A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from September 24, 2012
“He who hesitates is not only lost, but several miles from the next exit”

"He who hesitates is lost” is a proverb that dates back to at least the 18th and 19th centuries. The proverb has had several jocular anti-proverb endings.  “When driving, is it ‘he who hesitates is ten miles from the next exit’?” was cited in print in November 1964.

Missing an exit on New York City’s roadways doesn’t leave one many miles from the next exit, but the driver who hesitates will often miss the proper exit.


Wiktionary: one who hesitates is lost
Proverb
one who hesitates is lost

A person who spends too much time contemplating what to do may miss a valuable but fleeting opportunity.

Google Books
A Dictionary of Proverbs
Edited by John Simpson
New York, NY: Oxford University Press
2008
Pg. ?:
He who HESITATES is lost.
Early uses of the proverb refer specifically to women.
1713 ADDISON Cato IV. i. When love once pleads admission to our hearts..The woman that deliberates is lost.
1865 TROLLOPE Can You forgive Her? II. x. It has often been said of a woman that she who doubts is lost..never thinking whether or no there be any truth in the proverb.
1878 J. H. BEADLE Western Wilds xxi. In Utah it is emphatically true, that he who hesitates is lost—to Mormonism.

28 November 1964, Titusville (PA) Herald, “Noah Numskull,” pg. 4, col. 5:
DEAR NOAH—WHEN DRIVING, IS IT “HE WHO IS IT HESITATES 1S TEN MILES FROM THE NEXT EXIT”?
FRANKIE SABAS
LANSFORD, PA.

17 March 1965, Globe-Gazette (Mason City, IA), pg. 4, col. 1:
The person who hesitates not only is lost, but several miles from the next freeway exit.

19 July 1965, Chicago (IL) Tribune, pg. B5:
He who hesitates is not only lost—he’s miles from the next exit.

Google News Archive
21 February 1966, Saskatoon (Saskatchewan) Star-Phoenix, “Editorial notes,” pg. 15, col. 2:
The person who hesitates is not only lost, but he’s at least seven miles from the next cloverleaf.—Moose Jaw Times-Herald.
(Cloverleaf interchange—ed.)

Google Books
1,911 Best Things Anybody Ever Said
Selected and compiled by Robert Byrne
New York, NY: Random House Publishing Group
1988
Pg. 97:
He who hesitates is not only lost, but miles from the next exit.
Unknown

Google News Archive
17 April 2000, The Sentinel’s Compass (Rochester, IN), “Stickers keep motorists smiling,” pg. 5, col. 2:
HE WHO HESITATES IS MILES FROM THE NEXT EXIT.

Google News Archive
2 February 2006, Spring Hope (NC) Enterprise, “Contributions from Cyberspace,” pg. 4, col. 2:
He Who Hesitates Not Only Is Lost, But is Miles From The Next Exit.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityTransportation • (0) Comments • Monday, September 24, 2012 • Permalink