In my research I have often found that popular publications and online sources have ‘missed the mark’ in identifying the origin and or time of coining of popular phrases. This is one of these, and it isn’t in any of my books.
The online forum, ‘Phrase Finder’ claims that this cliché is likely of recent origin and according to James Rogers’ Dictionary of Clichés, 1985 is first found in print in The Shark was a Boojum (1941).
But this is much older. ‘As honest as the day’ was in use in use as early as June 6, 1895 in an article in The Hopkinsville Kentuckian newspaper, then in 1899, however, when Mrs. Anna Bryant cited it in Polly Peacemaker and Other Stories twice, the first on page 22:
“Bernie here is as honest as the day.”
It is unclear as to why a day was ‘honest,’ but it may have meant that it was certain to come. But this version was popular in publications in the late 19th century.
The very next year, 1900, the exact modern phrase appeared in The “Little Men” Play by Elizabeth Lincoln Gould, based on the book by Louisa May Alcott:
“Don’t you know Nat always said Dan was as honest as the day is long.”
Booth Tarkington also used it in 1905 when he wrote In the Arena, Stories of Political Life, three times. This is from page 104, here in quotes:
“What he liked was the phrase, ‘Honest as the day is long.’”
With all the hoopla going on today in politics and by conspiracy theorists the lines of honesty are dreadfully blurred. Remember, ‘to thine own self be true’ then it will reflect to those around you.
If you would like to know the origin of a favorite expression, text the author at 931-212-3303 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.