First law of holes

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Photo of a backhoe that is over fifty percent submerged in a large hole that it dug in a peat bog before falling in.
An excavator that is in a hole and has stopped digging

The first law of holes or Law of holes refers to a proverb which states, "If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging."[1][2] The meaning behind this proverb is that if you find yourself in an untenable position you should stop and change tack, rather than carry on exacerbating it.

Attribution[edit]

The proverb has been attributed to a number of sources. It appeared in print on page 6 of The Washington Post dated October 25, 1911 in the form: "Nor would a wise man, seeing that he was in a hole, go to work and blindly dig it deeper..."[3] In The Bankers Magazine it was published in 1964 as: "Let me tell you about the Law of holes: If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.".[4] The part after the colon in that version has also been attributed to American humorist Will Rogers.[5]

In the UK it is sometimes referred to as "Healey's Law" after British politician Denis Healey who popularized the proverb in the 1980s.[1][2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Apperson, George Latimer (2006). The Wordsworth dictionary of proverbs. Ware: Wordsworth Editions. p. 283. ISBN 978-1840223118. 
  2. ^ a b Lloyd, John; Hargreaves, Ian (8 November 1986). "Interview: Denis Healey; Healey's First law of holes is to stop digging". New Statesman 9. Retrieved 25 July 2014 – via HighBeam Business. 
  3. ^ Doyle, Charles Clay; Mieder, Wolfgang; Shapiro, Fred R. (2012). The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 9780300136029. 
  4. ^ "Is That Dirt Being Shovelled?". The Bankers Magazine 166: 61. 1964. 
  5. ^ Will Rogers quotes

External links[edit]