Modern Proverb: Amateur practices till he can do it right; professional till he can't do it wrong (1976 probably)

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Tue May 3 20:35:28 UTC 2011

Thanks to Dan Goncharoff for the citation in Formula One car racing.

Note, the comment about the attribution to Julie Andrews in the
previous message was intended to be humorous. I have no compelling
evidence for the accuracy of that ascription.

Here is an apparently earlier instance of the saying in the theatrical domain.

Cite: 1967, "The Reunion, Impasse, The Telephone Call" by Ray Galton
and Alan Simpson, GB Page 10, E. J. Arnold, London. (Google Books
snippet; Not verified on paper; Dates for dramatic works are not
reliable in Google Books; Catalogs list a 1966 and 1967 edition for
this work; the words may be in the introduction of the 1967 edition)

It has been wisely said: "An amateur practises until the thing is
right, but a professional practises until the thing can't go wrong,"
and you must aim at your highest standard of work at every public

Here is a building block for the saying in 1922: the notion of
practicing "until you cannot get it wrong".

Cite: 1922, Swimming and Diving by Gerald Barnes, Page 37, Charles
Scribner's Sons, New York. (Google Books full view)

After each element has been mastered separately, practice the
combination on land until you cannot get it wrong.

On Tue, May 3, 2011 at 2:45 PM, Garson O'Toole
<adsgarsonotoole at> wrote:
>  Jonathan Lighter wrote
>> Twice in the past six months I've heard the following.  The precise wording
>> is what I heard on CNN this morning:
>> "There's a saying that amateurs do it till they get it right, professionals
>> do it till they can't get it wrong,"
> ...
>> The speaker was a former Navy SEAL, probably in his mid to late '60s.
> This Navy SEAL should be crediting the exceptional military tactician
> and notable actress Julie Andrews.

The American Dialect Society -

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