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Variations

  • The best way to ruin a hobby is to make it a career.
  • The fastest way to ruin a hobby is to try to make money with it.
  • The quickest way to ruin a hobby is to make it a job.

What's the history behind this saying? Is it attributable to a particular person?

(I imagine the complementary maxim would be Do what you love.)

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It seems to me that this kind of questions are off-topic but someone more knowledgeable can probably tell. These expressions are not ambiguous, are very easy to understand with current english, do not use archaic words or constructs. –  ogerard May 13 '11 at 15:40
    
I would also claim that this is off-topic, even though it is a very interesting question. Relationships between work and play are radically different among societies that are hunter-gatherers, agrarian, capitalist, etc. So while this can be viewed as an etymology (evolution of words) question, it has more to do with history, anthropology, and such (evolution of ideas). –  Ivan P May 13 '11 at 20:25
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I don't think this is off-topic. –  onomatomaniak Oct 21 '11 at 10:46

2 Answers 2

I can't speak to the provenance of the particular variations you cite, but the sentiment goes back at least as far as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain:

Tom said to himself that it was not such a hollow world, after all. He had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it -- namely, that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain. If he had been a great and wise philosopher, like the writer of this book, he would now have comprehended that Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do. And this would help him to understand why constructing artificial flowers or performing on a tread-mill is work, while rolling ten-pins or climbing Mont Blanc is only amusement. There are wealthy gentlemen in England who drive four-horse passenger-coaches twenty or thirty miles on a daily line, in the summer, because the privilege costs them considerable money; but if they were offered wages for the service, that would turn it into work and then they would resign.

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The oldest reference to any "* ruin a hobby" I found is from the September 1985 Cincinnati Magazine:

Nothing will ruin a hobby more effectively than the feeling that your spouse resents it.

And "* ruin my hobby" in a 1985 article in Runner's World:

Roy Benson gave up his full- time job with the Atlanta Track Club, he says in Racing South magazine, because "I don't want my job to ruin my hobby. Running is my hobby, my first love. I just don't want to burn out on it. ...

And finally, very neatly, "* ruin your hobby" is also from 1985, in Creative Crafts and Miniatures:

In the long run, too many shows can ruin your hobby.

The first and last of these don't have the same meaning, but the second is spot on.

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