A watched pot never boils
What's the meaning of the phrase 'A watched pot never boils'?
Time feels longer when you're waiting for something to happen.
'A watched pot never boils' is one of the homely and improving proverbs that is ascribed to Poor Richard, which was the pseudonym that Benjamin Franklin used when publishing his widely popular annual almanac. Franklin, a tireless and industrious polymath, was fixated on such improving aphorisms and published numerous of them in the guise of Poor Richard between 1732 and 1758. The general theme of the proverbs can be summed up as 'Industry: good; sloth: bad'. They include:
There are no gains without pains.
Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.
Plough deep while sluggards sleep and you shall have corn to sell and to keep.
Have you something to do tomorrow? Do it today.
Amongst many other callings, Franklin was a noted diplomat and during his time as United States envoy to France he was directed by the King to write a report on Franz Mesmer's controversial theory of 'animal magnetism'. In the report, published in 1785, Franklin included this text:
Finally another Breakfast is ordered. One Servant runs for fresh Water, another for Coals. The Bellows are plied with a will. I was very Hungry; it was so late; "a watched pot is slow to boil," as Poor Richard says.
Actually, Franklin ought to have written "as Poor Richard might have said", as the proverb isn't found in any of the Poor Richard almanacs. That's a moot point however, Franklin and Poor Richard being one and the same.
Of course, Franklin was also a celebrated scientist and would have been aware that watching a pot has no effect on how long it takes to boil. Like many of the most effective proverbs, this one is poetic rather than literal.
a watched pot never boils
- if you wait for something to happen it takes longer
- time slows down when one is waiting for something to get done
- it refers to the elongation of time when one is waiting for something to happen urgently
- I kept waiting for hours near my phone but there was no news from my daughter from the war zone yet because a watched pot never boils.
- She kept switching onto the website to check her result all morning but I guess the university has not published it yet, a watched pot never boils.
- I stopped looking at the news because a watched pot never boils
- You should go to her house and ask her about her decision to marry you. Don’t wait because a watched pot never boils
- I guess it is true that a watched pot never boils but how can I do anything else in this situation?
This phrase is not literal in meaning since scientifically a pot kept to boil will have absolutely no effect if one is watching it. It is a poetic way of saying that time seems to slow down when one is waiting for something to happen desperately. Benjamin Franklin wrote this proverb under his pseudonym Poor Richard in his annual almanac during the years 1732 to 1758. He was trying to showcase a pro-industry mind set with phrases such as this where he provided improvement ideas to people. The first literary use of this phrase is also by Benjamin Franklin in a report published in 1785 which he was directed to write on the orders of the king while he was serving as the United States envoy in the French territories.
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