when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail

Principally known in North America.

1966 A. MASLOW Psychology of Science (foreword) x If the only tool you have is a hammer, it is tempting to treat everything as if it were a nail.

1981 New York Times 11 Nov. D13 ‘There is frequently a lack of understanding of what power is—I’ve got power, therefore I’m right,’ he said. ‘When you’ve got a hammer, everything looks like a nail.’

1989 PC Magazine 14 Mar. 78 That kind of crude misapplication of PCs and PC software—the computer world’s equivalent of the old saw that ‘when all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail’—means death for productivity.

2002 Washington Post 7 Apr. H7 It’s a waste to use $480 worth of Office suite for such simple work. But it’s not a surprise either. To paraphrase what others have said: When Microsoft Office is your only hammer, pretty much everything begins to look like a nail. Or a thumb.


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