- Fly in the ointment
The English idiom That's the fly in the ointment is used to express a drawback, especially one that was not at first apparent, e.g. : "Sam's lack of map-reading skills turned out to be the fly in the ointment when he applied for the job." A likely source is a phrase in the "
King James Bible": [ [http://www.gracecathedral.org/enrichment/brush_excerpts/brush_20051220.shtml "A Fly in the Ointment"] , commentary at website of Grace Cathedral, San Francisco] :Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour ( Ecclesiastes)
For five centuries now 'a fly in the ointment' has meant a small defect that spoils something valuable or is a source of annoyance. The modern version thus suggests that something unpleasant may come or has come to light in a proposition or condition that is almost too pleasing; that there is something wrong hidden, unexpected somewhere. This idiom has been used in the title of some books: "" and "The Fly in the Ointment" by
Alice Thomas Ellis.
* "The Fly in the Ointment: 70 Fascinating Commentaries on the Science of Everyday Life" by
Joseph A. Schwarcz, Ecw Press, May 28, 2004.
2107 Curious Word Origins, Sayings & Expressions from White Elephants to a Song and Dance" by Charles Earle Funk (Galahad Book, New York, 1993
Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997).
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