My question: "Is there a phrase or idiom that describes how society accepts their situation as the social norm, due to slow changes? As in how, purposefully or not, the government and corporations keep people too busy to know what's really happening so that they don't realize it negatively impacts them?"

I have searched Google and this site and came up with the meaning of the word "doublespeak", but that is not what I'm looking for. The word "charisma" comes to mind, but does not fit. What I am searching for is probably not a single word, but a phrase or idiom describing how a society does not realize what's really happening until it's too late due to how slowly things change, either purposefully or circumstantially.

The reason behind my question comes from an article I read long ago, concerning why people do not stand up and do something about changes in our society that negatively affect us, is due to the fact that when changes happen slowly, especially with generations that have a short term memory,that we tend to accept them as the norm, and become too busy with trying to just pay our bills, we don't realize what is happening.

My question stems from part of the article saying something along the lines of "the big corporations gave the people jobs, then sold them houses with mortgages, making them feel like they were living the American Dream".

My question involves issues of American society like the industrial revolution, the anti-corporate movement, and the dissapearing middle class.

The idiom or phrase I'm looking for might be more simple than what I've described, apart from using our society and government in explaining it but I can't think of any other instance to describe where deceiving, purposefully or not, an entire society to make them believe it's the norm.

Thank you!

  • 2
    You seem to be saying that people have grown accustomed to a particular set of living conditions.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Oct 1, 2017 at 5:18
  • I know it's not the right word so I won't put it as an answer: Scope Creep is a similar concept in project management where the scope of a project changes gradually by the introduction of more ideas that are not in the original dreaming up of the project.
    – Kristopher
    Commented Oct 28, 2020 at 11:32

3 Answers 3


This isn't an idiom but it's pretty well-known. Usually if you just mention "frog in a pot of boiling water" most people (above a certain age) will know what you're talking about.

The premise is that if a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, it will jump out, but if the frog is put in tepid water which is then brought to a boil slowly, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. The story is often used as a metaphor for the inability or unwillingness of people to react to or be aware of threats that arise gradually


A word for what you're describing is to be Encroached upon.

Also not what you're looking for but somewhat related:



Camel's Nose

From the old story of a camel entering his owner's tent by gaining permission for his nose to be in the tent, then his head, then his entire body. In use since the 1800s.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camel%27s_nose


Social engineering

Social engineering is a discipline in social science that refers to efforts to influence particular attitudes and social behaviors on a large scale, whether by governments, media or private groups in order to produce desired characteristics in a target population. Social engineering can also be understood philosophically as a deterministic phenomenon where the intentions and goals of the architects of the new social construct are realized.

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