The top ten: Misused fables
John Rentoul is chief political commentator for The Independent on Sunday, and visiting professor at King's College, London, and at Queen Mary University of London. Previously he was chief leader writer for The Independent. He has written a biography of Tony Blair, whom he admired more at the end of his time in office than he did at the beginning.
Sunday 29 December 2013
Every time a footballer or football manager talks about 'sour grapes', Jerry Campbell wants to shout at the television. 'Has nobody read Aesop's fables?' he asks. 'It does not just mean complaining. It means pretending the prize just lost [the grapes] was not worth winning [were sour] to avoid admitting disappointment.'
1. Sour grapes Not another way of saying "whinge".
2. Pyrrhic victory A victory won at too great a cost, not just an empty victory.
3. Midas touch It was a curse.
4. Canute He sat in the waves to show sycophantic courtiers that he could not hold back the tide. Thanks to Peter A Russell.
5. Break the mould Uniquely beautiful, not dramatic change. From The Frenzy of Orlando by Ludovico Ariosto: "Nature made him, and then broke the mould."
6. The Good Samaritan "Unless you have anti-Samaritan prejudice, it's hard to get the point," notes Colin Rosenthal.
7. The writing on the wall A hidden warning. No one but Daniel could understand this cryptic message of doom. Thanks to Omer Lev.
8. Devil's advocate Not the taker of a position for the sake of argument (that's a troll), but someone who puts the devil's claims to candidates for sainthood.
9. Frankenstein Not to be confused with his monster.
10. Meritocracy A parable set in 2033, published in 1958, by Michael Young. It was a bad thing.
Next week: Most English remarks ('I think the rain's easing')
Coming soon: Unexpected etymology ('feisty' comes from a word for fart; 'blowsy' from a beggar's female companion). Send your suggestions, and ideas for future Top 10s, to email@example.com
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 'Cheeky' Nando's under fire for apparently coming onto a customer on Twitter
- 2 Playboy model April Summers speaks out about being a victim of revenge porn
- 3 There is something wrong but very right about this Bible illustration
- 4 iPhone 'effective power' text: how to be safe from iOS bug that lets people crash your phone
- 5 Man jumps into bear pen at zoo, fights bear and loses
Jay Z's Tidal could be about to lose Beyonce's music in ultimate humiliation
Royal Academy of Arts' Tim Marlow: Bronze statue of lovers embracing at St Pancras station is a lesson in 'how not to do' public art
Britain's Hardest Grafter: Petition set up as Twitter reacts to BBC 'poverty porn' series pitting low-paid workers against each other
Britain's Got Talent 2015: Jamie Raven divides Twitter as fans expose mind-boggling magic trick
Big Brother contestant Aaron Frew removed from house for 'inappropriate behaviour' after flashing fellow contestants
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
EU referendum: David Cameron to deny EU migrants and under-18s the chance to vote