OED Appeals: "rotten apple in every barrel"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue Sep 16 02:27:28 UTC 2008

At 9:28 PM -0400 9/15/08, Joel S. Berson wrote:
>At 9/15/2008 06:14 PM, Mullins, Bill AMRDEC wrote:
>>there is a rotten/bad apple in every barrel:
>>antedate 1971
>>"Report of the Expose and Ethics Committee of the P.C.A.M. -- I.A.M" by
>>Hubert Brill
>>_The Linking Ring_  v 19 #8 , Oct 1939 p. 606 col 1.
>>"Unfortunately there is always one rotten apple in a barrel, which
>>brings me to the unpleasant task of describing the Walter Wanger
>>situation in regard to the current production "Eternally Yours". "
>Must it be one "in every barrel", or will the assertion suffice that
>*if* there is one in a barrel it will spoil the rest?  And do we want
>figurative, or will literal do?
I've heard the proverb both ways--one rotten apple spoils the barrel,
or one rotten apple doesn't spoil the barrel.  The version above is
neutral with respect to the influence of that aforementioned apple,
or lack thereof, on its neighbors and colleagues.


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