Small hinges swing big doors

Discuss word origins and meanings.

Small hinges swing big doors

Post by PauladePlume » Sun Mar 25, 2018 4:01 am

Hello hello!

I haven't been on here in 2 years, and I'm so happy to have found the sight again (took some sleuthing)and see that some of the people who have given really good answers in the past are still active.

I wanna see what you guys can find or know about the origin of the phrase (or permutation thereof, variously stated as):

Small hinges open big doors.
(On) small hinges swing large doors.
Large doors swing on small hinges.

From just doing a basic Google search, this phrase is attributed to W. Clement Stone, an American insurance salesman and motivational writer/speaker. I'm guessing he got it from someone/somewhere else....

Appreciate any further insight!

Thanks,
PauladePlume
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Re: Small hinges swing big doors

Post by Bobinwales » Mon Mar 26, 2018 10:46 pm

Welcome home. I hope that someone can help you, because I can't, but you have got me interested.
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Re: Small hinges swing big doors

Post by Erik_Kowal » Tue Mar 27, 2018 2:03 am

I had the same experience as you, Paula. I've been unable to identify the text from which the alleged quote by Clement Stone supposedly comes.

I found the following variations:
  • Little hinges swing big doors
  • Small hinges swing big doors
  • Big doors swing on little hinges
  • Big doors swing on small hinges
  • The door of history turns on small hinges
  • Little hinges open big doors
See my comments in this posting regarding the difficulty of pinning down a questionable quote to an identifiable source and specific text.

For what it's worth, I'd never heard the expression till you asked about it.
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Re: Small hinges swing big doors

Post by PauladePlume » Tue Mar 27, 2018 4:39 am

Thanks Bob n Erik!

My point is that I think this quote is much older and, thus, is attributable to somebody other than
W. Clement Stone - rather than trying to pin down which one of his writings contained it. Not doubting that the man made a ton of money, but it seems too profound for an insurance salesman (begging pardon in advance of any insurance salesmen who may read this).

Erik, I hadn't heard of it either until recently. And I like it so much that I wanted to find out the "real" source (and, like you, I found a whole litany of permutations.) If I were to try to chase this down more, the permutation that has to do with history seems might be the more genuinely likely origin of the saying. The slightly professorial sound makes me blieve some intellectual history writer came up with the idea, and then less professorial folks later bastardized it by removing the reference to history and generalizing it. Of course, it could have gone the other way, too (a professor may have been the bastardizer).

Bob, I only come to you guys on things I can't find out, myself. I'm pretty good about researching and sleuthing stuff. But Erik and another guy on here (whose name I'm unfortunately not recalling offhand, but I think is from Colorado?) are light years beyond me when it comes to really tricky phrase origins.

Thanks, as always!
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Re: Small hinges swing big doors

Post by Erik_Kowal » Tue Mar 27, 2018 3:40 pm

PauladePlume wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 4:39 am
...another guy on here (whose name I'm unfortunately not recalling offhand, but I think is from Colorado?) [is] light years beyond me when it comes to really tricky phrase origins.
That would be Ken Greenwald from Fort Collins, CO.
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Re: Small hinges swing big doors

Post by PauladePlume » Tue Mar 27, 2018 3:46 pm

Yes! Thanks, Erik. Both you and Ken have given me most excellent answers in the past. Muchas gracias!
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Re: Small hinges swing big doors

Post by BonnieL » Tue Mar 27, 2018 4:43 pm

Erik_Kowal wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 2:03 am

[*]The door of history turns on small hinges
I've seen this one before, or at least something pretty close - but I've no idea where.
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Re: Small hinges swing big doors

Post by tony h » Tue Mar 27, 2018 7:47 pm

It has the feel of a Christian message particularly thinking of the big doors on the churches.
One early printed occurrence is:

In the London City Mission Magazine in 1923

Has, under "SAVED BY A TRACT", Big doors swing on small hinges, just as earthly careers often turn upon the most trifling events. The Prebendary, for example, was converted through reading a leaflet thrust into his hand.

https://www.lcm.org.uk/our-mission/archives


In 1932 The Post and Insurance Monitor in 1930 has Truly, big doors turn on small hinges in motor accidents. A foot inadvertently removed from a pedal might have involved both ...
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Re: Small hinges swing big doors

Post by trolley » Tue Mar 27, 2018 9:06 pm

I thought the same thing, Tony. I looked to see if it was a reworded biblical quote. There are plenty of door references in the bible, but nothing close to this. I believe it has been adopted by the Christian faithful, though. There are numerous quotes from sermons and other religious writings along the lines of "The Lord swings big doors..." None of these quotes predate Mr. Stone.
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Re: Small hinges swing big doors

Post by tony h » Wed Mar 28, 2018 1:45 am

trolley wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 9:06 pm
None of these quotes predate Mr. Stone.
Do we have a date for when he first used it?


The 1923 quote has the feeling of an established pulpit usage in English or Scottish usage. Stone would be 21.
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Re: Small hinges swing big doors

Post by tony h » Wed Mar 28, 2018 1:56 am

These must predate:
1906 from the Proceedings of the Church Missionary Society for Africa and the East

However little we may have, however poor may be our powers, however small are our possessions, let us bring them all, and all Of them, to Christ. Little or great are, after all, relative terms. It is the little key that opens the great gate. Big doors swing on small hinges. A seed may raise a harvest. A word may save—0r lose—an Empire. As an actuality a thing may be ridiculously small and yet its potentiality may be incalculably great

1885 New Outlook Volume 31 Alfred Emanuel Smith, ‎Francis Walton


Various objections are raised against prayer. Some men talk much about the force of universal law, and hide themselves in it, as the cuttlcfish hides itself in a cloud of its owni air. But cannot the Framer of law control it? Others say that it is inconsistent with the divine dignity to listen to msr's petitions. But the greatest men are those who look after details; big doors swing on little hinges. God takes care of even hairs.


and again
Thomas W. Handford - 1885

" Big doors swing on little hinges," says an old proverb.
I presume that it wasn't a new coinage in 1885.
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Re: Small hinges swing big doors

Post by Erik_Kowal » Wed Mar 28, 2018 2:15 am

Your findings advance things considerably, Tony, even though it's not clear at this point where or when the expression was first coined.

Your research at least eliminates Clement Stone as the author, given that he was born in 1902 and the two earliest citations you found both date from 1885.
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Re: Small hinges swing big doors

Post by trolley » Wed Mar 28, 2018 3:02 am

Well done. I missed those 1885 quotes. That takes Clem out of the running, as Paula suspected. It is awfully similar to the Dickens' quote "A very little key will open a very heavy door" that is paraphrased in that excerpt from New Outlook Volume 31. It almost sounds as if they are two parts of the same saying.
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Re: Small hinges swing big doors

Post by trolley » Wed Mar 28, 2018 3:45 am

Here's a related quote from an 1881 biography of Andrew Jackson Potter written by Rev. H.A. Graves:

" Great door-shutters turn round on the bolts of small hinges; so on the fine pivot of the WILL turns the character, the destiny."
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Re: Small hinges swing big doors

Post by tony h » Thu Mar 29, 2018 2:00 pm

trolley wrote:
Wed Mar 28, 2018 3:45 am
Here's a related quote from an 1881
Well done. I can't help but feel it must have been in use much earlier in the C19th. It is a really good proverb in that it is easy to see the truth of it.
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