"Adopt, adapt, and improve," says the thief in a Monty Python skit when he robs a lingerie shop instead of a bank. Adopt is to take something over, and to adapt is to change something to suit your needs. It's helpful advice when you ask for money and get a pair of granny panties.
The robber didn't invent the motto, it's from the Round Table Club, and it comes from a speech made by the Prince of Wales in 1927. The full quote is:
The young business and professional men of this country must get together round the table, adopt methods that have proved so sound in the past, adapt them to the changing needs of the times and wherever possible, improve them.
The prince was encouraging the new generation of businessmen to take on, or adopt, methods that had worked before. Adopt means to take on as one's own, like an idea, an attitude, or behavior, or even, of course, a creature like a baby or a dog:
All this strengthens my conviction that Europe must adopt strict and rigorous rules, including but not limited to the rating agencies," he said. (Wall Street Journal)
Two months ago, I turned down the opportunity to search for my adopted daughter's birth parents. (New York Times)
But the prince wanted Britain's industries to go further and adapt those methods to current conditions. Adapt means to change something to fit new situations, to modify:
One wonderful thing the English language can do is adapt. (Forbes)
"But obviously that military presence can adapt over time, taking into account the development in the overall security environment," he said. (Reuters)
Remember, if you mean to rob a bank but wind up at an underwear store: adopt, adapt, and improve!
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