In a (not so?) recent episode of the most excellent QI, Mr Fry talked about a word which meant liking a part of something although not liking (detesting?) the whole entity; e.g. liking the martial music of Hitlers Germany but detesting the Nazi regime in its entirety.

Anyone know what the word is I am am looking for?

I have been searching the internet for some considerable time trying to get the answer but without success.

Grateful if someone can help.

  • 2
    I can only think of the phrase "curate's egg" which is a phrase not a word. Commented Feb 8, 2013 at 19:49
  • 3
    @donothingsuccessfully: That's an excellent candidate that I believe would make a better answer than comment.
    – J.R.
    Commented Feb 8, 2013 at 20:03
  • Ambiguous? As in ambiguous feelings?
    – terdon
    Commented Feb 8, 2013 at 21:15
  • possible duplicate of Word for feeling conflicting emotions simultaneously. You're ambivalent, you have mixed feelings. Commented Feb 8, 2013 at 21:33
  • I think it is distinguishable from the earlier question which focused on ambivalence about one thing as opposed to distecting a thing into affectively conflicted parts.
    – bib
    Commented Feb 8, 2013 at 23:19

2 Answers 2


From what I know of Stephen Fry, it’s quite possible that, as donothingsuccessfully suggests, the phrase was curate's egg, from “True Humility”, a famous 1895 Punch cartoon by George DuMaurier:

True Humility

Bishop: “I’m afraid you've got a bad egg, Mr Jones”; Curate: “Oh, no, my Lord, I assure you that parts of it are excellent!”

The phrase denotes an effort to find some redeeming feature in something hopelessly bad.


The term cherry-pick may come close, even if it is not dead-on

1 [with object] selectively choose (the most beneficial items) from what is available: the company should buy the whole airline and not just cherry-pick its best assets

This generally refers to selecting what is choice from among the dross. There is not necessarily a suggestion of detesting the remainder, just not thinking it is worthwhile.

It is more often used in connection with acquisition, but could be used with ideological selection, as in

He didn't buy into Buddhism, he just cherry-picked the feelgood parts.

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