To Stop Using It:

Sure, it's a good story, but there's no proof that it ever happened. Lincoln and Stowe sure as shit never mentioned it to anyone. The anecdote emerged from Stowe's family's oral tradition a couple of generations after she had kicked the bucket, and historians sort of said, "Alright, to hell with sourcing, then" and started repeating it as fact, because apparently they all came into work drunk that day.

Library of Congress
"Also ... *hic* Lincoln's hat was filled with candy!"

Beyond that, the quote ignores the deep-seated hulking context that surrounded the Civil War and is totally reductive. Not that artists can't change the world, but it's silly to think that the greatest president in U.S. history attributed the cause of the Civil War to one white lady from Connecticut.

2
"God Does Not Play Dice With The Universe" -- Albert Einstein

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Albert Einstein's name is associated with exactly one thing: being really smart. It's what makes his "God does not play dice with the universe" quote so attractive to religious people. It's not just a reference to the existence of God, but also a fierce rebuttal to those who say life is meaningless and random. If one of the smartest human beings in history said that, then there's no way that atheists could have it right. Because, what? A bunch of guys wearing Guy Fawkes masks are ALL smarter than Einstein? Yeah, right.

Wiki Commons
Although they do have a similar taste in hats.

And the best part is that there's no denying that Einstein said it. The earliest mention of the quote goes back to 1949 and comes to us from genius physicist Niels Bohr, the Pippen to Einstein's Jordan. So in case you're keeping score, it's God: 1, Atheists: Eternal Damnation.

Why People Need To Stop Using It:

In reality, Einstein's dice quote referred to the then-nascent field of quantum theory. Now, we're not even going to pretend that we're qualified to explain it, but in terms so insultingly simple they'll one day get us punched by a physicist, it states that when you get to the subatomic level, all laws of physics go out the window and randomness rules the land. Einstein did not agree with that.

Apic/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
And he had a childish way of showing it.

Einstein (who, incidentally, could maybe be characterized as an agnostic/deist) was a firm believer in the classical model of physics, and had many debates with Bohr trying to convince him that really small things act exactly like really big things. So when he said "God does not play dice," it really meant something like "The laws of physics are constant." Seeing as how quantum mechanics are still a thing, it's fair to say that he lost those debates. Sorry, religious people. You'll need to find another genius dead guy to draft into your Fantasy Faith Team. Might we suggest Kurt Godel?

Wikipedia
"But ... he doesn't have the crazy hair ..."

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1
"Write Drunk, Edit Sober" -- Ernest Hemingway

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It's easy to see why the internet is in love with Hemingway's "Write drunk, edit sober" quote. Not only is it a great excuse to get shitfaced in the middle of the day, but it also confirms what most people think about writing: That it's a mad art fueled by inspiration and passion, which are more likely to come out and play if you lure them with booze. Also, the entire quote is basically a neat little summary of Ernest Hemingway's writing style: manly, to the point, and advocating runaway alcoholism.

Fotosearch/Archive Photos/Getty Images
Plus, the comma in the quote kind of looks like a trigger.

Why People Need To Stop Using It:

Hemingway never said "Write drunk, edit sober." The quote is often attributed to him (without a single shred of proof) because, well, it sounds like something Beardy Bull-Killer would say. Still, even if those exact words have never passed his leathery, sun-damaged lips, Hemingway would probably get behind that quote faster than he would a submachine gun, right? Nope. See, Ernest Hemingway never drank when he wrote -- at least, not according to his freaking granddaughter.

Lloyd Arnold
To Have And Have Not

In fact, Hemingway kind of said that he couldn't respect anyone who drank while writing, and criticized William Faulkner for doing exactly that. So what was his secret to cranking out picture-less macho porn? Hard work. He simply got up every day and wrote, wrote, wrote, and never let booze fuel his work because he respected the art of writing too much. Instead, he saved the hooch for other occasions, like taking a break from his work, or beating the crap out of his family.

J.C. Breen lives and works in New York. To read some of his short fiction, or his first novel (free of charge), click on this son of a bitch right here: https://jcbreen.wordpress.com

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