Is there a story behind the misquote, "Luke, I am your father"?

  • I've wondered for a long time how a misquote of the famous reveal in The Empire Strikes Back crystalized in pop culture history rather than Vader's actual line:

    No, I am your father.

    How did the popularization of the misquote occur?

    It's about contextualization. To simply say the actual quote doesn't cue the reader in to the reference as much as prefacing it with "Luke". It's similar to how Kirk never said "Beam me up Scotty". Getting the idea across is important than the actual words used.

    So you're suggesting it just naturally occurred among fans who wanted to make sure they were quoting in a way that people knew what they were talking about? And then it just stuck?

    @Mwr247 - Hmmf, I always figured it was misquoted in a famous commercial, talk show, or interview somewhere and was popularized because of that. Kind of disappointing if you're right.

    Added as an answer. These sorts of quote alterations are particularly interesting, ad they occasionally make their way back into the originating media as well. For "Beam me up Scotty", William Shatner as Captain Kirk says it in an audio adaptation well after it had been popularized. Likewise with "Elementary, my dear Watson" having appeared in none of the original works by Doyle, but has shown up in later adaptations.

    It can be quoted as "Luke ... I am your father"

    I didn't even realize that he doesn't actually say "Luke, I am your father" until I read this question. Also interesting is that when people quote this line, they put a lot of emphasis into the "Luke" part that you would think it was part of the original dialogue.

    Semantically it would be the same as if he had said "No Luke, I am your father" and then it's a simple matter of dropping the "No" off the front.

    @Andrew - If I remember right, there's some sort of Force telepathy that goes back and forth at the very end of the movie that goes something like, "Luke...", "Father!", That very well could be where the Luke part came from.

    See also, "Alas, poor Yorrick, I knew him *well*". Even Shakespeare is not immune to being widely misquoted, and in this case probably for the exact same reason (i.e., the real quote doesn't make sense without the context).

    Maybe the direct quote came from time travelers who were quoting the next version after the next retroconning takes effect.

    @TheIronCheek ... **"Hmmf, I always figured it was misquoted in a famous commercial, talk show, or interview somewhere and was popularized because of that. Kind of disappointing if you're right"** Of course you are **correct**, obviously. To state that "it just happens" is not sensible.

    The same way that Morpheus is always quoted as saying, "What if I told you...", but he never did. It *sounds* like something he would say, and you can hear it in your head, and you've heard people claim it enough that you just assume it's all correct.

    @TheIronCheek it doesn't have to have occurred in a specific highly public forum, although it certainly did occur in several. Tracing the first public appearance of the term would do nothing to trace its true origins, as it was almost certainly said independently by different people (as are most common phrases).

    @Mwr247 Funnily, "Scotty, beam us up fast" is in TOS, and plain "Scotty, beam me up" _ST IV: The Voyage Home_

    Not much of a misquote, because he's talking to Luke, and if you pull it out of the movie, it's quicker and easier to write "Luke.... I am your father" than "no, I am your father (speaking to Luke Skywalker)"

    See also “Play it again, Sam” — believe it or not, most people are more interested with saying something that sounds good, rather than quoting accurately.

  • Mwr247

    Mwr247 Correct answer

    5 years ago

    Contextualization matters more than words

    In common speech, the quote is fairly vague, and likely only those who have seen the movie would understand the reference (at least, right away, to the desired effect). But by prefacing it with "Luke", you cue people in to the reference better by offering more context.

    It's quite similar to how Kirk never said "Beam me up Scotty" during the run of Star Trek. To simply say "Beam me up" might be more accurate, but throwing in the name is better. Getting the idea across is more important than the actual words used, and it's fairly common.

    These sorts of quote alterations are particularly interesting, in that they occasionally make their way back into the originating media as well. For "Beam me up Scotty", William Shatner as Captain Kirk says it in an audio adaptation well after it had been popularized. Likewise with "Elementary, my dear Watson" having appeared in none of the original works by Doyle, but has shown up in later adaptations.

    The same can be said of "Play it again Sam" which was never actually used in Casablanca.

    What's funny is "Scotty, beam me up" appears.

    A notable counterexample: "Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him well." is a common but _less_ contextualized misquotation of _Hamlet_'s original, "Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio."

    @Psychonaut I'd venture to guess that leaving off the end name is still enough context to get the point across, and the inclusion of "Alas, poor Yorick!" was considered more vital to the idea than ", Horatio". A very good counterexample though.

    `"likely only those who have seen the movie would understand the reference"` Yes, all three of the people who haven't seen Star Wars will be confused for a few seconds.

    @reirab While this used to be the case, as time have moved forward there actually has been a growing number of the younger generation that hasn't seen them.

    The Mandela effect.

    @reirab Hey, I haven't seen Star Wars! Nor do I intend to, for that matter.

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Content dated before 6/26/2020 9:53 AM