English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

English isn’t my main language, so maybe this isn’t a tough one.

Is there a metaphor to say “he’s talking about this deed as a wrong one but he certainly does it too’?

In Spanish, you could say something like “about ears is the donkey talking”. Is there a similar phrase, in English?

share|improve this question
up vote 7 down vote accepted

A corresponding English expression is:

The pot calling the kettle black

Wikipedia has a page with equivalents in many languages.

share|improve this answer
Excelent Wiki link. – apacay Jun 28 '11 at 20:25

I think the phrase you're looking for is:

It's the pot calling the kettle black.


People in glass houses should not throw stones.

Edit to add: some people are of the mistaken impression that the former expression has a racist history. This is not true, but enough people seem to think this (although still a small number) that the latter expression might be favored.

share|improve this answer
"People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones" is more an adage warning people in precarious moral positions not to point out the moral faults of others. It's closer to the Biblical "let he who has not sinned cast the first stone", while "look who's talking" is more "why do you notice the splinter in your friend's eye, but do not notice the log in your own?" – KeithS Jun 28 '11 at 18:49
@KeithS: it is different from the former expression, but I think it also reflects this part from the question: "He's talking about this deed as a wrong one but he certainly does it too." – Ben Hocking Jun 28 '11 at 18:51

"Look who's talking" is a present-day analog of the old Latin "Tu quoque" (You too), which has other modern evolutions in present-day Romance languages ("Y tu", "et vous") which figuratively mean the same thing. It is an inductive reasoning element used to cast doubt on one's opponent in an argument or debate; The context is that the opponent is advocating that either the speaker or a third person should exude some moral quality which they do not themselves possess. The term thus implies that the other person doesn't do what they are advocating, so why should anyone else?

For example:

Dad - "Son, I'm sick and tired of you coming home at midnight smelling of booze. You should drink less and come home earlier." Mom (to Dad) - "Look who's talking! You only got here thirty minutes before him, and I smelled whisky on your breath!"

Popular synonymous adages include:

  • Listen to the pot calling the kettle black
  • Take a page from your own book
  • Practice what you preach
  • Holy Bible, Matthew 7 (NIV): "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?"
share|improve this answer
The Dad needs to get divorced and the Son needs to get the heck out of the house and get a job if he's old enough to be drinking like that. – Joe Blow Jun 28 '11 at 19:58

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.