(wu3 shi2 bu4 xiao4 bai3 bu4)
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
「The pot calling the kettle black」（鍋嫌水壺黑）這句話最早見於威廉‧佩恩的《孤獨的果實》（西元一六八二年出版），他在書中寫道：
佩恩這句話的說法是比較有禮貌的版本。約翰‧克拉克一六三九年出版的諺語集中所收錄的另一版本是「the pot calls the pan burnt-arse」（水壺笑鍋子的屁股燒焦），指的是鍋子因放在煤炭上烤，底部被燻黑了，同樣的情況也發生於水壺。
「The pot calling the kettle black」有另一種現代的解釋──這水壺是銅製的，且非常潔淨、光可鑑人，所以這鍋子看到的燒黑的形象其實是自己的鏡像。這種詮釋雖然讓這句話變成是一種心理投射，但仍與其現今用以形容偽善的原意相符。
(The people of both countries leave a lot to be desired, but they cannot see their own faults, they just look down on the other country.)
(You turn up 10 minutes late and have the audacity to complain about people being 30 minutes late. Pot, meet kettle. Kettle, meet pot.)
the pot calling the kettle black
The phrase “the pot calling the kettle black,” in that form, first appeared in print in Some Fruits of Solitude in Reflections and Maxims (1682) by William Penn, in which he wrote:
“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 phrase has been taken to mean criticizing others for a fault that you also possess. If both pot and kettle are black, how can the former accuse the latter for having that same quality?
Penn’s version is put a little more politely than another that appeared in a 1639 collection of proverbs by John Clarke, which says “the pot calls the pan burnt-arse,” referring to the fact that the pan has a burnt bottom from being placed on hot coals, even though the same could be said for the pot itself.
The original form, in English, of the phrase appears to come from Spanish, however, and dates to a 1620 translation by Thomas Shelton of Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote, which has the line “You are like what is said that the frying-pan said to the kettle, ‘Avant, black-browes’ [get out of there, black-eyes].”
Despite another modern interpretation of the phrase, which suggests that the kettle is, in fact, spotless copper in which the pot only sees its own reflection, therefore transforming the phrase into a case of psychological projection, the phrase is actually used in line with its original meaning of hypocrisy.
Due to its origins, the idiom is unlikely to contain any racial overtones, as some might fear.
In Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese), there is the phrase, “the tortoise laughs at the soft-shelled turtle for lacking a tail; the turtle laughs at the tortoise for its thick skin.”
In Chinese, we have 五十步笑百步.
In the King Hui of Liang I chapter of the Warring States philosophical text the Mencius, the king complains to Mencius how he spends so much more time wracking his brains about affairs of state than the rulers of other states, and yet “the people of the neighboring kingdoms do not decrease, nor do my people increase.”
Mencius believes the problem lies not in the circumstances but in the king’s habit of blaming external factors. Probably aware of the trouble a blunt answer will put him in, Mencius leads in with a military metaphor. Tellingly, given the king’s apparent failings as a ruler, he starts with, “Your majesty is fond of war: Let me take an illustration from war.”
Mencius asks the king to imagine soldiers who flee from the front line of a battle, and asks him what he would think of those who ran 50 paces deriding those who had run 100: 以五十步笑百步. The king replies, “They should not do so. Though they did not run a hundred paces, they still ran away.”
Mencius then criticizes the king for blaming famine in the state entirely on the year’s harvest. He asks how this differs from stabbing a man and killing him, and then saying, “It was not I; it was the weapon.” His meaning, of course, was that one needs to take a close look in the mirror before attributing blame elsewhere.
(Paul Cooper, Taipei Times)
At the risk of being accused of the pot calling the kettle black, can I ask you not to be late tomorrow?
Did he really accuse me of being rude? Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.
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