A sop to Cerberus


Senior Member
Chinese,Cantonese,Sichuan dialect

Is this idiom still in use?

I looked it up in some of my dictionaries and couldn't find too much details related to it, except its meaning I got nothing.

a sop to Cerberus a bribe or something given to propitiate a potential source of danger or problems

If the idiom is use, can I say:

It would be a crime to give a sop to Cerberus.

Thanks a lot
  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    A lot of people wouldn't understand the reference, Silver. Unless your listener knows something about Greek and Roman mythology, the name "Cerberus" won't mean anything. Here in the U.S., I haven't read or heard the word "sop" used for "bribe" in a long time.


    American English
    I don't recall ever seeing this one before.

    I am familiar with "sop" as a small gift or concession, something you would give a child to prevent a tantrum. I wouldn't equate it with "bribe"; perhaps that is more of a British usage. I happen to know what "Cerberus" was but I don't think very many other contemporary Americans would. It sounds like something from the time when all university students studied Latin and Greek and in doing so learned about all the Greek and Roman gods and other mythological figures—not much later than World War I.


    Senior Member
    Here's from British writer David Lodge's novel Nice Work, published in the eighties:
    "You're offering me Danny Ram's job as a sop, as a bribe, as a present, like other men give their mistresses strings of pearls."


    Moderate Mod
    I know who Cerberus is, but until I read this thread, I was unaware that sop ever meant "a bribe." It's not a word I use or run across very often, but when I do run across it, it's always seemed to me that it means "something done to appease or concillitate," usually something comparatively minor. For example, if Pat really wanted a promotion but his boss decided to give the promotion to someone else, the boss might give Pat a nicer office as a "sop." I guess that could be considered a bribe, but it's not nearly as sleazy, so I wouldn't use that term to describe it.
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    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    I agree with Kate.
    I do use the word sop, but think of it as an appeasement rather than a bribe, and was surprised to see it in the definition.
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