boiling frog

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From a widespread misconception describing a frog slowly being boiled alive. The premise is that if a frog is placed in boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death.



boiling frog (plural boiling frogs)

  1. (idiomatic, often attributively) A person who, or thing which, is in a gradually worsening situation without any realization of the peril until it is too late.
    Environmental pollution and the overconsumption of nonreplenishable resources is the boiling frog syndrome of the 21st century.
    • 2005, Ric Edelman, “The Greatest Discovery of the 20th Century”, in The Truth about Money, 3rd edition, Emmaus, Pa.: Rodale, Inc., →ISBN, part I (Introduction to Financial Planning), page 26:
      You can guess what the politicians said back then, too. "Don't worry," I'll bet they claimed, "tax rates will never rise!" It's the Boiling Frog Syndrome all over again.
    • 2009, Richard Boyatzis, “How and Why Individuals are Able to Develop Emotional Intelligence”, in Cary Cherniss and Daniel Goleman, editors, The Emotionally Intelligent Workplace: How to Select for, Measure, and Improve Emptional Intelligence in Individuals, Groups, and Organizations (The Jossey-Bass Business & Management Series), San Francisco, Calif.: Jossey-Bass, John Wiley & Sons, →ISBN, page 244:
      The greatest challenge to an accurate current self-image (that is, seeing yourself as others see you and in a way consistent with your other internal states, beliefs, emotions, and so forth) is the boiling frog syndrome. Several factors contribute to this syndrome. First, people around you may not let you see a change. They may not give you feedback or information about how they see it. Also, they may be victims of the boiling frog syndrome themselves, adjusting their perception daily.
    • 2010, Anne [Elizabeth] Makzulak, “Green Biotechnology”, in Sustainability: Building Eco-friendly Communities (Green Technology), New York, N.Y.: Facts On File, Infobase Publishing, →ISBN, page 39:
      The boiling frog syndrome portrays how people react to change. Dramatic sudden changes instigate resistance and even anger in many individuals. Conversely, people do well at adjusting to slow change that occurs over a long period of time.
    • 2015 July 1, Alex Konrad, “Meet Docker’s Solomon Hykes, the Godfather of Software’s Container Craze”, in Forbes[1], archived from the original on 2 July 2015:
      DotCloud was a "boiling frog." That's how [Solomon] Hykes and early investor Peter Fenton of Benchmark now describe dotCloud as it struggled in 2012. Put a frog in water and gradually heat it, the folk legend goes, and the frog won't notice that it's being cooked until it's too late.
    • 2016 May 4, Shaun Prescott, quoting Tim Sweeney, “Tim Sweeney Renews Attack on Microsoft’s UWP [Universal Windows Platform]”, in PC Gamer[2], archived from the original on 6 May 2016:
      Look at Facebook: Every company moved their brand presence to Facebook, sending out messages for their customers to receive. Now, you have to pay to send out your messages to people who chose to follow you. [You’ve become] a boiling frog.
    • 2018 May 2, Sandipan Sharma, “WHO Report on Pollution: Politicos Playing Petty Politics while People Choke, Citizens Need to Demand More”, in Firstpost[3], archived from the original on 8 May 2018:
      The World Health Organisation’s latest data on air pollution proves there are more boiling frogs in India than anywhere else. People in 14 Indian cities are breathing the world’s most toxic air. Yet, like the metaphorical frogs who boil to death slowly without being aware of the danger, they are completely oblivious to the tragic fate that awaits them.
    • 2018 June 7, John Rentoul, “The David Davis resignation crisis is over for today – but this is just the start of troubles to come”, in The Independent[4], London, archived from the original on 12 June 2018:
      Some people have described Theresa May’s approach to the hard Brexiters in her cabinet as boiling frogs: raising the temperature of the water so gradually that [David] Davis, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Liam Fox don’t realise they are being cooked.
    • 2018 August 22, Nassim Khadem; Patrick Hatch, quoting Paul Abbey, “‘Boiling frog’: Business, tax experts slam rejection of corporate cuts”, in The Sydney Morning Herald[5], Sydney, N.S.W.:
      Our attractiveness as a location for investment is diminished. Unfortunately the pain is a boiling frog, as we can never know the investment and growth opportunities we will forsake.


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