measure seven times, cut once

Russian proverb, originally referring to carpentry and needlework, meaning that care taken in preparation will prevent errors; cf. measure twice, cut once and think twice, cut once.

1853 W. FELGATE trans. Tapparelli d’Azeglio, Marchese Massimo Maid of Florence 213 ‘However, measure seven times before you cut once.’ ‘The more I think of it, the more do I repent not having done it.’

1920 ‘Moscow wireless message’ in Times 2 July (online) If the small Powers, attentive to the policy of the Great Powers, willingly play the part of pulling the chestnuts out of the fire for them, they are destined to burn their fingers severely... At the proper moment, the Great Powers will, without any ceremony, betray their little agents..‘Let Finland measure seven times, before cutting off the piece!’

1990 New York Times 1 June (online) Boris Yeltsin has been accusing the present regime of half-measures when drastic action is needed, while ‘Measure seven times, cut once’ is the go-slow Gorbachev adage.

2004 posting on 13 Aug. Putin, they said, is not interested in thrashing around aimlessly. Before launching radical reforms, he will measure seven times and cut seven times. Now, sadly, it must be noted that the ‘warming-up period’ was wasted after all.

Proverbs new dictionary.

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