Curate's egg  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
The expression "a curate's egg" originally meant something that is partly good and partly bad, but as a result is entirely spoilt. Modern usage has tended to change this to mean something having a mix of good and bad qualities; an example in conversation would be, "Ah Tisshaw, how was your honeymoon?" "Something of a curate's egg, I'm afraid; the hotel was top-notch, but the sex was awful."

The phrase derives from a cartoon in the humorous British magazine Punch on 9 November 1895. Drawn by George du Maurier and entitled "True Humility", it pictured a timid-looking curate (a low-ranking church minister) taking breakfast in his bishop's house.

The bishop says "I'm afraid you've got a bad egg, Mr Jones". Apparently trying to avoid offence or curry favor, the curate replies, "Oh, no, my Lord, I assure you that parts of it are excellent!"

The original sense of the expression referred to an objective understanding of the scenario depicted: since an egg that is even partly "bad" is effectively inedible, the supposedly "excellent" parts do not redeem it (the curate's flattering objection notwithstanding). The more modern sense of the expression reflects the point of view the curate is trying (however insincerely) to argue: that the "excellent" parts compensate enough for the "bad" parts to render complaints – or at least declaring something a total loss – inappropriate.



Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Curate's egg" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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