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Too many irons in the fire

Posted by ESC on March 26, 2004

In Reply to: Too many Irons in the fire posted by Tami on March 26, 2004

: Always wondered where this saying came from. Anyone know? Does it have to do with branding? What literally happens when one has "too many irons in the fire"?

One reference says it has to do with the blacksmith trade. A skilled blacksmith has "a well-trained apprentice who maintains such control of the bellows and the placement of the irons that each is ready in turn at the anvil and hammer...'Too many irons in the fire' would mark an inefficient smith or one with an unskilled apprentice. Figurative use of either saying takes us back only to the middle of the sixteenth century." From "2107 Curious Word Origins, Sayings & Expressions from White Elephants to a Song and Dance" by Charles Earle Funk (Galahad Book, New York, 1993).