Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

In the movie Camelot, Lancelot told Guenevere that "your face has a luster, that puts gold to shame."

What does "put to shame" mean in this context?

share|improve this question
add comment

2 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

"X puts Y to shame" means "X is so good at something that Y, while normally good at that thing, looks terrible in comparison."

Gold is something with a lot of luster, but Lancelot is telling Guenevere that her face has much, much more luster than Gold -- not literally, of course. This is an example of hyperbole.

"X puts Y to shame" can also be used without hyperbole. If a famous runner is outrun by an untrained amateur, it could be said that the amateur put the runner to shame. Quite literally, he caused the runner to be ashamed by failing to be better.

share|improve this answer
add comment

In this context, the sentence means that "the luster of your face is so much more than gold".

'Put to shame' means 'embarrass'. In this particular sentence, the luster of your face is so much that, it would embarrass gold.

Some other uses are:

The veteran athlete put to shame many of his younger compatriots by his speed.

and

The fresh graduates were put to shame by the work done by the experienced developer.
share|improve this answer
    
Huh, that's funny that we both used a runner as an example. –  Alan Jul 15 '11 at 19:46
    
great minds... and such :) –  rest_day Jul 15 '11 at 19:47
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

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.