phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Watched pot

Posted by ESC on January 11, 2000

In Reply to: Need help with a meaning. posted by Bob on January 11, 2000

: : what does the phrase a watched pot never boils over mean?

: A watched pot never boils.
: It's a cautionary statement, preaching the value of patience. It's the sort of thing mothers tell their children. Waiting for a pot to come to boil can seem interminable if you stare at it. Better to go busy yourself with some other task, and the time will (seem to) go faster. Applied metaphorically to any activity where you waste energy doing nothing, figeting, waiting for something to happen... when you could better apply your time doing something useful. Literally, of course, the boiling takes the same amount of time whether you watch or not, but time does drag on interminably when you're over-anxious.
: (The phrase has nothing to do with boiling over.)

"...If you hang around, waiting for something to happen, it never will. The proverb has been traced back to Elizabeth Gaskell's 'Mary Barton' , and is first cited in the United States in 'Puzzle of the Pepper Tree' by S. Palmer..." From "Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings" by Gregory Y. Titelman.