Law of holes

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Photograph 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: "if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging."

Background[edit]

When it is said, "if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging,"[1][2][3][4] it is because digging a hole makes it deeper and therefore harder to get out of, which is used as a metaphor: When in an untenable position, it is best to stop making the situation worse.[5][6] More generally, it advises how one should solve problems of their own making.

The second law of holes is commonly known as: "when you stop digging, you are still in a hole".[7]

Attribution[edit]

The adage has been attributed to a number of sources. It appeared in print on page six of The Washington Post dated 25 October 1911, in the form: "Nor would a wise man, seeing that he was in a hole, go to work and blindly dig it deeper..."[8][9]

In 1983, Bill Brock was quoted "Let me tell you about the law of holes: If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging."[10]

In the United Kingdom, it has been referred to as "Healey's first law of holes"[2] after politician Denis Healey, who used 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. Vol. 9. Archived from the original on 28 July 2014. Retrieved 25 July 2014 – via HighBeam Business.
  3. ^ Speake, Jennifer (23 October 2008). A Dictionary of Proverbs. OUP Oxford. ISBN 978-0-19-158001-7.
  4. ^ The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs. Yale University Press. 22 May 2012. ISBN 978-0-300-18335-1. Archived from the original on 26 December 2021. Retrieved 17 November 2021.
  5. ^ Speake, Jennifer (24 September 2015). Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs. OUP Oxford. ISBN 978-0-19-105959-9. Archived from the original on 26 December 2021. Retrieved 17 November 2021.
  6. ^ Moore, Merton (4 December 1920). Stop Digging—Climb. Vol. XVII. Holstein-Friesian World. p. 34. Archived from the original on 26 December 2021. Retrieved 17 November 2021. I have studied this situation thoroughly in five states and in close relation to hundreds of dairymen and the answer to 'Hard Times' is 'If you are in a hole, stop digging - raise your head - open your eyes - think - study -climb.'
  7. ^ Tech, Tech With (23 October 2020). "The 5 Laws of Holes (+ Examples for Each)". Tech With Tech. Archived from the original on 14 August 2021. Retrieved 14 August 2021.
  8. ^ Doyle, Charles Clay; Mieder, Wolfgang; Shapiro, Fred R. (2012). The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 9780300136029.
  9. ^ "Letting Bryan Down Easy". The Washington Post. 25 October 1911. p. 6. Archived from the original on 13 September 2021. Retrieved 12 September 2021 – via newspapers.com.
  10. ^ Is That Dirt Being Shoveled?. The Bankers Magazine. Vol. 166. Warren, Gorham & Lamont. 1983. p. 61. LCCN 89657447. Archived from the original on 26 December 2021. Retrieved 24 November 2020.