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Curate's Egg

Posted by John Levy on April 03, 2003

The actual origin of the phrase is a 19th century cartoon.

"Let us now turn to the humorous British magazine Punch for 9 November 1895, which featured a cartoon drawn by George du Maurier. This showed a timid curate having breakfast in his bishop's home. The bishop is saying "I'm afraid you've got a bad egg, Mr Jones", to which the curate replies, in a desperate attempt not to give offence: "Oh, no, my Lord, I assure you that parts of it are excellent!".

Readers liked this exchange so much that the cartoon led to the catchphrases "parts of it are excellent", and "good in parts", which are recorded from the beginning of the twentieth century. The phrase curate's egg itself means something that is partly good and partly bad and so not wholly satisfactory: "this book is a bit of a curate's egg"."