The Chicken Came First! Time to Retire the Phrase

08/01/2010 12:01 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

British scientists announced last month that they'd solved the puzzle that had stumped us for so long: The chicken, they assure us, came before the egg. They determined that there's a protein inside the chicken eggshell that had to have been produced by the chicken. This information, however, hasn't deterred writers over the past weeks from continuing to use the familiar phrase to illustrate causality dilemmas. "Yet the fact that the puzzle, understood literally, is a non-mystery doesn't really matter, because its true significance has always been more metaphorical than scientific," argues William Skidelsky in The Guardian. There's every indication that despite a solution to the age-old scientific problem, the popular phrase is here to stay. Here, a sampling of how the phrase has been used over recent weeks:

About entrepreneurship (Boston Herald):
"There was a problem, however; a huge chicken-and-egg-hurdle. Emamian needed businesses to sign up in order to attract users, but she needed users to convince owners to sign up."

About Afghanistan (American Chronicle):
"This creates what several people interviewed for this article called a "chicken and egg" problem. International donors are reluctant to rely on the Afghan government because it is so weak; but Afghan officials complain that efforts to circumvent their ministries further weaken the state."

About fantasy football (ESPN):
"Of course, this is a chicken-and-egg conundrum: Did Palmer's value plunge because the Bengals decided they were a running team, or did the Bengals decide they were a running team because Palmer's arm strength looked so diminished?"

About technology (TechCrunch):
"PlacePop isn't the first startup to try to tackle rewards, and it faces the same chicken-and-egg issue that its competitors have: you need businesses to actually offer rewards to get users hooked, and businesses aren't going to bother if the service doesn't have any users to begin with."

About jobs (MSNBC):
"We're in a classic chicken and egg situation," said Ed Keon, a portfolio manager at Quantitative Managing Associates. "You need to get a firmer labor market -- when companies are hiring and putting some their cash to work -- in order to increase consumer confidence. But business people need to see demand before they can go crazy about expanding and hiring more people."

About women's sports (Boston Globe):
"It's a chicken-and-egg argument that was difficult to unravel until Stevenson began hacking away at it in her doctoral studies in recent years. Like many researchers, she wanted to know if there was any way to prove that the opportunity to play sports made a difference in people's lives."

About foreign relations (Reuters India):
"It almost seems like they may be testing to see if that's true. It's a chicken and egg debate right now: does the world need China more or does China need the world?"

About Middle East peace prospects (Reuters):
"Israeli cabinet minister Isaac Herzog, a member of the center-left Labor Party, called the Israeli-Palestinian impasse a "chicken-and-egg" situation."

About electric cars (STLToday):
"It's kind of a chicken and egg thing," he said. Electric cars won't be popular until there's enough charging stations, and there won't be enough charging stations until electric vehicles are popular.

About real estate (CNBC):
Can commercial real estate possibly resurrect itself without the mortgage-backed securitization market? It's a chicken and egg question, really. Does commercial real estate need securitization to come back to survive, or will the securitization market return if prices go up?

About sleep disorders (BrainBlogger):
"Sleeplessness research often faces the chicken-or-the-egg dilemma: does chronic insomnia cause other diseases or do other conditions cause insomnia?"