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I am looking for a word/phrase or saying for something that isn't so wonderful as people assume or say it is. Something that is lethal but people think it's a miracle.

I want to use it for a title of a book so it should be short.

All I could think of was Wolf in Sheep's Clothing...

Any suggestions are welcome.


marked as duplicate by Edwin Ashworth, choster, Chenmunka, Julie Carter, tchrist Sep 11 '15 at 23:05

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  • For something relatively mundane such as a highly-touted movie that turns out to be not so great, I think "let-down" is pretty good -- "That movie was a let-down." – Hot Licks Sep 7 '15 at 13:09
  • I saw that movie. It definitely wan't all it was cracked up to be. – JHCL Sep 7 '15 at 14:47
  • Bill of goods might work here but "assume or say" are two different paths to wonderful. Bill of goods would be more of the salesman says it's wonderful. People assuming it's wonderful would be more of a bandwagon thing. Without evening seeing it, people can get into their heads that something, usually something new, is "wonderful” and it turns out not so. But not always. – user116032 Sep 7 '15 at 16:15
  • Although there's quite a large difference between 'Word or saying for something that isn't as good as people say it is' and '... Something that is lethal but people think it's a miracle.' – Edwin Ashworth Sep 7 '15 at 21:38

The word "overrated" has the meaning that something is not as good as people say it is. I.e. it has been rated too highly.

verb (used with object), overrated, overrating.

1 - to rate or appraise too highly; overestimate: "I think you overrate their political influence."


Also commonly used with an object (or an implied object) - E.g. "That [thing] is overrated", "Going to the cinema is overrated" etc.

However it is not particularly good when dealing with extremes - i.e. you wouldn't use it to say that something that is thought a miracle is actually lethal.

  • 1
    If the subject has been actively promoted, rather than simply judged, in an excessively positive way, you'd call it overhyped. – JHCL Sep 7 '15 at 14:25

The Emperor's New Clothes

Used in reference to a situation in which people believe or pretend to believe in the worth or importance of something that is worthless, or fear to point out an obvious truth that is counter to prevailing opinion: is his white canvas a case of the emperor’s new clothes or is it something beautiful, even moving? this is the first time that anyone has stripped his work of its rhetoric and shown that this particular emperor has no clothes [After the title of the story Kejserens nye klæder (1837) by the Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen (first translated into English as The Emperor's New Clothes in 1846), in which an emperor is tricked into thinking he is wearing beautiful new clothes, which all his courtiers pretend to admire, until a boy points out that he is in fact naked]


A stratagem in which irresistible bait is used to lure a victim.

Metaphorically, you could also refer to it as fool's gold

A brassy yellow mineral, especially pyrite, that can be mistaken for gold.

all definitions from Oxford Dictionaries Online


All that glitters is not gold or All that glistens is not gold. come to mind:

  • Prov. Just because something looks attractive does not mean it is genuine or valuable. (Often said as a warning.)

    • Hollywood may look like an exciting place to live, but I don't think you should move there. All that glitters is not gold. I know Susie is popular and pretty, but don't befooled by that. All that glitters is not gold.

As a single term you may use: a scam, a fraud or a swindle:

  • A fraudulent business scheme; a swindle.


  • Interesting- I've always taken "All that glitters.." to mean "Something doesn't have to be gold to have value, i.e. you can find value superior to the superficial value of 'mere' gold by looking in other places"... Edit: I think I may have superseded my original understanding with Tolkien's use and perhaps I did always perceive the original intent. Memory is slippy. – Marv Mills Sep 7 '15 at 12:55
  • @MarvMills - no, it is generally a 'warning' not to take something just at face value. – user66974 Sep 7 '15 at 12:57

One such phrase would be Trojan Horse:

The Trojan Horse is a tale from the Trojan War about the subterfuge that the Greeks used to enter the city of Troy and win the war. In the canonical version, after a fruitless 10-year siege, the Greeks constructed a huge wooden horse, and hid a select force of men inside. The Greeks pretended to sail away, and the Trojans pulled the horse into their city as a victory trophy. That night the Greek force crept out of the horse and opened the gates for the rest of the Greek army, which had sailed back under cover of night. The Greeks entered and destroyed the city of Troy, decisively ending the war.

However, this phrase is already widely used in art and literature (and even computing).

Another alternative might be Snake oil:

Snake oil is an expression that originally referred to fraudulent health products or unproven medicine but has come to refer to any product with questionable or unverifiable quality or benefit. By extension, a snake oil salesman is someone who knowingly sells fraudulent goods or who is themselves a fraud, quack, charlatan, or the like.


Blue are the hills that are far away

Distant places or things seem more desirable than they are in reality.

From The Facts on File Dictionary of Proverbs by Martin H. Manser


Smoke and mirrors

definition: irrelevant or misleading information serving to obscure the truth of a situation, something that seems good but is not real or effective and that is done especially to take attention away from something else that is embarrassing or unpleasant.

Source: merriam-webster.com and Dictionary.com

I am also thinking at No rose without thorns.

what means that apparently desirable situations have their share of trouble or difficulty.

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