Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) was a polymath, author, printer, philosopher, freemason, postmaster, scientist, inventor, civic activist, politician, and diplomat. As an American scientist of the Enlightenment he studied physics for his discoveries, theories, and inventions. He invented lightning rods, bifocals, the Franklin stove, and many other instruments dealing with electricity, work, and music. He helped organize local civic functions, like Philadelphia’s fire department, schools, and journalist printing presses. Ben became wealthy publishing Poor Richard’s Almanack, and The Pennsylvania Gazette. Almanacks were popular in colonial America; mixing seasonal weather forecasts, practical advice, puzzles, and other amusements.
Poor Richard’s Almanack used word-play (puns) of the 1700s to explore common proverbs and ‘coin’ witty phrases. Wisdom often meant providing an apt adage for any occasion. ‘Richard’ was one of Franklin’s pen names.
“A penny saved is two-pence dear.”
– Poor Richard (Ben Franklin)
It was not until the 1800s, that we see the phrase worded as we commonly hear now, often attributed to Franklin.
“A penny saved is a penny earned.” – Pall Mall Magazine, Sept. 1899
Here are other proverbs listed by Ben Franklin:
“Fish and visitors stink in three days.”
“A countryman between two lawyers,
is like a fish between two cats.”
“A cypher and humility make
figures and virtues of ten-fold value.”
“A false friend and a shadow attend
only while the sun shines.” (on rainy-day friends)
“A fine genius in his own country, is
like gold in the mine.”
“After three days men grow weary of
a wench, a guest, and weather rainy.”
“A life of leisure, and a life of laziness,
are two things.”
“An egg today is better than a hen to-morrow.”
(debatable, like ‘chicken or egg‘)
“Anger is never without a reason, but
seldom with a good one.”
“Anger warms the invention, but over-
heats the oven.”
“An honest man will receive neither
money nor praise, that is not his due.”
“A pair of good ears will drain dry an
“A plowman on his legs is higher than
a gentleman on his knees.”
“Approve not of him that commends all you say.”
That last proverb is meant to disapprove of false flattery, but does not allow that some people may actually love you so much you can do no wrong. Here are more from Ben Franklin:
“A quarrelsome man has no good neighbors.”
“There are no gains without pains.”
“Early to bed and early to rise,
makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”
“Plow deep while sluggards sleep,
and you shall have corn to sell and to keep.”
“A quiet conscience sleeps in thunder.”
“Are you angry that others disappoint you?
Remember you cannot depend upon yourself.”
“Be always ashamed to catch thyself idle.”
(a Puritan curse akin to ‘Devil’s play’ warnings)
“A watched pot never boils.” – current adaptation
Time feels longer when you’re waiting for something to happen, and you keep checking on it all the time, getting more and more anxious. Actually we all know that watching the pot does not stop it from boiling (without even getting into the Quantum Enigma); but our perception of time often slows when we worry about the future, and speeds up when we are are contently enjoying the present. The original phrase is more accurate, but still psychological.
“A watched pot is slow to boil.”
Franklin wrote this in another publication, but referred to it as something Poor Richard might have said, as the proverb isn’t found in any of the Poor Richard almanacs.
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