Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach? Lewis Carroll? Charles L. Dodgson? Joseph Addison? Richard Steele? Diedrich Knickerbocker? Washington Irving? Albany de Grenier Fonblanque? Paulo Coelho? Anonymous?

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Dear Quote Investigator: an obtuse, unreliable, or incompetent person occasionally performs properly. Right here are three versions the a proverb reflecting this observation:

Even a quit clock is appropriate twice a day.A damaged watch is specific to be ideal twice a day.A clock that stands tho is certain to point right as soon as in twelve hours.

You are watching: Broken clock right twice a day meaning

This saying has actually been attributed come the influential Austrian writer Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach and also to the famed children’s author Lewis Carroll, a.k.a., Charles L. Dodgson the writer of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”. What perform you think?

Quote Investigator: The earliest enhance located through QI showed up in “The Spectator” magazine in 1711. Also in the 1700s dress fashions were ever before changing. If one preserved a single clothing layout it would come to be passé, yet eventually that would go back to “the mode”, i.e., end up being fashionable again. “The Spectator” to work the clock-based simile when mentioning this topic. Emphasis in excerpts included by QI: 1

Did they store to one continuous dress, lock would periodically be in the fashion, which they never ever are together matters are controlled at present. If instead of running after the mode, they would continue fixed in one certain habit, the mode would part time or other overtake them, as a clock that stands still is sure to allude right as soon as in twelve hours: in this case thus I would certainly advise them, as a Gentleman go his friend who was hunting about the entirety town after ~ a rambling fellow, If you monitor him you will certainly never discover him, yet if you tree your self at the edge of any one street, I’ll engage it will not be long before you view him.

Joseph Addison and also Richard Steele founded and operated “The Spectator”. Both were significant literary and also political figures. Scholarly reprints in later on years established Joseph Addison together the writer of the excerpt above. 2

Below are extr selected citations in chronological order.

In 1809 Diedrich Knickerbocker published “A background of brand-new York: from the beginning of the civilization to the finish of the dutch Dynasty”. The two volume background was comical and also satirical, and the actual author was Washington Irving who later achieved fame through “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and also “Rip valve Winkle”. The proverb appeared in the 2nd volume: 3

The clock the stands still, and also points resolutely in one direction, is details of being appropriate twice in the four and also twenty hours—while others might keep walk continually, and also continually be going wrong.

During his teenager years Charles L. Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) built a set of magazine-like manuscripts because that his household members. One collection called “The Rectory Umbrella” (circa 1850-53) included a counterintuitive to compare of the accuracy of a quit clock versus a slow-moving clock. This discussion was reprinted decades later in 1898 in “The Strand Magazine” the London: 4

“Which is the best: a clock the is appropriate only when a year, or a clock the is best twice every day? ‘The latter,’ friend reply, ‘unquestionably.’ really good, reader, now attend.

“I have actually two clocks: one doesn’t walk at all, and also the other loses a minute a day; which would certainly you prefer? ‘The shedding one,’ you answer, ‘without a doubt.’ now observe: the one which loser a minute a day needs to lose twelve hours, or 7 hundred and twenty minutes, prior to it is right again: consequently, that is just right when in 2 years, whereas the various other is evidently right as regularly as the time it point out to comes round, i beg your pardon happens twice a day.

In 1877 “Lippincott’s newspaper of famous Literature and also Science” published an post titled “A Queen the Burlesque” by one unnamed author. The proverb was used during a conversation of morality: 5

I am afraid the my also intimate acquaintance with all kinds of human being has blunted my moral sense, for this reason that ns am i can not qualify of distinguishing as I should do the good people indigenous the bad; or might it be that no one is wholly great or wholly bad?—that anyone is like the clock which never goes, yet is specific to be appropriate twice a day?

In 1880 a novel referred to as “Pious Frauds” by Albany de Grenier Fonblanque had a concise instance: 6

Even a stopped clock is right, we know, double in the twenty-four hours.

Sometimes the saying referred to a watch rather of a clock. In 1915 “The nationwide Druggist” presented an elaborate simile with clerks, a sluggish watch, and also a quit watch: 7

These mistake-making clerks are prefer a watch. The watch that does no run at every is right twice a day, however the watch that is slow-moving is never ever right, and the clerk that does naught at least will no make any fatal errors, while the clerk who usually does things wrong might as well be not correct all the time as far as any faith in the is concerned.

In 1955 one instance showed up in “Speaker’s Encyclopedia that Stories, Quotations, and Anecdotes” through Jacob M. Braude: 8

No man’s advice is totally worthless. Even a watch that won’t operation is right twice a day.

In 1967 a newspaper in Roselle, Illinois printed an instance, and also in 1969 a reference work by Herbert V. Prochnow published that exact same instance. Both credited an Austrian writer: 9 10

Even a quit clock is best twice every day. After some years, it can boast of a long collection of successes. Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach

The internationally well-known Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho that writes in Portuguese included an instance in the 1990 novel “Brida”: 11

“Nothing in the civilization is ever totally wrong, mine dear,” stated her father, looking at the clock. “Even a stopped clock is ideal twice a day.”

In 2012 the quotation compiler Robert Byrne gift an absurdist different ascribed come a humorist/actor in “The 2,548 Wittiest points Anybody ever before Said”: 12

A stopped clock is ideal twice a day, yet a sundial deserve to be offered to stab someone, even at night.—John Hodgman

In conclusion, the earliest occurrence of this saying recognized to QI showed up in “The Spectator” and was created by Joseph Addison. “The Spectator” to be influential and also was reprinted numerous times, for this reason Addison aided to popularize the expression. Yet, it is possible that the saying was in circulation before Addison work it. Other popular writers have used the expression including Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, Charles L. Dodgson, Washington Irving, and Paulo Coelho. However none of castle coined the proverb.

Image Notes: multiple clock confront images by geralt at Pixabay.

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(Great thanks to barrieblonde who inquiry led QI to build this question and perform this exploration. Special many thanks to Peter Morris who told QI the Lewis Carrol had written a pertinent piece. Numerous thanks come Jesse Sheidlower who told QI that contemporary scholarly version of “The Spectator” show that Joseph Addison authored the excerpt include the proverb.)

Update History: on September 2, 2016 the 1886 quote was added and the event in “The Spectator” was credited to Joseph Addison.