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May 17, 2013

“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”


THE FAMOUS MISQUOTE:

“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
       Attributed to Mark Twain (1835-1910)
       American humorist, journalist, novelist and social critic
       According to a widely-repeated legend, Twain made this quip when he heard there were rumors he had died and that one newspaper had printed his obituary. Another common variation of the line uses the words “…have been greatly exaggerated.” Sometimes the quip is given as “Reports of my death are grossly exaggerated.”
       However, all of the commonly-heard versions using “greatly exaggerated” or “grossly exaggerated” are misquotes.
       As noted in many scholarly books of quotations and explained in a post on my This Day in Quotes blog, what Twain actually said was “The report of my death was an exaggeration.”
       The origin of the more familiar misquote versions of Twain’s response seems to be an embellished anecdote in Chapter 197 of Albert Bigelow Paine’s biography of Twain, which was published in 1912, two years after Twain’s death.


A RECENT PARAPHRASE BY PRESIDENT OBAMA:

“As Mark Twain said, you know, rumors of my demise may be a little exaggerated at this point.”
       President Barack Obama
       His response during a White House press conference on April 30, 2013, when a reporter asked if he still had the political “juice” needed to get his legislative proposals passed by Congress, in light of his recent high profile failures to get gun control and budget legislation approved.


THE DICK CHENEY INVERSE PARAPHRASE:

“The rumors that Cheney is alive are somewhat exaggerated. It’s Mark Twain in reverse.”
       Hans Blix
       Swedish diplomat and politician
       His answer in a 2004 interview in the New York Times when asked if US Vice President Dick Cheney had seemed more “wooden” than President George W. Bush during a meeting Blix had with them prior to the Second Gulf War (a.k.a. the 2003 invasion of Iraq).
       Blix led the international weapons inspection teams charged with determining if Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, a claim Bush and Cheney pushed as the main reason to invade the country. As Blix pointed out, no WMDs were found. Of course, this fact was was dismissed by Bush and Cheney.


THE SOAP OPERA VERSION:

“Rumors of my chastity have been greatly exaggerated.”
       Donna Martin, a character played by actress Tori Spelling in the TV series Beverly Hills, 90210
       One of her wisecracks in the “Reunion” episode (Season 8, Ep. 27, first aired April 15, 1998)


THE SPACE OPERA VERSION:

“Reports of my assimilation have been greatly exaggerated.”
       Captain Jean-Luc Picard, played by actor Patrick Stewart
       A quip Picard makes in the movie Star Trek: First Contact (1996), in which some crew members of the USS Enterprise are “assimilated” by the part-machine, part-organic, hive-like life form(s) called the Borg.

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