4 Famous Pop Culture Moments Everyone Remembers Incorrectly
I pride myself on having a fairly good memory. Not when it comes to directions, phone numbers, people's birthdays or what my friends look like, mind you; I'm just talking about important things, like pop culture. The parts of my brain that are supposed to be dedicated to remembering where I parked my car, math and whether or not I left my front door unlocked have been reassigned to focus on random bits of pointless TV and movie trivia, because I work for a website that covers pop culture in exhaustive detail (and because I don't actually have anything worth stealing, so really, who cares if my door's unlocked?).
It always throws me for a loop, then, when I discover that one of my long-held, previously unquestioned beliefs about pop culture is completely and utterly wrong. These are just a few of the pop culture truths that I need to remind myself of occasionally ...
(See Dan as a damn Jedi in Cracked's new Star Wars mini-series.)
The Word "Ewok" Was Never Once Said in Star Wars
The Thing You Remember
Star Wars is and was always expanding its library of weird aliens. A New Hope gave us Jawas and Sand People, The Empire Strikes Back gave us Tauntauns and Return of the Jedi gave us the ridiculous mini-Wookiees known as Ewoks.
And they were known as Ewoks, right? Someone certainly called them that in the movie, right?
But Actually ...
Now, I have pretty amazing parents, which is why some of my earliest memories involve me watching Star Wars. My whole family casually quoted that movie growing up, and not just the popular quotes ("I thought they smelled bad on the outside," ""), but the less recognizable stuff, too ("Threepio! Where could he beeee," "Two cruisers against a star destroyer," ""). My first toys were Star Wars toys, I had light saber battles with any of the neighborhood kids who wanted to play with me (turns out none of them did) and I'm pretty sure I knew who Boba Fett was before I knew who George Washington was.
I actually still get them confused.
That said, we weren't weird or anything. No one owned a bunch of Extended Universe books, and no one wasted days clicking around Wookieepedia, because the Internet didn't exist. We didn't sit around and watch the credits to learn every character's name and find out who played what.
So how the hell have I known since I was 5 years old that the doofy freaking bears in Return of the Jedi were called Ewoks if that word was never once used in a single Star Wars movie?
"This is a buddy of mine. His name's not important; he's cool."
The fact that no one ever says "Ewok" in all of Jedi hadn't even occurred to me until I stumbled upon a Reddit link drawing attention to it last week. I didn't believe it at first. Surely Threepio must have said something like "My word! The Ewoks believe me to be a God," or Leia must have said, "We need to stay here and help the Ewok rebellion," or Han must have said, "Tonight we dine on the soft meat of our fallen hairy comrades. 'Ewoks,' or some shit. Wait, 'Ewoks'? Well that's stupid and lazy, that's clearly just a syllabic reversal on 'Wookiee.'"
Above: An Ewok, I think.
I know by heart the name of the band leader in Jabba's palace, the bald guy in Cloud City who wore that weird ear thing and every damn bounty hunter who went searching for Han Solo, because I bought a Star Wars name guidebook when I was 12 (ladies), but I will never know how I've known what an Ewok was since I was 5.
In Humpty Dumpty, No One Says Anything About an Egg
The Thing You Remember
Humpty Dumpty is an egg.
But Actually ...
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the king's horses and all the king's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again.
Nope. Not a single mention of an egg in the whole poem. I mean, egg or no egg, it's weird that the king's horses would even be involved in this kind of restoration project, but even that's not as strange to me as the fact that I have never once questioned Humpty Dumpty's egg status, even though it's never explicitly brought up. Going just by that poem, there's no reason to assume he's an egg; he could just be a guy who fell and cracked his skull open, which makes the king's desperate and futile attempt to "put him back together" much more tragic (and the involvement of the horses even more suspect).
"Look, Mr .... 'The King,' is it? Mr. The King, I'm admittedly out of my element here, but I'm almost certain this guy is extremely dead. Can I have some oats, please?"
Doing the least amount of research expected of me, I clicked around Wikipedia for a while to dig into old nursery rhymes and learned that the story of Humpty Dumpty actually used to be a riddle, the answer of which was "egg." When the answer to the riddle became too well-known, everyone stopped calling it a riddle and started calling it a nursery rhyme. This is an unsatisfactory answer to me for a number of reasons. For starters, that sounds like a really shitty riddle. "A thing fell off of a wall and broke -- can you guess what it was?" How is "egg" a better answer than "glass bowl named Humpty" or "a dude"?
Additionally, the whole riddle thing is just one possible theory. No one seems to know where this original riddle version of Humpty Dumpty is or where it came from, and there are competing theories that suggest that Humpty Dumpty was either a tortoise, a cannon or a stand-in for King Richard III of England, designed to make some kind of satirical observation about the king. That he was bad at sitting on walls? Wait, if Humpty Dumpty is supposed to be King Richard, who the hell is "the king" supposed to represent in this satire? This is so dumb.
It looks like we'll never know for sure whether or not Humpty Dumpty was supposed to be a stupid riddle, but we do know that we all grew up knowing, without a doubt, that the character in this brief nursery rhyme was absolutely an egg. And that's weird.
Will Smith Never Says "Welcome to Earf" in Independence Day
The Thing You Remember
Handsome air-and-eventually-space-pilot Will Smith, after being chased by an alien spacecraft, manages to force the craft into a crash landing. When the spaceship opens up and a spooky alien emerges, Smith fearlessly punches it in the face and, like the unflappable badass he always plays, casually drops a classic movie one-liner that can only be described as Willsmithian: "Welcome to Earf." Audiences cheer, aliens tremble and Earf continues to spin.
But Actually ...
He says "Earth," you racist.
I've seen this movie a lot, so if you asked me, I'd tell you that Will Smith obviously never said "Welcome to Earf" in Independence Day. If you ask the Internet, however, he most certainly did:
That's over 40,000 results, and none of them are saying "You know he actually says 'Earth.'" Similarly, Google Image Search is full of images just like this one:
Which is insane, because not only does Smith clearly say "Earth" instead of "Earf," the image that they're using to accompany the caption is from a different part of the movie entirely. Will Smith punches an alien in the face and says "Welcome to Earth" while in the desert; the shot of him with the cigar doesn't happen until he pulls up to an army base carrying the carcass of the unconscious alien.* It's like two halves of the Internet's collective memory are in a race to see who can be wrong first, and they're both winning.
"There are literally hundreds of ways I can be wrong!"
"Welcome to Earf" has been so imbedded in our pop culture hivemind that Urban Dictionary has no problem citing it as Will Smith's actual quote in Independence Day. And Urban Dictionary isn't a meme aggregator or anything, and it's not like UD is saying that people wrongfully attribute the quote to Smith. It very clearly defines "Welcome to Earf" as "The proper way to welcome alien visitors to our planet as described by the great diplomat Will Smith in Independence Day. Usually accompanied by a punch."
I guess people remember him saying "Earf" because people are secretly racist and they assume, since Will Smith is technically black, that he must also be poor and uneducated. Which is ridiculous; Will Smith is, like, the fourth blackest person in Independence Day. Bill Pullman is blacker than Will Smith.
No One Asks Scotty to Beam Them Up (and a Bunch of Other Stuff No One Ever Said)
The Thing You Remember
"Beam me up, Scotty" is so iconic that even non-Trek fans know that it refers to the original Star Trek series. It was one of the show's catchphrases, uttered by one of the cast members at least once an episode, whenever they needed Montgomery "Scotty" Scott to teleport them from some alien planet to the ship. "Beam me up, Scotty" was Star Trek's "Book 'em, Danno."
But Actually ...
In truth, it's the exact opposite of that, because they said "Book 'em, Danno" on Hawaii Five-O all the time.
Take a wild guess at how many times "Beam me up, Scotty" is used on Star Trek. If you guessed any number other than zero, congratulations, you're wrong! Members of the Enterprise would say "Scotty, beam us aboard" or "Beam me up" or "Hurry up and beam my shit, boy-eeeee," but never, not once, did anyone say "Beam me up, Scotty."
"Time to get our beam on, Big Scotty!"
Similarly, Darth Vader never once says the phrase "Luke, I am your father." The actual line is "No, I am your father," because Vader is reacting to Luke, who accuses Vader of murdering his father. If you don't believe me -- if, like me, you've lived your whole life hearing Vader say that line in your head so clearly that you know the pitch and cadence of the word "Luke" in the context of that phrase -- go ahead and watch the clip:
You can't get any clearer than that. Even though the line in my head is and always will be "Luke, I am your father," there's no denying that it's a line that has never once been said. Just like "Elementary, my dear Watson" (never used in any of the Sherlock Holmes books) or "Play it again, Sam" (never uttered in Casablanca). It's not just that a few people are forgetting the actual quotes; these are all cases where the misquotes are infinitely more famous than the truth.
There's a new Snow White movie coming out called Mirror, Mirror, despite the fact that the phrase "Mirror, mirror, on the wall" was never used in Disney's Snow White (it's actually "Magic mirror on the wall"). Granted, the original Snow White story as it appears in the Brothers Grimm collection contains the words "Mirror, mirror," but, hell, I've never read that collection and it doesn't change the fact that, until I Googled "Snow White" a few days ago for this article, I always believed that the evil queen said "Mirror, mirror" and not "Magic mirror." It's so ingrained in my memory that, even as I sit here, watching clips from Snow White where the queen is clearly saying "Magic mirror," I'm still inclined to say "No, bullshit, you're saying it wrong."
I would love to fast-forward a few years from now to see what future generations will misremember about our culture. Maybe everyone will remember Homer Simpson's catchphrase as "D'ah!" or "Darp!" Maybe when friends quote Lord of the Rings to each other, they'll say things like "One does not simply strut into Mordor," or "You. Shall. Not. Fuck. With. The. Wu-Tang. Clan!" If, 50 years from now, people think back on the columns I've written here at Cracked, I can only hope that this weird phenomenon of collective pop culture amnesia forces them to misremember my columns as being more eloquent and less typo-filled than they very clearly are.
*Edit: As it has been rightly pointed out to me in the comments, the shot of Will Smith smoking a cigar is not, as I suggested, from the scene where he visits the army base. It in fact directly comes after the moment where he punches the alien. I am leaving the mistake in instead of changing it to remind Future of Daniel of his own stupidity.
If you like reading Dan's writing about Star Wars, you'll love his adventures in a Jedi Academy.
Daniel O'Brien is Cracked.com's senior writer (ladies) and is shocked that no one ever used the word "zombie" in Night of the Living Dead (Romero).