golden rule

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golden rule (plural golden rules)

  1. (idiomatic) A fundamental rule or principle.
    • 1859 November 24, Charles Darwin, “On the Imperfection of the Geological Record”, in On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, [], London: John Murray, [], →OCLC, pages 296–297:
      It is all-important to remember that naturalists have no golden rule by which to distinguish species and varieties; []
    • 1943 March and April, T. F. Cameron, “The Preparation of Timetables”, in Railway Magazine, page 75:
      There is one golden rule of timetable work, that if a passenger train never runs to time it must be altered or other trains must be altered so that it can shake off its chronic unpunctuality.
    • 1979, Bernard Edwards, Nile Rodgers (lyrics and music), “We Are Family”, performed by Sister Sledge:
      Here's what we call our golden rule / Have faith in you and the things you do
    • 2023 August 17, Aditya Chakrabortty, “Can’t pay and they really do take it away: what happens when the bailiffs come knocking”, in The Guardian[1]:
      A new book called When Nothing Works shows which groups have enjoyed the biggest rise in take-home pay since the turn of the millennium. From Tony Blair to Boris Johnson, the authors discover one golden rule: the richer you are, the more money you’re given.
  2. (ethics) The principle that one should treat other people in the manner in which one would want to be treated by them.
    • 1818, Sir Walter Scott, chapter 2, in Rob Roy:
      "Mr. Francis seems to understand the fundamental principle of all moral accounting, the great ethic rule of three. Let A do to B, as he would have B do to him; the product will give the rule of conduct required." My father smiled at this reduction of the golden rule to arithmetical form.
  3. (law, England and Wales, idiomatic) A method of statutory interpretation, whereby a judge will deviate from a literal interpretation of the law to the extent necessary to circumvent obvious absurdities or (sometimes) conclusions repugnant to public policy.
    Coordinate terms: plain meaning rule, mischief rule


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