Famous Sayings: #35 — ‘Spring Forward, Fall Back’

November 6, 2016

spring forward, fall back, daylight saving time, famous sayings

Today, Daylight Saving Time ended in the United States. Every time DST begins or ends, we are reminded of the saying “Spring forward, all back.”

Of course, “Spring forward, fall back” is a pneumonic saying because of the seasons involved (DST is supposed to begin in spring, end in the fall). However, that is kind of obsolete when you think about the current schedule.

Now, before I can get into the origin of the phrase, I would like to talk about the etymology of the word “fall” as well as go over the history of Daylight Saving Time.


What About the Fall?

I found some really interesting information from The Phrase Finder. Although the term “autumn” is more often used in Great Britain, the term “fall,” which is more popular in the U.S., originated in England.

Gary Martin described the term as “a pukka Tudor word,” which could be found in Toxophilus (1545). By the way, Toxophilus was an archery instruction manual written by Roger Ascham, Queen Elizabeth I’s tutor.

Spring tyme, Somer, faule of the leafe, and winter.

By the 17th century, “fall of the leaf” was shortened to “fall,” as seen in John Evelyn’s Sylva (1664).

His [the Oak] leaves becoming yellow at the fall, do commonly clothe it all the winter.

The term “fall” was ultimately adopted in the United States due to the early settlers.


How and Why Was Daylight Saving Time Created?

Benjamin Franklin has been called the “Father of Daylight Saving Time,” but is that right?

What Did Benjamin Franklin Say?

Benjamin Franklin is incorrectly credited with proposing Daylight Saving Time. He did note that the French spent more of their waking hours during the night than he was accustomed and candle wax was expensive during his time.

Franklin proposed that the French could save candle wax [by waking up earlier and doing major work in the day]. However, many of his suggestions were found in a humorous essay entitled, “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light.” It was a 1784 letter to the editor of The Journal of Paris. (“History”)

From the Essay (via WebXhibits):

First. Let a tax be laid of a louis per window, on every window that is provided with shutters to keep out the light of the sun.

Second. Let the same salutary operation of police be made use of, to prevent our burning candles, that inclined us last winter to be more economical in burning wood; that is, let guards be placed in the shops of the wax and tallow chandlers, and no family be permitted to be supplied with more than one pound of candles per week.

Third. Let guards also be posted to stop all the coaches, &c. that would pass the streets after sunset, except those of physicians, surgeons, and midwives.

Fourth. Every morning, as soon as the sun rises, let all the bells in every church be set ringing; and if that is not sufficient?, let cannon be fired in every street, to wake the sluggards effectually, and make them open their eyes to see their true interest.

Who Really Came up with the Idea for DST?

Now, Martin says that Daylight Saving Time as we know it was also created in England, but information I found contradicts that notion.

The idea for DST starts with New Zealander George Vernon Hudson. In 1895, Hudson proposed that there be a two-hour shift forward in October and the two-hour shift back in March. Hudson presented his proposal in a paper to the Wellington Philosophical Society (“Spring Forward”). He proposed changing clocks to allow for more sunshine during the evening (Martin).

In 1905, London builder William Willett suggested 8 time switches a year. According to his proposal, clocks would be set forward by 20 minutes each Sunday in April. The clocks would be set back by 20 minutes each Sunday in September. Willett’s ideas were shared in the 1907 pamphlet Waste of Daylight.

The first English bill for DST was introduced to the House of Commons in February 1908 by Robert Pearce. The bill was drafted in 1909, but it faced stiff opposition, especially from farmers.

Some of what Willett proposed was finally taken up by England during World War I. DST was formally introduced in May 1916.

However, England was not the first country to introduce DST. On April 20, 1916, Germany became the first country to implement DST. This was done in order to save fuel for the war effort.

Before Germany, cities in Canada had long adopted DST (“History”).


How Did Daylight Saving Time Became a Thing in the U.S.?

The United Kingdom and France soon followed Germany, but Europe reverted back to standard time after WWI. DST would be adopted again during WWII.

Robert Garland brought back the idea after seeing it implemented in the U.K.

DST was called “Fast Time” when it was first introduced in 1918 U.S. President Woodrow Wilson signed it into law in order to help the United States in its war effort. The law was repealed seven months later.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt implemented year-round DST in 1942. It lasted from February 1942 to September 1945. During that time, the time zones were named in this way while clocks were moved forward: “Eastern War Time,” “Pacific War Time,” etc.

For 20 years, from 1987 to 2006, DST in the United States began on the last Sunday in April and ended on the first Sunday in October. (These parameters were established by the Uniform Time Act of 1966. Yet, various changes were made to DST in the 1970’s.)

Per the Energy Act of 2005, changes came into effect in 2007. Now, our DST begins on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November.


Finally, Why Do We Have the Phrase “Spring Forward, Fall Back”?

It looks like the phrase was created in the 20th century.

Martin found an early instance of “Spring forward, fall back” in the October 1957 edition of The Derrick (Pennsylvania).

October’s end are recommended to the Los Angeles Examiner’s clever and simple four-word memo to put the clock ahead or back…‘Spring forward, Fall back.’

However, it was used much earlier. The term “spring forward, fall back” may have made its first appearance in the 1920’s. In the October 28, 1928 edition of the Happner Gazette-Times, this notice appeared:

Daylight Saving Time ends this Sunday, October 31. Remember to set your clocks back one hour, ‘Spring forward – Fall Back!’


Bonus: How Do I Feel About Daylight Saving Time?

Basically, I would like to do without it. It sucks to lose an hour of sleep in March — and for DST to start in March. DST is a hassle and the supposed benefits to it are offset by the traffic accidents, workplace accidents, and heart attacks that occur when it starts.


Works Cited

“Full Text  Benjamin Franklin  The Journal of Paris, 1784.” WebExhibits. IDEA.org. 2008. Web. Retrieved 6 Nov 2016. <http://www.webexhibits.org/daylightsaving/franklin3.html>.

“History of Daylight Saving Time — DST.” TimeandDate.com. Time and Date AS. Web. Retrieved 6 Nov 2016. <https://www.timeanddate.com/time/dst/history.html>.

Martin, Gary. “Spring forward, fall back.” The Phrase Finder. Web. Retrieved 6 Nov 2016. <http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/spring-forward-fall-back.html>.

“Spring Forward or Fall Back?” TimeandDate.com. Time and Date AS. Web. Retrieved 6 Nov 2016. <https://www.timeanddate.com/time/dst/spring-forward-fall-back.html>.

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4 thoughts on “Famous Sayings: #35 — ‘Spring Forward, Fall Back’

  1. Interesting read! You’ve answered a question I’ve been wondering about. When I turned the clocks [lots] the other night, I wondered why we do it too. It doesn’t necessarily bother me, because I don’t have a problem with change. It keeps me on my toes. It makes me stop for a minute and regroup. The other night I got an extra hour to stay up and finish a show I was watching on Hulu. Go figure! However, I also wonder how it affects the people I work with that have dementia. Their circadian rhythm is already dodgy. I suspect they themselves don’t notice unless their regular caregivers either complain about the inconvenience, or start messing with the scheduling. They do struggle with sundowning however, so this may have some effect, especially for those who wake up early in the am, or have strict go to bed times. Just my thoughts!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I enjoy reading your comments, too. 😉

      I also wonder how it affects the people I work with that have dementia. Their circadian rhythm is already dodgy. I suspect they themselves don’t notice unless their regular caregivers either complain about the inconvenience, or start messing with the scheduling. They do struggle with sundowning however, so this may have some effect, especially for those who wake up early in the am, or have strict go to bed times.

      I never thought about this, but I imagine it would be extra difficult for people with dementia. Perhaps they don’t notice, but they may be affected when Daylight Saving Time begins.

      It is pretty jarring when one loses an hour of sleep and it would be hard to make someone go to bed an hour earlier to counteract the possible effects. I believe in one of the articles I linked to, it was discussed how difficult it is for people to reset their internal clocks after DST starts.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. NLP [Neuro-Linguistic-Programming] is an excellent way to learn how to make adjustments of different kinds. I believe people would suffer less if they realized they already have the tools. But if they think not, there are tools out there!

        Liked by 1 person

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