Posted by Bob on July 21, 2003
In Reply to: "A watched pot never boils." posted by ESC on July 20, 2003
: : : I was hoping I could get a meaning and origin of the above phrase, as someone I know takes this quote way too literally, and I'd like a bit of clarification on it for the future. Thanks in advance!
: : From Bartleby; A watched pot never boils -
: : Something we wait for with impatient attention seems to take forever.
: WATCHED POT NEVER BOILS - ".A pot will, in fact, boil even if you watch, but it will SEEM to take forever, and that is really the point of this amusing proverb. So if you must wait for something to happen, take your mind off the waiting by doing something else. It's amazing how much faster 'the pot' seems to reach a boil. As for the saying itself, the English novelist Elizabeth Gaskell first rendered it in 'Mary Barton' , giving the exact wording of the current version." From "Wise Words and Wives' Tales: The Origins, Meanings and Time-Honored Wisdom of Proverbs and Folk Sayings Olde and New" by Stuart Flexner and Doris Flexner (Avon Books, New York, 1993).
: : The hands of a clock never seem to move when you stare at them, especially on Christmas Eve. You can sit beside the phone for hours without it ringing. "It sits silent. Its needle sound does not transfix my ear or draw my longing to a close. Ring. Damn you!" Maya Angelou
Sometimes, of course, the fun IS prolonging the agony ... as in Christmas Eve, waiting for that letter to arrive, peering down the road for the bus to appear, and other (youthful) self-torturing devices, which make it all feel better when "it" finally happens. We crabby older people should refrain from using this phrase. Nor should we point out that staring wistfully at the horizon will not make the boat dock sooner. Watching the pot has its emotional use, and we did it ourselves once.