23 September 2020 12:33

A stitch in time saves nine

Image copyright Getty Images There're 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?

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption It's not known how many future stitches were saved here 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. Skip Twitter post by @GeorgieProRadio I was today years old when I first heard "a stitch in time saves nine" — Georgie Prodromou (@GeorgieProRadio) September 22, 2020 Report 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. Follow Newsbeat on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Listen to Newsbeat live at 12:45 and 17:45 weekdays - or listen back here. Boris' use of a certain phrase left people guessing (Picture: Andrew Parsons / No10 Downing St) Boris Johnson delivered a warning to the country in his latest televised speech on Tuesday night as he outlined the newest coronavirus restrictions – saying that they would not hesitate to impose more rules if infections did not go down. As well as telling the public not to 'let the virus get out of control once again' the Prime Minister said, as he told viewers: 'We must take action now because a stitch in time saves nine.' And while people were busy getting their heads round the new rules – including a 10pm curfew on pubs, bars and restaurants – one other question reared its head: just what does that particular phrase mean? Here's what you need to know about Boris Johnson's choice of words… Advertisement What does 'a stitch in time saves nine' mean? Visit our live blog for the latest updates: Coronavirus news live 'A stitch in time saves nine' is in fact an old saying which means that it's better to solve a problem straight away, rather than wait until it becomes a bigger issue which may require more effort. Historians have said its earliest use dates back to around 1732, when it appeared in Thomas Fuller's book Gnomologia, Adagies and Proverbs, Wise Sentences and Witty Sayings, Ancient and Modern, Foreign and British. There it appeared as 'a stitch in time may save nine' and it's believed to have had its origins in sewing, the idea being that if you mend a small tear with one stitch, it will prevent it from becoming a bigger tear which might need more stitches – nine, in fact – to repair. To view this video please enable JavaScript, and consider upgrading to a web browser that supports HTML5 video It's not clear where the phrase originated, although some people have suggested it may have been said by mothers who were weary of mending their childrens' clothes. Others have claimed that it's a nautical term, referring to when the sail of a ship has a tear – and that mending it then and there would prevent a larger tear from forming in the sail. In terms of Boris Johnson's use of the saying, it was used in the context of him explaining that imposing certain restrictions now such as the curfew – rather than waiting until Covid-19 cases had risen still further – would hopefully prevent case numbers from rising to the levels seen in March and April. MORE: How much is a private Covid test? Follow Metro across our social channels, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Share your views in the comments below.