What is the origin of the phrase "and nothing of value was lost"?

Is this from a movie, book, or show, or did it get its start on Slashdot or some other online forum?

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    @Hack Saw: It would have been said now and then with a literal meaning, but OP seems to imply it's (becoming?) a 'catchphrase'. Neither me nor Google have ever heard of otoko_tenshi's japanese phrase "shinzon mappira", so I doubt that's got anything to do with it. Whatever - I doubt it'll catch on widely. Commented May 7, 2011 at 0:26
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    @pageman: Dammit! Probably my one and only chance to use that word in context, and I missed it! To be honest though, I think this Q is a poor man's version of "What is the origin of Small earthquake in Chile. Not many dead." Except that one probably has legs. Commented May 7, 2011 at 13:34
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    @pageman: I've just read a translation of Ethics X.7 at constitution.org, but it doesn't contain the words value or lost, and I can't see any semantic connection with OP's usage (presumably usually ironic). I still think it's basically a normal turn of phrase that doesn't justify historical analysis, though I'm impressed by your diligence in that area. Commented May 8, 2011 at 15:17
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    @pageman: Well I've had the down on this Q since I first read it, but it's good to know it led to some fun. My brother's wont to say Small earthquake in Chile. Not many dead, which is why I mentioned it earlier. And I had fun looking into that one, so it's all gravy, as they say. Commented May 8, 2011 at 21:16
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    @pageman: 60 seconds with Google gave me the impression that the actual earthquake in Chile will be forever shrouded in mystery. It seems unlikely it really did come from Claud Cockburn, since no-one has been able to find anything to corroborate his (much later) reminiscences. But go ahead and prove me wrong - just don't blame me if nothing of value is found! Commented May 9, 2011 at 13:49

3 Answers 3


I'm still checking for the origin of the phrase but here's something from Urban Dictionary:

Self explanitory [sic]. Used as a response to when something of naught value has happened

"News reporter: After the assassin finished off his rampage of brutally murdering The Jonas Brothers, he proceeded to then hijack Mel Gibson's private jet, where they were forced to crash land in the pacific ocean. And nothing of value was lost."

and here's an explanation from Yahoo Answers:

I don't know, but there is an episode of the Critic, in which Jay Sherman says something similar after watching a float of a horse's *** on fire roll into a theatre where the musical Cats is playing.

Okay, found something more scholarly - in page 120 of David Archard's Philosophy and Pluralism by Lord Bhikhu Parekh we find this:

and nothing of value was lost in page 120 of Philosophy and Pluralism by David Archard

It actually references Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics (1984), X.7! We're a bit closer now and I found this quote from that same reference:

Nichomachean Ethics X.7

There may be something similar in Metaphysics, but I don't recall that text as well.

"But we must not follow those who advise us, being men, to think of human things, and, being mortal, of mortal things, but must, so far as we can, make ourselves immortal, and strain every nerve to live in accordance with the best thing in us; for even if it be small in bulk, much more does it in power and worth surpass everything."

Almost but not quite. If you read along though - you'll find the closest phrase to "and nothing of value was lost":

So if among virtuous actions political and military actions are distinguished by nobility and greatness, and these are unleisurely and aim at an end and are not desirable for their own sake, but the activity of reason, which is contemplative, seems both to be superior in serious worth and to aim at no end beyond itself, and to have its pleasure proper to itself (and this augments the activity), and the self-sufficiency, leisureliness, unweariedness (so far as this is possible for man), and all the other attributes ascribed to the supremely happy man are evidently those connected with this activity, it follows that this will be the complete happiness of man, if it be allowed a complete term of life (for none of the attributes of happiness is incomplete).

Here it is in the original Greek:

εἰ δὴ τῶν μὲν κατὰ τὰς ἀρετὰς πράξεων αἱ πολιτικαὶ καὶ πολεμικαὶ κάλλει καὶ μεγέθει προέχουσιν, αὗται δ' ἄσχολοι καὶ τέλους τινὸς ἐφίενται καὶ οὐ δι' αὑτὰς αἱρεταί εἰσιν, ἡ δὲ τοῦ νοῦ ἐνέργεια σπουδῇ τε διαφέρειν δοκεῖ θεωρητικὴ οὖσα, καὶ παρ' αὑτὴν οὐδενὸς ἐφίεσθαι τέλους, καὶ ἔχειν τὴν ἡδονὴν οἰκείαν αὕτη δὲ συναύξει τὴν ἐνέργειαν, καὶ τὸ αὔταρκες δὴ καὶ σχολαστικὸν καὶ ἄτρυτον ὡς ἀνθρώπῳ, καὶ ὅσα ἄλλα τῷ μακαρίῳ ἀπονέμεται, τὰ κατὰ ταύτην τὴν ἐνέργειαν φαίνεται ὄντα· ἡ τελεία δὴ εὐδαιμονία αὕτη ἂν εἴη ἀνθρώπου, λαβοῦσα μῆκος βίου τέλειον· οὐδὲν γὰρ ἀτελές ἐστι τῶν τῆς εὐδαιμονίας

There's a French translation of this at Hodoi Electronikai:

Si donc, entre les actions qui sont conformes à la vertu, celles d'un homme livré aux travaux de l'administration et de la guerre, l'emportent par leur éclat et par leur importance, mais ne laissent aucun moment de loisir, tendent toujours à quelque but, et ne sont nullement préférables par elles-mêmes, tandis que l'activité de l'esprit, qui semble être d'une nature plus noble, étant purement contemplative, n'ayant d'autre fin qu'elle-même, et portant avec soi une volupté qui lui est propre, donne plus d'énergie (a nos facultés); si la condition de se suffire à soi-même, un loisir exempt de toute fatigue corporelle (autant que le comporte la nature de l'homme), et tous les autres avantages qui caractérisent la félicité parfaite, sont le partage de ce genre d'activité : il s'ensuit que c'est elle qui est réellement le bonheur de l'homme, quand elle a rempli toute la durée de sa vie; car rien d'imparfait ne peut être compté parmi les éléments ou conditions du bonheur.

Google Translate gives this back-translation:

If, therefore, between actions that are consistent with virtue, that of a man given to the work of the administration and the war outweighed by their brilliance and their importance, but leave no leisure time, tend always to some purpose, and are not preferred by themselves, while the activity of the mind, which seems to be of a more noble, as purely contemplative, with no other end than Similarly, and bearing with it a pleasure of its own, gives more energy (to our schools), if the condition is sufficient for himself, a hobby free of physical fatigue (as far as the nature of the behavior man), and all other benefits that characterize the perfect bliss, are sharing this type of activity: it follows that it is really the happiness of man, when it has fulfilled all the period of his life, for nothing imperfect can be counted among the elements or conditions of happiness.

UPDATE: I was able to contact David Archard and I asked him which particular part of X.7 is the statement "and nothing of value was lost" referring to. He said it was used by one of his contributors - Bhikhu Parekh.

It was used by one of the contributors to a collection I edited – Bhikhu Parekh

okay, contacting Lord Bhikhu Parekh now ... :)

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    Why would anyone downvote this? This deserves a +1 just for the sheer amount of work that was put in.
    – voithos
    Commented May 12, 2011 at 16:21
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    @voithos not everyone has a sense of humor, I guess haha - thanks for the upvote :) Commented May 16, 2011 at 2:16
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    Any reply yet from Lord Bhikhu Parekh?
    – Hugo
    Commented Dec 20, 2011 at 21:48
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    LMAO at all that babble when it came from The Critic. AHAHAHAHA. "Neeeeeah I want to seem scholarly neeeeaahhhhh"
    – clamum
    Commented Dec 5, 2018 at 18:48
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    Someone should take the stretch after The Critic to materials scientists. This script could set elastic science ahead 200 years Commented Dec 26, 2020 at 19:00

Know your meme gives the following:

refers to a scene from a 1995 episode of The Critic where a fire causes a theatre hosting a production of Cats to burn down, resulting in the protagonist Jay Sherman saying, "and nothing of value was lost," implying Cats is a valueless production.

A more historical source might be found in ancient philosophical texts (particularly Stoic writings).

In Letter IX of Seneca's Epistulae Morales ad Lucilium titled "On Philosophy & Friendship":

For Stilbo, after his country was captured and his children and his wife lost, as he emerged from the general desolation alone and yet happy, spoke as follows to Demetrius, called Sacker of Cities because of the destruction he brought upon them, in answer to the question whether he had lost anything: "I have all my goods with me!" There is a brave and stout-hearted man for you! The enemy conquered, but Stilbo conquered his conqueror. "I have lost nothing!" Aye, he forced Demetrius to wonder whether he himself had conquered after all. "My goods are all with me!" In other words, he deemed nothing that might be taken from him to be a good.


I vaguely recall long ago reading a story about a Greek Philosopher (one I had never heard of) returning from a journey and finding that his house was burnt down and his entire family perished in the fire. His response, that fortunately, nothing of value was lost, was supposed to reflect his detachment from earthly possessions (apparently including his family) and his dedication to Higher Truth. I remember it, primarily because I thought at the time that it was admirable to think that about his home and furnishings, but a denial of his humanity to think that of his wife and children.

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