A mind is a terrible thing to waste

Discussion in 'English Only' started by hirondelled'hiver, Dec 24, 2007.

  1. hirondelled'hiver

    hirondelled'hiver Senior Member

    Can you explain to me the meaning of this expression and where does it come from? Is this some citation of some book or just a regular expression?
    The context is: some people organize a charity show where the money from the fee they charge for the public to enter will be used to send some troubled kids to college. Thank you.
  2. Gorgiewave Senior Member

    Scotland, English
    It means that it would be a great pity if (intelligent and talened) poor children didn't get the chance to study, such that their minds were wasted (i.e., not used).
  3. Matching Mole

    Matching Mole Senior Member

    England, English
    It's not, to my knowledge, a set expression; I'm almost certain it is not. I expect it was created by the writer, although I wouldn't say that he or she was the first to come up with it as it is not an unlikely sentiment.
  4. cutiepie1892

    cutiepie1892 Senior Member

    Northern Ireland English
    It means that it is awful to waste someone's brain/intelligence. From what I can gather it is a phrase used by many people, but I do not know its origins. Sorry!! :eek: In answer to your question I suppose it is, or has become, just a regular phrase since it is so widely used nowadays!
  5. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    The first time I encountered it was in a long-running advertising campaign run by the United Negro College Fund. It was the tagline at the end of the commercial that said something like:

    "Give generously to the United Negro College Fund... because a mind is a terrible thing to waste."

    The point of the commercials was that there were many highly-qualified and motivated black students who might not be able to attend college without some sort of financial aid. The idea, as I see it, is that the mind is wasted without the higher education it desires and should not be prevented from receiving.

    Since then it has been used as a humorous or ironic comment on several topics, such as "I don't watch TV sitcoms (situation comedies) because a mind is a terrible thing to waste."
  6. lablady

    lablady Senior Member

    Central California
    English - USA
    In the U.S., the United Negro College Fund used "A mind is a terrible thing to waste" as the tag line in its public service announcements. Its meaning is as Gorgiewave already mentioned.

    This is the use of the phrase that comes instantly to my mind. It has become more common in other uses as well.

    Some jokes for dieters have twisted it around to say "A waist is a terrible thing to mind." :D

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