Who Really Said These 5 Famous Phrases?

Take our quote quiz to find out

By Google Arts & Culture

War And Conflict (1918)LIFE Photo Collection

Sometimes, someone just says it right. The perfect words, said in the right way and at the right time, can reverberate through history. Often, though, the speech can prove more famous than the speaker. You'll know the following quotes, but do you know who said them?

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Quote 1:

‘If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants’

Newton Sir Isaac 1642-1727LIFE Photo Collection

This quote is almost always attributed to Sir Isaac Newton. The phrase appears in a letter that Newton wrote to English philosopher and mathematician Robert Hooke. However, while he may have made the words famous, Newton didn’t coin this iconic phrase. So who did?

Answer: Bernard of Chartres

It’s thought the quote actually originates with 12th century thinker Bernard of Chartres. Chartres was comparing contemporary scholars to the ancient scholars of Greece and Rome when he said “we [the Moderns] are like dwarves perched on the shoulders of giants [the Ancients], and thus we are able to see more and farther than the latter."

By Alfred EisenstaedtLIFE Photo Collection

Quote 2:

‘Well-behaved women rarely make history’

By Alfred EisenstaedtLIFE Photo Collection

A lot of people attribute this quote to blonde bombshell Marilyn Monroe. Monroe famously played by her own rules, becoming an icon of pop culture and the sexual revolution. However, while she may have lived by the sentiment, it wasn’t her that said it, so who was it?

Answer: Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American historian who specializes in early America and the history of women. A professor at Harvard University, Ulrich first wrote these words for an edition of American Quarterly in 1976, a full 14 years after Monroe’s death.

By Alfred EisenstaedtLIFE Photo Collection

Quote 3:

‘Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’

By Alfred EisenstaedtLIFE Photo Collection

According to a large number of inspirational mugs and posters, this famous quote comes from none other than Albert Einstein. However, there’s no evidence at all that Einstein ever said it. And in fact, he wasn’t associated with the phrase until the 80s, decades after his death. Do you know who the real wordsmith was?

Answer: Rita Mae Brown

Civil rights campaigner and feminist writer Rita Mae Brown is the real author of the phrase. In her 1983 book Sudden Death, Brown attributes the quote to a fictional ‘Jane Fulton’. However, the idea of a link between repetition and insanity can be traced back to the 19th century.

Marie-Antoinette (after 1783) by after Élisabeth-Louise Vigée Le BrunNational Gallery of Art, Washington DC

Quote 4:

'Let them eat cake'

Attributed to Marie Antoinette, the queen supposedly uttered these words when told that the people of France had no bread to eat. However, while she may not have been the most down to earth royal, Marie Antoinette never said this famous phrase. So who did?    

Answer: Another ‘great princess’.

In his 12-volume autobiography, Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote that ‘a great princess’ had told the country people to eat brioche when no bread was available. Although people assumed the princess to be Antoinette, the book was written in 1767, when the future queen was just 12 years old.

Abraham Lincoln (1869) by George P.A. HealyThe White House

Quote 5:

“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”

Abraham Lincoln (1863, printed 1901) by Alexander Gardner|Rice|Abraham LincolnThe Metropolitan Museum of Art

In 2017, the US Republican Party Tweeted an image of Abraham Lincoln alongside this inspiration quote. And although they believed the president was responsible for the words, there’s no evidence at all that Lincoln ever actually said them. So who should get the credit?

Answer: Edward J. Stieglitz

Self-help author Edward J. Stieglitz coined the phrase to advertise his 1946 book The Second Forty Years. The non-fiction work is a guide to ageing and is designed to help readers make the best of the second four-decades of their lives. 

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Find out more about Isaac Newton and his groundbreaking ideas here

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