Wassily or Wasilla.

At Tim Blair's blog, some are speculating about why Barack Obama might have mispronounced "Wasilla" as "Wassily."

Most of us would make more slips of the tongue than the candidates do. And it's only natural that he would use a name he's probably more familiar with (Wassily) than one he's less familiar with (Wasilla). I had to struggle not to make the same substitution.

Before last week, I had never heard of Wasilla, but I had heard of Wassily. Indeed, we have two Wassily chairs based on a 1925 design by Marcel Breuer in our Hyde Park apartment, bought 30-35 years ago. These chairs are famous enough to have their own Wikipedia entry. Probably at least one of Obama's friends has such a chair.

Wassily Chair, Marcel Breuer

As you might expect, these chairs are named after an artist even more famous than the chairs, Wassily Kandinski.

On White II, Wassily Kandinski

So I think that Barack Obama, who lives about 10 blocks away from me and knows some of the people I know, probably was thinking of a more familiar word — Wassily — the name of a Bauhaus chair and a Russian painter, not that of a small town in Alaska. I know that when I first read "Wasilla," I had to think carefully to avoid thinking "Wassily."

I wonder if Sarah Palin even knows of the Breuer chairs or the Russian painter.

[And if she doesn't, I wonder if that is a good thing or a bad thing.]