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The French idiom “mi figue, mi raisin” (literally: “half fig, half grape”) refers to someone or something that is neither entirely good, nor entirely bad. I guess the meaning of the expression can be rather well conveyed by translating it as “neither good nor bad”, “not entirely good or bad”, or “part good, part bad”, but… is there a common English idiom that express this idea?

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If I may just add a precision to include a possible origin of this expression. The story goes (here is one source in English) that Venetian merchants were occasionally cheated by Greek dried fruit dealers. Consignments of dried grapes ("raisins de Corynthe") could also contain figs, a less prized commodity. Which might suggest that a possible translation could include the phrase mixed bag (in addition to lukewarm as proposed in the source cited above, in a different context). –  Alain Pannetier Φ Sep 11 '11 at 20:54

4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

A couple of rather-peripherally-related idioms are neither fish nor fowl and "some of this, some of that", neither of which is as close as Martin Beckett's Curate's egg suggestion, but both of which seem more related than phrases like "six of one, half a dozen of the other".

The idiom "mixed bag" meaning #3, "something tending to have both good and bad results or characteristics; something having a mixture of advantages and disadvantages" seems a good suggestion.

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Very close to mixed bag is mixed blessing. –  D Krueger Sep 12 '11 at 1:24
+1 because this was my instict. However, that more says that something isn't easily catagorized, not anything about it being good or bad. @D Krueger's mixed blessing is probably closest to that. –  T.E.D. Sep 12 '11 at 17:52

A somewhat similar idiom is double-edged sword

Currently defined in wiktionary:

(idiomatic) A benefit that is also a liability, or that carries some significant but non-obvious cost or risk.

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As a frog, I can't imagine swapping ”mi-figue, mi-raisin” (ambiguity) with “à double tranchant” (two opposite effects). –  Stéphane Gimenez Sep 14 '11 at 22:36

Curate's egg is probably the closest thing in English - but it's bit old fashioned now. Nobody (except EL&U readers naturally) would know what you meant.

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Except that, if I understand correctly, a curate's egg is entirely spoilt by nature, while “mi figue, mi raisin” is a truly neutral expression… –  F'x Sep 11 '11 at 21:32
@Fx, it's more a literal egg. The idea is claiming that a rotten egg is still good in places. –  mgb Sep 11 '11 at 22:59

"Mixed bag" is when the item has aspects some good some bad. If it has one aspect in the mushy middle between good and bad you can call it "so-so".

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