I was on NPR Weekend Edition

I was on NPR’s Weekend Edition this morning, talking to Rachel Martin about WAS’s. The WAS, you may recall from a post I did in the spring, is a Wrongly Attributed Statement. I wound up writing more about WAS’s at the Chronicle Review earlier this week, and that’s how NPR came to me. Here’s the opening of my Chronicle piece:

Sometime last semester I was complaining to my wife, Laura, about a squabble in my department. I can’t remember the specifics—that’s how small and silly the argument was—but it was eating at me. And eating at me that it was eating at me (tiffs are as much a part of academe as footnotes and should be handled with comparable fuss). After listening to me and voicing the requisite empathy, Laura said, “Any idiot can survive a crisis; it’s the day-to-day living that wears you out.” I looked at her, puzzled. “Chekhov,” she said. Puzzled gave way to impressed. “Chekhov,” I said, with a tip of the head. Impressed gave way to skeptical. “Chekhov?”

So we did what any couple does on the verge of an argument: We Googled it. And sure enough, there it was: lots and lots of hits, many of them attributing this bit of wisdom to Chekhov. But where had he said it? Not a single hit—at least not that we could find—identified a play, short story, letter, diary entry, note, or testimonial in which Chekhov or any of his characters says this.

I decided to do some more sleuthing. And then I stopped myself. I’d been here before, I realized. I was in the realm of the WAS.

And have a listen over at NPR.


  1. Paul Rosenberg (@PaulHRosenberg) September 22, 2013 at 3:56 pm | #

    Well, it SOUNDS like Checkov, dammit. Why didn’t he say it? And how often is that the reason behind a WAS???

  2. Elizabeth Donahue September 22, 2013 at 5:01 pm | #

    So proud of you getting airplay on your Wrongly Associated Sayings.

  3. Cat Food September 23, 2013 at 8:37 pm | #

    Speak of WAS, don’t forget these classically bad ones involving our favorite reactionaries.

    “Every nation has the government it deserves.” Obviously De Maistre, but always ends up in the mouth of Abraham Lincoln or someone promoting more democracy.

    “Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power.” This is the worst, because not only did Mussolini never say this, but it wouldn’t make sense even if he did. Yet, it seems like every amateur lefty has to throw this quote on their blog to draw lame parallels to unchecked business power and stuff that happened in Italy a long time ago. Awful WAS.

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