FACT CHECK: Did Bertrand Russell Say, ‘The Time You Enjoy Wasting Is Not Wasted Time’?

Brad Sylvester | Fact Check Editor

An image shared on Facebook claims that British philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell once said, “The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”

The time you enjoy

Posted by Rainwater Designs on Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Verdict: False

The Daily Caller News Foundation found no evidence that Russell ever said or wrote this saying. Russell experts say the quote is misattributed.

Fact Check:

The Bertrand Russell Archives at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, houses around 130,000 records related to Russell, a philosopher known for his contributions to mathematical logic and analytic philosophy. A search of its digital archive turned up no similar or matching expressions.

Russell published a sizable body of work during his lifetime, including more than 70 books, thousands of essays and numerous letters. The quote, however, does not appear in collections of those either.

Andrew Irvine, a Russell scholar at the University of British Columbia, said in an email to TheDCNF: “It is not from Russell.”

“It’s not by Russell, though it is often attributed to him because of a book of quotations edited by Laurence Peter, author of ‘The Peter Principle,'” Nicholas Griffin, editor of the “The Cambridge Companion to Bertrand Russell,” told TheDCNF via email.

“Not surprisingly, a lot of people took the passage in parenthesis to be by Russell as well. In fact, it is by Peter,” explained Griffin in the email. “What he thought it had to do with Russell actually said, I have no idea. But by now it’s an established misquotation.”

The website Quote Investigator offered a similar account — the proximity of Peter’s parenthetical to a quote attributed to Russell likely caused readers to falsely attribute the parenthetical to Russell as well.

Oxford Essential Quotations also attributes the quote to Peter, noting the expression is commentary on a Russell quote yet frequently attributed to him.

An earlier instance of the quote appears in a 1912 book by Marthe Troly-Curtin, according to Quote Investigator, and Troly-Curtin is who the website “provisionally” credits with the saying.

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Brad Sylvester

Fact Check Editor
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