idle hands?

What is the correct saying about idle hands? My co-worker Tim claims it’s “Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop”, but I don’t see how hands can be a “workshop”. I think it’s something more like “The Devil makes work for idle hands”. Can someone please help illuminate us?


There’s a scene in “The Babe” where John Goodman flips out, stands in a corner, and repeatedly moans, “The Devil finds work for idle hands! The Devil finds work for idle hands!”

I was raised with the phrase “An idle mind is the devil’s playground.”

“For Satan finds some mischief still
For idle hands to do.” – Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

I’ve also heard it “Idle hands are the devil’s plaything.”

But don’t take Satan’s word on it or anything… :slight_smile:

Yer pal,

“An idle brain is the Devil’s Playground” from “Trouble in River City” in “The Music Man”.

Lex Non Favet Delicatorum Votis

I’ve heard that idle hands are the tools of Satan’s workshop.

The devil will find work for idle hands to do
I stole and then I lied, why, because you asked me to
But now you make me feel so ashamed because I’ve only got two hands
But I’m still fond of you

Isaac Watts, Divine Songs 20, Against Idleness and Mischief:


There’s something funny with the board or my browser. Dex’s post was not there when I read this thread!

Peering into back of monitor to see why it is not displaying everything it should. . . hiding small flask of liquid before anyone else notices it there.

Stop and think about it, folks. What is it gets people into trouble? The fact they think? Or the fact they have time to act on their thoughts?

If you are busy, you can’t do much mischief is the thinking here. Idle hands are the ‘workshop’ of the Devil, cause he uses their existence to accomplish ill. An idle mind is all to usual in this day and age, but I rarely notice vacuosity as cause for evil, just bad grammar… :wink:

An addled mind is the workshop of …

Was I saying something?

I also remember the phrase as "An idle mind is the devil’s playground. Does this also have such distinguished etymology as the Isaac Watts quote, or is it just another derivative?

In an episode of the “Bob Newhart Show” (1970s edition), Bob Newhart and Peter Bonerz’s characters got into a discussion over whether or not idle hands were the devil’s playground or workshop. Both were convinced that they were right.

Somehow, I don’t think there are standardized proverbs. Perhaps there should be an international commission established by the UN to standardize proverbs and other bits of folklore.