The pot calling the kettle black

The pot calling the kettle black is an idiom with an odd syntax. We will examine the meaning of the idiom the pot calling the kettle black, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

The pot calling the kettle black is a comment on the fact that someone is criticizing the faults they find in an adversary, though they harbor those same faults. For instance, a jewelry thief who accuses his neighbor of stealing his apples is an instance of the pot calling the kettle black. The neighbor may well have stolen the apples, but it is somewhat hypocritical for the jewelry thief to be concerned about the morality of theft. The earliest example of the idiom the pot calling the kettle black is found in a 1620 translation of the novel Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra: “You are like what is said that the frying-pan said to the kettle, ‘Avant, black-browes’.” The terms seems to have been popular in the 1600s. The idea is that both the pot and the kettle are made of black cast iron. There is no difference between them, and one is not superior to the other.

Examples

So, when you’re driving through the congested main thoroughfares of our towns this summer and feel compelled to scream out “jaywalker—simpleton!” when you witness a doltish pedestrian act, remember the offensive jeer was originally “jaydriver” and consider you just might be the pot calling the kettle black. (The Cape Cod Chronicle)

Lance Gatling, a security analyst and founder of Tokyo-based Nexial Research Inc., said the North Korean accusations are “probably the worst example of the pot calling the kettle black that I have ever heard.” (The Telegraph)

To many analysts though, it could have seemed like the pot calling the kettle black.  (The Inter Press Service)

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