Saturday, July 22, 2017
Pot refers to Kettle
In defense of sunshine and happiness and kittens everywhere I would like to bring to your attention a deficit in the English language. It has to do with the phrase "That's the pot calling the kettle black." There is nothing per se wrong with this pejorative burn. It can be a useful rejoinder to one who criticizes another over something that they themselves are guilty of. In my life there's a lot of pot calling the kettle black at my library job over other people not working, which is why I like to stick to complaining about people not working effectively, and strive to defend, even sometimes against my inclinations, my co-workers' chatting, Internet surfing, reading, and standing around complaining.
But that's all negative in the end. What about the sunshine and kittens version of pot calling kettle black? What does one call it when someone arrayed in a dazzling collection of antique Lalique jewelry admires your ring? What could I say if I did something amusing and Steve Martin happened to be standing nearby and said "Good one."? What if Jane Austen wrote a comment on my blog that said "That was a lovely turn of phrase." I mean, besides thanking her for coming back from the grave to tell me and everything.
Yesterday a man at the library with the most massive hair I have ever seen, piled in wild curls extending more than a foot from his head, had some business to transact with me at the front desk of the library. At the end, in parting, he said "I like your hair."
"That's the pot calling the kettle black" as a response seems not quite right, harsh and hostile for no reason. "That's the frog calling the leaf green" just seems odd, imitative, and confusing. I suppose I could have gone with "That's like John Coltrane calling me cool." But I didn't think of it at the time. So in the end I simply went with "I'm sorry. I don't accept personal comments about my appearance at the desk."