Because this is where the answers are
December 11, 2023 10:28 AM   Subscribe

What is the cliche / aphorism, "they look for the x in y, because that's where the z (or x or y) are"? There's some stock phrase that uses this formulation in a way that sounds tongue in cheek because it is so obvious. It's often repurposed to cover other domains. But I can't think of what the original (or most common) formulation was. Help?
posted by Winnie the Proust to Writing & Language (8 answers total)
Best answer: You're thinking of Sutton's rule.
posted by shadygrove at 10:29 AM on December 11, 2023 [8 favorites]

Sutton's Rule, as shadygrove mentions, or Mr. Rogers' "look for the helpers" are the two that leap come to mind.
posted by mhoye at 10:34 AM on December 11, 2023

A very similar concept is the streetlight effect.
posted by OrangeDisk at 10:55 AM on December 11, 2023 [11 favorites]

Based off of that Sutton's rule article, doctors are taught 'when you hear hoofbeats, think horses not zebras'. Which may not be what you're looking for but is related.
posted by blackjack514 at 10:57 AM on December 11, 2023 [1 favorite]

Quote Investigator on the origin of the Sutton quote. They note, "The injunction that one should go where money is located to obtain money has a long history. The Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs lists a saying related to matrimony: Never marry for money, but marry where money is."
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 11:14 AM on December 11, 2023 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you all, Sutton's Rule it is. Given the context, it's probably better that I don't quote a bank robber. But at least I don't have to go crazy trying to remember it anymore.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 11:18 AM on December 11, 2023

FWIW the "streetlight effect" is a trope in my business life, to an extent that people assume we've all heard the full joke and abbreviate it to "like the drunk looking for his keys near the lamppost, because that's where the light is."
posted by mark k at 11:06 PM on December 11, 2023 [1 favorite]

The first time I spoke before colleagues about computer security (we work in .edu IT), I used the Willie Sutton quote with a picture of his face. It really is the perfect distillation of the idea. :7)
posted by wenestvedt at 4:21 AM on December 12, 2023

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