I'd like to know whether the phrase the sick man of . . . has a tone of ridicule to it in the following:

Today, Europe again looks like the sick man of the global economy.’

‘Many is the occasion that I have lauded the economy's transformation from the dire days of the 1970s, when Britain was the sick man of Europe.’

I'd appreciate your help.

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    See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sick_man_of_Europe for the phrase in general. It is difficult to make a convincing assessment of the tone of a particular usage of it without knowing the speaker/writer and the context, so perhaps you could add the source of that quote (or quotes?). Mar 25, 2020 at 1:33

1 Answer 1


Yes, there is a hint of contempt and derision. The phrase may have been first used by J. Russell in 1853 to describe the Ottoman Empire as, "the sick man of Europe". See Wikipedia on this.

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