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29 Feb. When should I use the English expression “to go back to the drawing board?”

This English expression is used commonly as a metaphor in both spoken and written language.


The expression is used to denote that an attempt has failed and thus that it is time to start all over again. It is another way of saying “to go back to square one.”


The first recorded usage of this expression is fairly recent, dating back to 1941 in an edition of The New Yorker. An American artist named Peter Arno captioned his cartoon which depicted a crashed plane with a man dressed in a suit walking away from it and stating “well, back to the drawing board.”

The idea behind the expression derives from the fact that a “drawing board” is something used by architects on which they make plans and sketch their initial ideas. Thus the idea of “going back to the drawing board” in a more metaphorical context relates to the idea of having to start again and come up with different initial plans.


An example of this expression in use can be found in Dan Brown’s Deception Point “In my mind, the men and women of NASA are history’s modern pioneers. They attempt the impossible, accept failure, and then back to the drawing board while the rest of us stand back and criticise.”

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