Today’s post is about a J. M. Barrie quote that is often misworded resulting in a completely different quote with a completely different meaning. The quote is actually about the topic of charm, but the reworded quote leads us to believe it is about love. Follow along to learn who is propagating this falsehood.
The Most Popular Misworded Quote Variations
✘“If you have it [love], you don’t need to have anything else, and if you don’t have it, it doesn’t matter much what else you have.”
J. M. Barrie
✘“If you have it [love], you don’t need anything else, and if you don’t have it, it doesn’t matter much what else you have.”
J. M. Barrie
✘“If you have love, you don’t need to have anything else, and if you don’t have it, it doesn’t matter much what else you have.”
J. M. Barrie
✘“If you have love, you don’t need to have anything else. If you don’t have it, it doesn’t matter much what else you do have.”
J. M. Barrie
✘“If you have love, you don’t need anything else. If you don’t have it, it doesn’t matter much what else you do have.”
J. M. Barrie
✘“If you have it (love), you don’t need to have anything else, and if you don’t have it, it doesn’t matter much what else you have.”
J. M. Barrie
The Correct Quote
✓“If you have it, you don’t need to have anything else; and if you don’t have it, it doesn’t much matter what else you have.”
J. M. Barrie
What Every Woman Knows, Act I
More Misquote Variations
I have researched many misquotes, but I have to say this particular one has more variations than any other I have seen thus far. The variations listed above are the most popular, but they come in many other flavors. Some have additional words inserted; some have words deleted; some have words rearranged, and some have all three. Some are split into two separate sentences; some are not. Punctuation varies widely.
However, there is one thing they all have in common, and that is the word “love” has been erroneously inserted into the beginning phrase. Here are some variations not listed above:
Love: If you have it . . .
Love… If you have it . . .
Love, if you have it . . .
Love? If you have it . . .
Exactly when someone decided to introduce love into this quote, I don’t know. But what I do know is that this quote is not about love. Surprise!
This Quote Is Not about Love
A few years after the successful release of his play Peter Pan, J. M. (James Matthew) Barrie wrote a comedy titled What Every Woman Knows. This quote is from Act I of that play. The quote is part of a reply by the character, Maggie, to a question posed to her about charm. What follows are pages 14 and 15 of the 1918 publication of the play. Note the question about charm is at the bottom of page 14 highlighted in pink followed by the quote, found in Maggie’s reply, at the top of page 15 highlighted in yellow.
Here is the title page:
This Quote Is about Charm
As you can see, the context of the quote is the topic of charm and what exactly it is. I can only speculate as to how it came to be about love. My guess is that it has something to do with an earlier conversation in the play. Prior to meeting Maggie, the male characters have a discussion about love; perhaps this is how it gets associated with the quote.
After surveying 113 websites featuring the misworded quote, I found the following trends.
Percentage Type of Website
26% Quotes only
23% Social Media
8% Corporation/corporate individual
8% Topical group or discussion forum
6% Online app or service
4% Quotes a major feature
2% Quotes paraphernalia for purchase
The Sources of the Misworded Quote
Based on the above statistics, websites that specialize solely in quotes are the biggest offenders. As we’ve seen in so many of my previous posts, this is extremely common. I must reiterate that these sites should never be used as a resource for quotes.
Social media websites are a very close second. This means you should never trust a quote that is sent to you via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or any other social media site. As we have learned before, the quote virus does its best work through social media. When one person posts a contaminated quote, it spreads to all of his/her followers who spread it to all of their followers and so on and so forth.
Informational websites come in third which is unusual. Typically this category falls into a single-digit percentage. To date, I’ve only researched three other misquotes with informational websites ranking in double-digit percentages. The moral of this story is even websites dealing with facts such as news, statistics, and other data can be infected with misquotes.
Modern Quote Books Feature Misquotes
I came across six books published in the 2000s featuring today’s misquote. One of them was a quotes-only book. I must reiterate if a quote book does not provide detailed source information for each quote, it is not reliable. The name attribution alone is not sufficient. It should be accompanied by the work in which the quote is found followed by applicable information such as chapter, act, scene, stanza, line, etc.
Many authors create their quote books by simply compiling quotes they’ve collected from unreliable sources. Additionally, many of them further complicate things when they transcribe the quotes incorrectly resulting in misworded, misattributed, inaccurate data. This creates a breeding ground for the quote virus: one reader copies the infected quote onto one of his/her social media websites which then infects all of his/her followers who infect all of their followers ad infinitum.
As usual, today’s misworded quote is available for purchase. I came across a wall art company selling it for $20 to $50 depending on size. The artwork is actually very creative and beautiful. What a shame that it’s flawed.
Kill the Quote Virus
Today’s misquote demonstrates how the quote virus can change the entire meaning of a quote by adding a new word to it. This mutated version then travels across the internet multiplying and spawning new strains as it goes. You can help exterminate this modern-day pestilence by sharing the knowledge. Please forward this post to family and friends, “like” my Facebook fan page or follow me @SueBrewton on Twitter. Until next time, practice safe quoting and
“Be the antidote and don’t misquote.”
4 thoughts on “J. M. Barrie Love Quote Is Actually Not about Love”
Thank you, thank you, thank you, Sue! I came across your post today when I was searching out nice J.M. Barrie quotes to tweet on his birthday next week, and like you, I can’t stand when people misquote things, and this is a PRIME example of why context is just so important. I saw this quote with the “[love]” added in and thought, “What a nice quote!” Thank goodness I decided I’d better check and make sure “love” was the proper context. I do NOT want to perpetuate this error, so I’ll take a pass on the quote. Though I think I will tweet a link to this fantastic post so that others can be a bit more vigilante too.
Thanks for the acknowledgement and for forwarding the knowledge, Wendy! It’s nice to know I have an ally in this uphill battle. 🙂
You’re welcome! Please keep writing posts like this. You’re providing an invaluable service as far as I’m concerned. 🙂
Sheesh, I just realized I wrote “vigilante” instead of “vigilant”. But, tbh, seeing people making these kinds of unnecessary misquotes sort of makes me want to go all vigilante on them! Lol!