The pot calling the kettle black

The pot calling the kettle black is an idiom with an odd syntax. 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, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, chine up, ankle biter, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, 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 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.


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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