Fact Check

Purse Hung on Choke

Was a car's bad performance caused by the driver's hanging her purse on the choke lever?

Published Dec 10, 2000

Claim:   A car's bad performance is caused by the driver's routinely hanging her purse on the pull-out choke lever.



[Collected on the Internet, 2000]

Have you heard the one about the young lady who bought a brand new car? She kept on returning it back to the dealer, complaining that the engine was over heating, and was high on fuel consumption.

This really baffled the dealer, as his mechanics repeatedly examined the car but could not find anything wrong with it.

The young lady insisted that there was something wrong with the car. "It always happens when I drive it!" she informed the dealer.

In desperation, the dealer asked the young lady to drive the car in his presence. So he sat in the passenger's seat and asked her to start the engine and take the car for a short drive.

The young lady got the car keys out of her handbag, pulled the choke lever out to its full position, hanged her handbag on the choke lever, started the car and proceeded to drive it!

[Collected on the Internet, 2000]

A lady driver repeatedly complained that her car wouldn't run very well. It misfired, it was sluggish, wouldn't pull the skin off a rice pudding, and drank petrol as if there was no tomorrow. But, every time the car went into the garage workshop and was tested it was found to be fine.

Finally, the garage sent a technician out with the lady to see if they could experience the problem. She was more than happy to comply, if only to get to the bottom of the problem. The mechanic walked out to the car with her and asked her to drive. She settled into the driving seat put on her seat belt, pulled out the manual choke knob to full on, and hung her handbag on it.


Origins:   How long this legend has been around is anyone's guess. A 1988 newspaper article calls it a "vintage story"; the recollections of a reader date it to


1948. Folks in the United Kingdom are probably more familiar with it than those elsewhere in the world because the British press makes constant references to this tale in news articles about women drivers.

The legend's meaning is quite clear: Women are too out of touch with all matters technical to safely be allowed behind the wheel. (The Push Vroom legend delivers this same message through a different tale.) Such legends can be thought of as 'confirmatory' in that they reinforce prejudices held by the teller and transmit them to others.

Mercifully, a similar legend about misuse of computers attaches to men and women alike:

[Collected on the Internet, 2000]

True story from a Novell NetWire SysOp:

Caller: "Hello, is this Tech Support?"

Tech: "Yes, it is. How may I help you?"

Caller: "The cup holder on my PC is broken and I am within my warranty period. How do I go about getting that fixed?"

Tech: "I'm sorry, but did you say a 'cup holder'?"

Caller: "Yes, it's attached to the front of my computer."

Tech: "Please excuse me if I seem a bit stumped; it's because I am. Did you receive this as part of a promotion, like at a trade show? How did you get this cup holder? Does it have any trademark on it?"

Caller: "It came with my computer, I don't know anything about a promotional. It just has '4X' on it."

At this point the Tech Rep had to mute the caller, because he couldn't stand it. The caller had been using the load drawer of the CD-ROM drive as a cup holder, and snapped it off the drive!

Barbara "driving Miss Daisywheel" Mikkelson

Last updated:   11 April 2011


    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   Too Good To Be True.

    New York: W. W. Norton, 1999.   ISBN 0-393-04734-2   (p. 287).

    Healey, Phil and Rick Glanvill.   Now! That's What I Call Urban Myths.

    London: Virgin Books, 1996.   ISBN 0-86369-969-3   (pp. 52-53).

    Sanders, Jacquin.   "Car Class Makes Him Choke."

    St. Petersburg Times.   12 May 1988   (p. B1).

    Sefton, Dru.   "The Wonderful and the Wacky."

    The Kansas City Star.   9 May 1999   (p. G1).

    West, Derek.   "Choke, It's Dead."

    The [Wellington] Evening Post.   2 July 1996   (Business; p. 9).

    The Toronto Star.   "Your View: Lagowski's Take on Ford Ad Stirs Up Controversy."

    19 June 1999   (Wheels).