Has anyone got a nice phrase for "dealing with people you wouldn't normally want to deal with but you do because they perform a function that you would not want to do or are not able to do"?

I have in mind the situation in the Merchant in Venice where the Venetians tolerate the Jews, even though they dislike them, because they need them as moneylenders, since Christians were officially not allowed by the Church to collect interest (this despite the fact that countless Christian countries, including Venice, had commercial banks with networks operating all over Europe by the early Renaissance).


7 Answers 7


"Necessary evil" is a common description for unpleasant people or things that one is forced to deal with.

  • That is not the true definition. Friction, for example, is referred to as a "necessary evil": While it does cause wear and tear, it also helps you to hold your cup of morning coffee.
    – P.K.
    Commented Jan 11, 2013 at 20:09
  • plain "feigning tolerance" or "feigning tolerance in times of helplessness"
    – AMN
    Commented Nov 3, 2020 at 12:19

An opportunist deals with people by the maxim the end justifies the means: he will use people or parties as a means to whatever his goals are, sometimes disregarding ethical concerns. He may form a coalition with liberals even though he is a socialist himself, if this coalition furthers his goals in some way. You might also call him a Machiavellian, though this implies an even more ruthless application of the maxim.

There is also modus vivendi: a situation in which several parties coexist more or less peacefully, not because they like each other or feel the situation is optimal, but rather because destroying the equilibrium by attacking or leaving the system would worsen their own position too much. This situation is less benign than a symbiosis, in which both parties not only profit from each other but are usually also fully committed to each other.

  • i was thinking more of a society or community rather than a single person though i appreciate i didnt make this clear at all.
    – iminei
    Commented Mar 14, 2011 at 18:34
  • @iminei: You can stil be an opportunist with regard to a community, if, e.g., you partake in Jewish festivities merely because you like the free food. If you have a specific situation in mind, you might consider adding this to your Question. Commented Mar 14, 2011 at 18:37
  • aaagh!!!!!! i am trying to explain the symbiosity??? (is that right), between the jews and venetians in the merchant of venice. where they were tolerayed because they could loan money which was as i understand it barred to venetians because of their faith, so they needed jews to function as a commercial centre but despised them for their faith etc...any clearer, any ideas?
    – iminei
    Commented Mar 14, 2011 at 18:45

Man, i know the damn thing in Hindi but a word by word translation in English would be "If need be, call an ass a Father"

  • which is pretty comic :P
    – n0nChun
    Commented Mar 14, 2011 at 18:51
  • tell me the hindi,maybe ill just put it in...and is it to do with the caste system, the untouchables and all that?
    – iminei
    Commented Mar 14, 2011 at 19:04
  • 1
    no Man, the feeling is exactly the same as expressed through your question. It has nothing to do with caste system, untouchables and BS like that. It's called "Majburi mein gadhe ko baap banana padta hai." Meaning when you need some favor, you'll even make your enemies(or people whom you don't really care about) your friends :)
    – n0nChun
    Commented Mar 14, 2011 at 19:18
  • good proverb? maybe a bit wordy for my purpose, thank you very much
    – iminei
    Commented Mar 14, 2011 at 19:25

How about "begrudging toleration"?

"Toleration" already implies that there is something negative (them being Jewish in your example) that you have to accept for whatever reason (you don't like them but the authority tells you to; you don't like them but they have something you want; &c.). Putting "begrudging" in front makes it even clearer that there is quite a negative reaction to whatever is being tolerated, so there must be a good reason for said toleration.

  • tolerate is already on my radar....but i think begrudging or grudgingly is too....balls in their (ie the jews) court and they (venetians) didnt begrudgingly anything toward the jews..they used them pure and simple. they used their services and abused them when they werent
    – iminei
    Commented Mar 14, 2011 at 19:03
  • mm true, good point. i''ll keep thinkin
    – Claudiu
    Commented Mar 14, 2011 at 19:40
  • "Begrudging" as an adjective would be just fine, I think.
    – Uticensis
    Commented Mar 15, 2011 at 7:55

I would use either the word suffer or abide as in:

  • "I suffered the camels' smell because, without them, it would be a very long and lonely journey home.".
  • "I can barely abide the people in this party, but my girlfriend would be quite upset if I left.".
  • do you not think that suffered implies the christians are the offended party? thats what comes across to me, it was the jews that suffered the restrictions and abuses,could i write it from that point of view? but then they had no choice and i think suffered in that context suggests they chose to accept the situation (for the gains received...hhmm) and they had no choice
    – iminei
    Commented Mar 15, 2011 at 7:03
  • I see. I think I understood what you wanted to be something else based on the use of 'tolerance'. I'll think a bit more on the idea of working with an unfamiliar group in a way that's emotionally detached. Commented Mar 15, 2011 at 11:25

Why not start by placing it in a sentence?

Group A [begrudgingly interacted with distaste and scorn] with Group B.

How about any of the following?

  • Group A [deigned to employ] Group B.
  • Group A [abided] or [suffered the presence of] Group B solely out of pragmatism.
  • Group A [condescended to employ] Group B.

I think there is a subtle difference between "toleration" - putting up with something, and "tolerance", which is more an attitude of mind than an action.

I'm suggesting "toleration" for the original question.

  • This answer would be improved if you expanded a bit on what your actual answer is. (E.g., are you suggesting tolerance or tolerate, and is this in contrast to what the OP is referencing?)
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented Jan 11, 2013 at 18:42

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