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Burning the candle...

Posted by Sauerkraut on January 06, 2001

In Reply to: Burning the candle... posted by ESC on January 05, 2001

: : Last year, my Brit. Lit. teacher told us that Sara Teasdale coined the phrase "Burning a candle at both ends", but he read us this poem by Enda St. Vincent Millay:
: : "My candle's burning at both ends/It will not last the night./But Oh my foes, and Ah my friends/It sheds a lovely light."
: : I'm wondering if he got confused, pleas help.

: BURN THE CANDLE AT BOTH ENDS -- The "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997) cites the poem you mentioned, "First Fig" . Then states: ".The phrase goes back to early 17th century in English and is much older, for it was translated then from the French.Originally the expression meant to waste material wealth, to use the candle wastefully. Then it took on its more common modern meaning of wasting one's strength, as when someone goes from his day job to one he holds at night, or works for a worthy cause every moment of his spare time, or even does too much partying after work."

: Or a woman, married with children, who completes her day job then comes home to housework and childcare.

And then there's the old joke about the guy sitting on his doctor's exam table: "I didn't come here to be told that I'm burning the candle at both ends ..... I came for more wax.