Those babies don’t make themselves.
August 24, 2018 3:19 PM   Subscribe

I have a saying that Is witty and gets the point across. I’d like to find a more tactful alternative.

There’s a saying in software engineering that “Nine women can’t make a baby in a month” which is used to describe a situation where you can’t just throw bodies at a problem to get it done faster. This saying is glib and gets the point across but I don’t like using it with clients where sensitivities can be heightened. I’d like to find a similarly witty way to say this without having pregnancy in the picture.
posted by bitdamaged to Writing & Language (27 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Too many cooks spoil the broth?
Also forget heightened sensitivities, that phrase is just straight up sexist. Thanks for recognizing that you need to do better.
posted by donut_princess at 3:21 PM on August 24, 2018 [23 favorites]


You can't get a good omelette by doubling the heat and halving the cooking time?

I googled the problem phrase and found Brooke's Law
posted by bunderful at 3:27 PM on August 24, 2018 [3 favorites]


Three ovens can't roast a turkey in one hour.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 3:27 PM on August 24, 2018 [69 favorites]


A million people can’t make kimchee in a day. (Or sauerkraut, dill pickles, etc.)
posted by SaltySalticid at 3:29 PM on August 24, 2018 [4 favorites]


I can remember the exact phrasing (which was much more elegant) but:

It takes the same amount of time to play a song whether it's being played by one person or an orchestra.
posted by meemzi at 3:31 PM on August 24, 2018 [24 favorites]


I can't fly to San Francisco faster by taking two planes.

I can drop this pen or a handful of pens, they all hit the ground the same time.

You can't play a ball game in 5 innings by putting 18 players on the field.

Lord of the Rings is still 3 hours no matter how many people I invite over for movie night.
posted by phunniemee at 3:44 PM on August 24, 2018 [14 favorites]


Add as many sailors as you want and the QEII still can’t cross an ocean in a day.
posted by lakeroon at 3:48 PM on August 24, 2018 [6 favorites]


The success of the expression depends on the exact number of months to make a baby. So "9 women" gets the point across in a pithy way. It wouldn't work as well to say "Lots of mothers still can't make a baby in a day." You need something with a set timeframe or length and then to switch that number to the actors. Like, "26 runners can't do a marathon in a mile" or something like that.
posted by nantucket at 3:52 PM on August 24, 2018 [48 favorites]


Speaking of Brooks, there's an old gag which goes more or less "I bought my boss two copies of The Mythical Man Month so he could read it twice as fast".
posted by Nelson at 3:56 PM on August 24, 2018 [17 favorites]


The alternative I've always heard was "ten cooks can't make a pizza in a minute."
posted by DingoMutt at 4:03 PM on August 24, 2018 [4 favorites]


Seven five-year-olds can't run for president.
posted by rollick at 4:13 PM on August 24, 2018 [9 favorites]


I've always heard this is as something like "If it takes 10 musicians x minutes to play a symphony, how long does it take 20 musicians to play that symphony?"
posted by synecdoche at 4:18 PM on August 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


Brooks's original phrasing was apparently "The bearing of a child takes nine months, no matter how many women are assigned.”

It might be useful to use the same structure -- something like "It takes ten years to age a single malt whiskey, no matter how many barrels you use" or "Amazon Prime can only deliver overnight, no matter how many vans they send".
posted by rollick at 4:29 PM on August 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


Rome wasn't built in a day, no matter how many builders were on the job.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:14 PM on August 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


A million monkeys can't write Shakespeare in a day.
posted by bleep at 10:21 PM on August 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


The reason why it works so well as a phrase is that it is clear that making a baby takes 9 months- a lot of these other examples you could make changes to go quicker- you could get a concorde, for instance, to fly quicker, or you could get more builders to make a building quicker.

The "you can't play a ball game in 5 innings with more players" is probably getting closer, because a ball game must have the correct number of innings, to be a ball game.
posted by freethefeet at 10:38 PM on August 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


Also forget heightened sensitivities, that phrase is just straight up sexist.

Not to dispute this but can we better define why? Maybe it can be rephrased to eliminate this. What if it was nine couples instead of nine women?
posted by each day we work at 1:36 AM on August 25, 2018 [7 favorites]


Adding an extra cook won't make the water boil faster.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:45 AM on August 25, 2018 [4 favorites]


> The "you can't play a ball game in 5 innings with more players" is probably getting closer, because a ball game must have the correct number of innings, to be a ball game.

You can in fact have a legal game with just five innings; you'd have to say "you can't play a baseball game in one inning with nine times as many players," but that seems a little clunky.
posted by languagehat at 6:24 AM on August 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


I saw a humorous Tumblr post go around where the joke was "if I can bake something for 10 minutes at 400 degrees, could it work if I baked it for 1 minute at 4000 degrees?" and then it escalates into the heat death of the universe.
posted by divabat at 6:33 AM on August 25, 2018 [8 favorites]


It’s a hard one because there are few universally known bits of information like the standard length of a pregnancy, and a baby specifically is not a commodity but a unique product which helps the metaphor in software development.

Best I have been able to think of is:

“The crops won’t grow faster if you hire more farmers”

or, stealing from the last post:

“if cookies take 10 minutes at 400°, putting them in for 1 minute at 4000° won’t work”

“An egg won’t hatch faster if more chickens sit on it”

This one is a bit orthogonal to the original, but:

“Having more clocks in the distillery won’t age the whiskey faster”
posted by sleeping bear at 11:33 AM on August 25, 2018 [5 favorites]


“An egg won’t hatch faster if more chickens sit on it”

Adding more hens won't make the egg hatch any faster.
posted by MonkeyToes at 11:43 AM on August 25, 2018 [5 favorites]


My friend chimed in with "It takes two people to make a baby in nine months. Eighteen people can't make a baby in one month." So the exact same but less gender specific.
posted by panhopticon at 4:50 PM on August 25, 2018


For IT management folks in my, now ancient, cohort, all you needed was to reference The Mythical Man-Month by Frederick Brooks.
posted by SemiSalt at 1:14 PM on August 26, 2018


You could describe what's actually happening. You can't test code that's still being written; you can't debug code that's still being tested; you can't design, write, test, debug, and re-test at the same goddamn time, etc?
posted by turkeybrain at 7:25 AM on August 27, 2018


It's like taking all your pain meds at once -- it won't make you heal faster but you will get a stomach ulcer.
posted by rollick at 6:04 AM on August 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


To the people saying it's not sexist, I can see your point but as a young woman engineer in an industry dominated by old white dudes, it still feels yucky to me. I'm at work and you're explaining something technical to me, DON'T start talking about something very personal and intimate that only happens inside women's bodies, that can frequently have intense emotional baggage. It is a good analogy but there are contexts where it's not tasteful.

I would say something like "twice as many frying pans won't fry an egg twice as fast."
posted by beandip at 12:12 PM on August 30, 2018 [2 favorites]


« Older Carthay Circle’s Old-Fashioned   |   Free stock images of people? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.