Misunderstood Quotes That Lost Their Original Meaning

When someone in this day and age tells you to "pull yourself up by your bootstraps," they almost always mean you should work harder to improve your lot. However, the original quote that gave us the phrase can be traced back to 1834, when it was used to mock someone who claimed to have invented the perpetual motion machine. See, pulling yourself up by your bootstraps is literally impossible, so the phrase is supposed to refer to an impossible act. The quote has been around so long that people completely misunderstand what it really means.

Another example is the "one bad apple" that you shouldn't judge the rest of the apples by. But the full phrase is "one bad apple spoils the barrel," which is completely opposite of how the phrase is used today. I blame the 1970 song by The Osmonds, where the lyric is "one bad apple don't spoil the whole bunch." But that's just my opinion. Read up on the origins and transformations of ten common quotes that people completely misinterpret at Mental Floss.

(Image credit: ABigCat)


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