I don’t know why, but the phrase, “early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise” used to confused me when I was small. I think it may have been that I thought “early to bed” meant going to bed early in the morning. Of course, early to bed, means actually resting and going to sleep at a time that is considered “early.” It doesn’t mean going to bed in the early morning hours.
What I was thinking would really make the phrase say, “late to bed, early to rise.” That wouldn’t make sense.
The meaning of the phrase “early to bed and early to rise makes a men healthy wealthy and wise” is the literal meaning. When searching for the origin of this phrase, many people will say that the origin is Benjamin Franklin.
These people would be correct, but they give no more information about the phrase. The phrase, “early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise” is considered to be a proverb. It first appeared in the 1735 edition of Poor Richard’s Almanack .
One of the things to note is that the type setting used at that time used what is known as the “long s.” This made s’s look like today’s lowercase f’s. This meant that the phrase looked like, “early to bed and early to rife, makef a man healthy, wealthy, and wife.”
It is obvious that “makef” is not a word. However, both rife and wife are words. While rife was a word that dates back to the 12 th century, it is not a word that was likely to be known among many people. However, it means “abundant, prevalent, or copiously supplied.” With this meanings, “early to rife,” makes no sense.
People who read Poor Richard’s Almanack were most likely used to the long S. However, it could be confusing how going to bed early and getting up early come make somebody “wife,” or perhaps make a wife for somebody. Franklin also did not mean that women should follow these rules to be good wives.
These days, people like to poke fun at Franklin’s phrase.
In 1928, Carl Sandburg wrote, “Early to bed and early to rise and you never meet any prominent people.” Eleven years later, James Thurber wrote, “Early to rise and early to bed makes a man healthy, wealthy, and dead,” in the New Yorker .
Martin, G. (n.d.). Early to bed and early to rise makes and man healthy, wealthy and wise. The meanings and origins of sayings and phrases . Retrieved January 25, 2011, from http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/early-to-bed-and-early-to-rise.html
Rife – Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary. (n.d.). Dictionary and Thesaurus – Merriam-Webster Online . Retrieved January 25, 2011, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rife?show=0&t=1296004064