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The Art Institute of Chicago commemorated Pablo Picasso's birthday with this quotation. But when I read it, I thought it was improperly worded.

Shouldn't it be, "Only put off until tomorrow what you are unwilling to die having left undone"?

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  • Certainly, if that's the person's idea, but it would be no good idea really. It's better as it is; do not procrastinate. – Kris Oct 27 '14 at 16:54
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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is based on a misunderstanding. – Kris Oct 27 '14 at 17:14
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No, it's correctly worded. Your suggestion implies that the things in life that you most want to accomplish are the only things you should postpone, meaning that you should do everything else first.

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  • Oh of course! How silly of me. – ktm5124 Oct 27 '14 at 17:18
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If you are unwilling to die with something left undone, then you will not put it off, in case you die before tomorrow comes. The original quotation makes perfect sense.

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I think you have misunderstood the thrust of the quote. He means that anything you put off until tomorrow is likely to never be done, or in other words, do today anything you want to accomplish in life. Thus, read this as put off until tomorrow only the things you can die without accomplishing (and not put off no later than tomorrow anything you want to accomplish).

The clue is that the modifier only is closest to "put off" and not to "tomorrow," meaning that the slight ambiguity over what it modifies should be resolved in favor of the former.

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It seems correct to me. It serves as a reminder that you could die at any moment, leaving anything you've procrastinated undone. It's intended to motivate people to take immediate action on those things they find most important.

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