OED Appeals: "rotten apple in every barrel"

Charles Doyle cdoyle at UGA.EDU
Tue Sep 16 14:19:53 UTC 2008

Thanks for this information, Larry. I'd never heard/noticed this "negative" version of the older, more familiar proverb. It's an example of what one paremiologist (Doyle) has termed "counter-proverbs": outright, explicit rebuttals of established proverbs (not to be confused with what Wolfgang Mieder has called "anti-proverbs," which are parodies or other ironic adaptations or applications of proverbs). A counter-proverb may occur as an ad-hoc sententia, or it may enter oral tradition as itself a proverb--as has evidently occurred with "One rotten (bad) apple doesn't spoil the whole barrel (bunch)."


---- Original message ----
>Date: Tue, 16 Sep 2008 09:22:01 -0400
>From: Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
>Subject: Re: OED Appeals: "rotten apple in every barrel"

>To support the second of the two versions I mention below, there are 1530 raw g-hits for "[one] bad apple doesn't spoil..." (usual continuations "the whole bunch", "the bunch", "the barrel"), and then there are the "rotten apple" versions.  A lot more for the positive counterparts, but the negative version isn't entirely unfruitful.

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