Did someone use the phrase 'the pot calling the kettle black,' and you’re wondering what it means? In this article, we’ll take a look at the meaning, origin, examples, and more.
The idiom 'the pot calling the kettle black' is an old phrase that is used to point out hypocrisy or psychological projection. It means that a person is accusing another person of a behavior or fault that they themselves are guilty of.
'The pot calling the kettle black' is an idiom that is used to point out another person's hypocrisy when they accuse or criticize someone else for a behavior or flaw that the accuser themselves possesses.
The use of this phrase intends to deflect or discredit a claim of wrongdoing by accusing the person that originated the claim of similar flaws or behavior.
At first glance, this seems like a very strange idiom. What would it mean for the pot to call the kettle black?
We'll explore the more often cited phrase first.
Some sources say that this idiom is of Spanish origin due to its appearance in Don Quixote. The first appearance of 'the pot calling the kettle black' in English showed up in the first half of the 1600s.
The first time this phrase shows up in print is in the famous 1620 Spanish novel Don Quixote. In the story, the protagonist is getting increasingly restless due to his servant, Sancho Panza, criticizing him.
The Spanish text reads:
Dijo el sartén a la caldera, Quítate allá ojinegra
(Said the pan to the pot, get out of there black-eyes).
In John Clarke's 1632 collection of proverbs recorded soon after Don Quixote, it notes the phrase "the pot calls the pan burnt-arse."
We find another example from the 1692 collection by William Penn, Some Fruits of Solitude in Reflections and Maxims:
"If thou hast not conquer'd thy self in that which is thy own particular Weakness, thou hast no Title to Virtue, tho' thou art free of other Men's. For a Covetous Man to inveigh against Prodigality, an Atheist against Idolatry, a Tyrant against Rebellion, or a Lyer against Forgery, and a Drunkard against Intemperance, is for the Pot to call the Kettle black."
For one more example, let's look at an anonymous poem that was published in St. Nicholas Magazine in 1876:
"Oho!" said the pot to the kettle;
"You are dirty and ugly and black!
Sure no one would think you were metal,
Except when you're given a crack."
"Not so! not so!" kettle said to the pot;
"'Tis your own dirty image you see;
For I am so clean – without blemish or blot –
That your blackness is mirrored in me."
There are a number of other phrases that stem from antiquity that have similar themes that are worth exploring:
How would 'the pot calling the kettle black' be used in a sentence?
Let’s take a look at some examples:
What are some other words and phrases that are used to point out people's hypocrisy?
Here are some options:
'The pot calling the kettle black' is an old idiom that is used to point out a person's hypocrisy or psychological projection. In philosophy, this type of argument is known as a tu quoque logical fallacy because it is used to deflect or discredit an accusation of wrongdoing by pointing the same criticism back at the accuser.
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