The Grammarphobia Blog

Healthy, wealthy, and wise-isms

Q: I don’t know where I got this from, but for years I’ve been saying: “Healthy enough to do what I want, wealthy enough to pay for what I want, wise enough not to spend it all in one place.” Any idea where I got it?

A: You may have come up with it on your own. We haven’t been able to find any examples of other people using those exact words.

However, many people have come up with similar riffs on the old “healthy, wealthy, and wise” proverb.

For instance, an e-card we spotted online displays a bottle of champagne and says: “May you always be healthy enough to drink it, wealthy enough to afford it, and wise enough to sip it.”

And a woman on a Web dating service summed up Mr. Right this way: “I like a man to be healthy enough to keep up, wealthy enough to go dutch, and wise enough to know when the time is ripe to sweep me off my feet, or take me, passionately in a dark alley.”

We could go on, but you get the idea. It’s not hard to find a wealth of examples out there.

The original proverb was first recorded in John Clarke’s Paroemiologia Anglo-Latina, a 1639 book of English and Latin proverbs: “Earely to bed and earely to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”

However, similar expressions date back to the late 1400s. If you’d like to read more, we wrote a posting a couple of years ago that discusses the history of the proverb as well as Ben Franklin’s take on it.

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