A stitch in time saves nine – what does it mean?

A stitch in time saves nine – what does it mean?

There are plenty of words and phrases we’ve had to get used to hearing in 2020.

Coronavirus. Lockdown. Herd immunity. The R rate. And last night there was a new one for a lot of people.

“A stitch in time saves nine.”

That’s what the Prime Minister Boris Johnson said as he announced extra rules on things like pub closing times in England.

If you’re anything like us – or most of the internet – you were probably on your phone pretty quickly.

At 20:04 BST, right after the PM told us: “We must take action now because a stitch in time saves nine”, Google saw a spike in people searching for the meaning of the phrase.

So what does it mean?

The phrase basically means it’s better to solve a problem right away, to stop it becoming a much bigger one.

It’s first recorded in a book way back in 1723 and it’s a sewing reference.

The idea is that sewing up a small rip with one stitch means the tear is less likely to get bigger, and need more – or, well, nine – stitches later on.

That’s a lot to fit on the front of the Downing Street podium so you can see why the prime minister’s using the short version.

The point Boris Johnson was going for was that asking bars and restaurants to shut earlier now (the stitch) will hopefully mean there’s not a huge wave of coronavirus cases in a month or so (a bigger rip) and a tougher lockdown (nine stitches) won’t be needed.

Scotland and Northern Ireland are doing the same. They’re also stopping people in different houses visiting each other too.

Let’s call that a two-stitch strategy.

And in Wales, where pubs will also have to close by 22:00, they’ve always had rules on only extended households getting to head round to see each other inside.

You can find out exactly what all the new rules mean for you here.

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