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Elms, A.C. (2001). Apocryphal Freud: Sigmund Freud's Most Famous “Quotations” and Their Actual Sources. Ann. Psychoanal., 29:83-104.

(2001). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 29:83-104

Apocryphal Freud: Sigmund Freud's Most Famous “Quotations” and Their Actual Sources

Alan C. Elms, Ph.D.

Sigmund Freud wielded a mighty pen. His many books and essays transformed our ways of thinking about ourselves and others. His technical terminology has become a part of our everyday language. Yet his most often quoted sentences were not written down by Freud and may not even have come from his tongue.

Over the past two decades, I have collected Freud quotations from the mass media, from scholarly works outside of strictly Freudian treatises, and more recently from the Internet. By my running count, three quotations have emerged as what we might informally call Freud's Greatest Hits. One of the three could have been spoken aloud by Freud pretty much as we have it; an eager disciple quoted it in her journal soon after a session with him. Another was possibly said by Freud, in some form vaguely resembling the currently cited version. But it did not appear in print until eleven years after Freud's death, and its final form may owe more to the writer who published it than to Freud. A third quotation often attributed to Freud probably did not come from him in any form. It may instead have been invented by an anonymous humorist, perhaps borrowing from Kipling or Turgenev.


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