I heard an expression in an episode of White Collar where a girl says to the butler:

- "Seems we have a pot-kettle situation..."

I have but vague speculations on what that could be based on the context, but since I'm not at all familiar with the expression, I'd like to have it explained explicitly. What does it mean?

  • Since you didn't provide any context, there is no telling what it might mean, other than the obvious metaphor. – Jim Apr 4 '14 at 20:02
  • @Jim I just re-watched the part and I realize that it was me who missed that the spoken to party also was snooping. The buttler wasn't buttlering (which I originally thought). He was pretending to while spying. My bad. :) – Konrad Viltersten Apr 4 '14 at 20:05

The usual wording of this idiom is "the pot calling the kettle black". The idea is that the pot is black itself, so it is not in the position of being able to accuse the kettle of being black. A very similar idiom you will probably be familiar with is "he who lives in a glass house shouldn't throw stones [at others]", or any variations thereof. Wikipedia has more similar idioms still.

The pot-kettle situation is a shorthand to refer to that idiom. It is not a common shorthand, so you won't find it in a dictionary. It is just a hint by this particular author at the actual idiom.

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  • 4
    In other words, it's a euphemism for hypocrisy. – Emmet Apr 4 '14 at 20:23
  • Well written answer. – Corvus B Feb 21 '16 at 2:54

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