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... without breaking a few eggs.

Stock Phrase that means that in order to achieve something, it is inevitable and necessary that something should be destroyed. It's used as a response whenever someone's confronted about major damage or the like, and is frequently used by those on the cynical end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism. Villains in particular, especially Well Intentioned Extremists who believe that Utopia Justifies the Means, are fond of using the line, as it perfectly underscores their disregard for the lives they are destroying or ruining for the sake of their Evil Plan.

The phrase originated with Egyptian historian Charles P. Issawi and continued: "but it is amazing how many eggs one can break without making a decent omelette".

Often leads to Metaphorgotten.

Compare I Did What I Had to Do or Utopia Justifies the Means. Antonym of Never Hurt an Innocent.

Examples of You Can't Make an Omelette include:


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Anime

  • Nina Hopkins says this at one point in the Black Butler manga in chapter 37.

Comic Books

  • In Larry Gonick's Cartoon History of the Universe, this line is "You can't make a country without breaking a few eggheads," spoken by the Chinese Communists in an aside about how Qin Shihuangdi (reviled in history as an evil, evil man) is a role model for the current government.
  • Invoked by Hal Jordan as Parallax in Zero Hour: Crisis In Time to justify his erasing all of existence to create a new and better universe.

Film

  • Batman (1989). The Joker "improved" the looks of his girlfriend Alicia. After he tells Vicki Vale that Alicia threw herself out a window:

 Joker: But...you can't make an omelette without breaking some eggs. [breaks Alicia's mask]

    • The line actually has darker implications, as it basically tells us that Joker may have murdered Alicia in order to free himself for Vicki.
  • Naked

 Johnny: You can't make an omelette without cracking a few eggs. And humanity is just a cracked egg. And the omelette stinks.

  • In Fight Club, this was Tyler's response to the Narrator informing him of Bob's death.
  • In Clue, regarding the possibility that by splitting up into pairs to search for the murderer, one of the characters could wind up dead:

 Colonel Mustard: You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs; every cook will tell you that.

Mrs. Peacock: But look what happened to the cook! (To elaborate, the cook was killed)

Literature

  • Jack Kroll in Newsweek once reviewed a production of a certain Shakespeare play, pointing out "You can't make a Hamlet without breaking eggs."
  • Falling Free: Van Atta uses this to justify killing some of the quaddies, to Dr. Yei's irritation:

 Van Atta: The quaddies are--ah, have made themselves expendable by turning criminal. It's no different than shooting a thief fleeing from any other kind of robbery or break-in. Besides, you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs.

Yei: I've been wondering when you were going to say that. I should have put a side bet on it--run a pool--

  • In the Starcraft novelization Liberty's Crusade, Arcturus Mengsk quotes this as part of his justification for setting off psi-emitters on Tarsonis's surface, dooming the entire planet to the zerg. Nobody seems to believe him. (Which is why he promptly covers the whole thing up, claiming it was a massive coincidence.)

Live-Action TV

  • NCIS episode "Under Covers":

 Jenny Shepard: You're not serious. Your idea of politics usually involves some form of physical violence.

Leroy Jethro Gibbs: Well, you know what they say, Jen. Can't make an omelet unless you break a few eggs.

 Ziva: You can't make an omelet without breaking a few legs.

Tony: You're never making me breakfast.

 Mr. Croup: You can't make an omelette...

Mr. Vandemaar: ...without killing a few people.

    • In Vandemaar's case, this is probably completely true.
  • Doctor Who episode "City of Death: Part 1"

 Duggan: You can't make an omelette without breaking some eggs.

Romana: If you made an omelette, I'd expect to find a pile of broken crockery, a cooker in flames, and an unconscious chef.

  • Parks and Recreation: "If you want an omelette, you've got to break a few eggs. What's the alternative, no omelettes at all? Who wants to live in that kind of world? Maybe birds. Then all of their babies would live."
  • One A Bit of Fry and Laurie sketch features two businessmen arguing about this phrase. One of them concludes, "I hardly think they'd use broken eggs in executive room service."
    • The trouble starts when he suffers Blunt Metaphors Trauma and thinks his actual omelette-making skills are being maligned: okay, maybe he can't make an omelette without breaking eggs, but he's been concentrating on other things!
  • Featured in Nathan's Patrick Stewart Speech from the first series finale of Misfits.

 Nathan: Yeah, so a few of us will overdose or go mental, but Charles Darwin said, "You can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs." And that's what it's all about: breaking eggs! And by eggs I do mean getting twatted on a cocktail of Class A's.

  • According to Greg Sanders of CSI, commenting on a brain found lying in the desert a significant way away from it's owner's head, "it's hard to crack an egg without breaking the yolk". It's not clear what Greg is worst at -- remembering proverbs, making culinary analogies, or cracking eggs -- but no-one picks him up on it. (If he'd only said "without cracking the shell", it would have been almost Zen...)
    • Then again, he could just be commenting on how unlikely it is that the deceased's head could have been so thoroughly crushed without turning the brain entirely to applesauce.

Video Games

  • In Day of the Tentacle, one character uses the equivalent, "If you want to save the world, you got to push a few old ladies down the stairs." ...having done just that.
  • If you're too evil in Baldur's Gate II, Minsc will explain that while he understands that "to make the glorious omelette of goodness, some eggs must be broken," you've gone a bit far.
  • Parodied in The Simpsons Game, in which Mr. Burns plans to cut down all of Springfield Forest and reduce each tree to a single toothpick:

 Burns: If you want to make an omelette... you have to wreck a few planets.

  • Heavy Rain has Captain Perry saying this line to Norman Jayden when he complains of Blake's behavior.

 Norman Jayden: Blake is trying to beat a confession out of Ethan Mars! You've got to do something!

Captain Perry: Which is more important, Norman? Finding little Shaun Mars or sparing that lowlife a few bruises? You can't make omelettes without breaking a few eggs.

Web Comics

 Black Mage: Er... Well, y'know. You can't make an omelette without... um... destroying a forest. Or something.

 Gnome: Well, it's like my father always used to say. You can't make an omelette without permanently deafening someone.

    • This is another gem.

 Tarquin: You can't make an omelette without ruthlessly crushing dozens of eggs beneath your steel boot and then publicly disemboweling the chickens that laid them as a warning to others.

  • In The Last Days of Foxhound, Big Boss in Liquid's body says this of Null/Frank Jager/Cyborg Ninja.
  • One letter to Ask Dr Eldritch was from a shady government operative who very clinically explained how they had murdered some of their agents ("transitioned to a metabolically inert state") in order to create spectral superspies, and now needed expert advice on how to properly control them, as the ghosts seemed to have lost much motivation and commitment for some reason. Dr Eldritch replied by really tearing into the guy and calling him out on the act, and made a point that the people who say the "you can't make an omelette" line are never the ones who expect to be the eggs.
  • Erfworld has one in the Summer Updates between books 1 and 2:

 Stanley: You did break the mountain. But hey, like they say, you can't make an omelette without... you know.

Parson: Blowing up a city full of people.

Web Original

 Dornkirk: (to heroes) Look, you can't bake a cake without breaking a few eggs.

Hitomi: Yes, you can. My grandma used to make me vegan cake all the time.

Dornkirk: You can? Hold on a second.

Dornkirk: (to Falken) Falken! Did you know you can bake a cake without breaking any eggs?

Folken: Yes, my lord, yes you can.

Dornkirk: Do you think that means we should stop killing people?

Folken: No my lord, I think you just need a better metaphor.

    • However, Dornkirk returns to Hitomi and tries to argue that you can't test cosmetics without killing a few bunnies; she says that this, too, is possible. Falken is already ready and prompts his lord with "omelette", which Dornkirk cites to say "you can't make an omelette without killing a few bunnies". (When Hitomi says "That's just stupid...", Dornkirk concludes she's insulting Falken and sends her to the "birdcages".)
  • Red vs. Blue:

 Andy: You can't make an omelette without blowing up a few eggs!

Western Animation

 Dirk Courage: Eventually, we had to stop Overlord another way - but blowing the bridge and the tunnel were reasonable steps to take at the time.

Ned Tucker: You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs, sir!

 Stargirl: Haven't you heard of "innocent bystanders"?

General Wade Eiling: Haven't you heard of "acceptable losses"? You can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.

 Alpha: [observing the destroyed MIB headquarters] Ah, the old clubhouse. Such a shame, so many fond memories... But as we say on Earth, one can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.

Vangus: Omelette... Eggs... Good one!

Real Life

  • Nikolai Yezhov, head of the Soviet secret police (NKVD) pre-World War II, is credited with using the similar phrase, "When you chop wood, chips fly." Fitting as his reign over the NKVD was during the peak of the Purges, and he himself was executed as part of them.
  • Economist use the phrase "creative destruction" to describe this idea.
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