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So I know I've heard this saying in American English before but I just can't quite find the original.

I have come up with several made up variations like:

  • I don't send the Navy (or whole army, or a battalion) when all you need is a diplomat.
  • Don't buy the whole cow when all you need is milk.

What's the more commonly heard saying/phrase for this of expression?

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It's not really a saying, but the word 'overengineering' immediately comes to mind. –  Aaron Mahan Aug 20 at 6:40

6 Answers 6

up vote 15 down vote accepted

'Don't use a sledgehammer to crack a nut.'

To use 'a sledgehammer to crack a nut' means to use disproportionate force or expense to overcome a minor problem. (The Phrase Finder)

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YES! Bingo! That's it! Awesome thank you! –  unknownprotocol Aug 19 at 22:31
    
I knew I wasn't that crazy... –  unknownprotocol Aug 19 at 22:32

There is an acronym KISS, which stands for keep it simple, stupid often applied to this type of situation. [Wiktionary]

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  • “Don’t overthink it.”
  • “Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.”
  • Possibly “Don’t use grenades to kill mosquitoes.”

I’m pretty sure there are many, many more.

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One example: Don't reinvent the wheel

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hmm close. But not quite what I think I heard before. I thought about that one, and felt the expression I'm looking for is more about being "excessive" or "wasteful" rather than unorthodox in solving a problem... –  unknownprotocol Aug 19 at 22:30
    
-1. You'd say reinventing the wheel when someone is coming up with a new method for doing something where there's an existing (and usually better) way already. That's not what OP is describing. –  Daenyth Aug 20 at 18:33

In software engineering this is called "shaving the yak". This specifically addresses the idea that the proposed solution is overly complex / will take too long, and a simpler solution would be preferable.

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IME yak shaving refers more to complicated steps that are mandatory but excessive and pointless. I feel like that blog post broadens the definition to the point where it changes the meaning. Urbandict supports me on that. urbandictionary.com/… –  Daenyth Aug 20 at 18:36

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