Sour grapes

Sour grapes is an idiom with ancient roots. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions such as beat around the bush, ballpark figure, let the cat out of the bag, hit the sack, Achilles heel, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, a dime a dozen, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. We will examine the meaning of the expression sour grapes, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

Sour grapes describes the act of belittling something that you can not have, to make disparaging comments concerning an item that you can not afford or a job position that has been denied you, etc. Someone who makes remarks about something that are interpreted as sour grapes actually desires that thing, and downplays its importance because he can not have it. There are no exact synonyms for the term sour grapes that may be found in a thesaurus, but some words that explain the feeling behind sour grapes are disparage, bad-mouth, and resent. The idiom sour grapes is taken from an Aesop Fable called The Fox and the Grapes. In the story, a bunch of grapes hangs from a vine, just out of the fox’ s reach. The fox tries all manner of maneuvers in order to obtain the grapes, but he fails. The fox walks away muttering, “I am sure they are sour.” The moral of the fable is: “It is easy to despise what you can not get.” While the term sour grapes is derived from this fable, the idiom did not come into popular use until the mid-1700s.


In an interview with The News Thursday morning, Sidhu had dismissed Wednesday’s explosive testimony by Jody Wilson-Raybould as “sour grapes,” and said her discomfort with what she described as political interference in a legal decision was the result of a lack of experience. (The Abbotsford News)

With radiant joie de vivre, she speaks of her life past and present, laughs airily at the “sour grapes” remarks of her colleagues, and owns up to her accent with disarming candour. (Vogue India)

Democratic Party of New Mexico chair Marg Elliston said Sunday that former New Mexico Gov. Jerry Apodaca’s endorsement of Pearce is “sour grapes” on the part of Jeff Apodaca being defeated by Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham in the Democratic primary. (U.S. News & World Report)

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