An idiom a day keeps your English okay! In this series we examine English idioms and teach you how to use them.
Measure Twice, Cut Once
Have you ever tried to make a poster and when you got to the right-hand side of the page realised you were running out of space and had to use smaller letters? Of course you have. Everyone has.
That’s because you didn’t plan what you wanted to write and you didn’t think about the size of the page or how big your letters should be. If you measure something twice it means you are very careful and you have a plan before starting a project.
Imagine you are going to cut a piece of wood to go under a wobbly kitchen table. You can cut the wood, see if it fits, and then cut it again. And again and again until it is right. OR you can measure the legs of the table, calculate how long the piece of wood needs to be, and then cut it to the correct amount.
Planning and measuring before you start might seem like too much work, but in most cases it saves time.
That’s why a skilled workman says ‘measure twice, cut once’.
How to Use It
Maybe you have been told to write an essay in class, and your friend starts writing straight away. Meanwhile, you spend the first 5 or 10 minutes planning what you want to write, thinking about your structure, and thinking about which words you will use and how you will finish.
Your friend will probably laugh at you and say you’re wasting your time.
‘Measure twice, cut once,’ you say, and she shakes her head because you seem so old-fashioned.
But halfway through the time, you notice your friend screw up her piece of paper and take out a new one. She has to start again because she realises her writing isn’t good enough. Meanwhile yours is built on a good foundation and you finish in time and get a good grade.
Real Life Examples
– You haven’t finished making that IKEA table yet? It’s been two hours!
– Well, I don’t have all the screws.
– Why didn’t you check they were there before you started?
– What person checks all the screws are in the box?
– A sensible person. An intelligent person. Measure twice, cut once.
– I hate people like that.
– Those people don’t waste two hours making a table they can’t finish.
– Are you doing more research about lawnmowers? I thought you already chose one.
– I did but it’s a lot of money so I thought I’d double-check. My grandfather used to say ‘measure twice, cut once’. Better to spend a bit more time just being really sure than to buy something I don’t really like.
– Didn’t your grandfather lose all his money gambling on high-school basketball games?
– Yes but that doesn’t mean everything he said was wrong.
– What are you doing?
– I’m planning where to put my new white console table.
– You don’t need a tape measure for that. Just estimate it!
– No, it needs to be exact because Samantha’s wheelchair has to be able to get past.
– Oh, good point.
– Yeah, and I don’t want to have to go back to the store. Measure twice, cut once.