What Does A Curate’s Egg Mean?

Definition: Something that is both bad and good at the same time, or something that has both good and bad parts.

Origin of A Curate’s Egg

This expression comes from a satirical cartoon, from the year 1895. The cartoon depicts a reverend serving a meal to a curate. (A curate is the title for an assistant to a priest.)

The reverend remarks that the egg the curate received is spoiled. The curate wishes to be polite, so he says replies that the egg isn’t all bad. In fact, parts of the egg are quite good!

People found this humorous because obviously an egg that has partially spoiled is no good at all. The rotten part makes the good parts unappetizing.

Examples of A Curate’s Egg

the curates egg This example dialogue involves a husband and wife that are discussing the husband’s new job.

Jennie: You’ve had this job for a full week now. What do you think of it?

Bobby: Well, it’s a bit of a curate’s egg. There are a lot of good parts. The pay is a lot better than my old job, and I like my boss a lot.

Jennie: So what’s the bad part then?

Bobby: My co-workers are really annoying. They never stop complaining and make the workplace really depressing.

curates egg origin Two friends are out at a bar discussing the cocktails they just ordered.

Andrew: How’s your drink?

Aaron: It’s a bit of a curate’s egg, to be honest. It tastes really good for a whiskey sour. The only problem is that I actually ordered a martini.

More Examples

This excerpt is about a team in England that got one win but then failed after that.

  • Gloucester, though, once again delivered a curate’s egg performance, with their opening night victory over champions Exeter being followed by losses to Harlequins and Tigers. –ESPN

The second excerpt is about an affordable housing plan that has some good ideas, but which also has ideas that are less feasible.

  • Obviously cramming more people into a space should make houses more affordable. Unfortunately, the densification process the Auckland Council wants is a curate’s egg, good in parts, but some of it rotten. –New Zealand Herald

Summary

The idiom a curate’s egg is an expression that means something with both positive and negative attributes.

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