modest proposal

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

From Jonathan Swift's 1729 satire A Modest Proposal, which suggested cannibalism as a solution to Irish poverty.

Noun[edit]

modest proposal (plural modest proposals)

  1. A idea which is especially extreme, unorthodox or distasteful, often put forward in jest.
    • 2012, Alex Massie, Soak the Old, The Spectator
      And for all the chuntering about the "Granny Tax" it is not as though Osborne made a radical or, if you prefer, modest proposal along the lines of offering tax credits or generous allowances to the heirs of pensioners who plump for voluntary, patriotic euthanasia...
    • 2006, Rory O'Connor, A modest proposal, The Guardian
      I therefore have a modest proposal aimed at rectifying this situation: let's declare war!
    • 1981, Art Buchwald, Firing Away at a Nuclear Solution, Los Angeles Times, 1981-02-15, page 3
      "I have a modest proposal," Alabaster said. "We need two new examples to demonstrate how awesome nuclear war is, so it will sober up politicians, military men and statesmen, not only here but in the Soviet Union."
  2. Used other than as an idiom: see modest,‎ proposal.