Feet of clay

Posted by ESC on January 03, 2005

In Reply to: Fleas in a lion posted by Jose Carlos on January 03, 2005

: Hi everyone:

: A curious expression in Portuguese: "catar pulgas num leão". Literally: to search for fleas in a lion. The usual meaning is to look for shortcomings in great personages in order to obscure their qualities. Like saying that Montaigne was homosexual, Andersen a pederast, and Shakespeare a miser. What is the closest expression in English?

: Thanks

: JC

This phrase is about flaws in a great person. Not really about looking for flaws.

FEET OF CLAY - "The phrase comes from the Old Testament (Dan.2:31-32). There the Hebrew captain Daniel interprets a dream for Nebuchadnezzar, founder of the new Babylonian Empire. Nebuchadnezzar had dreamed of a giant idol with golden head, silver arms and chest, brass thighs and body, and iron legs. Only the feet of this image, compounded of iron and potter's clay, weren't made wholly of metal. Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar that the clay feet of the figure made it vulnerable, that it prophesized the breaking apart of his empire. Over the years readers of the Bible were struck with the phrase 'feet of clay' in the story and it was used centuries ago to describe an unexpected flaw or vulnerable point in the character of a hero or any admired person." From the Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997).

Daniel 31-33 Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible. 32 This image's head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, 33 His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay.