Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Save For A Rainy Day

Posted by Elyse Bruce on May 4, 2011

When you save for a rainy day, you’re putting aside a set amount of money in anticipation that there may come a time in the future when you’ll be needing extra money for something important.  Of course, Mae West had her own take on the phrase when she was quoted as saying, “Save a boy friend for a rainy day, and another in case it doesn’t rain.”

Back on September 25, 2001 the Chicago Tribune ran a news story by Tribune staff reporter, Janet Kidd Stewart entitled, “America’s Psyche Takes Another Blow ; Old Assumptions No Longer Apply.”  The headline beneath the headline read: “There Is Fear In The Marketplace.”  One of the people interviewed was quoted as saying:

“I wouldn’t be surprised if they save a bit more because they realize the world is a bit more of a dangerous place and they need a safety net,” he said. “People used to think, `Why save if I have a high-paying job? Why save for a rainy day if it never rains?’ We know it rains now.”

The Park City Daily News ran a story entitled “More Money Around But Purchasing Power Down” on July 11, 1957 and addressed the subject of inflation and housing prices.

Some felt better off under inflation.  The market value of a home bought 10 years ago is way up, the dollar sales volume of many stores and factories are, too, the pay check of the worked is mucy more impressive today.  They may believe that “a little inflation is a good thing.”  Those who save for a rainy day, those who want to build new homes, factories or schools, fear that what we have now may grow into chronic inflation and become the big bad wolf of our age.

Back on May 21, 1902 the Otago Witness newspaper in New Zealand reported on Jessie MacKay‘s address before the National Council of Women in their news article entitled, “Equal Pat For Equal Work.”  The address included the following:

A young man who puts off marriage to provide for parents or young relations is considered almost a hero. But nothing special is thought of a girl who is the stay of her home, putting aside the hopes and plans of womanhood to fulfil her natal obligations.  It is not expected that she should, in view of her future marriage, save for a rainy day, or to prevent the common pain and degradation of dunning her husband for pin money.  If she remains single, the world takes it as somewhat of an offence that she should save in view of old age.

In an article entitled, “Royalty At A Discount” the New York Times edition of September 15, 1854 had this to say about rainy days:

Within the last half century, Monarchy has been so insecure in Europe that the different Sovereigns have usually prepared fora rainy day” by making pecuniary investments out of the countries which they govern or misgovern.  Even the Czar, until lately, had $50,000,000 in the State securities of France and England (withdrawn not long ago, when his military plans and movements caused a requirement for money): Louis Phillippe had the precaution to provide for his family by investments in this country as well as in England; Leopold of Belgium has taken the same precaution; and Queen Victoria — said to be haunted by a foreboding that the British Monarchy will come to a close before her own life terminates — is very greatly belied by public rumor, if she, also, has not provided against a possible future of private life, by investments in the United States and elsewhere.

Mifflin Wistar Gibbs wrote in his autobiography, “Shadow and Light” that he was born on April 17, 1823, the son of a Wesleyan Methodist Church minister and a “hard-shell” Baptist mother. He wrote this about his 16th year, in 1839:

On the following Sunday he lay before the pulpit from whence he had preached, cold in death, leaving my mother, who had poor health, with four small children, and little laid byfor a rainy day.”  Unable to remain long at school, I was “put out” to hold and drive a doctor’s horse at three dollars a month, and was engaged in similar employment until I reached sixteen years of age.

Back in the 1750s, more than one legal document stated that the Acadians of Louisiana — those who came from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick — as being simple farmers who practice Catholicism, are totally self-sufficient, and are quick to lay aside provisions for a rainy day.

Moliere (1622-1673) wrote “The Miser” in 1668.  A classic comedy that’s still relevant today, it tells the story of Harpagon, a man who confuses love and money.  Hoarding his money, he buries it in his back garden.  At one point in the play, Harpagon admonishes his children about money by saying, “You ought to put it away for a rainy day.”

In the end, however, the saying “save your money for a rainy day” comes from an Italian comedy, La Spiritata by the Florentine playwright,  A. F. Grazzini  and written in 1561.  The adaptation years later by John Lyly (1554–1628) was known as The Bugbears.  The main plot deals with Formosus and the trickery he uses to secure 3,000 crowns from his miserly father Amadeus, as he is secretly wed to Rosimunda who came to him without a dowry.

It is this play that is the earliest published date for the phrase “save for a rainy day” that Idiomation could locate.

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