Quote: If it ain't broke, don't fix it! (antedating1973 October 25)

Charles C Doyle cdoyle at UGA.EDU
Fri Dec 10 12:09:25 UTC 2010

Back a bit further:

If it ain't broke (isn't broken), don't (why) fix it.  1964  Anon., "Notes and Comments on Maintenance," _Approach: The Naval Aviation Safety Review_ 9, no. 10 (Apr.) 42:  "But be sure it's real leakage that you're measuring.  As someone recently said, 'if it ain't broke don't fix it.'"  1968  James K. Van Fleet, _Guide to Managing People_ (West Nyack NY: Parker) 159:  "If It Ain’t Broke—Why Fix It?" (section heading); the section ends, "If you had an alarm clock that was still running well and had gotten you up every morning on time for the last twenty years, would you suddenly decide to take it apart and check just to see if it would ring for sure tomorrow morning? I wouldn't either.  _So if it ain't broke—don't fix it!_" (italics as shown).  1973  _Implementation of Transportation Controls: Hearing before the Subcommittee on Air and Water Pollution . . . Senate_ (Washington  DC: Government Printing Office, 1974) 259; Senator Jack L. Gockel speaks:  "I might add that the a!
 verage cost for the tuneups performed on 300 cars was only $27, and the reason why the cost was so low was that the criteria of, if it isn't broke, don't fix it, was the main criteria that we taught."  In the form "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," the saying has often been attributed to Bert Lance; however, the earliest record of his use of  the expression appeared in the _Washington Post_ on Dec. 1976.   ODP 38, RHDP 152, YBQ Lance, DAAP 109; Flavell (1993) 30-31, Rees (1995) 238, Pickering (2001) 58, Rees (2006) 329.


From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] on behalf of Garson O'Toole [adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM]
Sent: Thursday, December 09, 2010 9:40 PM

Fred Shapiro discusses this quote at the "Quotes Uncovered" blog
today. Bert Lance, an administrator under Jimmy Carter, was a locus of
popularization, and the earliest known cites are in 1976 shortly
before Lance used it.


Barry Popik has a webpage on the quote that includes some interesting
variants that occurred earlier, e.g., IF WE CAN’T FIX IT—IT AIN’T


Here is a citation in 1973 that I just located. The prefixed mention
of "Murph" may be a reference to Murphy's Law:

Cite: 1973 October 25, Hamburg Reporter, Free standing quote in
Hansen's Food Market advertisement, Page 3, Hamburg, Iowa.

Murph sez: If it ain't broke, don't fix it!


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