I Did Not Know That

by john on July 21, 2005

Deadprogrammer wrote about Grace Hopper today and attributed to her the quote “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.” I knew about Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper through the history of the computer in particular her coining (or at least popularizing) the term debugging when she found a moth in an unworking circuit. Read more about her at Wikipedia and see some more quotes at Wikiquote.

But I had no idea that she came up with one of my favorite quotes. I actually have been saying it as “It’s better to beg forgiveness than ask permission” although a quick Google search shows her name associated with both. I’ve been using it as an interview question, and it certainly does draw out some interesting responses.

What is particularly interesting to me though is that the only two people I have interview who responded that it was better to ask permission were both Military. Funny that it should come from someone in the Navy.

(For the record like most of my interview questions this one “Is it better to beg forgiveness or ask permission?” has no right answer, it is how the candidate chooses to respond that is what I am looking for. I can usually lead them from this question into a story of how they once handled a situation where they needed to make a decision without getting approval first, and how they handled that. If you say you always ask for permission then I don’t want to hire you.)


Joe Grossberg July 22, 2005 at 12:14 pm

It’s also used extensively as a coding best-practice in Python, e.g. : http://jaynes.colorado.edu/PythonIdioms.html

“Catch errors rather than avoiding them to avoid cluttering your code with special cases. This idiom is called EAFP (‘easier to ask forgiveness than permission’), as opposed to LBYL (‘look before you leap’).”

Those acronyms will probably get you even more results.

Jimmy Kanada December 4, 2005 at 12:28 pm

Les and Dave are so ugly that when the look up at the stars planets in the outer solar system move many miles from the earth.They are so ugly that cows puke and sheep run when they arrive. That’s why the last big foot ran away in the woods. They are so ugly that bats fly back in the caves at night. Les is so boring that snails yawn at him. Dave is so retarded looking that mental hospitals become extra prepared. Les’s mouth is so rotten that when he talks fish in the sea swam to the ocean floor. They both are so ugly that when birds fly they fly the fly upwards. Les is so ignorant that his beard has to cover his face. They are so evil that witches say “well they need a transformation before they meet a woman”. Old people say ” Boy! im glad that i aint that pitifull lookin”. Jelly fish would not even sting these ugly fools. Les and dave are so ugly that weman say “hehehehehehehehehehe” they must be retards. They are so ugly that space men say ” Lets flee this forbidden place”. They are so ugly that rats hide the young. Les is so ugly that turtles hide in theyre shell. Les is so ugly that porn stars say “If they even look this way i quit!” They are so ugly that Spider Man would say”great scott a new opponent with a secret weapon”. Les is so ugly that the lockness monster had to commit suicide. Dragons would flee from these ugly (science dweebs). They are so ugly that children yell” Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, look at the monster daddy i told you there was a munster”. They look so ugly that city’s and large networking companys evacuate and shut down. They are so ugly that mummys say ” well its no fare that we have to be so wrapped up”. Dogs bark and wolves howl at the moon when Les opens his mouth. They are so ugly that even tall ass girrafes puke, even when lookin uThey are so ugly and retarded looking that foreigners stay put. Les is so ugly that cowboys say ” Get off my land before you scare the cattle”. Sheep run awy why he talks. Flys and roaches flee his house when he enters.

Amanda February 5, 2008 at 6:53 am

do i like michelle!!!!!

zuliema munoz October 2, 2008 at 3:40 pm

hello peter

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