Wednesday, 6 February 2013


Better late than never as they say. I'm sure you were onto it years ago, after all it started in 1989,  but me, I've just caught up with it. I refer to the daily cartoon strip 'Dilbert'

In case you have missed it, it deals with the bizarre goings on within the corporate culture of the office. It is utterly brilliant in the way it captures this and should be required reading by office employees and more importantly by their bosses.

Nothing quite defines the human race like our sense of humour and cartoons are a vital part of this. So much so that classic cartoons can have such a powerful effect that they influence our language.

The phrase 'A curate's egg' is often used in the context of  a review or critique and has the meaning that some parts of the work are good and some are bad. This is not the original meaning.

The origin of the phrase was a cartoon published in 'Punch' on 9th November 1895. Entitled "True Humility", it pictures a nervous-looking curate taking breakfast in his Bishop's house. The bishop points out "I'm afraid you've got a bad egg, Mr Jones." Desperate not to offend his eminent host and  employer the curate replies: "Oh, no, my Lord, I assure you that parts of it are excellent!"

Clearly a self-contained egg cannot be both partially bad and partially good. To pretend to find elements of freshness in a bad egg is thus a desperate attempt to find good in something which is irredeemably bad. The humour is derived from the fact that, given the social situation, the timid curate is so terrified of giving offence that he cannot admit that his superior has served a bad egg, and thereby ends up looking absurd himself by exposing his brown-nosing.

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