The pot calling the kettle black
What's the meaning of the phrase 'The pot calling the kettle black'?
'The pot calling the kettle black' is a response often given when someone criticises another for a fault they also have themselves.
What's the origin of the phrase 'The pot calling the kettle black'?
This phrase originates in Cervantes' Don Quixote, or at least in Thomas Shelton's 1620 translation - Cervantes Saavedra's History of Don Quixote:
"You are like what is said that the frying-pan said to the kettle, 'Avant, black-browes'."
The first person who is recorded as using the phrase in English was William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, in his Some fruits of solitude, 1693:
"If thou hast not conquer'd thy self in that which is thy own particular Weakness, thou hast no Title to Virtue, tho' thou art free of other Men's. For a Covetous Man to inveigh against Prodigality, an Atheist against Idolatry, a Tyrant against Rebellion, or a Lyer against Forgery, and a Drunkard against Intemperance, is for the Pot to call the Kettle black."
'The pot calling the kettle black' is one of a number of proverbial sayings that guard against hypocrisy and complacency. The context of Penn's use of the expression is one which is similar to 'He who is without sin, cast the first stone'. Another is 'you can't hold with the hare and run with the hounds.
Matthew 7:5 , in the King James Version of the Bible has:
Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.
Shakespeare also expressed a similar notion in a line in Troilus and Cressida, 1606:
"The raven chides blackness."