David Lloyd George? Ambrose Bierce? Garry Davis? Arianna Huffington? Benjamin Disraeli? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: Arianna Huffington who is well-known for creating the website “The Huffington Post” once employed a vivid and astute saying about commitment and the need to take decisive actions:
You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.
She attributed the statement to David Lloyd George who was the British Prime Minister during World War I. Recently I saw a different version of the saying:
The most dangerous thing in the world is to leap a chasm in two jumps.
Would you examine this quotation to determine its proper form?
Quote Investigator: The Prime Minister did include an instance of this expression in volume two of the “War Memoirs of David Lloyd George” which was published in 1933. Lloyd George used the word “abyss” instead of “chasm” and his phrasing differed from the most common modern versions. The topic was passing difficult legislation in two separate steps. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1
Even under the accommodating Premiership of Mr. Asquith there were ominous growls and occasional outbursts of impatience from the straitest of his supporters. They resented conscription, which had consequently to be carried in two steps. There is no greater mistake than to try to leap an abyss in two jumps.
The figure of speech at the core of this saying had already been employed decades earlier, but Lloyd George was an important locus for its popularization, and in later years he often received credit.
Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 1933, “War Memoirs of David Lloyd George, Volume II” by David Lloyd George, Chapter XXIV: Disintegration of the Liberal Party, Page 740, Ivor Nicholson & Watson, London. (First Edition October 1933; reprint in November 1933) (Verified on paper in November 1933 reprint) ↩