I’ve been working pretty hard of late, trying to deliver a site to test with the network (which is now done, and we’re waiting for feedback – nervously), and I said to someone that I’d been “burning the candle at both ends”. He looked happy for me, and asked me about what wild stuff I’d been up to.
That’s when I found out that the definition I’d been working with is something I invented; I’d always thought it mean you’d had to use candles – or the modern equivalent electric light – at each end of the day.
My friend was using the modern meaning of living at a hectic pace – and assuming I still had a life outside work.
The original meaning is different again. Candles were valuable and burning them at both ends was wasteful, you would have to hold the candle horizontally and it would burn faster. The wasteful meaning was so strong that it was applied to couples when both the husband and wife were spendthrifts.
Well I’ve been too busy to spend any money, so that’s definitely not the meaning I had in mind.