Burn the candle at both ends

Page 2 of 2 | Previous page

14 comments on this post.
  1. Vicky:

    A candle can actually be lighted at both ends and there are old candle holders made to allow the practice. It gives twice the light for half the time. The the candle burns out rapidly, and serves as an illustration both of wastefulness and exhaustion.

  2. Hoji Scott:

    Remember too, Edna St. Vincent Millay!

  3. maria:

    That’s interesting – I always thought that ‘at both ends’ referred to both ends of the day, so someone was getting up early and working, and then going on late into the night, requiring a candle to see their work morning and night.
    Seems like other people thought that too, which might explain the current use of the phrase…

  4. Edward:

    I thought it meant you had worked so long that your candle had burned down to the nub, where now the wic is so short that both ends are being burned at the same time.

  5. Lorraine:

    Isn’t there a poem that has the phrase “burning her candle at both ends”?

  6. Janet:

    You’re right Lorraine. It’s by Edna St. Vincent Millay in her poem “First Fig”

    My candle burns at both ends;
    It will not last the night;
    But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends–
    It gives a lovely light!

    This a great piece.

  7. TheBlackHole:

    “Burn your candle at both ends” was in Weird Al’s song Dare To Be Stupid.
    “Burn your candle at both ends
    Look a gift horse in the mouth
    Mashed potatoes can be your friends”

  8. Candles Scented:

    I’ve heard that there is a spray that is supposed to help with the wax burning too fast from a woodwick candle set, is this true?

    [Editor: You mean the one sold at the link I just erased from your post?]

  9. GearDog:

    I would hope that the author of the original question would know the meaning of another commonly used phrase: “a flash in the pan.” As far as I know, he could accurately use his matchlock musket to explain that phrase to his audiences.

  10. amber:

    huh … that’s very intersting! also, love the use of the word ‘lash’ in regards to being tied to a rafter!

  11. Marilee:

    I learned a different use of the term “burning the candle from both ends” from a tour of “Anne Hathaway’s Cottage”, a replica of the home of Shakespear’s wife in England, in Victoria, BC, Canada. It was said that in “Old England” they had candles with wicks at both ends that could be burned vertically, therefore slowly (one wick burning), or turned on its holder horizontally to burn both ends simultaneously. If one entertained guests that you hoped would leave soon, you would “burn the candle from both ends” to burn the candle faster, wasting the precious wax, but thus assuring that your guests would be compelled to leave when the lights went out. And so, the use of the phrase to mean “eager to finish one thing and get on to something more rewarding or productive.” This could be then construed to mean working until all hours of the night and getting up early.

  12. Marvin:

    I remember reading in some book the saying “Why bother to burn your candle at both ends when you can get a much brighter light with an acetylene torch to the middle” It was meant as an analogy to heavy drug use in the 60s. Does anyone know the source of this?

  13. Kit:

    Rather than both ends of the day; I prefer to consider burning a candle at both ends of the night would tend to be inefficient, whereas burning the midnight oil remains a virtue.

  14. Thomas Paquette:

    “Burning the candle at both ends” generally refers to someone who is dedicated to the point of obsession with some problem, but it literally makes no sense, as to burn a candle at both ends seems an idiot’s task. However, adding the phrase “…of the day” restores it to a more direct image of someone who devotes more energy to a problem than the hours of daylight can provide.
    This spontaneously occurred to me several years ago (yes, I shall be batted about the cranium by the Word Detective for such independent, unverifiable insights) while burning the lights at both ends of the day for my career. It seems much more reasonable an image than improbably burning a single candle at both ends of the wick. That just brings to mind a pyromaniac. Or worse.

Leave a comment