[Ads-l] Motto: Speed Quality Price. Pick any Two

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Fri Jun 2 19:51:38 UTC 2023

The subject line contains a popular motto which I was asked to
investigate. Here is a variant saying:

Good, Fast, Cheap. Choose any two.

Barry Popik explored this topic, and his article contains citations
beginning in 1982 together with earlier claims:


I did not see the expression in the Dictionary of Modern Proverbs.

The Quote Investigator article is here:
Full: https://quoteinvestigator.medium.com/14ae27540afe
Abbrev: https://quoteinvestigator.com/2023/06/02/good-fast-cheap/

Here are two citations from 1980:

[ref] 1980, The Official Explanations, Compiled by Paul Dickson, Quote
Page 230, Delacorte Press, New York. (Verified on paper) [/ref]

[Begin excerpt]
Wallace’s Two-out-of-Three Theory.
Pick any Two.

(James M. Wallace, Minneapolis. Wallace says that the dictum applies
particularly to advertising, print shops, etc. He adds, "This is of
course theoretical. In real life, one is usually hard-pressed to get
any one.")
[End excerpt]

[ref] 1980 December, Industrial Research & Development, Erwin Frand’s
Thoughts On Product Development by Erwin Frand, Subtitle: Pick Two,
Any Two, Quote Page 27, Published by Technical Publishing: A Division
of Dun-Donnelley Publishing Corp., New York. (Verified with scans)

[Begin excerpt]
A few weeks ago I was in an office of a friend who runs a graphics
design house. One of the joys of visiting establishments such as that
is that most of them have very interesting and unusual decorations and
graphics scattered about. One thing which caught my eye was a sign my
friend had hanging on the wall behind his desk. It read: “Good. Fast.
Cheap. Pick Any Two.”
[End excerpt]

Feedback welcome
Garson O’Toole

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

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