What meaning would you ascribe to: "to spy a parable"?

Here is the context:

"It is tempting to ponder these two NASA stories, and to spy a parable about much that is wrong with the America of 2014."



I found this phrase to be quite unique - in fact this article is the only one which shows up with the phrase: "spy a parable" in online searches.

  • 2
    I would say that "spy" just means "see" here, but with the connotation that the thing being seen isn't immediately obvious. It's just saying that there's an instructive story which can be extracted from the two stories first mentioned. "Spot" would probably be used more commonly than "spy".
    – Rupe
    Aug 6, 2014 at 11:47
  • 2
    "To spy" means "to see, not entirety clearly, as from a distance" or "to catch a glimpse of". The underlying concept is you think you saw something, but you can't say so with certainty. A "parable" is a story with a moral; a story told to help you understand how to act properly. So, with "to spy a parable" here, the author is saying "maybe there's a lesson for us in these two stories", without outright telling the reader "Hey! This is how we should act and these stories prove it!".
    – Dan Bron
    Aug 6, 2014 at 11:54
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    @Rupe, given the preceding "it is tempting to", I imagine the writer consciously chose "spy" over "spot" because the latter is more concrete, definite; whereas spy is vague and noncommittal. In other words, I smell a big BUT coming (or the writer is just being coy).
    – Dan Bron
    Aug 6, 2014 at 12:13
  • @DanBron Good point
    – Rupe
    Aug 6, 2014 at 12:56

2 Answers 2


It means to identify or formulate a parable which can be used to make sense of what is wrong with America in 2014. It's just the same as see or spot.


After some reflection on this: A parable is a short story which is used to drive home (through example) a guiding principle by directly ascribing an "effect" to a "cause" with the "cause" being a behaviour or character trait in a person. Here - the author seems to be suggesting that some will read the two stories cited as stories which can be used to tell what might be wrong with America today (or spot these as stories which can be used to tell what is wrong with America today).

  • The question is about spying a parable. Oct 2, 2015 at 2:18
  • yes - the question was also asked by me - spying a parable in the two stories therefore implies to see these two stories as stories which could be told to make a point in each instance. Thanks for your comment! Oct 2, 2015 at 3:45

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