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August 28, 2012

Famous misquotes: What Armstrong, Palin and others didn't say

He could travel to the Moon but he couldn't get an accurate account of his most important statement. Neil Armstrong's fate of being misquoted has been shared by many others, including the inventor of the term "information superhighway" and a former Alaskan governor. Twain, Lincoln and Jimmy Carter are in the club, too, as is (from Hollywood) the commander of the USS Enterprise. Here are a few memorable things they didn't say.

One giant step, one minor omission

The first words from the first man on the moon? Not "one small step for man, one giant step for mankind," Armstrong long insisted. Instead, he began, "One small step for a man . . ." The Apollo 11 astronaut maintained that the radio transmission swallowed the "a" as he spoke it.

Created the Internet? Never said that, exactly.

Much was made of then-Vice President Al Gore's March 1999 claim that "during my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to the nation's economic growth and environmental protection." Vint Cerf (often referred to as "the father of the Internet") has defended Gore's comment and his role in pushing government efforts to develop the Internet. In 2005, Gore was given a Webby Award for online achievement for decades of work on helping build the Internet.

'I can see Russia from my house'

No, those words were not spoken by Sarah Palin. Tina Fey, the comedian who skewered the former Alaska governor on "Saturday Night Live," said them, based on a Palin interview with ABC News. In September 2008, the then-GOP vice presidential candidate said regarding Russia that "they're our next-door neighbors, and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska." That, by the way, is true, on a clear day. An uninhabited island, but still . . .

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