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There's the well-known story of little Georgie Washington who admitted to his father that he cut down a cherry tree, adding, "I cannot tell a lie."

As it turns out, this attribution to Washington is itself a lie. Writer Mason Weems decided to add this little fib in a biography about Washington in an attempt to enhance the first president’s character. After all, if you can't trust George Washington, whom can you trust?

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“Elementary, my dear Watson.” Sherlock Holmes, right? Wrong. While the great detective no doubt uttered the words ‘elementary’ and ‘dear’ at some point, he never said them in the same phrase. The quote is actually from P.G. Wodehouse’s novel "Psmith, Journalist," published in 1915. Although the novel does not feature Sherlock Holmes, it does contain a reference to him with the now famous line.

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On Jan. 8, 1815, the British army and a motley crew of Americans met near New Orleans in the last major battle of the War of 1812. Future president General Andrew Jackson and his mix of militia fighters, frontiersmen, Native Americans, slaves, and a few pirates sprinkled in withstood an assault by a superior British force.

It was during this engagement, that Jackson uttered his famous phrase “Don’t fire till you see the whites of their eyes.” Except, that he didn’t. The famous phrase was actually proclaimed during the Battle of Bunker Hill at the beginning of the American Revolution. Although there is some debate, the phrase is generally attributed to William Prescott, an American officer.

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The phrase “There’s a sucker born every minute” has been widely credited to circus entrepreneur P.T. Barnum, except that Barnum would never have disparaged his customers by issuing such a statement. Fellow circus man and unscrupulous businessman Adam Forepaugh is the originator of this lowly phrase. During a newspaper interview, he attributed the quote to Barnum in an effort to discredit his rival.

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“Walk softly and carry a big stick.” The meaning being "seek peace, but be prepared to use force if necessary." While Teddy Roosevelt did say this, he claimed it was from a West African proverb. As he put it, “I have always been fond of West African proverbs.” However, historians have not been able to confirm this and are mystified as to why Roosevelt would have cited the proverb as the origin of his now famous quote.

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“Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing only after they have tried everything else.” The earliest known similar phrase was made by Israeli diplomat Abba Eban when he stated “Men and nations behave wisely when they have exhausted all other resources.” Over time, the quote has been added to and made more specific. Since 1980, this quote has been mis-attributed to Winston Churchill although no specific reference as to when or where he said this was provided. Most assuredly, Churchill never made this statement, at least not about Americans.

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As the last queen of France Marie Antoinette once sniffed, “Let them eat cake.” She said this after being told that peasants had no bread. Except, she didn’t. This particular phrase had been floating around France for many years before the French Revolution. In 1766, philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau included this quote in his “Confessions” attributing the words to “a great princess.” However, since Antoinette was only nine years old at the time, we’re sure it was not something she said.

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