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February 17th, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

“I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”
My wife and I have used this quote around our house ever since college days, when I decorated my dorm room with a poster displaying this phrase. Trying to find the source of this mind-bending tongue-twister points out the fallibility of the Internet. I see it attributed to Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, citing an unspecified Capital Hill hearing. But I rather doubt that he is responsible for originating the phrase, since he was not nominated to the Federal Reserve until 1987, and this was hanging on my dorm room wall in 1974. Besides, Wikiquote states this is misattributed to Greenspan, and states the “earliest known print reference” to Robert McCloskey, U.S. State Department spokesman, during a Vietnam-era press briefing. That’s a possibility, as is another Vietnam-era attribution to Richard Nixon. But if we really want to go back a long ways, I see it attributed to Oscar Wilde. I kind of like that, but the Web sites devoted to Wilde do not mention it, and that does not help the credibility of this reference.
Vox’s Take: I guess I have to side with the quote sites that admit defeat and attribute it to “Unknown”, whoever he was.

[1] Viewpoint: Alan Greenspan and the Federal Reserve, Joseph Yam
[2] Alan Greenspan, Wikiquote
[3] PUBLIC RELATIONS Quote View, Schipul, The Web Marketing Company
[4] The Official Web Site of Oscar Wilde

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