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The Chain

Posted by Lewis on May 22, 2003

In Reply to: Weakest link posted by Rosebud on May 21, 2003

: : : : : "a chain is only as strong as its weakest link"

: : : : : any ideas? Origin...meaning...I'm at a loss here...

: : : : : Rose

: : : : This bears relation to the Superiority of Job over Akhenaton. Remember Job 42:15.

: Thank you all so much for your help!!!

: : : I looked up Job 42:15 and found nothing relevant there.

: : : "A chain is only as strong as its weakest link" applies to any process that will fail if some step in it goes wrong. For instance, a building isn't well protected if its security system has one flaw--say, an easily pickable lock--that allows unauthorized entry, no matter how elaborate and expensive the rest of the system is.

: : A chain is no stronger than its weakest link. No matter how strong someone or something is strong, it is always limited by its weakest attribute. The proverb has been traced back to C. Kingley7s letter dated December 1, 1856. First cited in the United States in the early twentieth century. The proverb is found in varying forms: "A chain is as strong as its weakest link"; "A chain is only as strong as its weakest link"; "The strength of a chain is its weakest link," etc. ...
: : From _Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs & Sayings_ by Gregory Y. Titelman
: : ----------
: : weak link The least dependable member of a group, as in "The shipping department, slow in getting out orders, is our weak link in customer service," or "They're all very capable designers except for Ron, who is clearly the weak link." This expression alludes to the fragile portion of a chain, where it is most likely to break. [Mid-1800s]
: : From _The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms_ by Christine Ammer
: : ----------
: : The devil is very busy, and no one knows better tna he, that "nothing is stronger than its weakest part." (Kingsley, 1856)

: : A chain is no stronger than its weakest link; but if you show how admirably the last few are united ... half the world will forget to the security of the ... parts which are kept out of sight. (_Cornhill Magazine_, 1868)

: : A chain is only as strong as its weakest link; and the longer the chain, the more weak links. (L.J. Peter, _Peter Pyramid_, 1986)

it's a simple matter of engineering/physics : the stress that a chain is under (when in use) is equally distributed link by link from top to bottom. the entire weight rests upon each link
and so if one link is made of inferior or flawed metal, then when the strain is placed upon the chain, that link will fail and so as the chain is serial, the chain will fail.

In some circumstances, a weakness of part can be compensated for by other elements - in a chain, as each element is subject to the same forces, then the part least able to cope with that force determines the breaking point. you could compare it with fibres in a rope, where weakness of one part would not cause critical failure.

It is an adage about serial (not parallel) processes, where there is no duplication of roles.