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 the law of holes, is an adage which states that "if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging".[1][2] The meaning behind it is that if you find yourself in an untenable position, you should stop and change what you are doing, rather than carrying on and exacerbating the situation.

Attribution[edit]

The adage has been attributed to a number of sources. It appeared in print on page six 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 has been referred to as "Healey's First Law of Holes"[2] after politician Denis Healey, who quoted the adage in the 1980s and later.[1]

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 1996). "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 Legacy. California Department of Parks and Recreation

External links[edit]