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The pot calling the kettle black is a well accepted idiom in English, and has many equivalents in other languages.

But there are some occasions when this phrase is not quite appropriate. When one uses this idiom, it seems that one is acknowledging that the transgression is equally applicable to both parties being referenced.

What if the accuser (i.e., pot) is known to be guilty of a perceived transgression, but the target (kettle) is unjustly accused? Is there another appropriate idiom that captures the essence of the situation?

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Well, idioms are received differently by different people, but for me, PCTKB is more about "you don't get to have an opinion about rudeness or lateness or whatever you're complaining about, because you're the epitome of that". Whether the kettle really is transgressing isn't super relevant, though I suppose you could use a stronger retort like "Am not!" if you weren't transgressing. –  Kate Gregory Oct 15 '11 at 0:11
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Duplicate? english.stackexchange.com/q/40462/11762 –  Jim Oct 15 '11 at 2:16

3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Attributing one's own faults to others could be considered projection.

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The subject here is the pot, not the kettle.

This expression is used to declare that an accuser (the pot) is not innocent themselves, and is essentially being a hypocrite. The actual colour of the kettle is secondary, but it's assumed to be guilty too.

A common expression that accuses hypocrisy without calling other parties into question is:

People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

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I don't know of such an idiom, and imagine that you'd need to provide far more detail about the relationship in question for a relevant idiom to be dredged up.

The previously-suggested projection bias term seems to not mesh well with the notion of a transgressor accusing a party known to be innocent. In common Usenet parlance, when some delusional person accuses sane people of one bad habit or another, that is called 'projection', whether accurately or not I cannot say.

A transgressor who knows the other party is innocent probably cannot be said to be rationalizing, over-generalizing, misconceiving, etc. but perhaps can be said to be blame-shifting or demonizing.

If a third party called two other parties (one guilty, one not) transgressors, that would be called "tarring with the same brush" or "tarring with a broad brush".

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