There is an expression you hear a lot, here, there, and everywhere when referring to someone who is very busy, ‘oh, he has a lot of irons in the fire’.
These days we use it as an analogy not to have too many things on the go at the same time, and, in the end, none of them will be finished properly, or finished at all.
There are two old-time literal meanings that can apply to this analogy, the first being that in laundries, they used to have their irons in the fire, warming so that clothes could be ironed. Having too many meant sometimes one would be left too long, and end up scorching the clothes being ironed.
Hopefully, that didn’t happen to a very expensive dress!
The second meaning came from a blacksmith’s foundry where he had iron bars in the fire, heating up so that they could be worked on. Having too many in the fire at once sometimes meant that one became overheated, and ruined.
Conversely, having too many pieces of iron in the fire might cause the fire to be too cool to heat any of the metal bars.
These days, a lot of people need to have a lot of projects on the go at once, in the hope that one or more might suddenly become a winner.
Sadly, that doesn’t happen very often.
And, no, buying a lot of lottery tickets hoping one will win, that is not very likely either.
One thought on “Sayings: Irons in the fire”
I really enjoyed reading your post about the saying “irons in the fire.” It’s interesting to learn about the origins of this expression and the two different literal meanings behind it. I had always interpreted it as having too many things going on at once, but I never knew about the laundry and blacksmith interpretations.
Your analogy about having too many irons in the fire being analogous to having too many projects on the go at once is spot-on. It’s a trap that many of us fall into in today’s fast-paced world, where we feel like we need to constantly be working on multiple things in order to be successful. However, as you point out, this can often lead to none of those things being finished properly or at all.
I appreciated your note of caution about the idea of buying a lot of lottery tickets in the hopes of winning big. It’s important to focus on our own efforts and not rely on luck or chance to achieve our goals.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this saying. I look forward to reading more from you in the future!
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