For example, I was listening to an audio book the other day and the author mispronounced a word which got the audience laughing. Until that point, I didn't even know that there was an audience and that the whole thing was a live recording.

Another example might be that you find litter in a section of a street which is usually super clean. This gets you thinking about how the street cleaners do a really good job. Or imagine the internet connection at your house breaks down and you thus realize that it has been remarkably reliable for the past 4 years.

It's both about realizing that something is flawless otherwise and appreciating it.

Any expression, proverb, or single word is appreciated!

  • 6
    These little quirks provide an occasional reminder that streets don't clean themselves and readings are still an active form of the performing arts.
    – Phil Sweet
    Apr 4, 2016 at 0:52
  • 4
    Your answer is almost already there in your question title: Flawless otherwise Apr 4, 2016 at 5:59
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    Another (formerly) famous example: there's an old allegory that refers to a statue of a horse that was so lifelike, no one appreciated it until the artist deliberately added a scratch - because they all just thought it was another horse in the park.
    – sq33G
    Apr 4, 2016 at 9:48
  • 2
    I was considering answering with "a fly in the ointment" but have discounted it because that idiom emphasises the enjoyment is spoiled, which seems to be opposite of what OP wants to say.
    – k1eran
    Apr 4, 2016 at 20:29
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    Along the line of @greduan, I initially thought of the Japanese loanword wabi-sabi, but that's more about something being beautiful due to its imperfections, rather than a single imperfection highlighting the otherwise perfect nature.
    – R.M.
    Apr 4, 2016 at 22:40

9 Answers 9


This isn't the general answer you're asking for, but was too long for a comment: An excellent example is the Persian Flaw, the namesake of which was when Persians, while weaving rugs intended to be perfectly made, would intentionally add an 'imperfect stitch' or other minor imperfection to honor and demonstrate their spiritual belief that humans can never be perfect.

  • This is the first thing I thought of when I read the question.
    – delliottg
    Apr 4, 2016 at 21:23
  • 2
    Native Americans had a similar tradition of adding a "spirit bead" to their beadwork as an intentional mistake. Apr 6, 2016 at 14:54
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    I've been told the Amish in the US Midwest have this same practice, when making quilts.
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 6, 2016 at 22:23
  • The persian flaw is a very interesting concept. I was generally not thinking of imperfections that have been artificially introduced, but rather of those that occur naturally. Nevertheless, I'll add it to my vocabulary as it seems very well suited to describe these kind of faults in clothing, ornaments, etc. Apr 7, 2016 at 12:06

On a woman's face, it is called a beauty spot. The spot, either a small mole or an artificial spot applied to the face, was considered to enhance the complexion, or some other feature, rather than mar it.

Wikipedia, beauty spot

a small natural or artificial mark such as a mole on a woman's face, considered to enhance another feature.

In Early Modern Medicine, Beauty Spots and the French Pox:

The beauty spot is the trademark of the eighteenth-century’s powdered beauties, both male and female. To achieve a beauty spot when one did not occur naturally, people took to wearing false ones made from velvet and stuck on to the face.

In Antoine Le Camus’ Abdeker: or the Art of Preserving Beauty (1754), after seeing a fly land on Fatima’s beautiful face, Abdeker remarks, ‘I think its Blackness sets off the Lustre of the Vermillion [and] makes your Eye look more lively and amourous’

Thus, you may refer to any small imperfection that calls attention to the perfection of the whole as a beauty spot.

Critique of my answer:

The OP mentioned a piece of litter. Litter, IMO, can never be a beauty spot.

  • 3
    "Imperfection" alone sounds right, it implies the rest is perfect
    – Xen2050
    Apr 4, 2016 at 11:25
  • 1
    Beauty spot was my first idea because it describes exactly what the OP asked for, just for faces. Merriam-Webster lists the term with a second, general meaning of "a beautiful place". That, unfortunately, precludes metaphorical uses like "The train station was the city's beauty spot", because it would be ambiguous (was it really beautiful or not?). Apr 5, 2016 at 10:23
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    "beauty mark" is the form that I'm familiar with, which perhaps better emphasizes the "flaw" aspect.
    – pkamb
    Apr 5, 2016 at 22:56
  • Would you describe the breaking down of the internet connection as a "beauty spot"?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 6, 2016 at 13:33
  • @Mari-Lou No, but then the Internet is hardly perfection, IMO. I don't know what to do about the imperfection of my answer (which I acknowledged in the last sentence, Critique), so I have decided to just enjoy the fact that a lot of people like it. So often they don't.
    – ab2
    Apr 6, 2016 at 18:03

An expression that fits what you're asking for is the exception that proves the rule, and you've done a very good job of articulating why there is such an expression.

  • 1
    +1, better than "Persian Flaw" because it's self-explanatory (comparatively)
    – DCShannon
    Apr 4, 2016 at 19:49
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    This turn of phrase should be discouraged. It is a widespread misuse of "prove" that assumes a positive outcome has been demonstrated, and generations of smug idiots now think that finding an exception demonstrates the validity of the violated principle. Even allowing that modern interpretation of "proof" is "successful validation", an exception to a rule disproves it.
    – Peter Wone
    Apr 5, 2016 at 0:41
  • I was going to comment on 'proving' here being derived from the meaning of 'proof test'; however, I see that the link provided already explains that this derivation is actually less likely than the proposed latin origin. Oh well!
    – paulw1128
    Apr 5, 2016 at 14:47
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    @Peter Wone - Many smug idiots might feel that the discussion referred to in this answer, not to mention the Wikipedia article on the subject, permits them to feel somewhat justified in this usage. Of course, some other smug idiots might not.
    – Jeremy
    Apr 6, 2016 at 12:10
  • 1
    @Jeremy - if they were that well educated they wouldn't make such an asinine interpretation. The example in that Wikipedia article is so lame they make excuses for it, softening to "proves the existence of the rule". What rule is shown to exist? You can infer that the place is parking regulated but there is no information about default regulations.
    – Peter Wone
    Apr 6, 2016 at 21:21

Consider, eye-opener

: something that shows or teaches you something in a surprising way


  • 6
    This generally has the opposite connotation -- that you were blind to the flaws, but something made you acutely aware of them. Apr 4, 2016 at 23:03
  • This is a very interesting proposition, as it's quite self-explanatory. If the context however – as Matthew Read – mentions is that you have been blind to the flaws rather than the perfection, one would have to put forward enough context that the reader understands it properly. Apr 7, 2016 at 12:12

It doesn't fit all of your examples, but for most of them the saying "You don't know what you've got until it's gone" (and its multiple variations) fits quite well.

Closely related is "You never miss the water till the well runs dry."

  • 1
    "You don't know what you've got until it's gone" ♫ They paved paradise and put up a parking lot…
    – anon
    Apr 6, 2016 at 19:14

I don't know if this is a full answer, but otherwise perfect or otherwise impeccable would slot nicely into many sentences.

"A single piece of litter drew attention to an otherwise impeccable cleaning job"...


Humility {Block}

I've heard of this in furniture making and in quilting by the Amish. http://cookiescreek.com/500/mistakes-in-quilts-amish-tradition-or-myth/

  • Fascinating. That was a new one on me!
    – smci
    Apr 7, 2016 at 4:39
  • This is effectively a rehash of CodeShane's answer. (And thanks to the comment by Hot Licks, this answer is kind of subsumed by that one.) Also, it's not clear what the curly-brace notation is for.
    – John Y
    Aug 28, 2017 at 19:03

A strategically placed imperfection can throw something into stark relief. This may be deliberate.


A perfect imperfection (informal), perfect flaw, etc. ?

- Urban Dictionary

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