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 forthcoming—B.P. (11/21)
“I couldn’t decide whether or not to make spiced apple cider, so I mulled it over” (11/21)
“Pancakes are just morning pizzas” (11/21)
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Entry from August 30, 2012
“If at first you don’t succeed, redefine success”

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” is a popular American poem verse from the 1830s. The verse has many joke endings that replace “try, try again.”

“If at first you dont succeed, redefine success” is a jocular anti-proverb that has been cited in print since about 1983 and is of unknown authorship.

American film comedian W. C. Fields (1880-1946) is attributed with this take on the saying: “If at first you don’t succeed, try try again. Then quit. There’s no use being a damn fool about it.” Other variations include “If at first you don’t succeed, you’re running about average,” “If at first you don’t succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried,” “If at first you don’t succeed, try management,” “If at first you don’t succeed, try left field,” “If at first you don’t succeed, try two more times so your failure is statistically significant,” “If at first you don’t succeed, skydiving isn’t for you,” “If at first you don’t succeed, we have a lot in common” and “Cooking Rule: If at first you don’t succeed, order pizza.”


The Yale Book of Quotations
Edited by Fred. R. Shapiro
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press
2006
Pg. 578:
Thomas H.Palmer
U.S. author, 1782-1861
“‘Tis a lesson you should heed,
Try, try again;
If at first you don’t succeed,
Try, try again.”

Quoted in The Village Reader (1840). The identical words, except with “try, try again,” appear in a poem titled “Perseverance; or, Try Again,” printed in Common School Assistant, Aug. 1838. No author is identified.

Google Books
New Statesman
Volume 106
1983
Pg. 7:
If at first you don’t succeed, redefine success.

Google News Archive
19 July 1985, Evening Independent (St. Petersburg, FL), “Laundry List Offers Noteworthy Items” by Don Addis, pg. 1A, col. 1:
The modern American’s version of an old adage: If at first you don’t succeed, redefine success

The Star.com
15 October 1985, Toronto (Ontario) Star, “These signs of the times will brighten Blue Tuesday” by George Gamester, pg. A2:
Heed this wise advice from Molly McGillis of Chapleau, Ont.: IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED - REDEFINE “SUCCESS.’

Google Books
Maybe (Maybe Not):
Second Thoughts from a Secret Life

By Robert Fulghum
New York, NY: Villard Books
1993
Pg. 94:
If at first you don’t succeed, redefine success

Google Books
More Aussie Gags
By John Blackman
Sydney: Pan Macmillan
2000
Pg. ?:
If at first you don’t succeed, redefine success.

Google Books
“Proverbs Speak Louder Than Words”:
Folk Wisdom in Art, Culture, Folklore, History, Literature, and Mass Media

By Wolfgang Mieder
New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc.
2008
Pg. 107:
If at first you don’t succeed, redefine success.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityWork/Businesses • Thursday, August 30, 2012 • Permalink