Reading this article, there is a saying,

Andrew Stuttaford
Sat, May 1, 2021, 11:29 PM
The devil is in the details, and while, when it comes to the Biden tax plan, Old Nick is not just lurking in the small print, one particular technical-sounding change proposed by the president is rightly attracting some attention: that is the plan to scrap the long-standing principle that if someone inherits an asset, his or her basis cost in that asset for capital-gains-tax purposes is not the price that the deceased may have paid for it (or its value when it came into the deceased’s ownership) but its market value at the time of the deceased’s death, a “break” that can be justified on grounds of basic fairness. That’s the case for various reasons, but one of the most obvious is that estate tax may well, in the case of the wealthiest, also be payable on what is left after the capital-gains tax has been paid.

Since the metaphor is not a bit clear, after ignoring the line and kept reading the rest of the article, it seems Biden is trying to "further-levy-estate-tax" on the inheritance of the wealthies after the wealthies paid the capital gain. (If I read properly).

So is the metaphor saying "Old Nick" is hiding in the memos or notes of Biden, attracted by his new tax plan(smelling further agony of wealthies)?


2 Answers 2


"Old Nick" is a synonym for "the devil".

In this case, it has little to do with the rest of the article. The first line uses the idiom "the devil is in the details", which means: in general, to see the problems with a suggestion, you need to look closely at the specifics. So the line "old Nick is not just lurking in the small print" is implying that in this case, the devil (ie, the perceived problems with the plan) is not only in the details, but also in the bigger picture.

  • Got it! Thanks! I never thought "the devil is in the details" is an idiom. Much appreciation(m_m).
    – Kentaro
    Commented May 2, 2021 at 9:27
  • Are you sure you want to keep this question floating in the wonderland of the HNQ(Hot Network Question). I don't have any slightest idea why this question has beem remaining at the top part of HNQ. I have had enough food already in my stomach.
    – Kentaro
    Commented May 3, 2021 at 9:49
  • I assume it's because of edit wars! @void tidied up my formatting, then I tweaked a single punctuation mark that was left over after the edit. I think, however, that we are now done, and it can slip into blissful obscurity. Commented May 3, 2021 at 10:10
  • 1
    Huh got it. But in another words, this is a zombie ship whose owner(the OP) is completely outta control but the passenger in the first class cabin (the accepted answer) is vividly active. ^^.
    – Kentaro
    Commented May 3, 2021 at 10:16

In the West, Old Nick is a religious reference to the devil in Christianity.

watercolor painting of the Devil by George File.

GEORGE FILE, Old Nick, the Devil, c. 1937

Small print is text printed smaller, usually in order to lessen its importance (which is often quite valuable) and readability, to trick the reader, and in the hope it won't be noticed.

picketer holding a sign with large printed message with small printed text at the bottom.

A harmless small (fine) print disclaimer

The sentence alludes to a more common idiom "The devil is in the detail" which basically means details are important and one has to pay attention to them.

  • 3
    Since the resolution of that picture of the sign makes the small print unreadable, the text there is "Prepared and paid for by the Republican Party of Minnesota, [address omitted]. This is an independent expenditure not approved by any candidate nor did any candidate approve of it."
    – nick012000
    Commented May 3, 2021 at 6:30

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