Hello and welcome to yet another wonderful week of warped truths and outright fictions here at Factually Deficient! Despite the lateness of the hour, this week I will answer a question posed by my friend Tohrinha. Tohrinha asked:
Why is getting up before sunrise called “bright and early”?
Tohrinha has asked an excellent question, based on the fact that before sunrise it is neither bright–with the sun not up, the sky is frequently reasonably dark–nor early–before the sun rises, it is still night, and therefore very very late.
On the surface, therefore, one might think that this phrase were totally inaccurate, or merely sarcastic. However, the one thinking that would be wrong.
The word “bright” has more than one meaning. While it can, and frequently does, refer to the intensity of light, it can also refer to intelligence.
Many people have heard of an expression that claims, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” There are many things wrong with this expression: for one thing, it is grammatically incomplete–it is not a real sentence! For another, Factually Deficient’s crack team of scientists informs us that early rising and early sleeping, in conjunction, repeated for any number of days, do not produce wealth. However, there is one truth to that expression: early rising causes wisdom.
Rising before the sun comes up is an inducer, and therefore an indicator, of intelligence – thus, it is termed “bright.”
As for “early”, this word, too, originally had a different meaning. When describing rising before the sun, “early” does not refer to preliminary timing–as stated above, that would be absurd, considering that pre-sunrise is actually very late.
Rather, “early” is actually “Earl-y” – in a manner resembling an earl. In medieval times, early rising was a mark of nobility. While the peasantry were lazy and stayed abed, the highest-ranked of the gentry–chief among them, earls–would be awake in time to watch the sunrise in all its glory, confident that it had been designed specifically for them.
One who is up before the sun can truly be called “bright and early”–wise and noble, in every sense.
Disclaimer: Many of the claims made in this blog post are extremely false. The medieval peasantry were not uniformly lazy.