Posted by Frankie on January 18, 2000
In Reply to: Black & white posted by ESC on January 08, 2000
: : : : : : : It's clear that "the pot calling the kettle black" refers to criticism that could equally apply to the critic. But why is "black" a criticism in this phrase? I am specifically wondering if this is one of those nasty ethnic slurs that is left over from a time when such things were more commonly spoken, or if some other interpretation might apply. Any ideas or information? Please send an e-mail. Thanks.
: : : : : : POT CALLING THE KETTLE BLACK - The "Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins" by William and Mary Morris has more detail about this phrase than other reference books. (Note: iron pots and kettles are already black, even when new.) Judge for yourself whether the phrase has racial connotations. I guess that issue hinges on whether the color black being associated with "evil" has a connection to racial prejudice towards dark-skinned people:
: : : : : : "There are two slightly varying interpretations of this phrase, which is used figuratively to apply to persons. One theory is that such action is ridiculous because they are both black, presumably from standing for years on a wood-burning stove or in a fireplace. So the pot as well as the kettle is black (evil) and neither one is better than the other. This supports the explanation of the phrase as given in 'Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable': 'Said of one accusing another of faults similar to those committed by himself.'
: : : : : : The other theory is that the pot was black but the kettle polished copper and the pot, seeing its own blackness reflected in the shiny surface of the kettle, maintained that the kettle, not it, was actually black. In any event, it seems that the best, if slangy, retort by the kettle may have been: 'Look who's talking!'
: : : : : : Usually the source of the phrase is given as Cervantes' 'Don Quixote' and simply as 'The pot calls the kettle black,' but another version of Don Quixote comes out as: 'Said the pot to the kettle, get away black-face!' Henry Fielding, eighteenth century writer, reverses the roles in 'Covent Garden Tragedy': 'Dares thus the kettle to rebuke our sin!/Dares thus the kettle say the pot is black!' Even Shakespeare used the idea in 'Troilus and Cressida': 'The raven chides blackness.'"
: : : : : To use a technical term, I fear you're guilty of 'Churning'.>>>
: : : : An elaboration of that term would be appreciated.
: : : : And another point, can you really be posting the transcript of a conversation between a copper kettle and a pot and expecting to be considered serious.>>>
: : : : Could Cervantes?
: : : : Methinks you're still influenced by overindulgence in the the kind of festive cheer that comes from bottles marked "100% Proof" - and that's the kindest explanation I've got.>>>
: : : : Verily, methinks the wench indeed hath quaffed of our finest ale; how apple-cheeked and lusty she doth appear!
: : : I'm as black as you can get (even my brown African brothers give me the cold shoulder) so before we dredge up the words of all manner of dead white folk to justify everything please understand that it hurts at times to be visible only as a stereotype. It also doesn't help your self confidence to be the butt of any and all words and expressions featuring the word black, e.g. black balled, blackmail (male), blackguard, blackout, blackberry, blackbird (are you married to.), blacksmith and even 'the pot calling the kettle black' etc.
: : : I guess I probably over-reacted so have a great New Year and all that stuff.
: : I should like to believe that the rustle I think I hear in the echoing silence is the sound of dried leaves on the dead vine of prejudice but I have fears that it's merely Winter waiting for a Spring of luxuriant growth.
: Ms. Finley posted the original inquiry about whether the expression "pot calling the kettle black" was a racist expression. I initially gave my opinion that, no it isn't. Then I did some research, reconsidered and posted information from a reference book for the purposes of further discussion. I agree that most of the time the color "white" represents good and "black" represents evil. But it seems to me that the core of the discussion should be whether "black" being equated with "evil" comes from negative feelings about dark-skinned people or does it stem from "black" being associated with night, for example. Some of these expressions are ancient and might predate the black/white racial issue. This should be an interesting discussion. But please contain your anger and stop with the insults.
Black (meaning darkness ie: the night)has always been associated
with evil. "Afraid of the dark...." But why? Many, many reasons.
You can't see very well or very far. Therefore, a fear of the unknown
or something lurking or hiding to hurt you, you hear noises but
can't see what it is. "Being left in the dark"...(to be unaware.)
There are less people out, alot of stores are closed. Nothing grows
much in the dark and most people are sleeping--the part of day when
you are probably the most vulnerable. Night has been associated
with crazy people. The word "Lunatic" derv. from the word lunar--Latin
for "the moon" which comes out at night....heard enough...are you
afraid yet. Amazing, but did I mention ANY ethnicity. The bible
said beware of the dark man
(NOT COLOR OF SKIN) but ANYONE who is evil. Jesus said that he is the "light and the way".
The light, the color white (or yellow), the sun....all soothing and warm. "I see the light...." People PLEASE stop thinking that black used with an evil undertone means color of skin. Are you THAT stupid! Maybe YOU are the "dark" one God warned us about.