Quotes that aren’t quotes

Sometimes a well-chosen quote may help to catch the attention of (or provoke or challenge) the people listening to your presentation. As some readers may remember from my “wise men say” post, I have repeatedly used this technique to open or broaden a conversation with a professional audience.

Lately, I was preparing a slide deck about business transformation, and the first words that came to my mind were Charles Darwin’s:


At least, I assumed that they were coming from the 19th century naturalist. Because, to my surprise ― while Googling for the exact passage ― I came across several web sites (e.g. quoteinvestigator.com) that claim there is no evidence that Mr. Darwin actually said or wrote such statement.

Incidentally, this was not the first time that I (almost) fell into the traps of fake quotes, misquotes, or misleading attributions. In my blog post about “the incredible lightness of numbers” I referred to a quote attributed to Winston Churchill, saying that:


Also here, it turned out that Sir Winston never made such statement at all. The above sentence is a product of Nazi propaganda that managed to survive the fall of the Third Reich by more than seven decades.

If you are looking for an alternative citation about the (mis)use of statistical information, I also strongly advice you not to use Mark Twain’s one either.


These words are indeed often attributed to the man who created Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. It’s a true fact that Twain popularized the saying, but in his autobiography he denies having invented it, and claims that British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli was the originator. But even this claim could be a misattribution too….

Let me finish today’s article with a positive and quotable note (or rather a notable quote). Instead of putting Charles’s Darwin’s (in)famous words on my business transformation slide, I Googled a Hindu proverb that says about the same about change, and I ended up my presentation in an even more memorable way…


I’m sure some of you will start including this wisdom in your future presentations too.

1 thought on “Quotes that aren’t quotes

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