Tonight's Curiosity

L. Bird pkeets at
Mon Dec 20 23:50:34 CST 2004

>From an article called:  The truth about the watched pot boiling

>While Titelman, Palmer, Gaskell and others may say “A watched pot never 
>boils,” it is my contention that this very proverb became popular after a 
>mistake in a radio transmission during WWII.
It was customary during radio communications back then, to end all 
statements by saying the word “over,” so that the listener would know when 
he or she could transmit their reply to the previous speaker. Luckily, I 
discovered a taped radio transmission from 1944, when a B-52 was taking off 
for an eight-hour training mission. The text of that conversation follows.

“This is Captain Kenneth Daltry in B-52 Echo-Echo calling base Tango. Over.”
“Roger Daltry. This is Tango. Over.”
“Roger Tango. We have a crewman on board who says he may have left some eggs 
boiling at the base. He was planning on coloring them for Easter. He wants 
to give the colored eggs to orphans and street urchins later. Over.”
“Roger Daltry. Which crewman? Who? Over.”
“Roger Tango. His name is Townsend Moon. Over”
“Roger Daltry. Is this the Townshend Moon who lived over near Miami? Over.”
“Roger Tango. That’s him. They nicknamed him the Moon over Miami. He likes 
to dance, remember? Over.”
“Roger Daltry. What is that dance he likes to do? Over”
“Roger Tango. Tango. He likes to tango over and over. Over.”
“Roger Daltry. Very good. He is clearly identified so that we know this is 
no bogus radio transmission from the enemy. Over”
“Roger Tango. Can someone there turn off the burner below the boiling pot of 
water? Over.”
“Roger Daltry. There is a guy here named Bill Will who can do this. Over.”
“Roger Tango. So, Bill Will will do this? Over.”
“Roger Daltry. Yes. Will said to let you know that if Moon over Miami had 
watched over his own eggs there would be no fire hazard. As Will says, ‘A 
watched pot never boils over.’ Over.”
“Roger Tango. Will pass on Will’s words to Moon. While Will will do this, I 
hope he doesn’t have to do his job over, given the urgency of his doing this 
boiling pot job now. Over.”
“Roger Daltry. Will will do, and he will not have to do his current job 
over. Over.”
“Roger Tango. Over and out.”
“Roger Daltry. Over and out.”

Somehow, when Capt. Daltry passed on Bill Will’s famous words, he forgot 
that the first “over” was part of the quote.  Hence, the phrase, “A watched 
pot never boils” came into being rather than the correct version, which is 
“A watched pot never boils over.”

© Professor 'Shaggy Dog' Jeff Hardison 2002

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