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

Dear Quote Investigator: one obtuse, unreliable, or incompetent person occasionally performs properly. Right here are 3 versions the a proverb reflecting this observation:

Even a quit clock is best twice a day.A damaged watch is details to be appropriate twice a day.A clock that stands quiet is sure to suggest right as soon as in twelve hours.

You are watching: Broken clock is right twice a day

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

Quote Investigator: The earliest enhance located by QI showed up in “The Spectator” newspaper in 1711. Also in the 1700s dress fashions were ever changing. If one maintained a solitary clothing layout it would become passé, yet eventually it would return to “the mode”, i.e., come to be fashionable again. “The Spectator” work the clock-based simile when pointing out this topic. Focus in excerpts added by QI: 1

Did they save to one constant dress, lock would sometimes be in the fashion, which they never are as matters are regulated at present. If instead of running after the mode, they would continue fixed in one certain habit, the mode would some time or various other overtake them, as a clock the stands quiet is sure to allude right once in twelve hours: in this case as such I would certainly advise them, together a Gentleman walk his friend that was hunting about the totality town after ~ a rambling fellow, If you monitor him you will never discover him, but if you plant your me at the edge of any one street, I’ll engage it will not it is in long before you watch him.

Joseph Addison and also Richard Steele founded and also operated “The Spectator”. Both were far-reaching literary and political figures. Academic reprints in later years established Joseph Addison together the author of the excerpt above. 2

Below are added selected citations in chronological order.

In 1809 Diedrich Knickerbocker published “A history of brand-new York: indigenous the beginning of the civilization to the end of the netherlands Dynasty”. The 2 volume background was comical and also satirical, and the actual author was Washington Irving that later accomplished fame through “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and “Rip valve Winkle”. The proverb showed up in the 2nd volume: 3

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

During his teen years Charles L. Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) created a collection of magazine-like manuscripts because that his family members members. One series called “The Rectory Umbrella” (circa 1850-53) consisted of a counterintuitive comparison of the accuracy the a stopped clock versus a slow-moving clock. This conversation was reprinted decades later in 1898 in “The Strand Magazine” of London: 4

“Which is the best: a clock the is appropriate only as soon as a year, or a clock the is appropriate twice every day? ‘The latter,’ you reply, ‘unquestionably.’ an extremely good, reader, currently attend.

“I have actually two clocks: one doesn’t walk at all, and the other loses a minute a day; which would you prefer? ‘The shedding one,’ friend answer, ‘without a doubt.’ now observe: the one which loses a minute a day has to lose twelve hours, or 7 hundred and also twenty minutes, prior to it is appropriate again: consequently, that is only right as soon as in 2 years, vice versa, the other is evidently right as regularly as the time it clues to come round, i m sorry happens double a day.

In 1877 “Lippincott’s magazine of renowned Literature and also Science” released an article titled “A Queen that Burlesque” by one unnamed author. The proverb was used throughout a conversation of morality: 5

I am afraid the my too intimate acquaintance with all species of people has blunted my ethical sense, so that ns am i can not qualify of distinguishing as I must do the great people native the bad; or might it be that no one is wholly good or completely bad?—that everyone is prefer the clock which never ever goes, however is certain to be best twice a day?

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

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

Sometimes the saying described a watch rather of a clock. In 1915 “The nationwide Druggist” presented sophisticated simile through clerks, a slow watch, and a stopped watch: 7

These mistake-making clerks are choose a watch. The watch that does no run at all is right twice a day, yet the watch that is slow is never ever right, and the clerk that does nothing at the very least will no make any type of fatal errors, while the clerk who commonly does points wrong might as well be dorn all the time as much as any faith in the is concerned.

In 1955 one instance appeared in “Speaker’s Encyclopedia the Stories, Quotations, and also Anecdotes” through Jacob M. Braude: 8

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

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

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

The internationally well-known Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho who writes in Portuguese contained an circumstances in the 1990 novel “Brida”: 11

“Nothing in the people is ever fully wrong, my dear,” claimed her father, looking in ~ the clock. “Even a quit clock is ideal twice a day.”

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

A quit clock is appropriate twice a day, yet a sundial deserve to be used to stab someone, also at night.—John Hodgman

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

Image Notes: lot of clock face images by geralt in ~ Pixabay.

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(Great many thanks to barrieblonde who inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Special many thanks to Peter Morris that told QI the Lewis Carrol had written a pertinent piece. Many thanks to Jesse Sheidlower that told QI that modern scholarly editions of “The Spectator” indicate that Joseph Addison authored the excerpt containing the proverb.)

Update History: ~ above September 2, 2016 the 1886 citation was added and the occurrence in “The Spectator” was attributed to Joseph Addison.