Quotes Uncovered: Justice Delayed
Each week, I’ve been inviting readers to submit quotations whose origins they want me to try to trace, using my book, The Yale Book of Quotations, and my more recent research. Here is the latest round.
“Justice delayed is justice denied.” I looked for the origin of this, and it was far trickier than I would have thought. I remain uncertain.
I have written in my quotation column in the Yale Alumni Magazine of how this is a great example of the power of searching databases of historical texts to improve upon the information in standard reference works that fail to use modern research methods, or any research methods at all. The Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs traces this only back to 1999, and The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations also calls it a late-20th-century proverb. Yet searching historical newspaper databases and other electronic resources makes it clear that the great British prime minister William Gladstone used “justice delayed is justice denied” as the climax of an important 1868 speech about the Irish question, and that the saying was in existence even earlier than that. A reader of the Yale Alumni Magazine subsequently pushed it back further than I had, and I will discuss the reader’s discovery in a future YAM column.
Jonathan B asked:
Could you find the origin of the phrase “In a jiffy” Co-workers and I speculate it came from Jiffy Popcorn.
No, it’s the other way around. The Oxford English Dictionary records “jiffy” as far back as 1785, and the popcorn must have been named for the preexisting term.
Could you see if there is a source for “Work expands to fill the time alloted to it.” In other words, deadlines are there for a reason. I think I heard it was attributed to a Navy officer, but I haven’t found the origin.
This is the famous “Parkinson’s Law,” coined by C. Northcote Parkinson in 1955. His wording was “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Some of Parkinson’s other maxims cited in The Yale Book of Quotations include:
“Time spent on any item of the agenda will be in inverse proportion to the sum involved.”
“Perfection of planned layout is achieved only by institutions on the point of collapse.”
“The man who is denied the opportunity of taking decisions of importance begins to regard as important the decisions he is allowed to take.”
“Men enter local politics solely as a result of being unhappily married.”
“Expenditure rises to meet income.”
“The printed word expands to fill the space available for it.”
“The effectiveness of a telephone conversation is in inverse proportion to the time spent on it.”
“An enterprise employing more than 1000 people becomes a self-perpetuating empire, creating so much internal work that it no longer needs any contact with the outside world.”
“Delay is the deadliest form of denial,” which, of course, brings us back to “Justice delayed is justice denied.”
Do any readers have any other quotations whose origins they would like me to attempt to trace?