I saw this in a list of quotes, but can't figure out what it means, or find where it comes from.

I've searched extensively on google, but no joy. I assume it's not very common?

  • 2
    Well, common sense seems to indicate that when a secret needs to be kept, little light will be shed on it, so the darker the scene, the more scandalous the secret that needs to be concealed. – Gustavson Feb 22 at 22:40
  • @Gustavson Ahh thank you it all makes sense now. Don't know why I was so confused – DarthVlader Feb 22 at 22:42

There's a construction that shows up frequently in adages, using two comparatives in a row with the and optional commas, viz

  • the bigger, the better = 'goodness increases as size increases'
  • the bigger they are, the harder they fall = 'dethroning a powerful person is better than an underling'
  • the less you have, the more they pick on you = 'it is safer to annoy the poor than the rich'

To this must be added the interpretations added from metaphors, in particular that of Light. Lights can be brighter or dimmer, and our vision depends on light being available in sufficient brightness. Metaphorically, shining light on something means making it public and visible; it is what you do to scandals. Scandals prefer dark corners and underworlds.

Then there is the ambiguity of great and scandal. Is a scandal that never becomes public a great scandal? Or is it great only because it's been made public? This can get complex, but it's not important.

So, what it says is that the greatness of the scandal increases as the light diminishes in brightness. What it means, practically speaking, is something nobody is likely to disagree with -- that great scandals thrive in dim circumstances. One need not rate scandals in greatness units to know that.


from the figurative sense of dim: OED

fig. Not clear to the mind or understanding; obscure, faint.

As in:

With more obscurity (dimmer the light) the scandal flourished.


Look it up --


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