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Did Omar Bradley Create a Cliché?

Every so often, I hear someone say something like, “He/She/I was at the wrong place at the wrong time.” I know what  it means: Said person was at a location at the exact time something bad would happen.

Still, can you be at the right place at the wrong time? The wrong place at the right time? Why do so few say, “I was at the right place at the right time?” Usually, they just say, “I was lucky.”

I went searching for the origins of this cliché. The earliest mention I could find was of Gen. Omar Bradley, as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, telling a Congressional hearing on May 15, 1951, that he opposed extending the Korean War into China: “… this strategy would involve us in the wrong war, at the wrong place, at the wrong time, and with the wrong enemy.”

Since then, presidential candidate John F. Kennedy, General Anthony Zinni, historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.,  Governor Howard Dean and then-Senator John Kerry have used Bradley’s words to criticize President George W. Bush’s handling of the Iraq War. Bush himself rebuked Kerry for using it.

This cliché has also appeared as a 1996 song by Marc Chesnutt (“Wrong Place, Wrong Time”) and no fewer than six book titles on

I always thought this cliché dated further back. It still might, but I haven’t yet been able to find proof.

Thanks to Bruce G. for the idea.

Until next time! Use the right words!


March 11, 2014 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

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