[Ads-l] Adage: A clever person solves a problem; a wise person avoids it

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jul 14 18:31:09 EDT 2021

The saying in the subject line is usually attributed to Albert
Einstein. A skeptical person asked me to investigate. I was unable to
find substantive support for the ascription. Here is a chronological
sampling (from the QI article) of a family of related sayings:


1969 April 11: A clever man gets out of situations that a wise man
would never get into.

1969 April 12: A clever man attempts to get out of a situation which a
wise man never got into in the first place

1969 July 16: A wise man never gets into a situation a clever man has
to get out of

1978 September 15: the clever man knows how to get out of a
predicament the wise man would never have gotten into in the first

1980 August 23: A clever man tries to get out of a mess a wise man
would not have gotten into.

1986: a smart person manages to escape from unpleasant situations that
a wise person would avoid in the first place

1992 April: a wise man avoids getting into situations that it takes a
clever man to get out of.

1992 May: A clever person solves a problem; a wise person avoids it.

Feedback welcome
Garson O'Toole

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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