"Who Really Said That?"

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Tue Sep 17 14:40:54 UTC 2013

Stephen Goranson wrote:
> By Corey Robin at The Chronicle of Education, with commendations for Garson and Fred:
> http://chronicle.com/article/Who-Really-Said-That-/141559/

Thanks for sharing the link above, Stephen.

Below is the comment I wrote at the Chronicle Review website:

Thanks to Corey Robin for a wonderful article about an important and
fascinating cultural phenomenon.

The essay begins with a statement popularly attributed to Anton
Chekhov: "Any idiot can survive a crisis it's the day-to-day living
that wears you out". This mysterious ascription provides an
entertaining introduction to the realm of the WAS (Wrongly Attributed

Chronicle readers may be interested in the analysis of this saying
presented at the Quote Investigator website where I hypothesize that
the misquotation originated with the misreading of a passage in a 1971
textbook titled “The Tradition of the Theatre”. This textbook included
a translation of Anton Chekhov’s famous drama "The Cherry Orchard"
together with an introduction to the play that mentioned other related
dramatists. Here is a crucial excerpt from the introduction:

(Begin excerpt)
A character in a Hollywood film of the 1950′s casually drops this
line: “Any idiot can face a crisis; it’s this day-to-day living that
wears you out.” The screenplay was by Clifford Odets, America’s chief
inheritor of the dramatic tradition of Anton Chekhov, and in that one
line, he epitomized the lesson of his master.
(End excerpt)

An inattentive or confused reader might misunderstand this excerpt and
assign the quotation to Chekhov instead of Odets. Indeed, I propose
that the genesis of this misattribution is traceable to someone
misreading the text above. Further discussion is available at the
Quote Investigator website.

Professor Robin's essay about the ubiquitous phenomenon of
misquotation and the evolution of Wrongly Attributed Statements is
insightful and shrewd. Indeed, the comments made on the essay help to
illustrate the number and variety of quotations in circulation with
uncertain attributions.

For ADS readers here are two relevant links:

Any Idiot Can Face a Crisis; It’s This Day-To-Day Living That Wears You Out

The Only Thing Necessary for the Triumph of Evil is that Good Men Do Nothing


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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