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Posted by Victoria S Dennis on November 17, 2005

In Reply to: HE WHO HESITATES IS LOST posted by Smokey Stover on November 17, 2005

: : I am an international student here in the USA and I would like to understand what the phrase "HE WHO HESITATES IS LOST" means.

: : Thank you in advance.

: : Aman

: What gives? Two of you? "He who hesitates is lost" is a pretty transparent expression. It means that if you react too slowly to situations, especially urgent ones, you'll die, get hit, lose a good opportunity, lose the girl, fail to make the grade. "Lost" is deliberately a bit vague. It does NOT mean here, unable to find one's way home.

But originally the proverb meant something rather different. It was coined by the early 18th-century English essayist Joseph Addison, who wrote in 1713 that when being propositioned by a man "the woman that deliberates is lost" - in other words, if she needs any time at all to make up her mind, rather than slapping the man's face at once, she will end up being seduced. Early versions of the proverb all refer similarly to women and seduction; it's only in the second half of the 19th century that it was adapted to become a warning against hesitant behaviour in general. (VSD)