A March 22 2022 quote meme that claimed Bruce Lee once said “words are energy” and “that’s why it’s called spelling” was shared by the page “Anxiety Freedom Today” on Facebook:
Underneath a black-and-white photograph of actor and martial artist Lee, text read:
BRUCE LEE SAID:
Don’t speak negatively about yourself, even as a joke. Your body doesn’t know the difference. Words are energy and cast spells, that’s why it’s called spelling. Change the way you speak about yourself and you can change your life. What you’re not changing, you’re also choosing.
As of March 28 2022, the post had been shared thousands upon thousands of times. It did not contain a source of any description, and a similarly unverified quote meme (attributed to Keanu Reeves) was shared by the same page in January 2022.
It did not appear the page was the origin of the quote, which appeared on a December 2019 meme shared to Reddit’s r/GetMotivated:
In April 2021, an account tweeted the meme in text form:
Bruce Lee once said.
'Don't speak negatively about yourself, even as a joke.
Your body doesn't know the difference.
Words are energy and cast spells, that's why it's called spelling.
Change the way you speak about yourself and you can change your life.'
— Aaron (@IAmAaronWill) April 22, 2021
The social media variations we were able to track down presented the quote and attribution to Bruce Lee, but none included information about when or where Lee purportedly said the words — or “energy” — on the meme. It also wasn’t clear if the attribution was to Lee himself, or a character he played in a film.
In September 2019, AFP fact-checked the meme from a slightly different perspective, that of dueling attributions to Lee and investor Warren Buffet. In addition to ruling Buffet out, the outlet obtained comment from a representative with the the Bruce Lee Foundation regarding the validity of the attribution.
Licensing director Sydnie Wilson pointed to “similar sentiments” in a December 2017 podcast on BruceLee.com:
Sydnie Wilson, Director of Licensing for the Bruce Lee Foundation told AFP by email: “I do not have proof to provide that Bruce Lee said this himself.”
Wilson said that this episode of a podcast put together by Shannon Lee included similar sentiments to the message, but not the exact quote.
A popular meme claimed “Bruce Lee once said” in part that “words are energy and cast spells, that’s why it’s called spelling”; the quote was separately (and inaccurately) attributed to billionaire investor Warren Buffet. A representative for the Bruce Lee Foundation addressed the meme in 2019, stating there was “no proof” Lee originated the quote.