Posted by Gabriel Segal on April 11, 2007
In Reply to: Flatter to deceive posted by Gary Martin on April 11, 2007
: : : : What is rhe origin of 'flatter to deceive'? And what exactly does it mean - flatter whom to deceive whom?
: : : I would guess that the flatterer is deceiving the flatteree. Blowing smoke up his/her a**. Or pumping sunshine up his/her skirt. Like my husband bragging on my cooking to trick me into preparing all the meals.
: : Although I've made the usual superficial Internet search, I can't find an origin for this very poetic-sounding phrase. It would go very well, for instance, in a line like: 'When first they flatter to deceive.' I think the meaning is clear: if you flatter someone, they're more likely to be in a mood to believe you when you tell them a taradiddle. However, the vast majority of citations brought up by Google do not seem to be based on this meaning.
: : SS
: There does seem to be a specific meaning which isn't the literal one. The phrase is fairly common ly used in the UK and during last year's football World Cup I heard it used several times by commentators. They were talking about footballers who 'flattered to deceive' in their performance on the pitch. My guess is that they meant that a player was more skillful than at first sight he appeared to be.
: I'm confused by the phrase and suspect that the commentators were too. Football commentary often makes little sense - e.g. "If you can't stand the heat in the dressing room, get out of the kitchen".
It is some kind of idiom. No flatteree is specified grammatically. And when it is used, there is typically no flatteree obvious from the context. It is indeed used fairly in sports commentary. But it appears in other kinds of discourse to - as a google of the phrase quickly reveals. It seems to be a derogation rather than a compliment, meaning something like: appears better than it is.