Idle hands are the devil's tools

Posted by ESC on May 20, 2003

In Reply to: Idle hands posted by Bella on May 19, 2003

: : : : : Any ideas on the origin of... "Idle hands are the devil's workshop?"

: : : : I'm more familiar with another variant of this phrase, namely "The Devil finds work/mischief for idle hands to do", but I don't have any idea as to the origin either.

: : : Here's a blurb I found, courtesy of Google:

: : : Nothing good comes from boredom. It's said that idle hands are the devil's workshop, an old saying dating at least as far back as Chaucer in the twelfth century who called idle hands the devil's tools.

: : Fac et aliquid operis, ut semper te diabolus inveniat occupatum. (St Jerome, _Letters_)

: : Therefore seith Seint Jerome: "Dooth somme goode dedes that the devel, which is oure enemy, ne fynde yow nat unocupied." (Chaucer, _Tale of Melibee_)

: : In Works of Labour or of Skill I would be busy too: For Satan finds some mischief still for idle Hands to do. (I. Watts, _Divine Songs for Children_, 1715)

: : If the Devil finds a Man idle, he'll set him at Work. (J. Kelly, _Scottish Proverbs_, 1721)

: : If the devil catch a man idle, he'll set him at work. (T. Fuller, _Gnomologia_, 1732)

: : Idle Brains are the Devil's Workhouses. (_ibid._)

: : The Turks have a proverb, which says, that _The devil tempts all other men, but that idle men tempt the devil. (Colton, _Lacon_, 1820)

: : An idle brain is the devil's workshop. (H.G. Bohn, _Hand-Book of Proverbs_, 1855)

: : "Idle hands do the Devil's work, Paul." (K. Vonnegut, _Player Piano_, 1952)

: : "Idle hands are the devil's workshop." That seems to be the attitude among President Clinton's Pentagon appointees who recently drafted plans to involve the military in domestic social programs.... (_Washington Times_, May 18, 1995)

: "Friends, the idle brain is the devil's playground."....Meredith Willson, "The Music Man"....
: because I can't come up with anything better.....

IDLE HANDS ARE THE DEVIL'S TOOLS - "Idleness is the root of mischief. This maxim has been traced back to Chaucer's 'Tale of Melibee' (c. 1386). First attested in the United States in 'Collections' . The proverb is found in varying forms:: Satan has some mischief for idle hands to do; The devil finds work (or mischief) for idle hands to do." From Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996).

Another way of phrasing it, to stay out of trouble: PUT YOUR HANDS TO WORK AND HEARTS TO GOD - Philosophy of Ann Lee, "Mother Ann," founder of United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing, known as the Shakers.