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Monday, February 11, 2013

Strike While The Iron Is Hot

To strike a hot piece of metal, especially iron, with a mallet or other tool before it cools, while it is still hot enough to be shaped.

Here is another well know saying that is probably baffling to the younger minds. If you’re thinking about an iron used to press clothes, you have the wrong idea. It requires that you have a familiarity to a way of life before the automobile.

This saying comes from the blacksmithing practice of heating up metal and then striking it when it is malleable to shape it. When the blacksmith works with iron, first he heats the iron until it is red hot and soft. Then he immediately hits the iron with his hammer to change its shape. If he waits, the iron becomes cold and hard again, and he cannot shape it.

A person will say it to encourage someone to act decisively and take their opportunities when they arise. The phrase is from circa 1566 in The excellent comedie of two the moste faithfullest freendes, Damon and Pithias written by Richard Edwards. He wrote, "I haue plied the Haruest, and stroke when the Yron was hotte."

Similar proverbs are “Make hay while the sun shines” and “Take time by the forelock.”

One reference I found gave me the following poem as the origin of the saying…but with no accreditation to its creator:
Who enters here intent to dwell
Must guard his kids and good wife well
For the smith must strike while the iron is hot
And knows which is and which is not

One caveat when doing research on the internet. Not everything you find is reliable information. Consider this site:
It listed links to ten other sites, each with different sources of origin of the phrase “strike when the iron is hot.” Which just goes to show—be careful when using a website’s information.

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