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 August 09, 2011
“It is much easier to apologize than it is to get permission”

"Always remember that it’s much easier to apologize than to get permission,” said Rear Admiral Grace Hopper (1906-1992) in December 1982. “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission” is a Hopper quote from July 1986.

It’s likely that Grace Hopper popularized (but did not originate) the saying that it’s easier to do something and have apologies/forgiveness later than it is to get permission first. Hopper described how difficult government regulations ("permission") can be to get anything done. “Easier to Ask Forgiveness than it is to get Permission” (EAFP) is used in the Python programming language, perhaps to recognize Hopper (who helped to develop computer languages).

A somewhat similar saying has been in print since at least 1908: “We find in the present generation that it is much easier to pray for forgiveness than it is to fight against temptation.” The full saying has been in print since at least 1977: “It is easier to get forgiveness than permission.” In 1980, this was credited to economist and futurist author Robert Theobald (1929-1999). Other citations in the 1980s and 1990s—including one stating that the saying is an old Army proverb—appear to be independent of Hopper’s statements.


Wikiquote: Grace Hopper
Rear Admiral Grace Hopper (9 December 1906 – 1 January 1992) was a U.S. Naval officer, and an early computer programmer. She was the developer of the first compiler for a computer programming language; at the end of her service she was the oldest serving officer in the United States Navy.

Sourced
It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.
. As quoted in U.S. Navy’s Chips Ahoy magazine (July 1986)
Variant: If it’s a good idea, go ahead and do it. It is much easier to apologize than it is to get permission.
. As quoted in Built to Learn : The inside story of how Rockwell Collins became a true learning organization (2003) by Cliff Purington, Chris Butler, and Sarah Fister Gale, p. 171

Wikipedia: EAFP
EAFP may refer to:
. the adage that it is Easier to Ask Forgiveness than it is to get Permission, attributed to Grace Hopper and influential in the semantics of the Python programming language

Google Books
October 1908, The Professional and Amateur Photographer, pg. 408:
We find in the present generation that it is much easier to pray for forgiveness than it is to fight against temptation.

28 April 1966, New Oxford (PA) Item, pg. 4, col. 3:
Wayward men figure it’s easier to pray for forgiveness than it is to fight temptation.

Google Books
Southern Education Eeport, Volume 1
Southern Education Reporting Service
1967 (Google Books date may be incorrect—ed.)
Pg. 65:
“It’s easier to get forgiveness than permission,” he explained.

Google News Archive
27 July 1977, Waycross (GA) Journal-Herald, “You Cannot Break God’s Laws, They Will Break You” by Journal Herald Staff Writer, pg. P11, col. 1:
KANSAS CITY—“It is easier to get forgiveness than permission” said Bob Mumford, evangelist and writer at the first International Charismatic Conference here.

3 November 1979, Greensboro (NC) Daily News, pg. B14, col. 5 classified ad:
CYCLE INN YAMAHA
We’re having a “Boss Is Gone to Japan Sale”. He’s always said, “It’s easier to get forgiveness than it is permission”, so we are going to find out if it is true, or get new jobs.

Google Books
A Working Approach to Human Relations in Organizations
By Janis Kathleen Day
Monterey, CA: Brooks/Cole Pub. Co.
1980
Pg. 278:
“It is much easier to apologize than to get permission. “ Robert Theobald

Google Books
Computers and the Law:
An Introductory Handbook (3rd edition)

By Robert Pratt Bigelow
Washington, DC: Section of Science and Technology, American Bar Association ; Chicago, IL: Commerce Clearing House
1981
Pg. 56:
To the timid, who fear to risk failure and the consequences of failure, or who are reluctant to ask their partners or associates to try something new, I say what most of us learned as children: “It is easier to obtain forgiveness than it is to obtain permission.”

Google News Archive
11 October 1981, Ocala (FL) Star-Banner, pg. F1, col. 3:
His (Gamble Rogers—ed.) favorite lines, he says, come from several places. “If I’m lucky enough, I can make some up myself, like ‘Never blame a man for being human, unless he makes a habit of it.’ There are others, such as ‘It’s always easier to get forgiveness than it is to get permission’ that come from stock or from racial experience, which is something of a folksy treasure that is passed around and remembered.”

9 December 1982, Chicago (IL) Tribune, “High-tech pioneer a crowd pleaser” by :ynn Orr, pg. FNW2:
“Always remember that it’s much easier to apologize than to get permission,” she (Grace Hopper—ed.) said.

Google Books
Editing the Organizational Publication
By Edmund C. Arnold
Chicago, IL: Lawrence Ragan Communications
1983
Pg. 5:
Many editors have found the truth of an old Army proverb: “It’s easier to get forgiveness than to get permission.”
Pg. 47:
Another important tactic of editorial self-preservation is: “Never ask for permission.”

An Army editor once told a general, “It’s easier to get forgiveness for something you’ve done in this division than it is to get permission to do it.”

1 June 1983, Mobile (AL) Register, “Navy captain has message for her public” by Luther Young (Baltimore Sun), pg. 7A, col. 5:
“But nobody believed me until I had gone ahead and done it,” Hopper says. “On many occasions, especially in government, it’s easier to apologize than to get permission. The big rewards go to people who take big risks. You can plod along for therest of your life, or you can stick your neck out...which is more fun, anyway.”

Google Books
Brother Brigham’s Gold
By Blaine M. Yorgason and Brenton G. Yorgason
Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Company
1984
Pg. ?: 
And Pa always says that it’s easier to repent than it is to get permission.

Google Books
February/March 1984, Mother Jones magazine, pg. 61 ad:
IT’S EASIER TO GET FORGIVENESS THAN IT IS TO GET PERMISSION
(T-shirt saying—ed.)

Google Books
Voice of America interviews with eight American women of achievement:
Grace Hopper, Betty Friedan, Nancy Landon Kassebaum, Mary Calderone, Helen Thomas, Julia Montgomery Walsh, Maya Angelou, Nancy Clark Reynolds

By Chantal Mompoullan
Washington, DC: Voice of America, United States Information Agency
1985
Pg. 9:
VOA: Recently you were on television and you made a remark which amused me and which I thought was, at the time, very clever. You said: “It is much easier to apologize than to get permission.”
GH: In many cases it is, because it takes so long in any large organization to get permission that you should go ahead and do it.

10 February 1985, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “Struggles for Fairness Shadow Life in Projects” by Craig Flourney and George Rodrigue:
“I found out a long time ago it’s easier to get forgiveness for something than it is to get permission to do something,’ said Mrs. Beverly, the longtime executive director of public housing.

Google News Archive
15 August 1986, Schenectady (NY) Gazette, “Computer Whiz Admiral Retires From the Navy,” pg. 13, cols. 1-2:
BOSTON (UPI)—Read Adm. Grace Murray Hopper, the fiesty mathematician who prodded the Navy to remain at the forefront of the computer age, retired yesterday at age 79 as the oldest commissioned officer on active duty.
(...)
“We need to tell young people, ‘Go ahead and do it.’ It is much easier to apologize than it is to get permission,” she said in urging more leadership and less management in government research efforts.

Google Books
Getting Better All the Time
By Liz Carpenter
College Station, TX: Texas A & M University Press
1993
Pg. 180:
Dr. Benjy Brooks, who in 1958 became Texas’ first woman pediatric surgeon, said she had learned early in life that “it is easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to ask for permission.”

Google Books
February 1999, Los Angeles magazine, pg. 135, col. 2:
FAMOUS PHRASES
Riordan “It’s easier to seek forgiveness than it is to get permission.”

Google Books
Grace Hopper:
Admiral of the cyber sea

By Kathleen Broome Williams
Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press
2004
Pg. 86:
“When you have a good idea,” she loved to tell audiences, “and you’ve tried it and you know it’s going to work, go ahead and do it — because it’s much easier to apologize afterwards than it is to get permission.”

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • (0) Comments • Tuesday, August 09, 2011 • Permalink