boiling frogs

redgiant

Senior Member
Cantonese, Hong Kong
I recently read an article about New York City's unprecedented move to ban restaurant sales of super-sized sugary drinks on health grounds. Some people have banded together to oppose the ban because it's the government's attempt to take away their freedom, little by little. Others think it's ridiculous to get their hackles up over such trivial things.

This brought to mind the boiling frog story, which, in Cantonese, is often used with the idea of the inability to react to slow gradual changes in society that consistently encroach on freedom. And the people will eventually pay the price for not concerning themselves with the changes. So, I wonder if it's acceptable in English to call those who don't care about the ban "boiling frogs".
 
  • Istarion

    Senior Member
    British English
    Hi Redgiant,
    I don't think anyone would know what you meant if you tried to use that expression in English. I certainly wouldn't. You'd have to tell the story first!
    I'm afraid I can't think of an equivalent English expression.
    -I
     

    JustKate

    Senior Member
    It is known to English speakers - I knew it, for example (though I'm not sure it's actually true), and I've heard it used in various contexts. But I agree with Istarion that it's not well known enough that you could reference it with just a word or two, e.g. "boiling frogs," and expect everybody to get it.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    ... t it's not well known enough that you could reference it with just a word or two, e.g. "boiling frogs," and expect everybody to get it.
    If I were going to try to reference it, I think I'd start from the other end of the story - something about "putting frogs in a pot of cold water" perhaps.
     

    redgiant

    Senior Member
    Cantonese, Hong Kong
    Hi, Istarion, JustKate and Myridon, seeing that "the boiling frog" story isn't well known enough to be understood readily, what do you think about "lull into the false sense of security"? Suppose A is convincing a guy who is apathetic about the policy

    A: This is not just about soda. This is part of a much bigger agenda. Our freedoms and rights are under attack! If you think we're making a mountain out of a molehill, I'm afraid you're getting lulled into the false sense of security."
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    "the boiling frog" story isn't well known enough to be understood readily, what do you think about "lull into the false sense of security"
    My point was that even the people that are familiar with the story don't think of it as being about "boiling frogs". "Boiling" is the end of the process. The people who don't care about the ban are not "boiling" - they haven't lost anything... yet.
    I don't think "false sense of security" quite covers a gradual erosion of rights and "lulling" suggests an actor who is deliberately tricking them.
     

    dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    My point was that even the people that are familiar with the story don't think of it as being about "boiling frogs". "Boiling" is the end of the process.
    The phrase "Boiling frogs" connotes an on-going process to me, whereas "boiled frogs" would be the result thereof. What am I missing?
     
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    Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I recognized the story immediately. However I wouldn't use it as a metaphor. You might consider using it as a simile together with a very brief telling of the story. For example "Their situation is similar to the unfortunate frogs in the well known experiment with boiling water..." etc. But even then you couldn't refer to them as frogs later in the piece.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    The phrase "Boiling frogs" connotes an on-going process to me, whereas "boiled frogs" would be the result thereof. What am I missing?
    "Boiling frogs" are frogs that are in boiling water (perhaps they have accidentally jumped into a hot spring). The frogs in a pot of cold water are very comfortable, but because they are in a pot we might gather that this is a temporary situation. People who don't know the story might figure this out (or you could make it about lobsters).
    The people who don't care about the ban have not been hurt by it ... yet. Which frogs are they like?
     
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