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Curate’s egg

A curate’s egg is an idiom that is not well-known outside of Britain. We will look at the meaning of the term curate’s egg, where the phrase comes from and some examples of its use in sentences.

A curate’s egg is something that is partly good and partly bad. A curate is a junior cleric. We are fortunate to know the exact origin of the term curate’s egg. It can be traced back to a cartoon published in Punch magazine issue November 9, 1895, drawn by George du Maurier. In the cartoon, a nervous curate is eating an egg at the bishop’s table. The bishop expresses concern that the curate has received a bad egg. The curate doesn’t wish to trouble or offend the bishop so he replies, “Oh, no, my Lord, I assure you that parts of it are excellent!” Obviously, an egg is either fresh or rotten, an egg cannot be partitioned into fresh parts and rotten parts. Originally, the term  a curate’s egg referred to something that is actually bad but declared good. Today, the meaning has changed to describe something partly good and partly bad, something that is not quite satisfactory.


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Examples

On reflection the game, which ended with a 32-30 victory for the visitors was definitely something of a “curate’s egg” from a Titan’s viewpoint – only good in parts. (The Somerset County Gazette)

You can just imagine the looks on Warner Bros executives’ faces when JK Rowling presented them with the curate’s egg that is Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. (The Guardian)

During the scrutiny meeting Councillor Marc Bayliss, the committee’s chairman, described the work of WRS overall as “a curate’s egg”. (The Evesham Journal)

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