Help: What is a Hot Potatoe?

Posted by Bob on July 16, 2003

In Reply to: Help: What is a Hot Potatoe? posted by James Haynes, Jr. on July 16, 2003

: I am searching for the meaning of "Hot Potatoe"... where did it come from, etc.. Thanks.

Hot Potato (no "e" on the end) is a children's game where an object (a ball, for instance) is passed around from person to person in a circle. The ball represents the hot potato, too hot to hold onto, and therefore must be passed along immediately. At a signal, the game ends, and the person left holding the ball loses, gets "burned" by the hot potato. This has become a metaphor for larger, difficult problems in politics and business where a particularly nasty problem is one that shouldn't be touched. An example would be finding a way to balance a government budget: raising taxes and cutting services are the only two ways to erase a deficit, and both are extremely unpopular with voters, so no sensible politician wants to touch that issue. Instead, they'll make pompous speeches about reducing "waste & fraud" and then run for cover.