Thursday, January 12, 2012

Cultural Literacy Requirement: The Curate's Egg

True_humility by bigleehimself
Bishop: "I'm afraid you've got a bad egg, Mr Jones."

Curate: "Oh, no, my Lord, I assure you that parts of it are excellent!"

This cartoon, by George du Maurier, from Punch November 9, 1895 provides such a useful metaphor for the phenomenon it describes that people still use the term that it inspired 116 years after its publication. The concept is similar to "damning with faint praise" except that the praise is not faint but is instead enthusiastic but excessively specific and often insincere.

Calling something a "curate's egg" (or a "parson's egg") is generally to be critical of it while, at the same time, suggesting that other, more positive descriptions were references to aspects deliberately selected in a polite effort to "say something nice."


Calvin Powers said...
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Calvin Powers said...

Oh come on, I know you could described this in at least 3000 words. :-)

But thanks for sharing. A useful rhetorical tool which I was not aware of before.