A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

Recent entries:
“New York point guards will give up their grandmother before their dribble” (basketball adage) (10/31)
Mayor Pothole or Senator Pothole (responsive to constituent needs) (10/31)
“I could burn water” (i.e., I can’t cook) (10/31)
“When you think, you stink” (sports adage) (10/30)
“Real estate is a relationship business” (real estate adage) (10/30)
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Entry from May 30, 2010
“Close enough for government work” ("Good enough for government work")

"Government work” is often thought of as less efficient than private sector work, where there is no monopoly and the work must compete with others. “Close enough for government work” (later, “good enough for government work") means an effort that is passable, but far from excellent.

“Close enough for government work” is cited in print from at least 1962 and might have started in the space programs.


Wiktionary: close enough for government work
Etymology
Originated in World War II. When something was “good enough for Government work” it meant it could pass the most rigorous of standards. Over the years it took on an ironic meaning that is now the primary sense, referring to poorly executed work.

“Government work” is also a term for the manufacture of something on company time for personal use. For example, a custom trailer hitch made at a welding shop for the welder himself on the afternoon shift with no supervisors around is government work. Commonly heard in Ontario, Canada and northeast U.S.

Adjective
close enough for government work
1. (idiomatic, humorous, disparaging, slang) It is not worth investing additional time on perfecting this thing.
Synonyms
. close enough
. good enough
. good enough for government work

Google Books
Results of the first U. S. manned orbital space flight, February 20, 1962
By Manned Spacecraft Center (U.S.)
Washington, DC
1962
Pg. 188: 
Good enough for government work from down here.

Google Books
Results of the second U. S. manned orbital space flight, May 24, 1962
By United States. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Manned Spacecraft Center.
Washington, DC
1962
Pg. 102:
“That’s probably close enough for government work.”

Google Books
Death of the Thresher
By Norman Polmar
Philadelphia, PA: Chilton Books
1964
Pg. 43:
“Don’t bother, that’s close enough for government work.”

Google News Archive
15 September 1966, Norwalk (CT) Hour, pg. 2, col. 4:
Conrad: Thanks a lot. You guys are all right. We used the old one. That is close enough for government work.
(Charles Conrad Jr., Gemini 11 astronaut—ed.)

29 April 1969, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “Redistricting by Numbers” by Jim Wright, pg. D2:
Since the census figures themselves are estimated to have a 3 per cent margin of error, the Missourians figured that was close enough for government work.

Google Books
Salmagundi Vietnam
By Don Pratt and Lee Blair
Rutland, VT: C. E. Tuttle Co.
1970
Pg. 76:
We’ll call him Smitty, which is close enough for government work.

17 November 1971, Dallas (TX) Morning News, pg. D2:
As explanations go, that one is close enough for government work.

Google News Archive
5 September 1972, Sumter (SC) Daily Sun, pg. 8, col. 2:
My facts and figures are not 100 per cent perfect, but as they say, “close enough for government work.”

Google News Archive
23 August 1976, St. Petersburg (FL) Times, “Some garbage needs much more sorting” by Jan Glidewell, Citrus-Hernando Times, pg. 1, col. 2:
I think that’s what we used to call “close enough for government work.”

OCLC WorldCat record
Constitutional Free Speech Protections for the Public Employee: Close Enough for Government Work?
Author: Wayne Sanders
Publisher: 1982-04-00
Edition/Format: Book : English
Database: ERIC The ERIC database is an initiative of the U.S. Department of Education.

OCLC WorldCat record
Good Enough for Government Work? A Study in “Grey Archeology”
Author: David S Brose
Edition/Format: Article : English
Publication: American Anthropologist, Jun., 1985, vol. 87, no. 2, p. 370-377
Database: JSTOR

OCLC WorldCat record
Close enough for government work
Author: Alan L Hutcheson
Publisher: New York : iUniverse, ©2005.
Edition/Format: Book : Fiction : English

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • (0) Comments • Sunday, May 30, 2010 • Permalink