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 human occasionally performs properly. Right here are 3 versions that a proverb reflecting this observation:

Even a quit clock is best twice a day.A damaged watch is particular 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 been attributed come the influential Austrian writer Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach and to the famous children’s author Lewis Carroll, a.k.a., Charles L. Dodgson the author of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”. What do 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 come to be passé, however eventually the would go back to “the mode”, i.e., end up being fashionable again. “The Spectator” to work the clock-based simile when discussing this topic. Emphasis in excerpts added by QI: 1

Did they keep to one constant dress, castle would occasionally be in the fashion, i m sorry they never ever are as matters are controlled at present. If instead of to run after the mode, castle would continue fixed in one particular habit, the setting would some time or various other overtake them, as a clock the stands quiet is certain to point right once in twelve hours: in this case as such I would advise them, together a Gentleman did his friend who was hunting around the whole town after ~ a rambling fellow, If you follow him you will never find him, yet if you plant your me at the edge of any one street, I’ll interact it will certainly not be long prior to you watch him.

Joseph Addison and also Richard Steele founded and also operated “The Spectator”. Both were far-ranging literary and also political figures. Academic reprints in later years determined 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: from the start of the human being to the finish of the dutch Dynasty”. The two volume history was comical and satirical, and the actual author was Washington Irving that later completed fame v “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and also “Rip van Winkle”. The proverb showed up in the 2nd volume: 3

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

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

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

“I have actually two clocks: one doesn’t walk at all, and the various other loses a minute a day; which would certainly you prefer? ‘The losing one,’ girlfriend answer, ‘without a doubt.’ now observe: the one which loser a minute a day needs to lose twelve hours, or seven hundred and twenty minutes, prior to it is appropriate again: consequently, it is only right when in two years, conversely, the various other is evidently right as often as the time it point out to comes round, which happens twice a day.

In 1877 “Lippincott’s magazine of well-known Literature and also Science” released an short article titled “A Queen the Burlesque” by one unnamed author. The proverb to be used throughout a discussion of morality: 5

I am afraid the my too intimate acquaintance with all sorts of human being has blunted my moral sense, therefore that i am incapable of separating as I need to do the great people indigenous the bad; or may it be that no one is wholly great or wholly bad?—that everybody is favor the clock which never goes, yet is certain to be best twice a day?

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

Even a quit clock is right, us know, twice in the twenty-four hours.

Sometimes the saying described a watch instead of a clock. In 1915 “The national Druggist” presented an intricate simile through clerks, a slow-moving watch, and also a quit watch: 7

These mistake-making clerks are prefer a watch. The watch the does not run at all is best twice a day, however the watch the is slow-moving is never ever right, and also the clerk the does nothing at the very least will no make any type of fatal errors, if the salesperson who generally does points wrong might too be dorn all the moment as far as any faith in the is concerned.

In 1955 an instance showed up in “Speaker’s Encyclopedia of Stories, Quotations, and also Anecdotes” by Jacob M. Braude: 8

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

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

Even a stopped clock is ideal twice every day. After part years, it have the right to boast of a long collection of successes. Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach

The internationally popular Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho who writes in Portuguese included an instance in the 1990 novel “Brida”: 11

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

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

A stopped clock is appropriate twice a day, but a sundial deserve to be used to stab someone, even at night.—John Hodgman

In conclusion, the earliest event of this saying well-known to QI showed up in “The Spectator” and was created by Joseph Addison. “The Spectator” to be influential and was reprinted several times, therefore Addison assisted to popularize the expression. Yet, that is possible that the saying remained in circulation prior to Addison employed it. Other renowned writers have used the expression consisting of Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, Charles L. Dodgson, Washington Irving, and Paulo Coelho. However none of them coined the proverb.

Image Notes: many clock confront images through geralt at Pixabay.

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

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