Hold a candle

Posted by Alexander Clement on January 16, 2004

Okay, I know this expression has been discussed ad infinitum but I thought I might add something to the mix. I always understood this phrase to be associated with the plastering trade. "Huh?" I hear you cry. When plastering a wall the idea is to get the smoothest, flattest surface possible and the best way of telling just how good a job you've done is to hold a candle to it. It's by far the best source of light to show up any unsightly bumps. A blemish free wall is one you'd be proud to hold a candle to. A bad job you wouldn't. Thus if someone 'can't hold a candle' to someone else, they are far the poorer in comparison.