phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Bread-and-circus show

Posted by ESC on August 05, 2003

In Reply to: Bread-and-circus show posted by Bookworm on August 05, 2003

: : Judith Shulevitz used the phrase "bread-and-circus show" in a diary entry on Slate today, and having never heard this expression before, I was wondering what its origin and meaning might be.

: : Thanks in advance for any assistance.

: From Merriam-Webster Online:

: Main Entry: bread and circuses
: Function: noun plural
: Etymology: translation of Latin panis et circenses
: Date: 1914
: : a palliative offered especially to avert potential discontent

Bread and circuses - It means distracting people with food and entertainment (bread and circuses/popcorn and movies) so they won't notice the things that are really wrong. It's kind of like distracting a baby with a bottle and a rattle. The expression comes from an ancient Roman saying. "A pallative offered especially to avert potential discontent. Public spectacles or entertainments distract the public from important issues and may alleviate discontent in the short run, but neither provides fundamental solutions. The term comes from the work of the Roman satirist Juvenal (ca. A.D. 60-140), who wrote: Duas tantum res anxius optat/Panem et circenses.(The people) long eagerly for two things/Bread and circuses." From "Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Allusions" by Elizabeth Webber and Mike Feinsilber (Merriam-Webster, Springfield, Mass., 1999).