the difficult is done at once; the impossible takes a little longer

A version of this is well known as the slogan of the US Armed Forces: the difficult we do immediately; the impossible takes a little longer. The ‘French Minister’ to whom this saying is attributed in quot. 1873 is Charles Alexandre de Calonne (1734–1802), appointed finance minister by Louis XVI in 1783: si c’est possible, c’est fait; impossible? cela se fera, if a thing is possible, consider it done; the impossible? that will be done (quoted in J. Michelet Histoire de la Revolution Française (1847) I. ii. 8).

1873 TROLLOPE Phineas Redux II. xxix. What was it the French Minister said. If it is simply difficult it is done. If it is impossible, it shall be done.

1967 H. HARRISON Technicolor Time Machine iv. The impossible may take a while, but we do it, you know the routine.

1981 P. MCCUTCHAN Shard calls Tune iv. A well-worn precept of the British Navy was that the difficult was done at once; the impossible took a little longer.

1997 National Review 29 Sept. 66 That’s good, utilitarian, achievement-oriented American lingo. We do the difficult immediately, the impossible takes a little longer.


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