April 8, 2019

“A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”


“A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”
        Advertising tagline used by the United Negro College Fund since 1972
        The slogan was coined in 1971 by Forest Long, an executive with the Young & Rubicam ad agency. The campaign using the slogan was launched in earnest in 1972. It has helped raise more than $2.2 billion and helped more than 350,000 minority students graduate from college.
        Over the decades, it has also sparked many serious and humorous variations. Some of my faves are shown below.


“A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.”
        Paul Romer
        American economist
        Romer is credited with coining this saying in a 2004 venture capital meeting in California.
        It was picked by and recycled in various ways by other economic and political observers. The best-known political use was by Rahm Emanuel, when he was Chief of Staff for President Barack Obama. In a soon widely-quoted interview at a Wall Street Journal CEO Council forum on November 19, 2008, Emanuel said: “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. What I mean by that is an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.” Rahm was speaking about the 2008 bank crisis in particular, but said the principle should also be applied to other areas facing serious problems, such as health care, energy, and education.


The Sheriff of Rottingham (actor Roger Rees) “Kill him!” [Referring to a mime who tried to entertain him and Prince John at a banquet.]
Prince John (actor Richard Lewis): “You know, a mime is a terrible thing to waste.”
The Sheriff: “ Let him go.”
        In the movie Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993), directed by Mel Brooks and co-written by him, Evan Chandler and J. David Shapiro.


Ouiser Boudreaux (actress Shirley MacLaine): “A dirty mind is a terrible thing to waste.”
        In the movie Steel Magnolias (1989)


“Compost...Because a Rind is a Terrible Thing to Waste!”
        Title of a composting manual by Jean Bonhotal and Karen Rollo, published by the Cornell Waste Management Institute (1996)


“A Mustache Is A Terrible Thing To Shave”
        A humorous slogan used by the American Mustache Institute


“A penis is a terrible thing to waste.”
        Howard Stern
        American radio and TV show host
        Stern used this line for a controversial fundraising effort on behalf of John Bobbit (whose penis had been cut off by his wife Lorena) as part of Stern’s New Year’s Rotten Eve Pageant in 1994. Stern was indeed supportive of John at the time, though many observers now view him as an abusive husband who pushed Lorena to her breaking point. (Portrait of Stern by the great Drew Friedman.)


“When you take the UNCF model that, what a waste it is to lose one’s mind, or not to have a mind is being very wasteful, how true that is.”
        Dan Quayle
        Republican politician who served as Vice President of the United States under George Bush (1989-1993)
        Quayle became notorious for his malapropisms. He uttered this mangled version of the UNCF slogan at a United Negro College Fund event on May 9, 1989. It quickly became one of the most-cited “Quaylisms” and, among other things, inspired the title of the unauthorized “autobiography” of Quayle, What a Waste It Is to Lose One’s Mind.

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