A watched pot never boils

Posted by TheFallen on March 31, 2003

In Reply to: A watched pot never boils posted by Steven Syme on March 31, 2003

: the explanation of a "watched pot never boils" is contrary to my understanding. It is explained as "it takes longer for something to occur if you watch it" whereas I understood that it originated from older times when a cooks apprentice was given the task of watching a pot of soup or broth suspended by a rope over a fire, whilst it was cooking. His task was to raise or lower the soup so that it would not boil, hence the term " a watched pot never boils. any comments?

Yes. Over here in the UK at least, the expression is used to "explain away" a delay while waiting for another to finish some task. It has a definite implication of frustration about it - the "watcher" can do nothing to expedite the awaited result, so might as well not be wasting his time watching - so I'd suspect that your proposed explanation, although neat, makes less sense because it clearly implies that it's the watcher who is in full control of the situation.

Just my opinion.