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If it ain’t broke don’t fix it

  • If it ain’t broke don’t fix it is an idiom that has only been documented since 1977, though many believe that it is a bit older than that. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal meaning.  We will examine the meaning of the term if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, where the idiom came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

    If it ain’t broke don’t fix it means don’t attempt to alter or improve something that is already working reasonably well. The idea is that often, the more something is fiddled with, the more likely it is that something will go wrong. Especially when the motivation for meddling with something that is already working satisfactorily is hubris or one-upmanship. The first documented use of the term if it ain’t broke don’t fix it is attributed to Burt Lance, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Jimmy Carter: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” He explains: “That’s the trouble with government: Fixing things that aren’t broken and not fixing things that are broken.” Some old-timers in the southern United States claim that the idiom goes back at least as far as the 1930s.

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    Examples

    It seemed as though this year will follow a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach after a number of significant changes to the logistics in 2016 saw positive feedback. (The Guardian)

    The city had no reserve fund, and was operating on a policy of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” when it came to Vicksburg’s aging infrastructure. (The Vicksburg Post)

    We’ve observed many clubs that change when it’s not needed (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it) and make “unforced errors” which can lead “downhill.” (Golf Course Industry Magazine)

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