Posted by Barney on April 25, 2000
In Reply to: Sum of its parts... posted by ESC on April 25, 2000
: : I wanted to look up the following phrase but you didn't have it - so now I wonder if it is worth adding, of course it should verified as I am not sure how it goes...
: : "the sum of its parts is greater than the whole"
: : Please let me know.
: That's a really common phrase. But I couldn't find it in any of my reference books. Anyone else have better luck?
I had always believed that the phrase was "The whole is greater than the sum of the parts" and not the other way around, if you understand what I mean. The sum of the parts being greater than the whole implies an incompetent amateur staring unbelievingly at a small heap of assorted nuts, bolts, springs and washers and scratching his head in wonderment that these should remain, given that he believes he's just successfully reassembled his vintage Ford.
The alternative phrase means that from an unimpressive assembly of parts can be built an object of consequence or beauty whose value is greater than the combined worth of the parts.