curate's egg

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From a cartoon by the Franco-British cartoonist and author George Du Maurier (1834–1896) captioned “True Humility” in the 9 November 1895 issue of Punch magazine,[1] in which a bishop says to his mealtime guest, a curate, “I’m afraid you’ve got a bad egg, Mr. Jones!” The timid curate replies, “Oh no, my Lord, I assure you! Parts of it are excellent!”



curate's egg (plural curates' eggs)

  1. (idiomatic) A thing which has good and bad parts, but is overall spoilt by the bad.
    • 1902 March 1, “Modern Obstetrics, General and Operative. By W[illiam] A[lexander] Newman Dorland, A.M., M.D.; Assistant Demonstrator of Obstetrics, University of Pennsylvania; Assistant Obstetrician to the University Hospital, &c. Second Edition, Revised and Enlarged. With 201 Illustrations. London and Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders and Co. 1901. 8vo. Pp. 797. [book review]”, in John W[illia]m Moore, editor, The Dublin Journal of Medical Science, volume CXIII, number 363 (Third Series), Dublin: Fannin & Company, Ltd., []; London: Simpkin, Marshall & Co. [et al.], OCLC 682564883, page 193:
      We cannot say we are uniformly favourably impressed with such portions of the work as we have read. The work strikes us as being rather unequal. Like the curate's egg, parts of it are excellent, but parts provide bad material for assimilation.
    • 1915 August, J. E. Patterson, “Sailormen All”, in The Bookman, volume XLVIII, number 287, London: Hodder and Stoughton [], OCLC 781608980, page 150, column 2:
      But what does he give us? A mess of pottage—or a curate's egg, if you prefer that—where fine, descriptive passages in good English, and showing a sensitive nature that appreciates beauty, go cheek by jowl with bad grammar, and casual intimacies such as one would look for in the personal story of a Simplicissimus.
    • 1936 April 6, [Keith Jacka] Holyoake, “Reserve Bank of New Zealand Amendment Bill”, in New Zealand. Parliamentary Debates. First Session, Twenty-fifth Parliament. [] (House of Representatives), volume 244, Wellington: G. H. Loney, government printer, OCLC 191255532, page 242, column 1:
      Like the fabled "curate's egg," it may be good in parts. I agree with the last speaker in regard to the State having control of the appointmentof the directors, but I also endorse his objections to some other powers that are given under the Bill.
    • 1992, G[ordon] Pask; G[erard] de Zeeuw, “A Succinct Summary of Novel Theories”, in Robert Trappl, editor, Cybernetics and Systems Research ’92: Proceedings of the Eleventh European Meeting on Cybernetics and Systems Research, Organized by the Austrian Society for Cybernetic Studies, Held at the University of Vienna, Austria, 21–24 April 1992, volume 1, Singapore: World Scientific Publishing, →ISBN, section 6 (Essential Kinesis), page 670:
      The neat and tidy temporal ordering is, like the curate's egg, good in parts, but only in some parts. Neither of us vaunts much competence in the egg world, but it must have been rotten, the curate's egg.
    • 1994, David J. Lee, “Preface”, in Bridge Bearings and Expansion Joints, 2nd edition, Abingdon, Oxfordshire; New York, N.Y.: Taylor & Francis, published 2009, →ISBN, column 2:
      [W]orks of art are not like curates' eggs, only good in parts. Nothing inspires the engineer or layman alike more than a daring bridge design, but what makes a really good bridge is how the structure manages to integrate all the demanding and conflicting requirements over a period of time and still give artistic satisfaction.
    • 2003, Chris Hackley, “‘Writing Up’ the Research Project”, in Doing Research Projects in Marketing, Management and Consumer Research, London; New York, N.Y.: Routledge, published 2004, →ISBN, page 64:
      The comparison of models and theories needs to be qualitative and specific. Theories, like curates' eggs, can be good in parts.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ [George Du Maurier] (9 November 1895) , “True Humility”, in Punch, or The London Charivari, volume CIX, London: Published at the office, 85, Fleet Street, [] [Bradbury, Agnew, & Co. Ld., printers], OCLC 732224722, page 222.

Further reading[edit]