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The exception that proves the rule

  • The exception that proves the rule is a proverb that is often quoted, but many find confusing. A proverb is a short, common saying or phrase that particularly gives advice or shares a universal truth. We will examine the true meaning of the phrase the exception that proves the rule, its ancient origin, and some examples of its use in sentences.

    The proverb the exception that proves the rule is often used to justify something that seems to contradict a rule. However, the term the exception that proves the rule actually means this exception, under these parameters, proves that the rule works in all other circumstances. In this case, the word proves is used in a semi-scientific sense to mean test. For instance, if a sign at a bakery states “Doughnuts available Sunday morning”, this is the exception that proves the rule that doughnuts are not available at the bakery at any other time. The term the exception that proves the rule is derived from a Latin phrase first used by Cicero, exceptio probat regulam in casibus non exceptis, which means the exception confirms the rule in cases not excepted.

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    Examples

    In fact, where football codes have been wracked by behavioural and ethical crises, Steve O’Keefe has become the exception that proves the rule of cricketers’ squeaky-cleanliness. (The Australian)

    In the exception that proves the rule, when the bank’s CEO stepped down from the company last year as the uproar about its aggressive sales tactics echoed in Capitol Hill, the bank said he would receive no severance pay. (The Sarasota Herald-Tribune)

    This may suggest to some that it is hard to generalize about Harvard’s students, though McDonald isn’t stopped: He sees Gerald as one of a handful of “outliers,” the exception that proves the rule that most graduates are morally detached, single-minded fortune seekers. (The New York Times)

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