This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Thing To Do Today: Improve The Shining Hour

Improve the shining hour, people say. They're quoting Isaac Watts, though they usually don't know it.
But what's so shiny about an hour?
Well, if you look at Isaac Watt's verse you find out:
How doth the little busy bee

Improve each shining hour,

And gather honey all the day

From every opening flower.
Yes, it's the sun that makes the hour shiny (because even bees take a break when it's raining). 

Well, that's a relief. At least we can stop being busy after the sun's gone down. And if you live somewhere like Britain there are lots of cloudy hours in the daytime when we can be idle with a clear conscience, too.
I'm in good company when it comes to being confused by Watt's verse. Here's Alice (of Wonderland)'s version:
How Doth The Little Crocodile

by Lewis Carroll
How doth the little crocodile
Improve his shining tail,
And pour the waters of the Nile
On every golden scale!
How cheerfully he seems to grin,
How neatly spread his claws,
And welcome little fishes in
With gently smiling jaws!
Photo: Steve Hillebrand, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
So there we have it. The bees and the crocodile; one busy, one idle, both ending up with a full tummy.
So which is best? Fish or honey? Helping fertilise the flowers, or snapping up little fishes?

Is it best to be a bee, or a crocodile?

Thing To Do Today: Improve The Shining Hour. The word improve comes from the Anglo-French prou, profit, from the Latin prōdesse, to be advantageous.

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