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Hindsight is always twenty-twenty

Posted by ESC on July 23, 2004

In Reply to: Hindsight is always twenty-twenty posted by Platypus on July 23, 2004

: : : : Can you guys tell me the origin of this idiom?Actually I'm not sure if it's an idiom. I picked it up from a web .I forgot to copy the context.

: : : This comes from eye testing. Perfect vision is defined as 20/20. Thus, hindsight, which produces 'perfect' vision of the past, can be so described.

: : I find it curious that this phrase which is [b]so often used[/b], especially by persons talking, is so factually incorrect. As a matter of fact hindsight is only occasionally 'perfect'. Often hindsight somewhat better than foresight but hindsight it only occasionally approaches 'perfect'.

: I wish we could put this moronic aphorism to bed forever. It is cliche and fallacious. Anyone who witnessed the love-fest during the Reagan memorials knows that hindsight is clearly an epileptic drunk wearing Coke bottle glasses. Only a severe visual impairment could obscure the images of hundreds of thousands of Guatemalan, El Salvadorian, and Nicaruaguan corpses and see only a benevolent grandfather figure. May I suggest "hindsight is an ass" to replace the worn-out cliche 20/20 bit.

HINDSIGHT - I couldn't find anything on "hindsight is 20/20" even though it's a common phrase. I did find several variations:

"Hindsight is better than foresight. Hindsight is better than foresight by a damn sight. If our foresight were as good as our hindsight, we would never make mistakes. If your foresight was as good as your hindsight, you would be better off by a d*mn sight." The earliest citation is 1879: Burdette, "Hawk-Eyes." From "Dictionary of American Proverbs" edited by Wolfgang Mieder & Others (Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York, 1992).

Then there's:
MONDAY-MORNING QUARTERBACK - "one who second-guesses or offers counsel about matters with which he or she is neither concerned nor well informed. The term refers to the after-the-fact football spectator who 'knows' just how the quarterback could have won the game of the past weekend, or win with a higher score. An Americanism, the term originated about 1940 and soon was transferred to other examples of twenty-twenty hindsight. However, it is interesting to note that the 1911 edition of Ambrose Bierce's 'The Devil's Dictionary' defined Monday as 'In Christian countries, the day after the baseball games.'" "Southpaws & Sunday Punches and other Sporting Expressions" by Christine Ammer (Penguin Books, New York, 1993). Another source says the phrase dates back to 1932. "Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, Volume 1, H-O" by J.E. Lighter, Random House, New York, 1994.

ARMCHAIR GENERAL -- An "armchair strategist (is) one who pontificates about world events; a sofa sophist.The armchair is a place of comfort from which to make discomfiting remarks; it can also be used as a symbol of laziness. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright claimed in 1938 that 'armchair education' was the reason Americans did not realize how discredited their culture was in the eyes of the world." In 1967 New York Times correspondent Max Frankel wrote: "In most wars, the armchairs are full of generals refighting every battle." From "Safire's New Political Dictionary" by William Safire (Random House, New York, 1993).