7 questions on fake and real quotes

Midweek quiz

"I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy" - Martin Luther King Jr. This is suddenly a familiar quote after the death of Osama Bin Laden. Only King never said it. Test yourself on made-up and misattributed quotations.

US flags and newspaper clippings with headline: Bin Laden dead

1.) Multiple Choice Question

That Martin Luther King Jr quote-that-isn't has gone viral. But which one of his famous phrases is a quotation itself?

Martin Luther King and his wife Coretta
  1. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere
  2. Free at last, free at last...
  3. Right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant

2.) Multiple Choice Question

"If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution" - anarchist Emma Goldman. Did she actually say or write this?

Dancing protesters with sign reading
  1. Yes
  2. No
  3. It's a paraphrase of her writings on various topics

3.) Multiple Choice Question

"Crisis? What crisis?" Three words that helped bring down the Labour government in 1979. But Jim Callaghan never said this. The phrase's first usage?

Emergency refuse site - Leicester Square in 1979
  1. Headline in The Sun newspaper
  2. Supertramp album title
  3. Quote from The Day of the Jackal

4.) Multiple Choice Question

"Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervour, for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword." Who said this?

  1. Julius Caesar
  2. William Shakespeare, in his play Julius Caesar
  3. Neither

5.) Multiple Choice Question

"I'm not going to fire a $2 million missile at a $10 empty tent and hit a camel in the butt." So said George W Bush.

George W Bush
  1. True
  2. False

6.) Multiple Choice Question

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." Voltaire? A famous and oft-quoted saying, but is it one of his?

  1. Yes
  2. No

7.) Multiple Choice Question

"Wear sunscreen. If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it." An unusual commencement speech at MIT in 1997, famously - and falsely - attributed to whom?

Mother applying sunscreen to her daughter's face
  1. Talkshow queen Oprah Winfrey
  2. Sci-fi writer Kurt Vonnegut
  3. UN's Kofi Annan
  4. Film director Baz Luhrmann


  1. It's "Free at last, free at last/Thank God almighty, we are free at last" - a quotation from an old Negro spiritual. The fake MLK quote about not mourning the death of one enemy started out as the Facebook status update of a 24-year-old English teacher in Japan, to which she added her favourite King quote on non-violence. Presumably thanks to repeated cut-and-pastings, the two were inadvertently combined - and went viral.
  2. It's a paraphrase. In her memoirs, Goldman recounts being admonished "that it did not behoove an agitator to dance". She also wrote: "I did not believe that a Cause which stood for a beautiful ideal, for anarchism, for release and freedom from conventions and prejudice, should demand the denial of life and joy." But that doesn't fit on a T-shirt, hence the paraphrase.
  3. It's a line from 1973's The Day of the Jackal. In 1975, Supertramp used it for their album title. It became attached to Callaghan during the Winter of Discontent after he told reporters: "I don't think that other people in the world would share the view that there is mounting chaos." The Sun headlined its article: "Crisis? What crisis?"
  4. It's neither, but it has been widely attributed to Caesar - odd, as there are no records of this quote prior to 2001. In his 1992 book on made-up quotations, author Ralph Keyes noted that "famous dead people make excellent commentators on current events".
  5. It's true. Newsweek reported the then US president's words as he spoke to four senators in the Oval Office just days after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in 2001.
  6. It's not Voltaire, but coined by one of his followers, Beatrice Hall, to describe his attitudes in The Friends of Voltaire (1906). She claimed she'd been paraphrasing his words in his Essay on Tolerance: "Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so too."
  7. It was claimed to be Vonnegut's speech to MIT students. Only it wasn't. Kofi Annan was the speaker that year, and he did not talk about sunscreen. It was actually a column by the Chicago Tribune's Mary Schmich. In 1998, Baz Luhrmann turned her text into a hit single, Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen).

Your Score

0 - 3 : Wear sunscreen

4 - 6 : Of the class of '97

7 - 7 : Ladies and gentlemen

For past quizzes including our weekly news quiz, 7 days 7 questions, expand the grey drop-down below - also available on the Magazine page (and scroll down).

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