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.

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Entry from March 21, 2013
“One ‘aw, shit’ wipes out a thousand ‘attaboys‘“

"One ‘aw, shit’ wipes out a thousand ‘attaboys’” means that one mistake (also “aw. shucks” or “oh no") ruins many good works ("attaboys"). The number of “attaboys” is not standard in the expression, but it’s usually 10, 100 or 1,000 “attaboys.”

“Tuesday’s article earned Aw Fooey for negative reporting, and one Aw Fooey wipes out ten Atta Boys!” was cited in print in 1977. The expression is frequently said to have started in the military, but it’s not known what branch of the military or at what date.


11 May 1977, Daily News-Miner (Fairbanks, AK), Letters to the Editor, pg. A-6, col. 5:
Tuesday’s article earned Aw Fooey for negative reporting, and one Aw Fooey wipes out ten Atta Boys!
(Written by Michael DePaulo—ed.)

Google Books
Commit to Quality
By Patrick L. Townsend and Joan E. Gebhardt
New York, NY: Wiley
1986
Pg. 146:
Unfortunately, it is like the “Attaboy/Oh, damn” rule. Doing something right earns you one “Attaboy!” Doing something wrong gets you one “Oh, damn!” Sadly, one “Oh, damn” wipes out up to a hundred “Attaboys.”

15 March 1992, St. Paul (MN) Pioneer Press, “A contrite Sikorski gets an earful on ‘Rubbergate’,” pg. 1A:
Zeece acknowledged his service, but admonished Sikorski to remember that “one poop wipes out a thousand ‘attaboys.’’’

Google Groups: alt.support.depression
Jane Lebar
1/8/96
(...)
(The old saying of “one ah-shit wipes out a thousand atta-boys")

Google Groups: sci.military.naval
Barry Carr
5/22/96
(...)
There is an expression in the Navy (and probably the civilian sector) that says “one aw shit wipes out a thousand attaboys”.  The Navy has had quite a few attaboys, yet suffered a few “aw shits!”

Google Books
Visual Basic:
A Programmer’s Guide to Managing Component Based Development

By Eran Marom
Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall PTR
1997
Pg. 209:
The report is not going to be produced easily, it is going to be late, and as one screw-up wipes out a thousand at-a-boys, you will be in hot water.

28 January 2010, Asbury Park (NJ) Press, “Lost faith in Rep. Smith”:
There is a saying that one “oh no” wipes out a thousand “atta boys.”

Current Intelligence
But then he goes & postulates that Obama is legally a Muslim, thereby validating that hoary military saying that one “aw, shit” wipes out a thousand “attaboys.”
May 24, 2010 at 18:22 Ralph Hitchens

Google Books
When Pigs Flew
By Paul Cardinal
Bloomington, IN: iUniverse
2012
Pg. IX:
“In the Navy one ‘Oh Shit’ wipes out a hundred ‘Atta Boys.’”

Twitter
Mike Krause
‏@timebandit
One “Aw shit” wipes out three “attaboys”
1:23 PM - 17 Apr 12

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • Thursday, March 21, 2013 • Permalink