The phrase "The pot calling the kettle black" is an idiom used to accuse a person or thing of being marked with or guilty of the very thing they are pointing out; in this interpretation, it is shown that there is something shared. This may, or may not be hypocritical or contradictory. There is also an alternative interpretation.
The actual idiom is "The Pot Bottom Calling The Kettle Bottom Black". A subtler alternative interpretation is that the pot is sooty (being placed on a fire), while the kettle is clean and shiny (being placed on coals only), and hence when the pot accuses the kettle of being black, it is the pot’s own sooty reflection that it sees: the pot accuses the kettle of a fault that only the pot has, rather than one that they share.
Poem found in "Maxwell's Elementary Grammar" school book copyright 1904.
"Oho!' said the pot to the kettle; "You are dirty and ugly and black! Sure no one would think you were metal, Except when you're given a crack."
"Not so! not so! kettle said to the pot; "'Tis your own dirty image you see; For I am so clean -without blemish or blot- That your blackness is mirrored in me"
- In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is quoted as saying, during the discourse on judgmentalism in the Sermon on the Mount, "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?" Many scholars have interpreted this as a proscription against personal attacks in general, not just particulars.
- An aphorism sometimes attributed to George Herbert states, "People who live in glass houses should not throw stones".
Similar idioms in other languages
- Arabic: "The camel cannot see the crookedness of its own neck"
- Bangla: চালুনি কয় সুঁইরে, "তোর পিছনে ফুঁটো" ("Mesh sieve tells the needle", "You have a hole in your back")
- Bulgarian: Присмял се хърбел на щърбел. ("Nick laughed at dent")
- Chinese: "五十步笑百步", "乌鸦笑猪黑" ("The soldier that has fled 50 steps mocks the one that has fled 100 steps."), ("Crow laughing at the pig for being black")
- Croatian: Rugao se lonac loncu, a oba crna. ("Pot mocked another pot, and they were both black")
- Czech: Konvice nazývá kotlík černým. Hrnec hrnci káže, oba černí jako saze - Čelakovský
- Dutch: De pot verwijt de ketel dat hij zwart ziet ("The pot reproaches the kettle for looking black")
- Estonian: Pada sõimab katelt - ühed mustad mõlemad ("The pot reproaches the kettle - yet both of them are black")
- Finnish: Pata kattilaa soimaa ("The pot reproaches the kettle")
- French: L'hôpital qui se fout de la charité ("The hospital mocks the charity"), La pelle se moque du fourgon ("The shovel mocks the poker"),
- German: Ein Esel nennt den andern Langohr. ("One donkey chides the other for being a long-ear")
- Greek: Είπε ο γάιδαρος τον πετεινό κεφάλα ("The donkey called the rooster a fathead")
- Hebrew: הפוסל במומו פוסל ("The disqualifier disqualifies based on his own fault")
- Hungarian: Bagoly mondja verébnek, hogy nagyfejű ("The owl tells the sparrow that it has a big head")
- Italian: Il bue che dice cornuto all'asino or Il bue che dà del cornuto all'asino ("The ox labelling the donkey cornute")
- Japanese: "目糞鼻糞を笑う" ("For the sleep in one's eyes to laugh at the snot in one's nose")
- Korean: "똥 묻은 개가 겨 묻은 개 나무란다" ("The dung-stained dog reproaches the chaff-stained dog.") or "겨 묻은 개가 똥 묻은 개를 흉본다" ("The chaff-stained dog disparages the dung-stained dog.")
- Lithuanian: "Juokiasi puodas, kad katilas juodas" ("The pot is calling the cauldron black")
- Macedonian: Магарето на эајакот му рекло ушло ("The donkey is calling the rabbit long-eared")
- Norwegian: Å kaste sten i glasshus ("To throw stones in a glass house")
- Persian: دیگ به دیگ میگه روت سیاه ("The pot tells the other pot your face is black")
- Polish: Przyganiał kocioł garnkowi, a sam smoli ("The cauldron was reprimanding the pot and it soots itself"), often contracted to Przyganiał kocioł garnkowi ("The cauldron was reprimanding the pot")
- Portuguese: O sujo falando do mal-lavado ("The dirty slandering the unclean [as being unclean]") / Diz o roto ao nu ("One with torn clothes mocks the naked" / Olha quem fala ("Look who is talking")
- Punjabi: ਆਪ ਕਿਸੇ ਜਹੀ ਨਾ, ਨਕ ਚੜਾਨੋ ਰਹੀ ਨਾ ("You are yourself good for nothing, and still trying to ridicule others")
- Romanian: Râde ciob de oală spartă ("The shard laughs at the broken pot")
- Russian: В чужом глазу соломину видеть, в своём—бревна не замечать ("To see a little straw in other's eye, and not to notice a log in his own")
- Spanish: Apártate que me tiznas, dijo la sartén al cazo ("Move away, you are blackening me, said the pan to the pot") El burro hablando de orejas ("The donkey talking about ears"), México: El comal le dijo a la olla, qué tiznada estás ("The grill said to the pot, look how blackened you are"), Venezuela: Cachicamo diciéndole a morrocoy conchúo ("An armadillo telling a turtle it is too hard shelled"), Colombia: El que tiene rabo de paja, que no se arrime a la candela ("if you have a tail made of straw, you'd better stay away from the fire").
- Template:Lang-th (wâa dtàe kăo ì-năo bpen eng) ("As for Enau, he is the same") Look up อิเหนา
- Turkish: Tencere dibin kara, seninki benden kara ("Pot, your bottom's black; no, yours is blacker than mine")
- Uzbek: Ishtoni yoʻq ishtoni yirtiqdan kulgan ekan ("A man without pants laughed at man with holey pants")
- Welsh: Sbia adra ("Look at home")
Uses in literature
- Miguel de Cervantes in Don Quixote — "said the frying-pan to the kettle, get away, blackbreech"
- Henry Fielding in Covent Garden Journal — "Dares thus the kettle to rebuke our sin!/Dares thus the kettle say the pot is black!"
- William Penn in Some fruits of Solitude - "For a Covetous Man to inveigh against Prodigality... is for the Pot to call the Kettle black."
- Margaret Mitchell in Gone with the Wind — "The pot's calling the kettle black."
in law / juristic context:
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